It is a complex, fickle emotion. Whenever a person thinks they have moved on from their sadness, something happens to pull the memories back to the forefront, and the person is sent back through their grief. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, world renowned grief counselor and theorist, expressed fives stages to grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Perhaps the best visual depiction of the philosophy behind grief can be found in the “Grief & Loss Wheel”:
The weird thing about grief is just how individual it can be – two people can go through the exact same scenario, and one person walk away unscathed, while the other is sent through tremendous cycles of grief. It’s a normal emotion, and takes time to move through each stage – and, each person moves at their own speed.
Recently, I have seen so many different instances for someone to experience grief – the loss of a parent, a move away from friends and family, the loss of a child, even something as “minor” as selling a car can be a cause for grief for an individual. In fact, several followers of my blog have asked insight into the grieving process, which prompted my post today.
As we work through the five stages of grief, there is always a possibility that we can become stuck in the stage, which could lead to the deterioration identified in the grief wheel.
No matter how prepared one may be for the loss, there is still an amount of shock/denial that occurs, then anger/protest, then depression and bargaining/disorganization and reorganization, and finally (hopefully) acceptance/recovery.
Every couple years, I am reminded of the grief process when our family prepares to move. It takes an emotional toll to start anew. I grieve for the friends I leave behind, for the experiences I created, for the support that sustained me. And, as is typical with a grief cycle, the most random thing will send me back through the cycle – a person who reminds me of a friend, the change of the seasons, a smell in the air.
The most frustrating part of grief, in my opinion, is just how individualized it can be – the most random thing will make a person cycle back through, and although I may not be grieving, someone else may be grieving. And, there’s no set time clock for recovery – a person must theoretically move through every stage in order to achieve “recovery,” and then something might happen to set the wheel back in motion.
Furthermore, I can move quickly through a loss, but in order to be empathetic, I must force myself to recognize it may take longer for someone else (like my children, or my siblings, or my husband) to process through the grief.
I am grateful for how my faith formation has allowed me to face instances where grief has impacted my life – with my faith, I am able to stand firm in the belief that there will be better, brighter days ahead. For, as the Book of Revelation specifies in 21:4:
he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.
The HarperCollins Study Bible – NRSV (my emphasis added)
Finally, the best litmus for whether or not a person should seek counseling is to honestly assess how your grief is impacting your life.
- Are you able to go to work?
- Are you able to push aside the grief to focus on tasks or chores?
- Are you able to care for your basic needs, such as eating, showering, getting out of bed?
- Are you interested in going out with friends without engaging in reckless, self-destructive behavior (i.e. binge drinking, taking drugs, etc.)?
If more than three weeks have passed from the loss, and you are still answering no to any of those questions, I encourage you to consider contacting a professional – a doctor is a good place to start – to ensure you have all the tools in your arsenal to adequately address the grief, so that you are able to fully reach recovery.