I’ve been mulling this topic over in my head for some time. It’s one I’ve had on my mind a while, I just couldn’t put a finger on it. You see to me, grief can be experienced anytime we lose something dear to us. Now this can be through a death, a move, or the most insidious when something dear and precious is suddenly gone that we were taking for granted.
a : deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement
b : a cause of such suffering
We have all heard about the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. So now, where does that apply when we lose something that is a thought, an idea, a feeling. For me, it drops you right in the same boat as anyone else, only instead of slowly moving through these stages, they rush down on you and take you for a ride. Often people talk of losing their innocence, or feelings of security. Sometimes we might have someone in our life that we rely on more than we even realize. When these things are suddenly gone, or changed in a way that we can’t handle, I believe we begin to grieve for them.
We start with denial, telling our selves that we are being crazy. That everything is okay, and nothing is going to change. Or the worst form of denial… that this change will pass and everything will go back to the way it was. That is the worst way to go. Because not accepting change as a finite thing will always lead you to disappointment and more grief. Physics classes taught us about change, and hopefully you did better at physics than I did, but my understanding is that despite something going back to its original state after a process, it has still experienced a change in some tiny way. Attitudes change, people change, friendships change. They all can be for the better but denying that it’s happening is going to get you smack dab at stage number 2.
Anger, a dangerous thing. Especially if you are like me and have a temper. Anger is where we start to boil over, and take it out on those we love. But we have to get angry. Skip this step and try to move ahead and you will just end up back at it. Sadly the stages of grief do not have to go in order. Anger cannot be controlled, but it can be experienced in a healthy way. We can embrace it in all it’s heat and malevolence and push it into an intense workout, a thorough cleaning of our house, and many more things. What we should not and must not do is try to avoid the anger, or push it aside because it feels wrong. That’s when outbursts will happen. That phrase about not bottling up anger is so true.
If we can make it to Bargaining we are doing well, but this can be the hardest part. How do you bargain with yourself and the universe at large when what you have lost isn’t tangible? This is where standing up for yourself and your beliefs becomes critical. If something you have lost is important enough to have you experiencing grief, then you have to let yourself bargain with the universe, friends, or even yourself. Tell yourself that you can deal with the loss by reaching out to new friends and old friends. That time alone is all you need, and the wounds will heal. Or the worst way to bargain, convince yourself that if you change it will bring your loss back. It’s this bargaining that brings us to depression.
It seems so wrong that after all of this you become depressed. And this depression can hit you when you least expect it. It will swallow you up and whisper dark things in your ear. Will make you feel worse than any other stage has. What you have to remember is that you need to reach out to people more than ever at this time. Not everyone will be receptive or available but keep reaching. Someone out there is ready to listen, to embrace you in friendship and comforting words. But don’t hide the depression or tuck it away. That will only feed it and make it worse. Just like the Anger you need to experience it. Some describe it as an exquisite pain and it can be a one of a kind experience that will change you forever.
Now for the hard part, Acceptance. This does not always come easy. For some, it happens all of a sudden. They are out and see something or experience something that suddenly helps them come to terms with the loss. For others, it’s a slower process with tiny steps towards the larger goal. Maybe they find themselves smiling or laughing one day. Or they get to the end of the day and realize they didn’t spend it thinking about the loss. What must happen is that you acknowledge that you have lost something, however small or slight it is.
I have obviously experienced a loss lately, but it wasn’t a person it was something more. I lost my understanding of friendships. Too often I labeled friendships, and attached value based on those labels. What I have learned in the last few weeks besides the fact that I still have a wicked temper… I have learned that friendships ebb and flow like tides. Sometimes you’re closer to one friend than another. You might be inseparable from one person and then get torn away by a change in your lives. This doesn’t have to mean the friendship is over it’s just taking a new path.
Sadly, I did not take my own advice up top. I was all over the map with my 5 stages of grief. Thankfully I have found a peace that helped me come to terms with what was going on. I may still float back into some of these stages as time goes on, but I feel that each trip will be a little shorter and a little less intense. Time heals all wounds… but sometimes we need a little Neosporin in the form of friendships new and old.
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