Stages Of Grief

Most people believe that the ‘Stages of Grief’ apply only to the death of a loved one, but this is far from true. It’s also a misnomer to think that the stages go in order, are progressive, or that you will ever actually be done.

We grieve for lost dreams, for job changes, relationship changes. We even grieve for changes in life that we deem a good thing. Graduating is a great word as well as a great example of a change that holds both the long sought goal of finishing something, but also the sadness that it is over. Done.

As a therapist, I cannot emphasize more strongly that each gain carries with it, losses.

To complete these transitions successfully, I believe that it’s essential to acknowledge the loss as well as the gain. In fact societies have created what are often called “Rites Of Passage” to assist us through these complex transitions. Examples include birthdays, graduations, wedding ceremonies, and of course funerals. These Rites of Passage are usually a public event, and have the potential of using the strength of a community to assist us through the change.
Some transitions, though, seem more isolating – divorce, a miscarriage, cancer, a break-up. With no cultural “Rite of Passage” in place, it often feels like we are alone

Yet, with knowledge of the grief steps, we can at least name the stage we’re going through as a way to help us make sense of the tumultuousness of our experiences. For example, I was diagnosed with breast cancer twmonth ago. My first response was shock (denial) followed by sadness and tears (depression). I felt like everything was going to fall apart. I didn’t want this to be my reality (anger)… “no…no no no…”, but alas, reality said “ cancer.” My mind argued with the next steps (bargaining), being mastectomy. I argued with the entire medical field! I said, “why do people jump to mastectomy with out checking lymph nodes first!” As if I were an expert they forgot about.

The next day I woke up ok! Sort of happy even. (Acceptance). I joked with myself, husband and friends that, “ yay! My boobies were too big anyway! Now I get a makeover!” Ha Ha Ha. Not true acceptance, more like another layer of denial.

Sadness isn’t the only stage of grief

The Stages of Grief

  • Denial/shock
    Most people report an almost out-of-body response to traumatic losses (shock). They also report speaking in the present tense about someone who is gone (denial).
  • Bargaining – Bargaining is when we plead with our God to back- up so the truth of the loss can change. It can sound like, “take me instead…”, or, “what if I…” I always envision the Superman movie, where Superman is capable of going backwards and saving Louise Lane, despite the fact that she was killed.
  • Anger – The anger stage can be towards self, others, even God. “why me/ him/ her??“; “This isn’t fair/ not the way it’s supposed to go!”. It can also show up randomly, like being mad at society, the internet, the utility bill.
  • Depression – This describes the feeling of hopelessness after a loss. Questions like “can I go on”, “I don’t know how I can get through this”, or even, “I KNOW I can’t get through this “.
  • Acceptance – acceptance doesn’t mean everything is ok in your world regarding the loss, or that you are now happy. It’s an amazing acknowledgment that you CAN get through this, and somehow you WILL get through it.

These stages are not necessarily experienced in order. In fact, you can triple-cycle through all of them in a matter of minutes. The thing to know, however, is that whatever craziness you feel in this intense process will change. And if you accept the experience, you will flow from one stage to another, even if over and over, until your process is willing to let you go. We can’t force it though. Observe it for a bit of sanctuary.

Reality Isn’t a Bad Place

Life happens.

It isn’t personal.

There are no judgements.

When you think something “should”, or when you think something “shouldn’t”, you argue with truth (and lose – only 100% of the time!) When we argue with reality, we suffer.

“So, are you saying I should be ok about everything?”

Oh sweetheart, only if you want to.

3 Steps To Self Love

Loving yourself unconditionally is not about merely liking yourself on the surface. Instead, it means to love and accept yourself fully, despite whatever flaws you think you may have.

I Love Me THIS MUCH!”

But how do you get to a space of loving yourself unconditionally? Here are three steps you can take to help you get there.

Spend Quality Time With Yourself

We grow to love the people in our lives by spending quality time with them. We need to cultivate self-love in the same way – by spending some quality time with ourselves.

However, the thought of spending time alone with ourselves can make many of us feel uncomfortable.

By choosing to spend time to be alone, you create space to understand and accept yourself better. Journaling, meditating, going for walks, unplugging from your devices and taking time to relax and do nothing are all ways in which you can spend quality time with yourself.

self-reflection via journaling

Journaling is particularly useful. As uncomfortable as it may seem, just letting our minds flow, with pen to paper, we can create all the acknowledgment we thought we needed from another. Writing our thoughts down creates a flow that allows us to go deeper.

