Grief and Healing – A Reflection

How do I start explaining people and grief?…where do I begin?

I believe that people are different and that each individual heals at different rates. It would be nice to say that grief is easy to understand, but it isn’t.

How can one person compare themselves to another when it comes to dealing with loss and the time it takes to move on with one’s life? When one person loses their pet ‘this loss’ can be as strong a loss to them as the loss of a human friend or family member. Why are we often so hard on ourselves when it comes to “getting over” loss? Let’s talk about it.

I’d like to start with the Swiss-American Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who wrote the 1969 book, On Death and Dying where she developed the model or the five stages of grief.

Various sites on the internet explain that Kübler-Ross “developed this model based on her observations of people suffering from terminal illness”. She later expanded her theory to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss including even minor losses. Both the sufferer and the therapist have reported the usefulness of the Kübler-Ross Model (five stages of grief) in a wide variety of situations where people were experiencing a significant loss.

After grieving myself and seeing others who are going through grief I decided to include the five stages of grief in my book The Power of Pets under Tool #3 – The Tool of Learning. Just when we feel that we have gotten over grief, we may find it surfacing again. How do we deal with the feelings? How do we go to work, take care of our loved ones and ourselves and get back into life? Perhaps if we understand or learn about the five stages of grief, we can apply them to our own individual situation.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Stage 1- Denial:

In my book, I describe denial as something that is similar to the feeling of numbness and shock. You know when you accidently cut yourself or fall down and it takes you a moment to really understand what has happened? Our body has an incredible way of protecting itself so it goes into a kind of shock so our nervous system does not get overwhelmed. So, at first, we shut out the reality. We create a different reality. We can’t believe what has happened.

Stage 2- Anger:

Many times we are taught to not show our anger or keep the peace. Anger is often a misunderstood emotion. When anger is applied at the right time in the right way, it can assist the grief healing process. By releasing the anger in talking, expressing, drawing, writing, creating we can turn this uncomfortable feeling into something positive and get some release.

Stage 3- Bargaining:

Instead of experiencing the painful reality that you are going to lose your pet, you may find yourself making deals with God or a higher power to delay the inevitable. This stage can distract us from the pain we are experiencing. We often ask ourselves the “what if” questions. “What if I had taken him to the vet to get help sooner? A quote that soothed me was one that I also included in my book.

“It is important to tell yourself that you did the best that you could with what you had at the time.”
Dr. Jane R. Shaw (Argus Institute at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.)

Stage 4- Depression:

Depression may be one of the most difficult stages to deal with although all stages have their own struggles. People often say that anger turned inward is depression. By educating ourselves on depression and what we can do to help ourselves and each other, we can shed light on this stage which can vary from mild to severe. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, everyone is different however, we are human and us human beings are complex and deserving of nurturing and understanding.

Stage 5- Acceptance:

Whew! Now this stage of acceptance comes after a ton of hard work however it does not always mean you are over the loss or are fully healed. I do think that you tend to deal with the loss in a different light. Even though it is dark at times, you realize there is light at the end of the tunnel as my Dad used to tell us.

I used to think that accepting was giving up. I used to think that I had to fight to change things. When I realized that there are some things that can’t be changed I decided to embrace the change and somehow use this experience as a learning tool for me. By embracing the change – I actually wrote my book The Power of Pets. It’s funny how some very difficult times can turn into something that brings you confidence.

Let’s try something….let’s continue to communicate and share. We may go through difficult times again and again but you get to know that you can get through and somehow, reach a place where you find peace.

I wish you peace on your journey.

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