The Grieving Process

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross is a legend in the world of grief. Everyone deals with the feeling of grief in a different way. Whenever a loved one is lost grief is an inevitable feeling that can sometimes take over a person’s life. Although people deal with grief in their own personal way, there is a similar process that it follows that allow people to cope with the loss of a loved one in Western culture. 

Denial

The first step in the grieving process is denial. People deny that anything bad has happened and become overwhelmed with emotion and shock. The feeling of being numb is familiar at this stage. Denial is a way for our body and mind to take in only as much information as it can handle surrounding the unfortunate events.

Anger

The second stage of grief is anger. Anger is a natural and sometimes healthy reaction to losing someone. Anger is inevitable, and everyone has varying degrees of it during the process. The key understanding is this stage is not to fight your anger but embrace it. Understand that embracing your anger and letting it surface is the only way to get closer to the end goal of acceptance.

Bargaining

Bargaining is the third step in the grieving process. People will approach bargaining in different ways and it is vital to know that each way is perfectly reasonable. Someone may bargain with a higher power about taking the pain of loss away or asking to bring their loved one back. In this stage someone might ask questions such as “What if?” or “If only..”

Depression

All of your efforts of coping with the idea of loss has moved to this moment of depression. All of the bargaining and anger and denial leads you to the empty feeling that comes along with loss and the understanding of the gravity of the situation. Depression is the most challenging part of the process and has no limit to how long it may last. This is the time to seek out loved ones and lean on them for support.

Acceptance

As acceptance begins to make its way into our lives, it is important to understand that acceptance does not mean that the pain of loss has gone away. For many people, acceptance refers to knowing that the new reality they are in is the permanent reality and nothing will bring their loved one back. This is the ultimate step in the grieving process and should be spent moving on with our lives and forming or reforming relationships with loved ones.

Complicated Grief

Complicated Grief is a fairly unknown form of grief. The symptoms are not being able to move through the intense pain and heartache of your loss. When you start losing the meaning of your own life, feel numb and have apathy those are all signs of complicated grief. An absolutely amazing book to understand the issues of complicated grief is “The Other Side of Complicated Grief: Hope in the Midst of Despair” by Rhonda O’Neill. 

A Registered Nurse, Rhonda O’Neill was diagnosed with complicated grief after her husband and son died within two years of each other. She shares her struggle with CG for those years and shares how she found her way back to healthy grief and was finally able to live her life with some happiness again. It is not easy to understand the symptoms and implications of complicated grief. Here, the author uses her medical background to translate some confusing information on complicated grief into clear terms for the non-medical griever.

The first section of the book is a memoir of the author’s blessings and losses. She describes her loving, blended family, her descent into the fog after her husband’s death, the issues she faced as the single mother of a dying son, and the love and regrets that assail a grieving mother. In section two, you will find easy-to-understand information to help you determine whether you are suffering with CG. And since the Western view on death seeks to make dying and grieving invisible, you will find real help about what you can expect and how you can care for yourself in your often lonely struggle. Finally, since grieving can awaken a yearning to understand the meaning of life and death, you will need some kind of spiritual path to help you cope, whether traditional or nontraditional. You will find ideas about how to begin the search for the answers you need.

Death and Dying in World Cultures

This is one of the best lectures I have listened to and is available on Amazon from Great Courses. “Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures” by Mark Berkson. 

From the author:

After thousands of years of pondering it, we still find death one of life’s most perplexing mysteries. Many cultures view death as a window into the true meaning of life.

These 24 lectures looking at this often feared subject are an uplifting, meaningful, and multidisciplinary exploration of life’s only certainty. Bringing together theology, philosophy, biology, anthropology, literature, psychology, sociology, and other fields, they are a brilliant compendium of how human beings have struggled to come to terms with mortality. You’ll encounter everything from ancient burial practices, traditional views of the afterlife, and the five stages of grief to the question of killing during wartime, the phenomenon of near-death experiences, and even 21st-century theories about transcending death itself.

With personal and cultural enlightenment as the overarching goal, Professor Berkson provides you with eye-opening answers to several major questions surrounding death, including: How do we think about death? How do religions approach death? When (if ever) is it justified to take a life? You’ll also hear a chorus of voices from multiple disciplines, cultures, and ages as they offer sometimes shocking and sometimes refreshing perspectives on death. These voices include the Buddha, St. Paul, Albert Camus, Dylan Thomas, and Elizabeth Kübler-Ross.

“Many religious traditions teach that a form of regular death reflection can deepen one’s appreciation for life,” Professor Berkson notes. “And in some traditions, it can actually lead to spiritual transformation or awakening. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, ‘Whoever rightly understands and celebrates death at the same time magnifies life.”