Challenge Your Internal Judgments Of Yourself

We may hate it when others judge us but ironically, many of us tend to judge ourselves all the time! It’s hard to cultivate self-love when our internal dialogue is a constant barrage of insults.

Try observing your internal dialogue a few times a day. It’s shocking! Try to imagine how you would talk to a child. Would you really call a child some of the names you call yourself? It may take a while, but eventually we may notice that we can offer all the compassion and love that we thought required someone else to give.

Practice Gratitude To Take Charge of Your Mind

When we let our minds run on autopilot, we tend to focus on the negatives and gravitate towards our shortcomings, losing perspective of all that is good in our lives. Try focusing your attention on what’s good in your life.

The simple act of writing Gratitude Lists is a great way to develop a positive perspective and let go of comparing yourself with others.

Keeping a gratitude journal is about consciously choosing to dwell your attention on the good that you may not otherwise notice or acknowledge.

In fact, an overwhelming amount of research indicates that practicing gratefulness can make us happier, strengthen relationships, have a positive impact on your physical and mental health, and help in reducing stress.

It doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s okay, because the road to self-love is a journey, and it begins with our willingness to make a conscious effort to take the first step.

Mind Benders — no. 1

Find A Loop-hole Into The Secrets Of the Unconscious Mind

Exercise no. 1

  • I. Write down everything that bothers you about someone you know.
  • Be petty! (These thoughts are for your eyes only).
  • What about this person upsets you?
  • How would you characterize this person?

  • How should s/he change?
    • Now — simply put your writing aside.

    What you are about to learn is two-fold.

    1. That we actually have no power over anyone else, period .

    2. The place we have power is in becoming our true selves.

    Notice that it was our own mind that chose the words we wrote down about another.

    If we reverse the spotlight now, we can open our awareness to the unconscious mind , thereby learning a great deal about ourselves.

    I want to caution you though — This “window” into the unconscious tends to cause an myriad of responses from the ego: “it’s not me…”,

    … But if you know anything about our “shadow figures“, you know that, once understood , they no longer act as monsters. We only need to meet them with understanding.

    So this exercise is, at first, a leap of faith. Yet, I promise you, after a few discoveries, we become friends with these mistaken monsters, and can actually learn to respect them in assisting your own personal growth.

    II. Find a time in your day when you can spend a moment with yourself. Get as relaxed, mentally, physically, and emotionally, as you can.

    • Read the paper you wrote about the person you are upset with.
    • Shift the pronouns. YOU becomes ME, and vice-versa.
    • Sit with this new idea. Can you find the truth in it?

    EXAMPLE

    Me and The Old Hag Archetype

    When I was going through my divorce, with 6 year old twins, I sometimes felt such anger and even had visions of violence: like ripping up old love letters that I found while trying to box up His verses My personal stuff. These feelings, which felt overwhelming during each episode, were entirely foreign to me. I didn’t want to claim this “ugly, horrible” side of myself — if it even was myself…. (but seriously, who else could it be?)

    So I researched the Old Hag Archetype.
    “She is the figure in myth of the evil woman who is capable of stealing peace from the innocent. In each historical portrayal, she is uniquely terrifying and at the same time, remains a universal symbol of woman’s unconquerable power.She is thought to arise during traumatic events or severe disruptions in life.”
    Well, that made sense. My divorce was very traumatic to me – my “Perfect Life” was in shambles and I was so-so afraid of the future I would have to endure.

    Somehow I needed the strength she represented, to move forward despite my fears. She said, “Don’t cross me! I’ll kick your a@!”

    Yet, my best bet was to be-friend her… to “use” her so I wouldn’t collapse in it all. I needed, however to keep her in check.

    “I hate my ex” becomes “I hate me” … ? … for failing my family.

    Ok. That makes sense. … but, can I forgive me, too?

    “I need to destroy my idea that we had a good marriage” became, “I need to embrace my idea that we had a good marriage, but it’s over.”

    I felt calmed by that statement. At least it wasn’t unusual, right? Many people decide that they don’t want to stay in stagnant lives, even though it was, at one time, thriving.

    So I invite you to try this exercise. Let me know how it goes!