The Five Stages of Grief and Sorrow

Good morning to each of you and a huge thank you for continuing to visit my site, even in the absence of new posts. May you have a wonderful day and a fabulous weekend. There were several search terms about sorrow and despair, and I’d like to discuss sorrow, or grief, and the five stages of recovery.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross defined five stages of grief as it applies to death and dying. These stages occur at your own rate, and often show up like a “dance,” with gentle flowing from one stage to the next, back again to the second stage, skipping one or two, then back to one again, etc. Grief is such an individual process that each of you grieves uniquely.

In this discussion about grief and sorrow, I am expanding loss to be anything from a death of a loved one, to the death of a pet, the loss of a job (even if it’s your choice), a move, and loss of a relationship of any sort (even if you left). Anything that leads to the change in the familiar is a loss and needs to be grieved.

Here are the five stages, as defined by Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the denial stage, you cannot see that what is happening is real, and have difficulty grasping the situation. This stage is all about being in shock and not being able to respond much.

In anger, you are mad at the situation, as well as at the person that is/has leaving/left you, even if they died. Many of you may feel guilty for getting angry at a dying person, yet, that is typical to be mad that they are leaving you, that they did not take better care of themselves, etc. In the case of a move or loss of a job, even if you initiated these, anger hits when you mourn the loss of the familiar, and you get angry at yourself for making the change into the unknown.

Bargaining shows up and often is a plea to God, or whatever the power is you defer to that is bigger than yourself. “If only you’ll let Susie live, I will change xyz, I will be good…” The next stage is depression and this is quite normal to enter a state of depression for a period of time in response to your loss. Be aware, however, if it becomes prolonged or if it affects your ability to eat and sleep for long periods of time, or if you become suicidal. In these cases, seek the care of a physician to determine if you are clinically depressed and in need of medication.

The final stage is acceptance, as you realize you cannot change what has occurred. In this stage, you are not saying that you think everything is okay, yet, you accept things are as they are. You finally gain some peace from the situation and are able to move forward with your life.

That’s a summary of the five stages of grief and sorrow, as defined by Kubler-Ross. Tomorrow, I will talk about another philosophy of grief and sorrow that is related to loss.

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Grief Timeline and Behaviors – Conclusion

Welcome back for the conclusion of the discussion about grief. My hope for you today is that you find peace in your journey.  Yesterday, I spoke about how grief after loss is normal, that we may go on a roller coaster ride of emotions, that we are not alone – others have gone through the grieving process also, and they are available to help us through ours.

And that is a key point right there. Grief recovery is a process. It occurs in stages or waves, and if we can stay present for those changed emotions, we can recover more quickly.

Let’s look at our emotional landscape… when we experience grief, we may be breathless, unable to catch our breath due to the shock and disbelief. We will likely be angry and either target it at someone/something specific, or generally be angry at the world, at God. We may feel guilty, worthless, and depressed, alternated with calm and peace. This is quite normal.

Our release of emotions may include weeping, wailing, sobbing, and we may isolate ourselves. In our physical landscape, we may be experiencing lethargy, physical numbness, aches and pains. Our sleeping and eating patterns may change; we may feel general malaise and fatigue.

All of these things are normal, and we can take the best care of ourselves that we can throughout our changing emotional and physical status.

We may find ourselves getting to a point where we enjoy a portion(s) of our lives and this does not deny our loss and grief. I think the important thing to realize is that we get through grief more quickly if we feel our feelings, if we allow them to surface and be acknowledged. Then, if we get stuck, we can do things to get unstuck. What can we do to get unstuck, you may ask?

First, we can reach out. Reach out to friends, family, to spiritual leaders, to clergy, to teachers, medical community, our personal social circle. Second, we can risk examining our stuck behaviors. This takes courage and we can acknowledge that courage. We can talk to those who are not stuck.

