Recently upon waking after an incredible, self-administered Reiki session, I got onto the treadmill to walk into my day. As always, I wanted to select some reading material. I was drawn to a journaling book, one of many on my “personal development” book shelf. When I opened the book to the table of contents, my eye was drawn to a chapter which focused on journaling through the five stages of grief. I went straight to it.
The opening paragraph of the chapter was a reminder of the five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I was immediately drawn in. As I read the words written in 1990 by Kathleen Adams, M.A. (and no relation), I saw myself in those words. And what I saw was someone clearly and unequivocally stuck in the five stages.
Reflecting Upon Grief
Ok, “stuck” is really an unfair characterization. Grief must happen for us to heal, but healing, much to my chagrin, isn’t a linear progression with each stage having a definite beginning, middle and end. It is more like the path of a honey bee, darting from flower to flower and back again to the same flower.
As I continued to put one foot in front of the other on my way to my morning’s cardio goal, I was able to reflect back and come to the realization that I have yet to truly grieve about a number of significant changes in my life, including the most recent loss in June of my dear friend and soul sister.
Having completed my allotted time on the treadmill, I relocated to my small but profoundly peaceful backyard with my mocha. There I allowed myself to simply listen and observe more of my surroundings while I thought about what I had just read. I heard the honking of the geese flying overhead and saw their perfect formation. I heard too the beating of a hummingbird’s wings. As I sat there, being present in the moment, I was struck by the clarity of my perspective on my life over the last few months.
Spending time in the present moment, rather than rehashing the past or speculating on the future, is a precious gift. Being present that clear morning, I was able to identify my denial of the grief of my friend’s passing way too soon. Acknowledging the absence of her presence on this planet, I was able to experience the anger that came with the realization that no more would we plan and execute our travel plans, to the African plains for a photo safari and to Paris again, just because we love it so much, and to all the other places we had not yet identified. Tears of anger spilled out of my eyes and ran down my cheeks, and I just let them do so.
Once this anger subsided, I found myself negotiating with myself about the situation. My thoughts went to perhaps finding a new travel buddy, one equally as compatible as my friend and I were. The unlikelihood of that just opened the door for depression to surround me, closing in on me as if I was in a coffin, still alive, struggling to breathe one more breath of pure, sweet, happy air.
All of these profound feelings washed over me in less than an hour’s time, but I have yet to experience that fifth stage of grief as it relates to this still raw wound. I hope and pray that acceptance presents itself soon. With the holidays around the corner, days spent usually with my soul sister indulging in our trips to San Francisco for shopping, sipping, dining and theater-going, I long for the “normalcy” of years past. But normalcy is a fleeting term. What is normal today may not be so tomorrow, and what was normal last year certainly won’t be this year.
Honoring Your Feelings
As the holidays approach, many of us will experience grief and not recognize it. We will, daily perhaps, go through one, two, maybe all five of the stages of grief as we remember people and experiences that have now passed from our lives.
Remember to allow yourself these feelings. Honor and respect yourself while honoring and paying respect to your memories. Confide your thoughts, dreams, memories and feelings in a journal. Engage in a tradition once shared as a way of acknowledging the memory of loved ones.
The road through grief is a windy and often circuitous one. But always remember, acceptance will come.