The Healing Process of Grief
A friend recently reached out for help after her parents died. She expressed that she is wavering between lost, stuck and numb, and not sure how to move on in life.
Lost, stuck and numb… symptoms of deep grief. It reminded me of the grieving process our family went through upon the death of a grandson (just 12 days old)… and when we went through bad economic times (and lost our properties)… and when one of our extended family members divorced (I lost a sister in that mess…).
Life can be messy – even when you think you’re “doing things right”, things can go wrong, and people can get hurt.
And so… we grieve.
There are five basic stages of grief, outlined by medical researcher Elizabeth Kubler Ross years ago.
I learned about them in the BYU Nursing School…. it’s funny what sticks with you through the years. There’s so much from college I’ve forgotten – but I still remember these stages of grief:
We can go through these stages in any order…
And when something triggers our memories of our losses, we can go through them all over again.
And we can stay stuck in any one of them for any length of time.
We discussed the grieving process in the caregiving classes I used to teach. I remember presenting this list of five stages of grief, and asking if anyone had any experiences they wanted to share. One of my students jumped up and said “YES!” She explained that she had been stuck in denial for 15 years following her husband’s death from a car accident – and only “woke up” when her son graduated from high school. She had missed 15 years of his life, numb-stuck in the pain of loss, which she drowned in alcohol at the local bar… while her parents raised her boy. Her son’s high school graduation was the trigger that made her realize that when her husband died, she allowed herself to “die” too…. and wasted 15 years of her life. Yet there she was, open and excited to tell us her story. She had found help, stopped drinking, was sober, and was training to become a caregiver and contribute to the world around her. She was amazed to feel fully alive. It is never too late to begin again.
Each stage of grief serves a purpose to help us process whatever it is that hurts so much. Like navigating any life experience, it is in our best interest to listen to the Divine Spirit within us and to choose a good path going forward. It is possible that through conscious awareness, we can choose our emotions, our mental state, our thoughts and our behaviors. Basically, we are in charge of creating our own world – our own life experience.
Denial serves the purpose of keeping us from feeling the full effects of what happened, while we deal with the immediate issues at hand…. like getting through the funeral. But depression becomes part of the problem when we stay stuck there, unwilling or unable to find new ways to live.
Anger gives us the emotional power to take needed action in a decisive moment. Such action can be the “saving grace” in some situations. Misdirected, however, anger can be devastatingly destructive.
Bargaining is sometimes the chip that makes things better – as in negotiating and compromising with someone for a win-win. But when we’ve experienced the death of a loved one, we may try to bargain with God – as in, “bring them back and I’ll be perfect forever”. Promising to God that we will be a better person is a good thing… unless it puts unrealistic or impossible expectations on ourselves or others.
Depression is a process of acknowledging and processing the fact that the actual event really happened… and that our lives are irrevocably changed as a result. This is a time for honoring our loved ones and what’s been lost. In it’s best form, when perceived from a sense of conscious awareness of the purpose of life, depression blooms into gratitude for the blessings we experienced.
Holding onto our sorrows as a crutch, however, can change depression from a healthy part of the grieving process into a clinical dysfunction.
Acceptance is a state of allowing ourselves to grow… and to heal, as you, simply in reading this, are showing that you are ready to do. One of the very best things you can do in your process is to partake of the pure, unconditional love that The Great Creator of All Things, has for you. Say yes to prayer. Yes to studying the holy scriptures. Yes to seeking solace at church. Yes to reaching out to friends and family. Yes to calling upon God in your darkest of hours. And yes to thanking God for grace… and peace.
I remember as a little child, upon learning something new, I’d be so amazed that I would run and tell whomever I could find about the amazing new thing I had learned. If they ignored me, or brushed me off (yes, I was a chatterbox) I was not deterred… I’d simply go tell someone else… and someone else… and someone else… until finally, someone would look me in the eye, hear what I had to say, and agree with me that it was amazingly wonderful. Then, with that validation, I was free to go on and learn something new.Compassion
In the same way, pure compassion validates the human experience. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” can be the kindest thing to say – or to hear – when you’re in the depths of despair over a loss in your life.
But if you don’t have anyone you can reach out to for comfort, know this… that you have God-given capacity within your own heart and mind to send yourself some compassion for what you’ve been through. It’s perfectly okay for you to love yourself. And to accept the healing power of available to you simply by tuning in to Divine Love.
