Images speak louder than words.
The concentric layers of trees, in the gorgeous photo above, remind me of grief—its stages and the overall journey that begins when death arrives at our door. It speaks to me of spaces of rest along the journey and the familiar fog of being in an unknown land.
Little by little, I am gaining a lay of the land of grief. In this post, and the post from last week, I am exploring two versions of the stages of grief.
To those whose interest lies in the tools of personal growth, the Five Stages of Grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are as familiar as the alphabet. Before becoming a widow, I judged them complete. When I found myself in profound grief after the death my beloved, they came up lacking.
What I did not know about Kübler-Ross’s stages is that they were intended for the dying person, not the people left behind. The Five Stages of Grief chronicle the process of a person who is journeying through terminal illness toward death; a very different place from widowhood.
In part one, I explored the Five Stages of Grief from a personal perspective. Today we’ll look at Kate O’Neill’s version, Other Ways to Think and Feel About Loss, shared through the lens of my personal experience, as before.
If the brief summary below piques your interest, I encourage you to get Kate’s book, which I’ve featured at the end of this post.
OTHER STAGES OF GRIEF
What I submit are some additional aspects of grief that I don’t think we recognize socially as much as we could and maybe should, and which you may or may not experience yourself after a profound loss. ~ Kate O’Neill, Surviving Death: What Loss Taught Me About Love, Joy, and Meaning
Shock (as Opposed to Denial)
The word “shock” communicates the likelihood that you are present in the moment, but overwhelmed by everything you know has changed…your processing system is overloaded. ~ Kate O’Neill, Surviving Death: What Loss Taught Me About Love, Joy, and Meaning
Overwhelm and Leaning on Those Around You
The recurring theme of the initial stages seems to be “overwhelmed.” There is so much that immediately needs doing and processing once someone dies, that without the help of friends or family who will truly step up and assist, that burden will add tremendously to the difficulty of dealing with the reality at hand.” ~ Kate O’Neill, Surviving Death: What Loss Taught Me About Love, Joy, and Meaning
Feeling grateful was somehow an easy outlet for my sadness and I felt it constantly. ~ Kate O’Neill, Surviving Death: What Loss Taught Me About Love, Joy, and Meaning
After thirty one years of serious health threats, I ended up sharing life with Dan for 51 years and nine months. I never dreamed that could be possible. After struggling to meet Dan’s needs through the medical clinic that served him, I could not imagine how essential the hospice system became to us in providing for his needs. After watching his body fight its way through violent coughing, miserable sleeplessness, falling, and mood swings, he passed away peacefully in the end.
Letting the Finality Sink In
It’s going to take time in either case to grasp the impact of the loss; it’s just that sometimes that time happens partially before the actual death takes place, and sometimes it all can only begin after. ~ Kate O’Neill, Surviving Death: What Loss Taught Me About Love, Joy, and Meaning
What is grief if not love persisting?The Vision, WandaVision sitcom, Marvel/Disney+
Rebuilding and Trying It Out
….when people experience devastating loss, they often get a new perspective on life and a new sense of what matters. It seems like a terrible thing to waste by not using that perspective to assess what you want to (or perhaps need to) keep constant from your old life, what you might allow yourself to abandon, and what you want to recreate in a new way. ~ Kate O’Neill, Surviving Death: What Loss Taught Me About Love, Joy, and Meaning
Seeking Joy and Laughter
Eventually you’ll likely feel the pull towards chances to enjoy life again and have more happy moments. It’s a good instinct. ~ Katy O’Neill, Surviving Death: What Loss Taught Me About Love, Joy, and Meaning
Joy and Laughter = a cute yellow lab named Indy, who arrived as a gift when she was 11-weeks old. She came to me just three months after Dan passed bringing joy, laughter, and a heck of a lot of good hard work, aka, puppy training.
Indy makes me laugh when she raises her eyebrows and cocks her head when I talk to her, or when she leaps in the air, twirling, with ears flying above her head. It brings me joy to watch her run toward me at full speed when I whistle at the back door. Her companionship comforts me; she follows me everywhere and lays on my feet as I work on the computer. Indy is my daily dose of joy and laughter.
Seeking and Creating Meaning in Life
In the longest stage after loss — the rest of your life — the opportunity exists for meaningful interactions, meaningful direction in life, and meaning at every level . . . It’s a profound opportunity to live a more full life and in doing so, to also honor your lost loved one. ~ Kate O’Neill, Surviving Death: What Loss Taught Me About Love, Joy, and Meaning
- How long is the road of grief?
- Is it possible find closure in the ending of a life in order to begin again?
- If it is true that grief varies from person to person, then will our grief maps vary greatly?
Does the experience of the ending of the life we knew before get easier with time?
Before we can explore the questions about finding closure, or beginning again, we first have to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and learn to live without our beloved.
We end as we began, visiting one or both versions of the stages of grief as needed, trying to find our way through the grief that surrounds us.
One thing I know for sure: it helps to hold on to each other along the way.
Be well, fellow journeyer.