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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Stages of Grief

Way back when, I went to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Parks and Tourism. I specialized in convention and visitor bureau development and geriatric recreation and worked various internships including senior centers. Part of the prep work for the geriatric recreation portion of my degree was taking geriatrics classes and in one of those classes I studied the 1969 ground breaking work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying.
"If you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their carvings.” 
In it Ms Kubler-Ross describes the five stages of grief when we lose a loved one. Those stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance but not everyone goes through them in a prescribed order or even goes through each one. The stages are merely tools and no one, No One, can tell anyone else in what order to take them or even to take each one. It's okay to skip one, even more, but you need to let God and yourself tell you what to do. Others cannot tell you what you need or have to do; they can tell you what they did or how they handled their grief but it's still their grief and your grief is your grief. God, in His infinite mercy, deals with each of us, and our grief, as individuals.


I think most Westerner's are uncomfortable with real emotions. Perhaps you've seen those foot ball games or commercials where men are naked, painted blue, hefting a beverage and screaming their heads off. Oh...that's okay -???-  but a person sobbing in public or needing, yet again, to speak of their dead loved one, that's not okay. 
Say whuuuttt?!
Some of us are so out of touch with God, ourselves, our emotions and feelings, we haven't a clue who we are as a person. Some of us have depths never plumbed; frankly, I am fearful of a skin deep faith because it's not if, but when, hard times come.
We seem to be comfortable with over the top emotions or emotions that require nothing in return, save perhaps a quick hug or pat on the back, but real emotions make most people uncomfortable. Real emotions are messy but real emotions are what help us cope and, more importantly, begin the healing process. That's something else...the healing p.r.o.c.e.s.s. . It's a process, meaning it takes time and, again, no one can tell you how much, or how little, time. Anyway, time is irrelevant and as the Bible tells us a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day to God. Have you not experienced a day that fairly fled from sun to sun while another day dragged on for, seemingly, a lifetime? 
There's an old saying, "grieve for three months for a parent, a year for a child and a lifetime for a spouse." Now do you understand why so many old portraits and photographs show women in black widow weeds? I'm not suggesting you grieve according to the old saying but I am suggesting you take your time; if need be, I'm giving you permission to take your time.

Remember this: it takes as long as it takes.
Subsequent studies are similar and say the stages are

shock - initial paralysis
denial - avoidance
anger - out-pouring of emotion
bargaining - trying to find a way out
depression - realization of the situation's reality
testing - trying to find solutions
acceptance - moving forward
but it was Swiss born Kubler-Ross who first introduced us to the stages of grief.
From my experience, grief is physical; dang physical as well as being a black hole that, initially, is totally overwhelming. It's all consuming and life is, at the very best, hard. Extremely hard and even breathing, at times, is all consuming. There are times I gulp air like a guppy and only because I realize I've not breathing. I've been holding my breath and haven't taken a breath in several seconds so I gulp air in an effort to restore oxygen to the organs and brain. 

The few good hours, eventually, turn into a few good days which turn into a few good weeks, time or so I'm told and hoping. Time is the key, don't try and rush it, grief cannot be rushed

Amongst the grieving, there's a lot of living yet to be done, especially if you have children or go to an outside job every day. Thank God, my job has always been taking care of Dave, the farm, the animals and myself but I'm still finding it hard to remember to put myself first. I still forget to eat three meals a day, to sleep eight hours a night and to do two things, daily, that move me forward. I try, but I don't always remember, to be gentle with myself. God knows there are plenty of folks standing in line to kick my fanny so remembering to be being gentle with myself is a Very Good Thing!
If you're a Christian and know someone who has lost a loved one, please, don't judge them. Don't tell them what they should, or shouldn't, be doing; don't tell them they are grieving "incorrectly" or "it's been xx amount of time, don't you think it's time you moved on?"  If you're not a Christian, be tolerant. It's so easy for any of us to tell someone else what to do, but remember, when we're pointing a finger at someone else, we've got three fingers pointing back at us. While we're busy looking at someone else's life, telling them what to do, there are others looking at our lives and thinking we could be doing better as well. 
I'm cross posting here and on the Wife to Widow blog. There are so many things that can be done now while you're still among the living that will make it so much easier for those left behind when you die. Doesn't matter if you're the wife or husband, one of you will, more than likely, go first and, statistically speaking, it will be the husband. 
Oh, you're not married? Guess what? You can still do some of these same things to make it easier on whomever you've designated to be your Executor or Executrix. It will also be less stressful, money will be saved and precious resources won't be lost during the grieving process...when one can ill afford to lose anything because losing something means you have less at hand to deal with an already overwhelming situation. What I write is meant to be helpful but use what you want and toss the rest. It's your life and your decisions; what works for me might not, for whatever reason, work for you. 
Please, do not fret over any of this! 

