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:
And when something triggers our memories of our losses, we can go through them all over again.
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.
Holding onto our sorrows as a crutch, however, can change depression from a healthy part of the grieving process into a clinical dysfunction.
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.
You are choosing to live.
You have chosen life.
Therefore, life has chosen you.
I am excited to see what you make of it!!