Well, what kind of a question is that? I was thinking about a friend who I knew was “grieving” the outcome of the election. Then I saw GriefLink’s post today about grief and the election results. You can read it here. So why do we tend to associate the grieving process exclusively with death? I don’t know, but part of the challenge with grieving, recognizing it, making space for it and honoring the process as we individually experience it and as others experience it – is to sufficiently recognize what it is. I have written about Kuebler-Ross’s five stages of grief before, but here’s a review:
1. Denial. We may dig in our heels and simply refuse to accept that things have changed.
2. Anger. We might rant and rave at people, institutions, God, or life in general for delivering us a package that we didn’t want.
3. Bargaining. We make try to “cut a deal” with life, the universe, the “powers that be,” in the hope of getting what we really want.
4. Depression. We might get the idea that nothing really matters, that everything is futile, when we deeply feel our helplessness.
5. Acceptance. We might arrive at this stage only after each of the above stages has been fully experienced, when we are finally ready or able to see.
The five stages of grief apply not only to death of a loved one, but to death of a pet, but changes in relationships like marriage, a job or career, a change in health status or well-being, or some cause or effort that was held dear that did not come to fruition. We practice this death and dying things every day, whether or not we are aware of it. The quote from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus comes to mind: “You can never step into the same river twice, for new waters are always flowing on to you.” And why would I mention just one quote from Heraclitus when I could also say “there is nothing permanent except change.” We practice grieving every day, and sometimes it helps to recognize that for ourselves, but more importantly – to see it in others, when they are grieving. Sometimes simply witnessing can be enough for another person to help get through this often difficult process that follows the heart’s timeline and not a chronology that an intellect can measure or otherwise quantify.
So what is important about being with someone who is grieving? Presence. Presence is a form of compassion. Another suggestion – this one from Henry James (I’m a huge fan of his brother William James) who wrote “three things in human life are important:
The first is to be kind,
the second is to be kind, and
the third is to be kind.
So in the meantime, I think it’s a good idea to follow the advice of Kahlil Gibran: “be like the flower – turn your face to the sun.” If you’re not sure which direction the sun is, let your smile find it. Smiling a little bit more will lengthen your days and make you a happier person. Yep, there’s a Ted video to prove it! Watch Ron Gutman’s presentation here.
I’m grateful for the little things, which reminds me of another awesome Ted video! Neil Pasricha will jump start your thinking about change and gratitude! Nope, nothing “legal” in this post, except that I help people work through many of these changes, which often involve grief – every work day.
©Barbara Cashman www.DenverElderLaw.org