Something seldom talked about, but affects (or will affect) everyone, is loss.
With loss, comes grief…
In referencing psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief—denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and/or acceptance—it is important to note that people may not experience all five stages, and the order may vary.
Denial and isolation is used to distance oneself from reality. Denial can present as people carrying on with their lives as if nothing had happened, or to adding more to their schedules to avoid “sitting with” their emotions. On the other hand, isolation can present as people taking time to process, or avoid, the loss.
Anger is the byproduct of frustration. Anger enables us to transfer the frustration, and devestation, that comes with loss into something that is cathartic. However, anger can be projected on to others.
Bargaining derives from an inability to accept the loss, or from guilt associated with the loss. During this stage, people may question their role in the loss. People may replay how situations turned out, regretting not saying/doing things.
Depression can manifest in myraid forms. Some who experience depression may feel the physical symptoms—lethargy, decreased or increased appetite, etc. Others may experience an excess of “negative” emotions that is burdensome to the soul.
Acceptance is when a person comes to terms with the reality of the situation and attempts to make peace with it. Acceptance, and coping, looks different to each grieving person. There is no timeline for acceptance. In many ways, it may be difficult to ever accept that someone, or something, you love is no longer with you.
My first experience of grief was threefold.
My maternal grandfather passed away in April 2013 from Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer.
My maternal grandmother passed away in December 2015 from an infection related to a bed sore.
My paternal grandfather passed away in August 2016 from complications related to Parkinson’s dementia.
Having only experienced two deaths of distant family members before the loss of 3 out of 4 of my grandparents, the 40 month period of consecutive losses (from April 2013 to August 2016) was emotionally intense.
However, one quote has resonated with me:
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” -Jamie Anderson
Building off Anderson’s thought, that ‘grief is just love with no place to go’, I recognize that gratitude can complement grief.
The only reason grief hurts so much, and is so overwhelming to deal with, is because someone, or something, meant a lot to you and brought a lot to your life.
If you’re experiencing grief right now, I urge you to think of all the good times and experiences you had with the person, or thing, you are grieving.
It is through remembering the good times and experiences that you can keep that person, or thing, alive.
It may be challenging to let yourself relive the loss, and feel the “negative” emotions, but it is a NECCESSARY part of healing.
It’s okay to let yourself experience the full range of human emotion associated with grief,
It’s okay to feel confused,
It’s okay to feel scared,
It’s okay to feel anxious,
It’s okay to feel angry,
It’s okay to feel guilt,
It’s okay to feel depressed,
It’s okay if you haven’t accepted it.
Talk about it, write about it, draw a picture about it. Do whatever is necessary to let yourself feel what you need to feel.
Give yourself grace through your grieving process…loss is the single most difficult, and shared, experience you will have on this Earth.
In light of that, here’s one thing you can do today:
Let the people, and things, that are still physically here, know HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THEM.
Say more “I love you’s” and “I appreciate you’s”.
While grim, tomorrow is never promised.
Make today count.
Sending you love with whatever you are going through.