Navigating Grief & Loss
July 24, 2016
Here we are, looking at navigating grief and loss.
What I have to share next may come as a surprise to some readers.
This blog is not about navigating grief and loss. We can’t actually navigate grief and loss…instead, it navigates us.
Navigating means we should be able to chart a course, plan ahead, and have a set destination. Grief doesn’t allow us to work that way. I speak from my personal experience with loss: the death of family members, childhood and college friends, pets, and relationships. But nothing has rocked my world like the recent loss of a parent.
I was hit right at the core of my being. My entire world was shaken, causing me to examine all of my life roles. Who was I without my dad? He had been such a key figure throughout my life and all-of–a-sudden a major reference point had been shifted. Losing my dad pushed up many views about spiritual belief, life, death, purpose, and meaning. This is when I experienced being taught by my grief that I was not in-charge of my grieving process.
I found I could have influence and could learn to work with grief and its stages, but in no way could control the grieving itself. When you talk with people about grief or loss they may talk about their feelings of overwhelm, confusion, exhaustion, tears, sadness, and the waves of emotion that seem to come out of nowhere. Those waves are real. You may find yourself feeling normal and going about your day one minute and then be swamped with waves of intense emotion the next!
The loss of a loved one is very clearly a loss, but what about other types of grief and loss? Grief can take many forms and shows up in some unsuspecting areas of our lives. Anywhere there has been a loss of some kind can be a tender spot that bleeds a longing for what was once there. This could be the loss of a pet, a relationship, a friend who’s moved away, a job loss, or losing a special person in your life. Some of these may be more obvious, but don’t discount the more hidden places grief may show up, such as: a child going away to overnight camp or leaving for college, moving to a new location and saying goodbye to a home and community, or grieving an old way of being or living. Even a life change that should be filled with joy, such as marriage, can also be paired with grief of losing parts of our old life.
The well-known Kubler-Ross five stages of grief can be helpful in identifying where a heightened emotional response is coming from. I see that using the five stages is a bit like shaking a magic eight ball. Rather than a steady map to be followed, the stages tend to shift and move around. You can’t truly know which one will come up next! Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance?
Recent studies are showing that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Timelines, rules, strategies, and following fixed stages are now often debunked as being helpful. Instead, try allowing the waves to keep going through in the way they do for you. Learn from what your grief has to teach you. What messages, what memories, what insights come forward that can help you to enhance your living each day?
Of course I miss my dad, and I always will. It’s just that the lessons he’s left me are too rich to not pick up and consider. Using his passing for growth and reconstruction is what I’ve chosen to do. In this way he is still with me encouraging me to do my best each day, and to be loving and kind to myself and others above all else.
Blessings to each of you no matter what your grief journey may be.
All the Very Best,