The Experience of Grief: Recovery is not a Cookie Cutter Approach
By Chantale Denis
March 30, 2018
When someone in our life passes away—we grieve. We experience the loss and emptiness of what is and often question what was, what never was ---or what can never be anymore. There is a natural void within us and the pain associated with having to press onward in our own unique way can at times be daunting.
When we think of grief, it is not uncommon to think of Kubler-Ross (1969) 5 stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance). However, the stages of grief was initially developed as a discussion among those dying, rather than the process of grieving after the loss for the one's left behind. Although, the stage theory does remain relevant, grieving the loss is a journey. It's a process. And time doesn't actually heal. Time just creates a distance.
I am reminded that coping with grief and loss is about recovery, especially having recently been faced with the death of my mother. When she died, I lost more than my mother. I lost my best friend. I lost my champion. I lost a big part of me—of who I am. It's as if I lost more than 1 person, as someone so poignantly pointed out to me.
It’s an agonizing redefinition of my identity and my life. It’s also a humbling experience and an awakening as I look back, think ahead and feel the pain, all the while gripping with a strong hold the memories that I cherish.
I quickly came to recognize that grief is in fact a journey while recovery is indeed a process. Despite what I do for a living it's always a humbling experience when we ourselves experience what many of our clients come to see us about. Like many in the helping profession, it is easier to give advice than to heed it. So, I thought I would provide a little reminder to us all who have experienced grief and loss regardless of whether it is the loss of a person, a pet, a relationship that ended, a job that came to an end, a new life transition phase or something we no longer can have. These are only some of the types of losses we can experience, but there are indeed many others. Regardless of the type of loss, it's never easy to face the end of the attachment.
"Grief never ends...But it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith...It is the price of love."-- Anonymous
We are rarely ready or prepared to deal with grief in our lives. I wasn't. So here is a reminder of what you are entitled to as you grieve. A Griever's Bill of Rights is based both on my Clinical knowledge and my personal experience. Take what you can and leave the rest or better yet, write your own Griever's Bill of Rights, because at the end of the day--it's your grief.
A Griever’s Bill of Rights
1. You have the right to your privacy.
2. You have the right to grieve in your own unique way.
3. You have the right to feel sad, angry, lost, confused, and guilty or regret.
4. You have the right to feel tired or unmotivated.
5. You have the right to eat or not.
6. You have the right to cry or not.
7. You have the right to be sensitive.
8. You have the right to take time-out.
9. You have the right to make your own rituals or not to.
10. You have the right to be hurt or disappointed for who was not there to support you.
11. You have the right to be alone if you want to.
12. You have the right to talk or not to talk about your grief.
13. You have the right to redefine yourself and your world.
14. You have the right to ask questions or refrain from asking questions.
15. You have the right to question or doubt what happens next in your life.
16. You have the right to mourn.
17. You have the right to sense the person's presence or not.
18. You have the right to question your faith.
19. You have the right to be different than you were.
20. You have the right to ask for help.
There is absolutely no shame in reaching out. I did!
Sometimes grief is complicated. That’s why there is such a thing as “complicated grief.” When your grief is complicated because of unresolved issues or the dynamics of that situation and or person, we navigate forward by being willing to explore the undercurrents of it all. Often, this is associated with unfinished business per say. The first step in recovery of grief is absolute complete brutal honesty with ourselves so we can gain self-awareness and do what’s necessary to live and press on. This requires courage!
May you find the courage within you. Letting go doesn't mean forgetting. And finding resolution and acceptance while facing the slow process of having to redefine your world is ---part of the journey.
Don’t give up! Try to be gentle with yourself. Nurture your spirit and reach out. There is no cookie cutter approach to grief.
It's a process--one day at a time. Sometimes, it may even be one minute at a time. And that's okay.
Copyright 2018, Chantale Denis