HOMEWORK - get together a three-ring notebook, lined note paper, plastic sleeves that are open at the top, plastic sleeves that can close at the top, section dividers, three-ring pen holder attached to the notebook and contained therein a pen, small calculator, small ruler, paper clips

Blessings ~ Kubler-Ross ~ friends ~ stages of grief ~ grieving ~ emotions ~ kindness ~ patience ~ gentleness ~


  1. In tears, I tell you ... this is spot on. No one can ever know until they've walked this path. Judge not.

    Love & prayers, Sandra ...
    TTFN ~

  2. Hello Sandra:
    We like to think that writing down your feelings, thoughts,ideas and hopes are therapeutic for you and are a part of the grieving process which you are experiencing. You write from the heart and we are sure that your words will also ring true and bring comfort for anyone who has been in any similar situation.

    More than anyone, you know that you are not alone. God is with you and, we trust that you are also surrounded by many friends and family members who are also giving you support. Lean on them, just as we are sure that they have leaned on you in better times. It takes as long as it takes!!!!

  3. Dear Sandra:
    Thank you for this post. I am a person that is comfortable sharing grief, either from myself or from someone else. I'm lucky to have friends and loved ones who understand, so I'm there for them, too. It seems to be so much easier when you can share tears with another to let them know you feel their grief, or that they're helping you with your own.

    I am fortunate to still have the love of my life with me. If his time comes before mine, then I'll know the true meaning of grief. Until then, I'll treasure every second of my life with him.

    Thank you for this post. Sending hugs across the miles.

  4. My mama passed last May. She was my best friend, advisor and confidant. I'm lost without her, I was her caretaker and daily find myself going through all five stages. Having small children to take care of helps, but just barely. I'm so glad you wrote this. God Bless.

  5. Thanks Sandra.
    I'm struggling with wondering if I'm providing the support that my friend who just lost her husband last month needs. I've told her that I may not always say or do the right thing but I'm trying and that's what counts among dear friends.
    I'm one who has long ignored the financial aspects of my life because my husband handles it all so deftly. I need to wake up.

  6. The grievin' process is as individual as each person and personality. Girl, you've really hit the nail on the head quite beautifully here.

    Anyone who is grieving should gain much prospective outta this wonderful post.

    Thank you!

    God bless and have a wonderful day sweetie!!!

  7. I studied Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, in nursing school. It really opened my eyes to losses in my own life. And the fact you can vacillate between the five stages helped to understand why I was still having so much work to do in certain areas.
    Thanks for this, Sandra!
    xo, misha

  8. I have to agree with you 100 percent. I took the same course when I was in college and remember thinking how strange all these different stages were. But of course at the young age of 20 I had no clue what true grief was. Nor do I say that I have a clue as to the grief you are experiencing from losing your husband. But I do grieve for my father. It's been almost 4 years and I still grieve. I still miss him. For everyone it's different and we should never judge. Great post. Thinking of you!

  9. Sandra,
    You have a wonderful way with words. Thank you for sharing! Many thoughts and prayer with you today!

  10. Okay -- no more photos of colored glass!

    Just trying to lighten the mood.

    Love ya! xoxo

  11. Anonymous7:44 PM EST

    Thank you, Sandra, for sharing this. My older sis lost her youngest child at age 3, and oh, the thoughtless things folks said to her! Yes, none of us should judge another and the way we deal with grief is certainly personal. I am thankful that the Lord walks with us every moment of the day and I am thankful for the prayers of Christian friends. You, dear friend, are in our prayers daily.

