Great Morning Beloved!!
In the spring of 1968, right before my freshman year finals at West Chester, I received a call from one of my boyfriend Fred’s roommates at Ohio State, where he was attending college. The call was to inform me that he had been killed when a car struck him while riding his motorcycle.
That was my first real experience of grief….and mourning. Mourning is the outward expression, grief is the internal process. Mourning is the external part of loss. It is the actions we take, the rituals and the customs. It’s how we process loss.
I remember going through the stages of grief…lots of denial and anger. And eventual acceptance.
When my Father died, in a car crash, more than 2 decades later, I experienced grief and mourning in a different way.
My Father’s death led to a journey of discovery, about what my relationship with my Father was and what that discovery would lead to for me.
I didn’t mourn my Father’s passing. And after the funeral, it was a time of memories and laughter. Partly, because that was what my Father was known for…the life of the party to many. But partly too, because I was glad in some ways that he was no longer around to hurt my Mother, or to hurt me.
Loss comes in many ways, and the loss of someone dear to you or even the loss of a dear pet, can put us in a state of pain, of missing that person, or that pet.
We can also mourn and process grief at the loss of a relationship, a job, a home…anything that you held close to your heart, that meant something special to you.
It is said that You will understand what true freedom is when you understand the impermanence of life. At any moment life can change from life affirming conditions, to conditions that are not life affirming.
The real question is do you truly understand this? Conditions that don’t support life will change for many today, if you understand this can occur at any time, it will allow you to let go of all the nonsense you think you need for your life to be. The only place of true freedom is in understanding this.
When you know your current form of existence to be temporary, how can you not be grateful and know that now is the only moment that ever is. Death is not truly death, it’s merely the existence of changing conditions.
The Bible tells us:
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
The ‘enemies’ of Christ Consciousness are the illusions of separation and limitation that confuse our minds and distract us from our spiritual Truth. The greatest illusion, of course, is the one that tells us we are finite, mortal beings who cannot escape the ultimate fear, death.
We know that is not true…we are eternal beings having a physical experience.
We know that very form of physical life has a beginning and an end. Death as just a door to a different form of existence.
Robert Brunet tells us:
“We in the Western world are generally not comfortable with death in any form. We tend to acknowledge and celebrate beginnings and to deny and to lament endings. We rejoice at a birth yet often see death as a tragedy. We celebrate weddings but tend to see divorce as a failure. Even a graduation ceremony, an obvious time to acknowledge an ending, is referred to as a “commencement” and the keynote speaker will typically address “the vast and limitless future that lies ahead.”
Good as it is that we celebrate beginnings, endings also need to be honored and perhaps even celebrated. We can truly experience a new beginning only when we have fully dealt with the ending that preceded it; otherwise, we simply carry the unfinished business of the past into the future
And so we have grief. That cycle to attend to unfinished business.
Grief is the internal part of loss, how we feel. The internal work of grief is a process, a journey. It does not end on a certain day or date. It is as individual as each of us. Grief is real because loss is real.
Each grief has its own imprint, as distinctive and as unique as the person we lost. The difference between the loss of Fred and of my Father, are perfect examples.
I definitely went through the 5 Stages of grief when Fred died. Not so with my Father. There really was no grief for my Father, but maybe for something else as I learned more of my relationship with him.
The pain of a loss can be so intense, so heartbreaking, because in loving we deeply connect with another being, and grief is the reflection of the connection that has been lost. Our grief is a result of the love we had for the lost love one.
We think we want to avoid the grief, but really it is the pain of the loss we want to avoid. Grief is the healing process that ultimately brings us comfort in our pain.
There are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live without the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.
But they are not stops on some timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.
Grief is the healing process that helps us deal with the loss of a loved-one. It does not have a clear beginning or clear end to it. Rather, it is a reflection of feelings surrounding the loss. Grief will ebb and flow throughout our life after a loss. We don’t get over the loss of someone, but we learn to live with that loss. We also will eventually remember and honor our loved one without feeling pain. We will grieve as long as we need to.
The Five Stages of Grief according to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross are:
Denial is the first stage of grief. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day.
Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.
Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal.
There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing.
Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone…The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.
Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God,” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?”
We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What“ if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only.
Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt.
People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.
After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever.
It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss.
The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.
Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one.
This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing.
Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies.
And while it may feel like we are caught up in a never-ending spiral of sadness and emptiness, it is important to remember that the grief we are feeling is not a permanent state of being. Rather, grief is part of the process of letting go that in many ways can be a gift, allowing us to go deeper within ourselves to rediscover the light amidst the seeming darkness.
Think about this:
One day a professor entered the classroom and asked his students to prepare for a surprise test. They waited anxiously at their desks for the test to begin. The professor handed out the question paper, with the text facing down as usual. Once he handed them all out, he asked his students to turn the page and begin. To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions….just a black dot in the center of the page. The professor seeing the expression on everyone’s face, told them the following:
“I want you to write what you see there.”
The students confused, got started on the inexplicable task.
At the end of the class, the professor took all the answer papers and started reading each one of them aloud in front of all the students. All of them with no exceptions, described the black dot, trying to explain its position in the middle of the sheet, etc. etc. etc. After all had been read, the classroom silent, the professor began to explain:
“I am not going to grade on you this, I just wanted to give you something to think about. No one wrote about the white part of the paper. Everyone focused on the black dot – and the same happens in our lives. We have a white paper to observe and enjoy, but we always focus on the dark spots. Our life is a gift given to us by God, with love and care, and we always have reasons to celebrate – nature renewing itself everyday, our friends around us, the job that provides our livelihood, the miracles we see everyday.
However we insist on focusing only on the dark spots – the health issues that bother us, the lack of money, the complicated relationship with a family member, the disappointment with a friend, etc.
The dark spots are very small compared to everything we have in our lives, but they are the ones that pollute our minds.
Take your eyes away from the black spots in your life. Enjoy each one of your blessings, each moment that life gives you.
Or affirm this:
this too is good, this too is god, this too is for me and i demand to see the good in it now.