At some point in time, we have all been affected by grief. Whether it has been through event of sudden injury or medical complication, separation from a partner, or death of a loved one. Grief affects us all in many different ways- to many different extents. It is a process and emotion that is difficult to vocalize as there is no definitive measurement of progress, being subjective in nature. Psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, developed the stages of grief model, which posits that individuals must move through each stage of grief successfully, in order to come full circle. Anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Although Kubler-Ross’s research has been highly referenced and debated upon within academia and clinical practice, many fail to realize that the theory was developed solely through examining and measuring the process of grief within terminally ill cancer patients. Some clinicians and researchers later adapted this model and integrated it to explain the grieving process associated with bereavement, which could be detrimental through placing expectations, timelines, and pressure on individuals. While the model itself can apply to many who are working through grief, some may gracefully float through all stages, some may drag their feet, some flopping between stages, some skipping stages, and some creating stages that Kubler-Ross never invented.
Grief studies, (specific to bereavement) has always been intriguing to me, one of the reasons revolving around the ambiguous and contradictory research of opposing theories. Some research supports psychoanalytic theory in saying that the suppression of grief is detrimental and will later unfold in harmful ways, whereas other research concludes that compulsive grieving can lead to depression. Being able to move forward from loss can take weeks, months, or even years, and the process is complete dependent on the person.
If we look at grief through a broader lens, every culture may analyze the grieving process differently. In South American, South-Asian, and Jewish cultures, typically speaking, the grieving process is estimated to be about a year. During this period, the grieving individual is expected to engage in certain practices and rituals to commemorate the memory of their loved one. If we rationalize this, a year of grieving makes perfect sense. It can be incredibly hard for us to adjust to celebrating holidays for the first time without our loved ones there. While the grieving process is difficult, it is important to hold self-compassion toward yourself. Healing is never linear- and often looks like a rollercoaster. Feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, happiness, and confusion are all common. Remember that it is a natural process that cannot be monitored or estimated. It may take time, or not. Just be understanding toward yourself and seek out appropriate supports if needed through therapy, contacting local distress lines, leaning on loved ones, or taking time for yourself.
Lots of light,