by Peggy Sweeney
Adults frequently associate grief with the death of someone loved. However, this is not the only reason we grieve. We confront grief whenever we experience a loss or traumatic event: a divorce, retirement, a debilitating illness or injury, addiction, abuse, the aftermath of a fire, flood, or an earthquake. The list of grief-generating experiences is endless. Healing our grief is a life-altering event and a very personal experience.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a world-renowned expert in the field of death and dying, is credited with the development of the five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Her studies, often thought to define the stages of grief following the death of a family member or friend, actually focused on terminally ill patients. This revelation changes the dynamics of how we perceive healing the grief we experience after a loved one dies or an unexpected or unpleasant event happens in our life. If we try to follow Kübler-Ross’s stages in succession, we are led to believe that our grief will be permanently resolved. Unfortunately, for those of us who have experienced a loss or traumatic event, this is not necessarily true. Grief is not just the emotions and feelings we have during or immediately following a loss. Grief has no set time pattern nor does it ever go away completely. We don’t get over it as some people want us to do. Grief can, however, be an instrument of learning about love, life, and living. Grief can have a positive or negative impact on our life. Grief is choices. We can choose to journey through our grief and, at the end of our journey, emerge a better person for having experienced grief (positive) or we can stuff it within are very being, try to ignore it, and fail to receive its rewards (negative).