By: Keshia Jabbar
It is a subject that no one really feels eager to talk about however it remains something that none of us can escape. It is the fear of what happens next; it is the stress of wondering how to move forward; it is the discovery of a new reality. The “it” that I speak of is loss. Losing a special person in our lives leaves a void that we search all around to fill. Each of us respond differently to this feeling and while some cling to those that we have left; others choose to be alone while processing what has occurred. Regardless of how we innately deal with loss, the process goes by the same name…grief.
I believe that when discussing grief and loss our minds tend to immediately think of death however death is not the only trigger for the grieving process. It is possible for us to grieve the loss of both the tangible and intangible. The person that dreams of becoming a lawyer but begins her career only to notice that learning and practicing law does not bring the fulfillment that she had hoped for must now grieve the loss of that version of her life. The young couple who married with the intent of being together forever but no longer love one another must now envision their lives separately.
The grieving process has been understood to span five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. These five stages were discovered and researched by a Swiss psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who expounded upon the stages in her first and most renowned book, On Death and Dying.
The stages are used to help identify what we may be feeling while experiencing the loss. Denial, for example, saves us from feeling the full magnitude of our grief. It allows us an opportunity to pace ourselves until we feel more capable of accepting the new reality. We allow ourselves to feel only as much as we can handle at that time and save the rest for later stages. Next on the list is anger, it permits freedom from the feeling of nothingness that loss can induce. The loss leaves us feeling, well, lost. We don’t know where to go, we don’t know what to do, and we are just here with no direction. Anger gives us someone or something to focus feeling towards again.
Bargaining is the third stage of grief. During the bargaining stage we attempt to strike a deal with a higher power so that we will be spared from the hurt and pain. We promise to donate to a charity, go to church every Sunday, or volunteer at the local homeless shelter if only we can wake up and have the event that precipitated the grief all be a dream. We believe that there is still something that can be done to make everything return to normal.
After bargaining comes depression. Depression is the deep sadness felt once our focus shifts to the present. During this stage we are no longer searching for ways to change what has happened but are attempting to live in spite of it. We no longer desire to do the things that we once loved. The sadness present during this stage is often so intense that we wonder how we will go on.
Lastly there is acceptance. There tends to be a misconception about acceptance and that is that we suddenly become “OK” with what has happened. This is not necessarily the case, we simply accept the new reality as our own. Acceptance does not mean the absence of sadness as some sadness may continue to linger on. Though gradually we consent to our new reality and find ways to make it our own.
Although the stages are presented as though they occur on a timeline, they do not. The stages of grief are not a straight line as we may bounce in and out of each stage with little warning. We may wake up bargaining and go to sleep in denial. It all depends on the person as we are all unique and so are our grieving processes.
Grief is one of those things that ties us all together. While we may experience it differently, we know that we are not alone in feelings of loss as grief and loss are merely a part of the human experience.