“I am so sorry for your loss”. My prayer is that you will find it in your heart to forgive yourself and others for any imperfections in your relationship with them – and with those who have passed on. And that you can forgive them for leaving you. It has been said that some people come into our lives for a few moments, some for months, some for years, and some for a lifetime or longer.
Acknowledge truth of life, and of death… and “the truth will set you free”.
The truth is, that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.
This world is not perfect, nor was it meant to be.
It was set up in a way to allow us to explore, and to grow, and to become closer to being our highest and best selves.
It is designed so that we can become more consciously aware of our power of choice, our ability to respond rather than react,and the power of love over fear.
And the truth is, some of this life stuff hurts, and when you’re in the middle of it,
it can be very difficult to see your way out.
Some people give up. You have reached out.
You are choosing to live.
You have chosen life.
Therefore, life has chosen you.
I am excited to see what you make of it!!
Sending you blessings of hope, encouragement and love…
Black Wolf, Dark Horse, Sleeping Girl
I awoke really early this morning – 4 am. My husband is working till after midnight tonight at a special event… so I’m doing whatever I want during this day alone today. I studied this morning – another of the 67 steps, then researched the YMCA swim times to see if joining would work with how I want to schedule my life – turns out free swim is early morning or late night… bad timing for me.
I needed to get out of the house– so I went to the grocery store just to walk around a bit and pick up a few small items. On the way I pondered this morning’s training about creating a consulting business using just a computer, a phone, a landing page, a thank you page with a video, a survey (which qualifies the client) and an appointment calendar for intake phone calls. They said the system works well in any niche, so I contemplate my options.
I already have the capability of creating that marketing funnel with the software I have at hand… it’s simply a matter of choosing the right niche, identifying my skills and what the market wants and create an attractive offer and a targeted advertising campaign. I need to muster up the focus to BEGIN and FOLLOW THROUGH. For that, I need to create a multifaceted plan for how to create meaningful and lasting success.
First… becoming clear on what I have to offer:
I have 3 main areas of expertise – holistic healing, internet marketing and eldercare… and people come to me asking for help going deeper with their own healing work, for mentorship with AFH startup, and for help creating a blog so they can have a voice. I continually get requests in all three, and yes, a few sales.
But what do I really want to focus on? What is in my heart to do in this next phase of my life since I closed my care home? This wavering of clarity, associated with an underlying feeling of loss and unworthiness has kept me stuck and spinning in study mode for the last few years. My recent path has been one of learning to energetically let go of scarcity and step into health and prosperity by raising my conscious awareness and aligning with a higher level of functioning.
I came back home and studied some more.
I’m still wondering what I want to do with my days, but this aloneness is fine, even restorative. But I feel that I am ready to reach out and meet people in this new community I live in. We’ll be here for 5 years while my husband finishes out his years of work before retirement. I have the blessing and the freedom to focus on anything I want. I am appreciative of the peace and quiet and REST… but I know I am capable of more.
My online search failed to produce volunteer opportunities that felt right. I looked for nursing jobs, thinking I might enjoy working part time. I found several daytime RN case management jobs that may be a good fit, paying $80-$100 K / annually, but they are full-time. Initially, my muscle testing said NO. I continue to ponder. What would God have me do?
At this point in my life, to create a sense of a life well-lived, I need to be contributing in a meaningful, generous way, not from fear or lack or scarcity, but for the joy of experiencing the beauty of learning, giving, feeling alive and sharing the light as it is given to me… and yes, for the feeling of receiving respectful compensation.
I studied until I fell asleep on the sofa…
Late afternoon naps are tough to wake up from… and I dreamed.
I dreamed that I was sitting on a couch type bed in some kind of open sided dugout shelter that had just a partial roof and a small sink. I looked out over the grassy knoll and saw a black wolf staring at me. Our eyes locked, then he looked behind him to draw my gaze to a dark horse carrying a heavily wrapped burden strapped to his back. The horse appeared exhausted, “on his last legs”, and trusting in the black wolf to lead him to safety. I have “known” this dark horse forever. When he recognized me, the horse came right down into the dugout and actually laid down, positioning his bound bundle on the bed… and rolling over right on top of me with his legs in the air. Somehow I managed to slide out from under him in the gaps between his flank and the corner of the armrest… and noticed the form of an emaciated girl strapped and now trapped and nearly suffocating under the horse. I was able to unlatch the wide leather strap and the horse slid away from her onto the floor in a coma of exhaustion. I turned to the girl. Nearly incoherent, but now suddenly relieved of the suffocating pressure and weight, she hurriedly stripped off the dirty ragged scraps of clothing from her starving frame and curled naked into a fetal position, burying her face into the softness of the bed, whispering the word, “sleep”. I felt compelled to care and comfort this vagabond soul, and managed to get her arms into the sleeves of a large cotton flannel shirt, it’s plaid softness covering her nakedness and hiding the dark and dirty sores on her shoulder blades, evidence of lengthy privation. “Sleep” she murmured again, burrowing her face in the bed. I fetched a small cup of water and turned her face. “Here, you need this. Drink”… she roused enough for a few sips, curled up and fell asleep again… deeply this time.
