Escape the Grief Process

Sylvia is fifty-five years old and a housewife.  Her husband was ill for a long time and finally died.  She is coping quite well with losing her husband and is going through the grief process.  Now she has to decide what to do about her home.  She put off this decision because of more pressing issues.  She cannot afford to live here any longer.  The house is too large for her.  Her mortgage money has run out and she is behind in payments.  Sylvia has to make a decision.  She needs help understanding that she is going through another grief process in losing her house and the security she has known.

THE GRIEF PROCESS consists of:

1. Denial
2. Bargaining
3. Anger
4. Depression and sadness
5. Acceptance
6. Understanding
7. Forgiveness

The grief process comes when we are confronted by a change we did not initiate.  We see it as a loss of control over some area of our lives. It’s our mind’s way of coming to grips with the new reality of life. Small changes require small steps.  Large changes require a longer time through the process.  It is possible to get trapped in one of the steps. This keeps us from achieving eventual peace and forgiveness.

When we are stuck in a particular part of the grieving process, we tend to stop growing.   The different phases of grief are often referred to as the stages of grief as though we move in an orderly fashion from one stage to another.  The grief process is not a neat schedule. When we think that we have moved on, one stage may reemerge and need to be worked on again.  The stages are also, not constant.  We may feel fine one moment and then, from nowhere, grief floods us with emotion.

Understanding the process and recognizing some of the problems can help us move forward in life.  There are no easy answers.  If we cannot move on, consulting a professional may be needed.  Most of us think of grief as related to someone’s death.  Any loss can create grief. In the example above, the loss of a standard of living, of a house, or change can be very upsetting and requires the grief process to take its course.  We all have frequent losses and it is important to understand what we are feeling.  It is okay to have these feelings, even when others say, however politely, “Get over it. It’s only a house.”

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

―  Anne Bradstreet

1. DENIAL. Some of us get stuck in denial.  We never accepted that a part of our lives has changed.  This is common with a Steady person.  The Steady person hates change and may create an artificial reality to accommodate the denial. 

Example: “I know that I am behind in mortgage payments.  I’m going to ignore the bills. In time, everything will work out.  It always does.”

An Influential or a Direct person stays busy.  This is avoidance and therefore, a denial of a problem to which they can not see a solution.

2. BARGAINING. Some of us get stuck in bargaining.  We believe that we can think of a negotiation that will be accepted and we will not have to make any changes.

Example: “If I pay part of this month’s mortgage payment and explain the situation to the mortgage company, they’ll understand and give me more time.”

3. ANGER. Many of us get stuck in anger.  It serves to cover our fears. This is most common in Direct people.  They are naturally angry. They want to win and change they did not initiate tells them they lost.

Example: “That #@%#*&@# mortgage company wants my house and will pull any mean trick to get it.”

Cautious people get angry, and they can hold a grudge for a lifetime.  They make anger into an obsession.  They have many fears.  They use a low-key rage to hide their fears.  This type of anger can eat away at a person until he dies from some type of disease, often cancer, which eats away at one’s body like the anger eats away at a person’s spirit.  To better understand your personality style and anger.

4. DEPRESSION OR SADNESS. Some of us get stuck in depression.  This is also a problem for Cautious people.  Their natural tendency is toward a melancholy attitude.

Example: “I need to think of a way out of this. If I analyze the situation again, maybe I can figure out a plan.  Maybe I didn’t do enough research.  I’m working so hard at looking for an answer that I’m exhausted, but I have to keep searching.”

Recognize that this stage is natural for you.  Spend time taking care of yourself and work on thinking positive thoughts.  Brainstorm to find possible solutions.  Time will help this. If not, depression may require professional help once it gets a foothold.

Steady people get depressed when life’s problems overwhelm them.  Change is devastating to them.  Greater change means deeper depression, which means greater escape into an unreal world.

Example: “I don’t want to think about losing the house.  It makes me sick.  I need to go to bed.  I’m exhausted from all of this.  I’m sure it will all work out somehow.”

Take care of yourself and look for people who can help you solve the problem.  It may be a stage you need to go through and will get better with time. Don’t give up.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”  ―  Helen Keller

Fear may manifest itself as depression. We may not be able to accept our fears connected with the change. Fear makes us uncomfortable. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable. We are at war with our fears. Self-delusional techniques are normal. It is painful to look at and feel fear. By not confronting our fear, we are allowing it to control us and make decisions for us.

We cannot eliminate the fear itself, but we can eliminate the power the fear has over us.  It limits our ability to control our lives.  Fear tells us that exposing it will hurt us.  This is true, but after we have exposed it, fear becomes manageable.  If we can destroy our fear, it can not hurt us any more.

Example: “I’m afraid that I will be out on the street and have no place to live. I don’t know what to do.”

Once we acknowledge what we fear, we can do something about it.  Go through the Overcoming Fear quiz and it may help you understand your fear.  Listen to your words.  Are you repeating the same comments?  What are you saying to yourself and to your friends?  Listening to yourself will help you recognize your apprehension.  Ask someone you trust what he thinks you dread.  We may have to admit something about ourselves that is uncomfortable.  Part of us wants happiness, wants to remove the fear.  Part of us is frightened.  Our goal for happiness must be so strong that we will say, “I will do whatever it takes to manage this fear and get through the grief process.”

  1. UNDERSTANDING. Some of us get stuck in not understanding why this change occurred.  We cannot accept the change until we understand why this happened to us.  We believe that if we understand why, we can accept it and move on.  This may or may not be true.

Example: “I don’t understand.  I thought the money would be there when I needed it.”

Lack of understanding often occurs because we are afraid. Every fear is legitimate.  It is part of who we are.

6. ACCEPTANCE. Accepting the situation means that we are moving on with our lives.  With the grief behind us, our choices are proactive instead of reactive.

Example: “I’ll have to live with my cousin until I get this mess worked out. I may have to file for bankruptcy or get a second job, but it looks like I may lose the house.  My life will change, no matter what I do.”

7. FORGIVENESS. The last freeing step in the grieving process is forgiveness of one’s self or others.  Often, the cause of the grief is not something we have done.  If we are not responsible, we should not accept guilt. If we are somehow responsible, it’s time for us to forgive ourselves.

Example: “I know that I was spending more money than I had.  I was not careful and didn’t think of the consequences of my actions.  I now know how much that hurt my family and me.  I have learned a valuable lesson and will be much more careful with my money in the future.  I will plan and not assume that everything will be okay.”

Remember Sylvia’s story?  Once Sylvia understood the grief process, she was able to move quickly through it.  She gave herself permission to feel and not necessarily think logically all the time.  She was able to sell her house and save the money while she decided on her future.  She is now looking ahead at possible options instead of feeling stuck in an overwhelming situation.  Sylvia has now taken control of her life.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • What situation required you to handle an unexpected change?
  • Did you go through the grief process?
  • Do you think that you will be more patient with someone who is grieving, even if you think the behavior is unnecessary?

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