Wednesday, April 8, 2020

April 8--Strong Enough to Grieve

Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.  --Henry Ward Beecher

     I don't believe in coincidence. Therefore, since there have been several times in the past few days that the topic of grief has appeared before me, I feel it's time to address it here. Grieving fully and freely, is, in my opinion, the right use of strength.
     One phrase I remember hearing often from my mother was "it's never so bad that it couldn't be worse." While that's likely true in so many instances, this mentality is used to discount one's feelings of grief, which is not helpful. We must grieve. We must experience the various feelings and release them. Failure to do so encrusts stuck energy in our bodies, and stuck grief tends to hang in the lungs, exactly what we do not need at this time.
     Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of the grieving process: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. In light of the current pandemic, it is a valuable exercise to look at one's own path, winding though it may be, through these stages. I've hit 'em all. I really played the ostrich role at first, with the admittedly-silly belief that if I don't read the scary news, things won't get that bad. Denial at its finest, broken only by my younger son's extreme alarm. I've had loads of anger and depression, which seem intimately linked within me. Closing of the YMCAs, thus losing my ability to swim, and no March Madness and baseball ripped at my very reason for living. (See previous posts--I truly live for Opening Day of baseball season.) I try to keep my thoughts from going there, but not knowing when I'll get to see my kids again really can rev up the anger and depression. Bargaining happens each time I step out of the house--is this errand worth the risk? On a humorous note, I've decided that picking up my vacuum from the repair shop probably is not worth the risk 😀😀😀. And finally, we land at acceptance. I'm not sure where I'm at on this stage. It feels like there's no choice but to accept the situation. For the most part, I feel like I'm making the best of it on a one-day-at-a-time basis. Acceptance is more likely for me if I don't peer too far off into the what-if future. Also, I remind myself that just because I accept something does not mean I have to like it.
     David Kessler, who worked with Kubler-Ross, added a sixth stage: finding meaning. This generally does not happen when we are in the midst of grieving. While I have faith that meaning will come of all this, I'm not able to articulate that now. And finding blessings in the current situation to stuff down grief is not "finding meaning."
     Our lives will never be the same again. Seeing what I've so far lost has made me realize that my life was damn-near perfect before this pandemic hit. I miss my former life. I grieve for it. We humans are resilient, and I'm holding on to the faith that this crisis will make us even better humans. We will find meaning as time marches on. 
     If you'd like to hear more from Mr. Kessler, Brene Brown does a podcast interviewing him that is well worth the listening time:
     Riding the emotional grief roller-coaster,

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