Since Mom’s passing, I’ve been trying to understand the grieving process. I guess I’m looking for a plan…a list of tasks that I can complete…so I can “finish” grieving and move past the pain.
Yes…I’ve searched the web and read articles…perhaps WAY TOO MANY ARTICLES…on the stages of grief and the emotions associated with the grieving process. I’ve also read material provided by Hospice*. I’ve talked to counselors. Through all of this research I have come to understand that the grief process (and time needed to grieve) is different for EVERY person. No surprise here…I’m sure many of you already knew this fact.
The Stages of Grief
There are varying opinions on the number of stages in the grief process. Further, the names of the stages and explanations for each stage are different based upon the specific source you are reading. (I will leave you to research and choose the list of stages and definitions that speak to you.) I prefer the following list provided by Mercy New Life Hospice* because it includes the common emotions associated with grief. They emphasize that the stages/emotions occur in no specific order.
Now that I have this information…what’s next? Well…I’m a visual person. So, I’ve been attempting to come up with a metaphor or image to help me visualize what the grieving process looks like. What I’ve come up with is going to sound kinda “out there”. So…I’m asking you to hang on…hear me out…before you stop reading.
I think the grieving process is like riding a Tilt-a-Whirl.
Yes, I’m talking about the amusement park ride that we’ve all braved at some point. It can be really scary (and make you sick) if you get the car spinning fast…TRUST ME on this. Here’s how I see it…
The platform represents your grief. You’re elevated where everyone not dealing with the grief can witness your progress…AND often judge whether you should be back to “normal”. You feel on “display” for the world.
- Each car represents one of the stages of the grieving process or common emotions of grief.
- When you step onto the platform, you don’t know which car (stage) you will encounter because they all look the same.
- Each time the ride starts, you could encounter the same stage all over again or experience a different stage.
- While in each stage, your actions are erratic. You spin out of control…forward and backward…sometimes slowly…sometimes fast…never knowing when the ride will stop.
As the platform revolves, the position of each car moves from the top to the bottom of the orbit. You feel less intense emotions at the top and overwhelming (No…debilitating) emotions at the bottom.
When the Ride Stops:
There can be a different outcome each time you take a ride. And, each time the ride stops…
- You could be off-balance and confused as to what just happened.
- You could be sick – emotionally or physically sick…nauseous, even throwing up. Been there, done that while grieving.
- You could feel relieved…as if something has been calmed…you’ve found peace.
In this analogy, you exit the ride after you have been in each car and dealt with (processed) each stage of grief.
Of course, there is nothing to stop us from getting off the Tilt-a-Whirl before we’ve experienced the stage represented by each car. We can go on with life as if everything is OK. But unresolved grief will make an encore appearance sometime down the road. Yup…guilty. I realized through grieving the loss of my Mother that I never fully grieved for my divorce or my cancer. The grief for all of these losses combined is overwhelming…making it even harder to process it all at this point in my life.
Guess that means I won’t be leaving the amusement park any time soon. Good thing I have a pass for unlimited rides!
*The material referenced from Hospice is “Crossing the Creek – A Practical Guide to Understanding Death and the Process of Dying” by Michael Holmes, R.N. of Mercy New Life Hospice. His list of the stages/common emotions of grief are based upon the list identified by Elizabeth Kubler Ross.
Tilt-A-Whirl image based on “7143931913_6db906f8d6_z.jpg” by Random Bullsh*t at nohope.org