When someone we love dies, we often hear about the grieving process. We hear that we should take time to grieve. It’s something we can’t skip.
Grieving is unavoidable, no matter how busy or tough we think we are.
I remember when my Grandma Anne died (over twenty years ago). My cousin, Devin, told me about DAWA, the four stages of the grieving process that he’d learned as a policeman:
Denial—we deny that the person has died, or that this is really happening. We may also deny that it’s impacting us emotionally, or deny that we even understand the mix of emotions that are welling-up inside of us.
Anger—we realize this is real. We wonder what we could have done differently. We wonder how something like this could have happened. We may question the justice in the universe, or how God could allow this. Bargaining phrases like, “if only…” come into our mind.
Withdrawal—sometimes the only way to cope with the reality of our loss, and the emotions we can’t control, is to withdraw. This may be within ourselves, or to some place where we can be alone. Denial is giving way to reality. Anger is turning to sadness. We look within ourselves for the strength to overcome our sadness.
Acceptance—we begin to get our head wrapped around what is happening. We start to make peace with this new reality. Acceptance doesn’t mean we’re “over it,” or that there isn’t an irreparable rip in the fabric of our soul. It means we start to understand how to go forward with our life.
It’s easy to list these stages and assume grief is a simple process with a beginning, middle, and end. It doesn’t work that way. Some people never get through all the stages, or, they may cycle through one or more of the stages numerous times. It’s a process without a true endpoint…only the hope of eventual acceptance.
The grieving process applies to more than our loved ones passing away. It can apply to losing just about anything else we love (whether we realize it or not).
Maybe it’s a friend who we don’t get to see anymore, a hobby we can no longer participate in, moving into a new house (and leaving the old one behind), graduating from college and saying goodbye to our friends, losing that job we thought we’d have for many years to come.
It doesn’t matter if we’re the ones driving the change in our life, or if the change is thrust upon us without warning. It doesn’t matter if our loss is a stepping stone that leads us to something even greater (which is often the case).
The loss is real.
And, so is the grieving process.