This Thursday it will be three years since I lost my fiancé, best friend, and the dreams we voiced for our future together. Though I have had a lot of loss in my life over the years, nothing could have prepared me for losing a life partner whom we were so soulfully connected. Like many who experience deep emotional loss, I too, even as a professionally trained bereavement coach, had to walk my own journey through grief. In the last few months I have had to say good bye to three friends, join others in grieving the loss of a friend’s son, and learn of the passing of a high school classmate’s son. Though Kubler-Ross has set a globally known standard for stages of grief, we know there is no one standard or set of rules for the steps through grief. Each person handles grief differently and every one experiences loss.
There are all kinds of losses ranging from divorce, a pet dying, letting go of a dream, breaking up of a relationship, sense of security due to a traumatic event, loss of a child, partner, parent, friend, colleague, financial stability etc. We all must face loss, and the time frame to reach acceptance of the loss in order to carry forward in life will be different for each of us.
From bewilderment to shock, numbness, being dazed, overwhelmed, and convincing oneself they’re fine and ok are all symptoms of denial in the grief process. Even guilt can be when used to think “if only”. I must have played every scenario over in my head hundreds of times in the last 3 years about the conversations my fiancé and I had with doctors of what we could have done differently. Never did any of those times bring back the man I lost. Yet I have been able to use the information obtained from reevaluating circumstances to assist others in their own journey to fight their illness and help them realize this is a step to the stage of acceptance for loss.
Anger is a crucial step that many will find themselves in after loss. Anger after loss will vary in length along with feelings that will ebb and flow as one encounters various life experiences especially when memories are triggered. In anger, one can find oneself trying to assign blame; be it to a doctor, another person, misplaced rage or envy towards someone that seems like the right target to dump those feelings onto whether they were responsible or not. Many will blame God too. Those supporting a person at this stage may find it very difficult to care for them or be with them. Abandonment often surfaces at this stage along with resenting others that are happy and enjoying life.
Where do tears come into play for loss? Some cry a lot; others cry hard then are done; for some it comes and goes. What we know is tears are a big part of grief.
When facing impending death many will enter what is called a bargaining stage of grief. This is more often done with one’s God. Promises are made to do something if only the one facing death could have more time. If only I could see my child marry, a grandchild be born, or attend a graduation, etc. We will use this to sooth our pain and create hope for another tomorrow.
Depression, though a very normal part of grief, yields to caution for those you know that enter into what is termed “complicated grief”. Complicated grief is where a person gets stuck mourning the loss for generally beyond a year or so and can involve feelings of suicide, self-destruction, and an inability to cope with day-to-day activities including work. Depression tends to be the deepest stage of grief for most. It was hard losing Steve as well as some other difficult losses, when it seemed like the world just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why it didn’t stop and pause with me, but instead kept moving forward along with those around me. Some like myself will realize once through this stage there may be little you remember about those weeks or months when going through this part of grief. A common symptom due to loss is physical pain. It felt like my heart was truly broken when losing Steve, and I wondered if it would ever heal. I can truly say moving out of this stage was due to incredible support of friends and family. Other physical symptoms might be fatigue, insomnia, weight loss or gain, and even phantom afflictions. This stage would probably be a good place to tackle what not to say to someone struggling with grief. However, I will save how to re-frame comments for another post.
How does one get to acceptance? First, acknowledge the loss is real no matter what kind it is. Helping one get to this stage will involve lots of positive affirmations and encouragement to reach out for support along with taking baby steps to move forward with life. I remember a dear friend showing up right after I had gone through my divorce and then again after Steve’s death to get out my Christmas decorations and just start doing it so I would follow along. The décor probably would never had gone up had she not taken a time out of her day to help me take that small step forward. Additional small steps taken were helping raise money to fight lung cancer, advocating for others fighting the disease, and assisting others on how to save their relationships or to get out well due to my own experience with divorce. Today as a certified life coach, all the circumstances surrounding my own losses are used to help others work through their challenges and reach their personal and professional goals. Loss is hard as it is already! Having found out the hard way, one doesn’t get over loss; one learns how to live with it.
(c) 2015 Austin Lifestylist