The dream faded, then shifted.
Now I find myself dreaming about dreaming and being unable to wake up. I dream that my husband finds me asleep on the sofa. I reach out to him but I am yet unable to open my eyes. Knowing that if I sleep too long in the afternoon, I will have a wakeful night, so he takes my hand and pulls me up, embracing and steadying me protectively as my own energy awakens.
But I know this is still a dream, and I drift away deeply again.
Upon awakening from this late afternoon nap, I am in a state of knowing. I know that I want to contribute in a greater way. And I know that God is allowing me to CHOOSE. I don’t have to wait for permission or direction to choose what I want to do or where I want to create. Enough healing has occurred that I am strong on the inside again. I feel whole. My physical body still shows residual effects of former lack, but I am inspired and feel sufficiently aligned to know that God trusts me to do whatever good in the world I choose to do. On the inside, I feel I am in a state of capability, energy and grace, which gives me the power and permission to make my own choices.
I can continue to live very quietly and very small in my current situation, resting in the comfort of this concise, cozy and protected existence. I appreciate this time of quiet. It gives me the opportunity to rest and fill my cup… to study, to breathe, to feel comforted, supported and to experience some relief.
OR I can choose to grow and contribute in a new way.
We now have enough stable economic systems in place that I need no longer fear starvation. I no longer feel like a vagabond upon the earth. I know I am okay, even if I make no further effort to create additional income. I have no more need to struggle for my daily bread, just the simple responsibility to manage our resources well.
For the first time since I was a child, I have time freedom. It feels delicious. I do as I please each day… chunking my time to attend to the business of living as well as my studies, but with less stress than I’ve had in years. Currently, I am learning from the 67 Steps to Success… a condensed compilation of wisdom from peak performers from all over the world throughout the ages.
“Life hacking” – is what I call these condensed pearls of wisdom for effective living. I’m using this as a mentoring process to help me integrate all I have been learning and to empower my transition into to a new state of clarity and focus. I ask myself, “What is it that I can create in my life now, that will allow me to contribute meaningfully, and in a manner I find soul satisfying?”
An RN case management job?
A holistic consulting/coaching business?
Authoring another novel?
Complete my SoulTalk book?
Eldercare AFH startup coaching?
Local business marketing?
Opportunities abound, but I have yet to focus and engage fully in one massive course of action.
No worries. The message came clearly today in my dreams…
“Your focus will come soon enough, dear sweet sleeping girl. The knowing you seek will emerge when you are fully conscious and awake. For now, enjoy the sweet peace and freedom of solitude as you rest.”
The meaning of the spirit animal totems in my dream:
Black Wolf Totem
“Wolf is reminding us that although we see ourselves as civilized creatures – we are still animals with our own wild spirit. He is here to teach us about our inner selves and to discover our own power and stamina.”
“Learn to balance the responsibility of family needs without losing your identity. Use wolf medicine to develop strength and confidence in your decisions.” – Wolf
Dark Horse Totem
“If horse has crossed your path, know that you have the power to change anything and everything you choose in your life. Understand that the wild freedom of the horse can be harnessed and used for your own benefit and for those around you. This understanding comes only when man and beast enter a silent contract acknowledging mutual respect and awareness of responsibility to each other. Alternatively you are being asked to understand that true power is wisdom found in remembering your journey as a whole. Compassion, caring, teaching, loving and sharing your gifts, talents and abilities are the gateways to power. You are also reminded that all pathways have equal validity. Understanding this will give you insight into the power and the glory of a unified family and humanity. Understand that every human being must follow a pathway to empowerment before galloping upon the wings of destiny.”
“Believe in your freedom to make your own choices. You are never forced to do anything. The choice is always yours.” – Horse
“Dark Horse Meaning: a candidate or competitor about whom little is known, but who unexpectedly wins.”