Posts Tagged normal life stuff

Grief

The cat beast in my house will walk to the door and stare it. Then look at me, meow, and turn back to the door. I open the door, she looks out but doesn’t step out. We wait for a minute, then she’ll sit down and groom her paw. If I leave the door open, she’ll sit there as long as the door is open. The minute I start to close it, she jumps up and slides past the door and out into the world. She moves when the choice is forced. Out now or the door is closed.

I was first introduced to the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross years and years ago. I remember the feeling at the time of new tracks being cut into my brain, new ideas altering how I saw the world. My introduction to Kubler-Ross was oddly timely – shortly afterwards my grandfather died.

The important part of her work was recognizing that grief and grieving are a normal process, that it can follow predictable patterns and that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with death. Any major change in our lives requires grieving. Even a positive change – like falling in love or having a child – involves a grieving of the old way one lived. That the change is a good one, a chosen one, a hoped for change does not negate the need to grief the loss of old ways. A married couple having their first child nevertheless grieves the time when they were childless and had free time and more disposable income. Doesn’t mean they don’t love and want the child, but they have lost something in exchange for something new.

I’ve seen the stages described differently and I suspect each model is accurate for some persons and inaccurate for others. The most famous is Kubler-Ross’:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

My favorite one thus far (because it mirrors my experience) has three stages:

1. Numbness
2. Disorganization
3. Reorganization

But, I think the two models also complement each other.

My response to loss is usually a short term of numbness – a sense of unreality if you will. Then all the usual patterns are scrambled by my sense of loss and emotional pain. Then I literally reorganize and alter my life to mirror the new reality. Within each of these stages I might engage in bargaining or denial – a sense that “I can’t do this” or “If I can get some help, I might pull this off.”

I like the idea of acceptance and reorganization going together – you have to accept what has happened to remake your life, to integrate the change you’ve experienced.

FWIW, I dislike the term “closure” – it suggests the chapter is done, we move on, never to revisit. I don’t think we ever really have closure. We humans aren’t like that – something big happens and it changes us and we stay changed. I was close to my grandmother, she died over two years ago. Her death was protracted, I did the most active part of my grieving while she was still alive. Yet, I sometimes still feel a twinge of missing her, a sense of an empty space in my life. Yet, I have accepted her death – it’s a reality with which I have coped. But her death created a hole in my life that she had always filled. I accept what happened but “closure” – no. There were things no one else did for me, just her.

I think we can choose to grieve or not, we can try to reorganize, we can be intentional about it or we can just slob our way through it. Grief is a forced choice – we can deal with it or not, but it’s not going away.

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