Finding Closure to Start Anew: The Grieving Process
When we close a chapter in our lives, it is the end of a story. When we say goodbye, we write the ending. When we don’t find closure and we don’t move on from something, it will follow us. We will keep repeating the same thing until we manage to put the period at the end of the sentence and hit “enter”. Through the grieving process, we can make a fresh start and begin again on a new page.
Grief is defined as the process of emotional adaptation after a loss of some kind. A loss doesn’t necessarily mean death. It’s true that in our collective subconscious that is what we associate most strongly with the word, but it can also be used to refer to separations, new jobs, a big move…
Stages of Grief
The different stages of grief, as proposed by Dr. E. Kluber Ross, are the following:
- Denial: the grieving person refuses to accept the loss. He might also be in a state of shock that inhibits him from starting on the path that he will inevitably have to walk.
- Anger: at this stage, the grieving person displays frustration and anger. He might direct these feelings at the circumstances that caused his loss, at himself, at other people, etc.
- Bargaining: faced with his loss, he tries to find solutions. In the case of losing a loved one, this bargaining phase might include returning to activities that he did in the company of the person who passed away.
- Sadness: In this stage, the grieving person experiences his loss through pain, and he works with the sadness that comes up. It is a phase of withdrawing into oneself.
- Acceptance: In this stage, the person becomes aware of the loss and the moment they are in. He accepts it and tries to adapt to the new situation. putting together the pieces that are left.
These stages are not the same for everyone. Neither do they occur in this particular order or last for a specific amount of time. This list is just to help you understand the process. The important thing about this list, when working with a person who is grieving, is to know that at each stage he will have a different attitude towards his grief. This attitude will determine the tools that we make available to him and the tasks we propose.
Without having proper closure, all processes tend to repeat themselves, stagnate, or regress. All of the faults we see in others that we have ignored or shut down without working them out, take us in the same direction. We need to experience the pain of loss. We need to see how we feel, and we need to extract the energy from our anger so that we can accept our sadness as part of who we are.
If we don’t find closure, we are just putting band-aids on a bleeding wound. We are only superficially covering what is hurting us. The relief is temporary. It only lasts until we bump into something else.
Work on pain by renouncing suffering
In the book The Path of Tears, Jorge Bucay explains the following:
“To suffer is to make pain chronic. It is transforming a moment into a state of being, it is holding onto the memory that makes me cry so I don’t stop crying, so I don’t forget it. I don’t want to give it up or let go even though it causes me suffering. We have a mysterious loyalty to those who are absent.
The pain that we have to feel is a healthy emotion. It is a feeling that the wound is healing. It connects us to our inner selves and helps us process the loss. It gives us time to ourselves, it removes us and fulfills a need.
No emotion is dysfunctional in good measure. That’s why loss implies sadness, pain, distance, angry, etc. These are stages, but if they last longer than necessary and they make it impossible to keep living life for an extending period of time, it’s time to ask for help. When sadness turns into depression, anger into unjustified aggression, distance into personal neglect, or pain into anguish then yes, something is wrong with the healing process. We are not on the right path of tears. We need to ask for help.
What role do I have in the grieving process?
“The grieving process allows you to find a place for your loved one among the treasures of of your heart. To grieve is to tenderly remember and feel that the time you shared with him or her was a great gift. It is understanding with all your heart that love doesn’t end with death.”
Knowing why a stage has ended and looking for the positive takeaway from it helps me know myself better. Understanding what went wrong, what I did wrong, helps me understand how I can get better. I can learn what I want to change, what I want to keep, or what I would have done better.
The grieving process takes me to a special kind of ending. It marks the end of a story. It isn’t a passive process, it requires emotion, action, desire, and strength to keep going. Writing a good ending requires personal reflection. Then we can begin a new chapter, with all that we have learned and enjoyed from the last.