Third, we can make this a year of “yes,” giving ourselves permission to move forward and act. We can take one step, one baby step, and we can live life fully, to the best of our ability. Fourth, we can move, exercise. This produces endorphins, the feel-good chemical in our brain. And fifth, we can write a letter to the person or thing with which we grieve, talking through any unfinished business.

In fact, writing, and especially printing with the non-dominat hand, will bring out emotions more quickly and we can pass through them as we write about them. Throughout the process, we find our purpose and we eventually gain peace with our grief. We find our purpose, and we find acceptance.

What are you grieving about? What do you discover about your feelings, your beliefs, when you write about your grief? How does it feel when you reach acceptance? Have you reached it yet? Leave a comment and let us know how you are coping with your grief.

 

 

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Grief Timeline and Behaviors – Part 1

Good morning to you each. I hope your day has dawned with the promise of peace. Today, I picked the topic of grief and want to look at the process involved in grief recovery – how long it takes and what we might be dealing with throughout the process.

My information here is based on personal experience with seven years of a debilitating grief from which I recovered, as well as the book, The Grief Recovery Handbook, the 20th edition, by John W. James and Russell Friedman. Some of what I say about the stages of grief are based on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ teachings about the 5 stages of death and dying.

Perhaps the first thing about the grief process is to know that grief is normal after loss of any sort… death of a loved one or pet, divorce or loss of a relationship, loss of a job, or a move from one place to another. The other thing to know is we are not alone. Others have also felt loss and gone through grieving.

But what do we do when we feel this acute emotional pain, this loss? We take baby steps, and we allow ourselves to feel the pain in waves, or however it presents itself to us. If we cannot deal with the pain all the time, that is normal, and need to divert ourselves, distract ourselves, that is normal. I don’t recommend using substances to numb ourselves as a healthy distraction, however.

We honor our process, the steps we make. Our feelings may go back and forth between denial, anger, bargaining, and depression until we finally reach acceptance. This is totally individual and while one person goes through these in order and not too lengthy a time in each, another may go back and forth hundreds of times and take months or years to go through.

It’s important to remember we are each unique, that the relationship we had with what we have lost is unique and, thus, our responses will all be unique. People will say well-meaning things to us which are not useful and even hurtful, like “Get over it,” or, “You didn’t need her anyway. You’ll find someone else better.”

These things are said out of ignorance of knowing what to say to someone who has suffered a loss. Try to have tolerance of these things that are said and not take them to heart. Know that we as a society have not learned how to deal with loss and so, are uncomfortable with it.

I want to continue this tomorrow but I will leave you with this thought: Alternating between a roller coaster ride and calm are quite normal and if we can see our pattern and the things that trigger us to go on the ride, plummeting, than we can predict it and not go under when it hits.

Tomorrow, I will address feelings specific to the grieving process, and ways to move through them. Please come back for the conclusion when I write about how to cope with grief and its behaviors.

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Getting Through Grief After a Divorce – Conclusion

Hello, again. We are talking about getting through our grief after we have left a marriage or were left. Either way, there is loss and grief.

Perhaps the most useful tool I can recommend is to write about your thoughts and feelings with your non-dominant hand. I recommend you print, rather than write script. Printing is easier. I did this, printed with my left hand, and all sorts of deep emotions surfaced that I was then able to look at and process. I began to get through my grief more quickly and identified some feelings I didn’t even know I had.

There are stages to grief that are defined in the literature. For example, Elisabeth Kublar-Ross believes there are five stages that we go through. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We go from one to the other, not necessarily in order, and we may stay for a brief time in one, or a long period of time. We often jump back and forth from one to the other until we finally reach acceptance and gain some peace.

It is all individual and we cannot compare our grieving process to anyone else’s, nor should we allow others to compare us to someone, or a “norm.” There is no norm. There is only what is in our own heart. I believe it helps to understand these stages, as we are then prepared for what we might experience and we can put words to our feelings.

