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You have likely heard of the five stages of grief. You may even know that it was founded by psychiatrist, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
For another thing, this model and how it has been taught -even in many graduate counseling, psychology, or social work programs- implies that you go neatly from one stage to the next and then the next and so on until you reach the end. By nature, if you could go through all of the stages, you could finish grief.
Well, that’s ludicrous.
Grief does not end.
Well, now, I am sounding a bit like a party pooper. Aren’t I?
Here is the thing: Grief is also way more than sadness, depression, and all the “traditional” emotions we associate with grieving.
Sure, don’t get me wrong. Those emotions are certainly part of grief, but grief itself is comprised of all of the reactions to loss you have.
In learning to live with grief, we can make room for all of the emotions. Yes, even joy. We must learn to live with the unexpected waves of sadness, pain, anger, devastation, etc. But in doing so, we will also learn to experience the other emotions. They may also be unexpected- or even unwelcome. Gosh darn it, some days I just want to cry, be mad, and be sad! (I’m not alone in that, am I?) But then some days- even those days- something will make me chuckle ( and often even when I am thinking bout the goofball my brother was at times).
This doesn’t mean that I am not grieving. It doesn’t mean I have “finished grief’ which is simply impossible.
What it means is that my grief looks and feels different that day! I am free to live my day and let whatever I happen to experience that day be. I don’t need to fight it. That – being, just being- is so freeing.
So, when that smile or laugh that slips past your lips, it’s okay.
Let’s think about grief as a sphere. Sometimes, we are really tiny are on one side of the really large sphere and we can only see one thing but are missing most of the view. We focus on what we can see and it may feel overwhelming.
Other times, we are bigger than the sphere and can manage it, hold it, and see much more of it. Some days it will feel heavy. Some days it will feel very light and fit in our pocket. Some days we won’t even want to look at it. Some days it is rough. Some days it is smooth.
The constant: it is always there.
Okay. But, how do you do that?
How can you support us?