I have been thinking a lot about grief lately…I’ve been thinking about it because I have been grieving.
In the past I have reflected on how we grieve about things other than the death of a loved one. The last few weeks have brought those thoughts into sharp relief. Obviously we do grieve those who have passed to the next world, and that is very important to do. I wrote about the importance of grieving of death in community in my previous post where I shared about the memorial for my nephew Galen, who was stillborn. In this post, I want to take time to acknowledge the grieving of other losses.
I am grieving the loss of a relationship, the loss of a man whom I love who has moved on from my life. I was engaged to be married to Guru AumJah. Our wedding date was set for Thanksgiving Day of this year. However, on May 27th, we parted ways. Even though our parting was my decision, it was a difficult one, and I have been working through the stages of grief since that day.
I had a great day today. I worked with clients, read quite a bit of the fifth book in The Game of Thrones series, and made some super delicious french toast for the kids and me for dinner. But there was a moment when I was working with one of my visually impaired clients this morning, that the loss reared up and struck me hard. I was teaching this lady the bus route to Venice Beach. I really enjoy teaching bus travel, and I was having a good time despite the heat. We got off the bus and started heading for the boardwalk that would take us to the water. I was describing the surroundings to my client when I looked over a noticed the spot that AumJah and I had shared an intimate dinner just about a year ago. I felt as though I had been punched in the gut, and the grief cycle began again.
The grief cycle as we know it today was originally published by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her seminal work: On Death and Dying in 1969. The five stages of grief (Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance) have come to be widely accepted the world over and applied to all forms of grief. However, Kubler-Ross based this cycle on her interviews of terminally ill patients, and she developed these stages as a result of their experiences of their own dying process.
However, what made me think about writing about these other forms of loss that cause so much grief was when a close friend gave me a book called Glad No Matter What by Sark. This book does not tell us to be Pollyannas all the time or to brush our “negative” feelings under the rug. It gives a map for how to express our feelings when we’re “not glad at all” so that we can then shift into a real gladness, in fact a fuller and more complete gladness than we would ever be able to get to if we had not experienced and expressed those other feelings first. I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet, but I definitely recommend it. Sark starts with giving a “feelings menu” and the section of the book most linked to that feeling. Since grief was what I was feeling, I flipped to that section. I was really disappointed to find that she 0nly addressed grieving the death of a loved one. Besides being disappointed, I felt irritated, and even a bit angry. So here I am expressing disappointment, irritation, and anger, and by doing so, I have become to feel empowered. Thanks Sark!
The loss of a job, a move away from familiar circumstances, even the anticipation of loss can cause us to start into the grief cycle. Some of us get so disoriented we never find our way out.
I have worked with a lot of blind and visually impaired adults who have gotten lost in the first four stages and seem never likely to emerge into acceptance. I have also had the privilege of watching many others regain their sense of control and well-being. The first part of acceptance is just to accept that the denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, and depression they are experiencing are normal – that anyone going through similar circumstances would feel the same way. That is often the turning point.
That has helped me as I weave my way through this grief process. I have accepted that all my feelings are normal…although I must confess that I had forgotten the isolation that is paired with denial. I have certainly gone through days when I denied myself the comfort that other people could offer me. On the other hand, there were days when I knew that the support I would find in the places and activities that I enjoy was just what I needed – even though my inclination was to stay at home and play Plants vs. Zombies. There have been days (and I’m sure there will continue to be) when I have given into the depression and let myself cry in bed. There have also been days that I have reminded myself that it’s okay to let go and move on – to enjoy myself in the experience without needing to have someone by my side.
I sit typing this alone. I will go to bed alone, and get up alone. That’s okay. However, one of the really important things that AumJah helped me to understand during our time together is the importance of sharing. Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you.