Another train of thought is suggested in the book The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Edition, by John W. James and Russell Friedman. They do not believe in stages, and state grief is a totally individual experience and cannot be placed into any stage or box. I highly recommend getting and reading this book, and doing the writing exercises.

These exercises are designed to get us to understand how we deal with grief, as the first step. Generally, we mirror what we saw when we were growing up. Often, that was the belief that we need to get over it, grieve alone, be strong… These beliefs are detrimental to our grief recovery. Instead, we can adopt the beliefs and attitudes that having feelings of sorrow, anger, and even guilt are natural occurrences when we experience a divorce.

To get through these, John and Russell walk the reader of their book through a process that identifies all the losses in one’s life, written on a timeline. Then, they have us look at all our important relationships in which there is unfinished business, also on a timeline. The loss of a divorce will most likely coincide with feelings about the person from whom we are divorced. Again, I urge you to get the book and do the program that is outlined.

After a divorce, there is often bitterness and anger. We can help to get through these by first recognizing what is underneath it. Perhaps there is hurt, fear we are not good enough, fear that there is something wrong with us. We may feel anger for abuse we received. We may feel guilty for things we said or did.

To deal with the anger, I found doing a self-appraisal to identify the things I did to bring the marriage to a bad place was of paramount importance. I discovered, for example, several things I did and said that brought the marriage to its demise. I also did not speak up for myself, so invited verbal abuse agaiin and again. Then, I played the victim, a role I played so others would feel sorry for me. I did this all unconsciously, of course, but I discovered it when I did an appraisal.

How about you? When you take a look at yourself and stop blaming the other person, what do you see? We all will find something or other that we did or did not do, that we are not proud of, that was detrimental to the marriage. We need to own those things, recognize we did the best we could at the time, and forgive ourselves. Then, we can find compassion for the other person and forgive them as well.

This does not happen overnight; it is a process that takes time and focus, a continual returning to exploration. Over time, though, we will find we have gotten through our grief, mainly because we allowed ourselves to feel our sorrow, and from that, the process of healing occurred.

I wish you well in your recovery from a divorce and hope that you gain peace from the experience. Take what was learned to the next relationship, which will be more whole and complete than the last, simply because you allowed yourself to heal and to gain insight of your behaviors from the past marriage. I wish you well.

 

 

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Getting Through Grief After a Divorce – Part I

Good morning! The day dawns clear and bright, and like all days, brings the promise of peace and joy to my world. I hope this is so for your world as well. Someone was looking for inspirational sayings for after a divorce, and I can offer ways to get through your grief. You be the judge of whether or not what I say is inspirational. : )

Grief occurs with any loss we experience. In other words, grief does not only occur after the death of a loved one. Loss includes divorce, loss of a pet, loss of a job, even a move to a different location. If we recognize that we have experienced a loss, that makes going through the grief process that much easier because we are not resisting it or being blind to our grief.

Grieving is difficult, I will admit, yet, to return to whole and to get to peace-of-mind again, we need to allow ourselves to feel our grief. We need to allow ourselves to go through the process of recovery and repair of our heart. Today, let’s talk aboout the grief process after a divorce.

People are uncomfortable with another’s expressions of grief and say some pretty useless and even damaging things. Examples include: “Get over it,” “S/he was no good for you anyway,” “You will meet someone else and forget about him/her.” There are more, and these are most commonly said to us when we have gone through a divorce and are struggling with our grief. So, what can we do?

First of all, it is a grave disservice to tell someone who is grieving to “get over it!” This totally negates where someone is in the process of grieving. Obviously, they can’t, or they would! There is something stopping them from moving on. Often, that is unfinished business, anger, or guilt.

For me, after I left my marriage in 2001, I grieved the loss of my familiar routine the most. It took several months before I actually missed my ex-husband. Then I moved into the guilt phase, as I realized the ways in which I had led the marriage to demise. Occasionally, I still get twangs of grief over things I did, and I say soothing things to myself, like: “If you had known better, you would have done better, Jones.” “You did the best you could with the tools you had at the time, lacking though they were, it was the best you knew how to do.”

