There are some things in life we can change. There are some things in life we cannot change. If we can change it, we then seek solutions, but if we cannot change it and it was significant to us, then we need to grieve our loss. It is amazing how easy it is to get stuck on the journey of grief.  The two favorite parking places are depression and anger. There are those that choose to stay depressed as a way of life and those that carry a chip on their shoulder as a way of life.

 It is important to know that grief is a journey…an emotional one measured by the content and quality of the loss. Grief is not a mental experience nor defined by an objective standard.  We are in grief when we organize our life around our loss…that which is gone and absent.  And grief will continue until we organize and readjust our life to that which is present and around us.  Yet having a mental road map keeps us moving, normalizes our experience and validates our feelings along the way. The road map is not a fixed one and we can move forward and backward on the myriad of feelings. There are many books written on the steps of grieving and not all steps are identified with the same name or the number of steps. Elizabeth Kubler Ross  (On Death and Dying) and Granger Westberg,(Good Grief) both deceased offered many insights in their books from the work with those who grieve. Those of us who have lived grief can offer and expand on these insights. The steps are from Granger Westberg’s version, the explanation for each step morphs with my understanding and experience. 

Loss and grief are a universal experience; it crosses gender, age, socio-economics, and ethnicity, as well as cultural, religious and geographic divides. It unites us on the common ground of “meaning lost”. It seems no one escapes grief if we dare to care and love.

Loss happens and only we know how significant it is as we are the only ones that ascribe meaning to our loss.  So when loss happens in our life, the drama begins …yet without our acknowledging the drama. 

Shock and Denial quickly show up and we do not acknowledge the loss.  The reason of course is because the reality is often too much to bear all at once.  We cannot handle the dose of the reality.  It is like trying to stare at the sun all day without sunglasses. We cannot do this…so we are given the gift of shock and denial as a respite from the harshness.  But it is only temporary… we will move out of this place otherwise it is maladaptive to the process to remain in denial indefinitely. Shock and denial can last from a few minutes, hours, days and maybe weeks but then our facades break down and we release the emotions.

Sadness, Depression, Loneliness often follows the breakdown of our shock and denial.  A welter of emotions find their release in tears, but it can be overwhelming. If we do not move and release the emotion we can get stuck and get sick.  As long as we get triggered emotionally, it means our grief is not over, our work is not over. Notice the larger part of the word emotion is MOTION…keep the feelings moving through us. With these dampened feelings, we tend to isolate ourselves, lose interest in life and activities.  Life is hard to go on with, as there are so many adjustments, too many demands on us, yet, life goes on without us and we do not care. We feel no one cares, not even God.  We can experience despair.

Physical Symptoms of Distress can follow if we do not want to deal with the changes in our life, and we put up a front of being okay… our body soon will call us liars. We will experience symptoms of sleeplessness, or too much sleep, backaches, restlessness, eating too much or not enough, headaches; we can get sick. There is a strong relationship between illness and grief not dealt with in healthy ways. We are invited to re-examine how we look at life, explore our faith or lack of it.  Lost meaning invites us to create meaning again in our life. Beliefs are challenged.

Panic Strikes when we realize our life will never be the same again. We can think of nothing but the loss. We are hindered and less effective in everything we do. We cannot concentrate or focus and are paralyzed with fear.  The way we knew life is forever gone…forever hard to grasp.  We want to run away from life and living. We often slide back into the comfort of depression as we are familiar with it by now and social demands are eased. But how do we get out of this pit of panic…the scariest part of the grief… the realization things will never be the same again!!!!!!!!!! AGHHHH!!!! But just then the blessing of the energy of anger shows up!

to be continued…

Maria Hilda Pinon, author of The Willows of Corona, a novel, and Candles in the Dark…poems to grieve, hope and love again.

www.mariahildapinon.com

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