I’m not an expert. I’m not a clinical psychologist. However, I have lived. I am human and have feelings. I’ve been through loss. Some of the losses in my life I had every right to grieve. Others I probably had no reason to grieve because there wasn’t anything to grieve about. Sometimes that happens and it’s just as real for anyone who is going through it. Through the next series of articles I am going to step through the different stages of grief and the process to get through them. The process can apply to any type of loss, not just to my examples of loss. This is from my experience. I hope that some may find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their suffering and that there is hope.
Whenever loss of any kind is experienced, we grieve. Grieving is a normal and natural thing to do. However, we have been conditioned to think that grieving is bad or it should be over quickly. I believe something very different. Experiencing grief over a loss is not only normal but healthy. I discovered that I needed to allow myself the time and patience to really feel the stages of grief in order to emerge on the other end a stronger, healthier, more well-rounded individual. In a way, I found that I developed a real intimacy with my grief. It was something that I had to learn to embrace and work with rather than constantly fight it. When I was able to do that I experienced the most significant growth and healing. That has been the case every time I have grieved a loss in my life; whether it be the loss of my marriage, a relationship, friendship, death, job or countless other things.
I believe that when we grieve the loss of someone or something, a part of us dies with that loss. It is somewhat spiritual in nature. It leaves us with a sensation or belief that what we are grieving has been removed from our mind, our feelings, our heart. However, the association of that loss in our mind, our heart and our soul is still very real. Our feelings and memories are still very much alive.
It is not easy. Many times, while moving through the process, it is easy to become stuck in a stage or fail to do the work to move forward. Sometimes we think and believe healing has occurred when in reality, the primary issues haven’t been addressed. It is easy to push away, to try and ignore or bury the feelings that are painful. But, as a result, they fester and grow unchallenged until they can no longer be contained. They can come back with even greater force and consequences. It is when those feelings aren’t confronted and worked through that we experience a much greater chance of personal or spiritual death.
I struggled for many months, and in reality, years, over the destruction of my marriage. For reasons I don’t fully understand, I began journaling almost immediately when my wife told me she wasn’t in love with me anymore. I don’t go back and read those journal entries because that wasn’t my purpose for writing them. They helped me work through the hurt and confusion I was experiencing. They provided an outlet when there was nowhere else I thought I could turn. It was that journaling, running and my deepening faith and relationship with God that got me through those days. I am certain of that!
From memory, I’m sure those entries were full of despair, confusion, pleading and pain. I remember that I had a very hard time working and even concentrating on the littlest things. Eventually, I began to have anxiety attacks. There was no rhyme or reason as to when they would hit. It felt as though I was coming out of my own skin. I really wanted to jump out of my body and just run away. I couldn’t though. I was stuck there; a prisoner to my own thoughts and feelings. There were days I didn’t know if I could go on but fortunately I was being watched over and taken care of even when I didn’t realize it.
These feelings, the things I was experiencing, were very distinct moments in my grieving process. There are several stages of grief. They consist of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. (I will step through each of them in subsequent articles.) Early on, for months actually, as I experienced these stages of grief I thought something was wrong with me. I felt broken and helpless; uncomfortable in my own skin. I was lost and didn’t understand that I was moving through a process; a process that I had to experience and work through if I wanted to get better. I was scared; terrified really. I felt weak. I wasn’t allowing myself what I needed to recover from my loss; the loss of my marriage, my family, my best friend. The loss of intimacy and companionship. I didn’t know how to or want to embrace my loss and move forward. I was truly lost. I was broken.
As I reflect back on the process I went through as I grieved the loss of my marriage, I can point out the different parts and stages. It wasn’t always linear. I went back and forth between the stages. To this day, to some degree, I believe I still have instances where I move in and out of some of those same stages. That isn’t to say I haven’t dealt with them and worked through them, but rather I am finding that “new” losses seem to crop up in life. I find myself having to figure out how to embrace the loss and keep moving forward. I find it necessary to remind myself that it is a constant process. Just because I have worked through the issue doesn’t always mean I won’t have to address those same feelings again in either related or unrelated issues in the future. I am always growing and as a result of my daily losses I have a choice. Either I can confront them and come out a more complete man or I can let them take over and not live to my full potential. That’s the challenge we all face when confronting our losses and the subsequent grief.
Be Great! Be Strong!
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