Although many psychologists and counsellors concede there is much more to grief theory than the original five stages put forth by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, these stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—provide something in the way of signposts on the road to recovery.
They give us some labels for which to pin our feelings. They give us some sense of ‘where’ we are, even though the five stages occur haphazardly and intermingled through the process.
In the meantime, we are blessed to wrangle with this truth:
“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.”
— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
If we bear this truth in mind as we consider our signposts, below, it may promote a more fruitful/quicker/more enjoyable recovery.
Signposts of Our Denial
Knowing we are in denial is not always an easy thing. By definition we may not know. But at times we can know. When things may seem too difficult and we regress we deny, for the time, our opportunities of restoration. When things seem easier we may deny the impact of our loss.
But it is a real blessing to have reconciled that we have been in denial. It reminds us we are in a grief process—that it’s okay to feel out of our depth.
Signposts of Our Anger
Many of us are so entrenched in guilt for inappropriate expressions of anger we hardly consider that anger is an important signpost signalling imminence of recovery.
What liberates us in a moment, when we apportion the logic that our anger is part of our grief, is spectacular for our souls. If we are allowed to be angry because of our loss, or because of matters connected with our loss, we have a sense of freedom that anger identifies us within our loss. This means we have the right to grieve.
This anger, provided we don’t hurt people, is a perfectly acceptable anger—one that is most appropriate because of our dilemma.
Signposts of Our Bargaining
Our humanity has us bargaining because we have imaginative minds fixed on influence. It is nothing unusual, then, if we bargain with God, with others, or within ourselves for our realities to be changed. A common manifestation of bargaining is holding out faith in an unrealistic hope. In this way we bargain unconsciously. In this way we bargain in ways that will, most probably, end up forlorn. But sometimes this sort of bargaining gets us through some difficult patches.
But we have the right to bargain. We are allowed to bargain. And we can be identified in our grief by bargaining. We just don’t want to remain in our bargaining.
Signposts of Our Depression
Depression and grief are in many ways synonymous—each may impact, or be a sign of, the other. Our signpost of depression is good in this way: it’s better to have a reason to be depressed, because of a loss, than to have no idea why we are battling the black dog.
If there is one beauty about loss-propagated or grief-induced depression it is that it is possibly processed quicker, provided we can adjust to our loss, and the reality is most of us can.
Signposts of Our Acceptance
Another beauty in grieving a loss is we are given small tastes of acceptance early on. These are usually phantoms of real acceptance. Real acceptance takes a lot longer than we think it will. But at least these are tastes; these are no insignificant respites. Small tastes of acceptance are better than none at all.
These earlier signposts of acceptance provide us a vision of hope to believe in.
These early signposts of acceptance make us resilient enough to power us through our darker days for hope of more experiences of acceptance.
When grief strikes, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are all important signposts on our road to recovery. When we feel lost it is nice at least to be identified as suffering something normal in the realm of humanity. We all have loss.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.