Sit with that self-talk for the day, and I will return tomorrow to give more information about how to get through grief. I am splitting it up, because I have a fair amount more to say and the post is getting long. Also, for the day, try to ignore what people tell you that is not useful, realizing that the person saying those things is uncomfortable. Feel compassion for their uncomfortableness and continue with your soothing self-talk. I’ll be back tomorrow morning…

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How to Deal with Grief – Part 2

Good morning. We are again furthering our knowledge about grief and how to handle it. I am referring in this blog to the book I read called The Grief Recovery Handbook, by John W. James and Russell Friedman. One of the points they make early on is that we an not experienced in dealing with the feelings that come up when we are faced with a loss.

We fall back on the messages we learned when growing up, taught to us by folks who were themselves very uncomfortable with the unfamiliar feelings. The messages we were taught were: don’t feel bad, replace the loss, grieve alone, just give it time, and be strong for someone else. These are myths and don’t work in grief recovery. 

They encourage us to grieve in isolation, which is not effective in grief recovery, according to John and Russell. Instead, they believe we need to get acknowledgment of our feelings. They also believe that being told those messages leads us to a loss of trust in the person(s) saying them. Because loss of trust is painful, we learn the message to not trust others and this further isolates us. 

Nonetheless, we seek solace from others and we quickly learn they are ill-equipped to help us. Although well-meaning, they say things that are not helpful and sometimes detrimental, such as I know how you feel. No one knows how you feel because you had a unique relationship to the person or event of which you grieve, and, therefore, your grief is unique to you.

“Keep a stiff upper lip,” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,”  “give it  time and it will heal,” and even “get on with your life,” are all things we have undoubtedly heard which are not useful things for us. The clear message is that it’s not okay to have our feelings and certainly not to show them.

So what’s the answer? John and Russell believe we need to grieve in partnership with someone else who is grieving. They suggest going through their book and working the exercises that are clearly spelled out. Then, they advocate sharing what you found during each exercise with your partner, who does nothing but listen. The listener must not interrupt nor touch you if you become upset, as that interrupts the process of grief recovery.

One misunderstood emotion is depression. Depression after a loss is to be expected, as what just happened is a depressing thing. It differs from clinical depression, however.  A grieving person is entitled to a loss of energy after a loss, and this is not the same as clinical depression.

Basically, the healing comes about through our ability to be heard and acknowledged. Unfortunately, we learn quickly that it is not okay to voice our feelings, and we find ourselves acting recovered in order to be accepted, when, in fact, we are dying inside. This is something to be wary of and we can seek out the solace of a grief recovery partner.

In order to recover, we must look at all aspects of a relationship, both the positive and the negative. Without doing that, it is almost impossible to heal from the grief. It is important to remember that ALL relationships and events have both positive and negative aspects. Through the completion of what John and Russell call a Relationship Graph, we can get a clearer picture of what we experienced with a person or event. This helps us through the grief process by directing us to look at how our relationships interfaced with our losses. It keeps us from putting the person or event on a pedestal or continually criticizing them.

They also advocate/suggest that we do a Loss Graph, which outlines the major losses in our life. This will allow the feelings associated with our losses to surface so we can feel them, and then, heal. The whole system works well if we pair up with a grief partner and follow the exercises in the book. More information is available at John and Russell’s website at http://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you journey through the grief process.

 

 

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New-to-me Theory – Finding Freedom From Grief

I see that many more of you visited yesterday, and I wonder if you were looking for some practical input about finding freedom from grief? That’s why I am writing today with some information I have recently discovered about the grieving process.

I just completed The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman.  It was highly informative and dispelled my beliefs about grief recovery. It is a book one works through either in a partnership with a close someone, or by themselves. The exercises they invite you to do take you through a grieving process that leads to more happiness and peace, less grief and sorrow.

