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December 12, 2016

Not a Mourning Person – Dealing with Grief and Loss Your Way

I am not a morning person and I am also not a mourning person which is why I am writing a blog about mourning. The five stages of grief are so deeply embedded in our culture that no American can escape them. Well, that actually is not true since I am American and I had never heard of the five stages of grief until I decided to research the topic of grief and mourning. All I know is that every time I have experienced a loss my relatively at ease demeanor appears to cause dis-ease in others. Friends and relatives question me as if I am some sort of emotional alien. It’s as if the only way to show you have lost someone is by completely losing it.

Before I go into some other views on grief and mourning let’s quickly review the alleged five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are listed in the order in which we are to experience them. For example, initially, a grieving person may deny a loss has a occurred. This denial is a coping mechanism aka the first stage of grief. Then at some point, the person comprehends the loss and enters the second stage of grief which is anger. In my opinion, the purpose of labeling the stages of grief was an attempt at explaining how and when we can expect to recover from a loss and which emotions would be involved. Here is the kicker, with deeper analysis many, myself included have come to the conclusion that there is no validity to these five stages of grief. The concept about the five stages was proposed forty years ago by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. In The Truth About Grief, Ruth Davis Konigsberg shows how the five stages were not based on real science at all. She along with many of her colleagues and scientist proved that the five stages of grief are more myth than fact. It is believed that these stages were adopted by many grieving persons including grief counselors as an attempt to try and make order out of perceived emotional chaos. However, further research and science confirm that we are hard-wired to deal with loss effectively in most instances on our own.

When dealing with a deep loss, many people feel overwhelmed and devastated. Some can even become hopeless and decide to just give up. The passing of a loved one can cause a bleakness that is indescribable. The five stages of grief gave grievers a short – term solution with hopes of providing a light at the end of a very long tunnel. The problem is that humans have a tendency to turn guidelines into rules. Some people wanted a manual for dealing with grief themselves and also for helping others deal with grief. Unfortunately, not everything fits into a nice little package. When we start dealing with emotions with defined regimented reactions things can get rather complex.

Psychiatrist Ruth Davis Konigsberg wants us to forget the five stage grief choreography and grieve like a toddler dances, do it freestyle. Dr. Davis Konigsberg also states that cultural influences and mass media have played a huge role in representing a picture of appropriate or normal grief. I agree that with the televising of celebrity funerals and the rampantness of social media platforms people feel more pressured to behave in a certain way even if it is contrary to how they are actually feeling or even more importantly how they want to feel. The truth is there is no right way to grieve and there is no set time frame. Research and our own hearts have shown that grief is real and it is a process. A process that if approached with a healthy mindset can be the basis for bettering ourselves. Am I actually saying that grief can make you a better person? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Emotions are wonderful indicators that could cause us to pause and take a deeper a look, a deeper breath, and cause deeper, connection with ourselves and others. When it comes to grief do it how you feel, for how long you feel. Don’t feel forced to cry or forced to suppress a laugh, do what comes naturally to you.

There are very few people
In this world I liked
I found with my eyes closed,
My mind shut tightly,
YOU silence my senses.
Never forget-
YOUR very own breath kept me alive,
YOU were my heartbeat in a heartless world
There were very few people I liked.

YOU were the one I loved.

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