Webster’s dictionary defines grief as “the intense emotional suffering caused by a loss”. Loss of any type is a life altering experience. The intense emotional suffering is often too great for words. The reality is that one day we too will wake up. The alarm clock will sound. We will wake, shower and dress for the day’s work. As the day moves along, the phone will ring or the doorbell will sound. The news will be received that the child has died, the cancer has returned or the divorce papers have been filed. As hard as one might try to avoid it and as righteously as one might live, tragedy and loss are unavoidable.
Just as tragedy is inevitable, grieving, the emotional suffering which follows tragedy, is inevitable as well. I learned these lessons of tragedy and loss in the same manner I learned my other lessons - through the school of experience.
As a young child the institutions of family, school and church prepared me for life and the world in which I live. I was taught good manners and the importance of getting along with others. I acquired necessary job skills enabling me to function in the workplace. I also learned about religion and the significant role my faith would hold in my life. However, in all of life’s preparations, I either was not taught or I missed the lesson on how to deal with tragedy and loss. As a matter of fact, I was unaware that, one day, I would need to know how to grieve. It was not until the death of my four-year-old niece, when I was in my thirties, that I decided to educate myself on the subject of grieving.
Of all I have learned in life, my lessons in grieving are some of the most practical and valuable lessons I have acquired. Over the years, my children and I have used the practical aspects of grieving many times over. We have grieved the loss of pets, family, relationships and material possessions. As time passes, I have noticed that I continue to experience heartbreak and disappointment. Therefore, grieving is an important subject with which to be familiar.
The stages of grief listed below, serve as a guideline of what can be expected after experiencing a loss. These steps help to gauge the progress being made on the journey through grief. However, one note of caution - the guidelines are not hard and fast rules. Granger E. Westberg in his book, Good Grief, referring to the stages of grief says, “Remember that every person does not necessarily go through all these stages, nor does a person necessarily go through them in this order. Moreover, it is impossible to differentiate clearly between each of these stages, for a person never moves neatly from one stage to the other”. Therefore, it is important to remember that grieving is as unique to the individual as it is to the loss and no two people grieve in the same way.
During my research, I found the website http://fl. essortment.com helpful. It lists the Eight Stages of Grief as follows:
Marsha Johnson is a writer, speaker and the author of Emerald’s Garden – How to grieve, mourn and recover from loss. See http://www.marshajohnson.net to sign up for your free Grief Recovery e-newsletter.