In it, they talk about doing a Loss History Graph and a Relationship Graph, which points out to you your patterns of grieving with whom or what, and how it occurred, based on what you learned early in life. Their theory is that, with awareness, comes the beginning of change, of grief resolution. 

I had been following the teachings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who is famous for her work around the grieving process in the death and dying arena.  I still like some of the things she says about acceptance, even though I am swaying toward the new information. This is the fifth and final stage of  the process she defines. In it, she relays that just because you have accepted the death or imminent death, does not mean it’s okay. It never is alright, it just loses it’s charge over time and after one goes through the first four stages. Those are denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

John and Russel do not believe that grieving occurs in stages. They believe it is  a process, one which is totally individualized and can vary in length for each person. They believe it is unique to each person, and is dependent upon the relationship you had with the other person or experience. Yes, experiences can produce grief, such as moving from one location to another, or changing jobs/leaving a job.

They define grief as anything that produces conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior, so that’s why the above examples fall into the category of something from which you may need to grieve. We are taught at an early ago how to respond to loss, and the messages we have heard are: don’t feel bad, replace the loss, grieve alone, just give it time, and be strong for others.

John and Russell cite and give examples of why these beliefs are a detriment to and, in fact, block, the grieving process.  So what is their process? It involves first developing awareness of your difficulty with grieving and even that you may be grieving.  Then they have you identify what you are feeling, at the time you are completing a Loss Graph. On the graph, you list out all the losses in your life… the major ones which leave you with uncomfortable feelings today or in the past.

They have more about it, of course, and they add a Relationship graph, in which you define your relationship to the people/pets/loss involved. I am limited in my space to portray the information in this book, and would love to see you to get a copy and follow the exercises suggested… with a partner.

I plan to start with sessions from a coach certified in this procedure and I look forward to finding out if I am still grieving something about which I am unaware, but which affects my ability to maintain my weight. I am also thinking strongly about becoming certified as a coach in this process. That’s because this philosophy really resonated with me and because I deal with Veterans who are dealing with grief in their lives.

Today, consider the messages you were told about loss when you were growing up. Do they sound soothing, do you get strength from them? Perhaps it’s time to discard or alter them. Tomorrow, more about this information…

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Ways to Deal With Sorrow and Grief

Agony of Sorrow

I am consumed by the searing flame of my grief, my sorrow. It is too painful to contemplate. I cannot allow myself to feel.

Have you ever experienced sorrow so immense, it feels like you’re burning up inside? It starts as an aching that progresses so quickly to create a huge hole in your heart, your soul. And it’s a pain so intense, you can’t even look at it. To do so leaves you breathless.

Distraction of any sort does not even bring relief, but we engage anyway. Shopping, eating, drinking, gambling… Where does it lead? Often to destruction of self and others. Avoidance delays the beginning of the healing process, and yet it is often the only response able before one can confront the sorrow.

Recognizing and dealing with the distraction in which we are engaging, especially with drinking by getting sober, can assist in one’s ability to begin facing the pain, grief, and sorrow.

Sorrow is an intense anguish, often in response to loss or disappointment. It is closely related to grieving. If we choose to look at that sorrow, we can recognize the grieving process and allow it to occur. This begins the process of dispelling sorrow.

Often, talking to others about our sorrow is helpful, and allows the cleansing and grieving process to begin. Eventually, we are able to come back to center and to regain peace-of-mind.

In response to understanding more about the need for assistance to work through sorrow, support bereavement groups are forming, in addition to those offered by a local Hospice organization. Support allows us to realize we are not alone. It gives us courage to face the pain, knowing that by sharing, it will help with that searing feeling, allowing us to regain our equilibrium.

Hello, and welcome to my blog. As a newcomer or even someone returning, I want to clarify what I am doing on the blog. I am talking about each topic of my book, as it appears.  Together, the topics portray my healing journey, from great fear and worthlessness, to joy and peace. Thank you for joining the journey. We are currently at the beginning of the book, talking about difficult emotions.

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