Friday, November 15, 2013

What is the Grieving Process?

Grieving is a process, as everyone who has experienced it knows.  It is a process that varies for all of us. There is no right or wrong way to go through the grieving process.  Finding the most personally reflective way to grieve is what becomes important.

Most of us are familiar with Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross' stages of grieving. These stages are not fixed. We move in and out of these stages randomly bouncing from one to the other.  It is not a step by step sequence. You may even skip a stage.  The following excerpt is taken from her book "On Death and Dying".  "the so-called “stage theory” are merely a set of categories artificially isolated and separately described so that the author can discuss each of these experiences more clearly and simply. The careful reader will note K├╝bler-Ross’s own repeated warnings that many of these “stages” overlap, occur together, or even that some reactions are missed altogether. To emphasize this conditional way of talking about stages, the word “stages” was even put in inverted commas to emphasize their tentative nature in the only diagrammatic representation of these ideas in her book.
The following is Dr. Ross' diagram model: 

Grieving isn't just something we experience when a loved one dies. We grieve when we have a change; even happy changes can spark a grieving reaction with in us, as we release the old to make room for the new.  From sad events like a death, a divorce, a loss of employment, to happier events such as a move, a graduation, a new baby, retirement ... the old life dies and the new life moves in.  But it's more like moving through taffy. Change is slow and sticky and we need to warm up to it before it can become more fluid.  What we are truly mourning is not only loss, but essentially the change in our life as a result of the event.

I read an autobiography once who's title and author escapes me, but I recall how the author was going through a divorce and at the same time developed a chronic illness.  She decided to be a "conscious" griever.  When she felt like screaming, she found a time and place to do so ASAP!  When she wanted to cry, she didn't swallow her tears.  She allowed the pain she felt to have a voice when and how it needed to express itself.  She experienced a transition from pain to peace in a relatively short time; she claimed 2 weeks was all it took for her to embrace her new life.  No suppression; just expression.

A year is the stated "typical" time frame for people to come to some neutral place of acceptance.  One year to accept - not heal completely, or be back to normal.  Healing is slow.  But how much of this is due to all of our "stiff upper lip" mentality? What would change for us if we stayed with our suffering and gave it an outlet whenever it chose to wash over us? Like a wave washing up on the shore; it will recede again.  Nothing stays the same, not even our pain.

If you are grieving, no matter the reason; and you're not coming to terms with your life in a satisfying manner; than consider seeking therapy to assist. Bioenergetics body work therapy, dream work, and expressive arts are all excellent means of working out the suffering that has stored itself within our psyche.   Often a few sessions will ease the load greatly; leaving a promise of a hopeful tomorrow. Remember to treat yourself with velvet gloves; softly and gently, and do the things that warm your heart.

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