  12. I have never said "if it were me I'd such & such" in ANY situation. First of all every situation is different!! Plus you never know what you will do until you are actually in that situation.

    Thank you for the information you are putting together. I believe it will be very helpful.

    Take care of you.

  13. I read Kubler-Ross along with many other books about dying and grieving as I prepared myself for my mother's passing. 6 years ago and I still cannot talk about her without tears welling up. I rather think it may take me another 6 years to be able to, and I'm fine with that. She and I were very, very close, and she died in my arms. My grief at losing her has changed over the years but it will always be a force within me.

    I'm thankful for the experience though. It is a human skill not taught much these days, how to navigate the rocky shoals of life and keep paddling through the worst storms. Our grandmothers knew how, and learned the hard way. It is something that has to be learned for oneself, by doing it. Not to be morbid, but I'm bracing myself for the big loss (spouse) and I appreciate your frank discussion about it. This really helps.

  14. Oh Sandra I ache for you. I have not experienced what you are going through so I can only imagine the pain you feel. You are so right on about it takes what it takes to get through to the other side and it takes however long it takes. My brother and his wife lost a son a couple of years ago, and my sister lost a daughter 45 years ago. My sister has since passed but I know a day didn't go by that she didn't mourn her daughter. I see my brother and sister in law going through their grief process. Each is different. My brother doesn't want to talk, my sister in law wants to talk. I try to be there for each of them in the way they need me. Your blog friends are here too. I can only send loving blessings to you and thank you so much for your sharing.

  15. Oh I so agree about the grieving process being different for each person!I remember a time family questioned me about my response to the death of a dearly loved one. ( I don't cry in public, or in front of ANYONE. ) The loss of loved ones is hard enough without such judgements.Well said Sandra. I am praying for you.

  16. Hi, my name is Heather! Please email me when you can, I have a question about your blog!


  17. Thank you for putting your thoughts down to help someone else who is going through the grieving process. How thoughtful to think of others while you are struggling to make it through the day.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you every day as you travel down this road. Prayint that you would feel His presence and that you would find some comfort and respite.

  18. Hi, my name is Heather! Please email me when you can, I have a question about your blog!


  19. Thank you for using your words to share your experience in grieving with us. It helps me to know how you are doing and what you are thinking.
    And hopefully we will be better companions for those that are experiencing grief in our lives.


  20. I loved reading this post. My good friend Linda lost her husband 4 years ago and found new love. Unfortunately he passed away unexpectedly 2 months ago. Her grief is so intense and I'm not sure how she functions, but she does. No I am sure that it's her faith that gets her through every day.

    God Bless

  21. Just to clarify, I agree with Sandra completely!! Just stating always my goal not to try to say what someone else should do or feel for heavens sake. Girlfriend, you hang in there!!!

  22. Hopping over from Patrice's chit-chat session. I am now following both of your blogs. I cannot relate to your loss, but I admire your steadfastness to deal with it with the Lord's help. Your posts are beautifully illustrated in word and picture. I shall look forward to reading more of your posts in the coming days. God bless you!

  23. These huge life experiences are different for everyone and I guess it is hard for some people to understand. I'm very thankful that all of my friends have known the right thing to say at the right moment. They are treasures!

  24. Sandra- you have been chosen to deliver these words to us all. This is your new calling. Dave would be so proud of you. I certainly am--
    Love you-

  25. Kubler-Ross was the early pioneer, or at least one of the first we began to listen to, to teach us the stages people experience in grief. Your words of what you are feeling in your grief teach us as well. So true it is about how uncomfortable it is for others to see the raw, gut wrenching, physical pain of grief. Yet, all the more reason, we the grievers, need to continue to tell others about our grief and what we feel. It is a solitary journey and it helps when someone is willing to walk beside. . . I think your blog talking about preparation for when there is loss in our lives is very important.

    You are in my thoughts and caring . . .


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