You Can’t Rush Grief (Reprinted from Psychology Today)
The challenge is that you can’t rush grief. It’s not an obstacle course that you endure. There’s no cure or fast way to get through it. In fact, short-cuts tend to short-change the process and potentially create longer-term painful consequences. Doesn’t that stink? Not feeling pain today could result in longer-term pain? What? No wonder we get the desire to fast-track the grief. “Let me feel it quick and let me heal.”
One of the other difficulties with processing one’s grief is that so many people have heard of the stages of grief and jump to the conclusion that it’s a linear process and they will feel better if they can just reach acceptance. While the stages of grief put forth by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (link is external) do reveal a phenomenon of real stages people tend to go through (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—made funny in this cute video (link is external)), these stages tend to be in response to disastrous news. So imagine your car breaks down on a cold rainy night in the middle of the night. You might quickly go through denial (“Nooo, it can’t be broken.”). Then you escalate into anger and hit the steering wheel. Then the pleading to “Please work!” kicks in (bargaining). After that you feel sullen, hopeless and a little depressed about the situation and heavily sigh. THEN you slip into acceptance and do something about it, like calling AAA or a friend for help.
That’s what happens with a broken car. Note the process allows for some kind of action that results in a resolution of the situation. Broken and grieving hearts aren’t broken down cars. A resolution does not exist. The loss is permanent. Rushing to acceptance gets a person to the same place. The deceased person is gone. All roads lead to same place. Emptiness. Heartbreak. Loss.
The biggest gift you can give yourself (and others you know who are grieving) is acceptance of the grief process, not necessarily acceptance of the death. The grief process will not be linear. It has a life of its own that can’t truly be predicted by any theory. It’s rich and complex, just like the individual who was alive and breathing. There is no timeline. It can make someone question the meaning of life, their existence, and everything they thought they knew. It can make someone run out and start a new life, only to breakdown in tears at inopportune times. Grief can feel like ocean waves and recede just as quickly, only to stun a person with a tsunami. Grief can be messy and unpredictable. It can also serve as a great teacher that brings back forgotten memories, laughter, and lessons of life.
If grief is knocking on your door today, be courageous and let it in. Welcome it and see what gifts it has to offer you. Ask what it needs from you and be willing to listen. Accept this visitor as you would a newborn and know that caring for it will result in a much richer life than locking it out in the cold.
My deepest condolences for your loss and most loving care as you grieve.