Unfortunately, the Stages of Grief written by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in On Death and Dying back in 1969 are still the only thing most people know about the process of grief. In fact, she wrote them on the subject of terminally ill patients, and not for grievers at all. Her ideas were taken out of context and applied to grief and loss – and then used as a model for how to recover. Dr. Kubler-Ross herself in her later years tried to explain that she had been misunderstood and that the Stages should not be used for this purpose – but I’m not so sure the message has gotten through to most of our culture.
But don’t we experience those emotions – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – when we grieve? Well, maybe – as I have said, grief and mourning are deeply personal and individual. You may go through loss – and each loss over time – very differently.
Grieving and Mourning are also not linear – you don’t go through periods in a nice orderly fashion, always in the same order. Emotions will change over time, rise and fall through different periods of your life and is very fluid. Much like the wave image below, it rises and falls across time. And each line represents different losses in your life, as each will have its own peaks and valleys.
The Stages also imply that when you reach acceptance, you are somehow DONE with your journey, when in fact, as was my case with losing Mom, and every other major loss of my life, I have found that there is no such End Point. And that’s ok. It’s not about reaching The End – it’s about not living in your pain and adjusting to what has happened. Creating a new place in your Inner Landscape where this change becomes a part of you, informing who you are and the choices you make.
So if you are seeking a framework from which to begin your grief healing work, start with all of the Ten Tall Tales of Grief & Loss that I have written, so we know what works and what doesn't. Your mileage may vary! If you have found use in the Stages or have thoughts on other Tall Tales, I am happy to speak to you. Healing works best when the mind and heart are open.
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