Posts Tagged ‘ grief ’

On loss and acceptance

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said that there are five stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Most of us don’t respond well to loss. Whether its the loss of a loved one, the dissolution of a marriage/friendship, the loss of a job… none of it is pleasant.

I think we’d all like to think that most things in our life will last for a while. We never expect to lose the things dear to us. Maybe we should. That way, we won’t be surprised when we do. Not that loss is always inevitable or that we should expect it, but that we should also not expect not to experience it. Confusing, I know. None of us expect to lose our friends, especially the friendships that mean the most to us; the people who are most intertwined and involved in our lives. And although most of us would never choose to end these friendships when they are mutually beneficial and healthy, sometimes we get to a point in our lives where the mere desire to maintain a friendship is not enough to keep the ship afloat. Maybe it’s because you’ve grown apart, or things change and you’re not the people you once were, or you realise that your lives are headed in different directions and there’s no room to accommodate the other, or there is some kind of major disagreement that cannot be resolved even if you wanted to be able to resolve it. When any of these things happen, perhaps its time to let nature take its course. Of course, grief is a natural and normal response, considering that you’ve lost something dear to you and can never get it back.

Maybe at first we try to convince ourselves that it’s not happening: “He/She’s just busy; that’s why he/she hasn’t called”, or “We just need some space; then things will be back to normal”. Denial. Then, in time, we realise that something actually is wrong, and we start to feel angry; angry at the other person for all the ways in which they may have wronged you, real or imagined; angry at yourself for letting yourself get so attached and for being so neurotic; angry for the role that situation or people have played in causing this loss. Then, once the anger starts to subside, we try to reach a compromise: “We just need to set aside more time to work on our friendship”, or “You need to work on this and I need to work on that”. Then the depression sets in, as you realise that nothing you do can bridge the gap that now separates you; when you realise that the relationship has run its course; when you realise that things will never be the way they used to be; when you realise how great the loss you have suffered. Then finally, once you reach rock-bottom, you start to realise that the only way left to go now is up. You reach a place of acceptance. You pick yourself up and you move on with your life. This process of grief can be applied to any situation. The important thing to remember is that there is an end to the grieving process; the denial, the anger, the bargaining, and the depression… they’re all necessary steps to reaching that final goal of acceptance.

No one likes to experience loss, but we all know that  in most cases, loss is inevitable. We know that people die. We know that people change, relationships change, and that it’s not realistic to expect that a relationship can survive such trauma. We know that nothing in life is stable: jobs, safety, security, relationships, health – we could lose any of these things in a second. In most circumstances, nothing we do can stop us from experiencing such loss. And so we learn not to take any of these things for granted… the inevitability of loss makes us appreciate and cherish these things evenmoreso when we are fortunate enough to possess them. It gives beauty to life, albeit bittersweet and fleeting.

In the end, the road to acceptance is a rough and bumpy one. And maybe we all reach it in different ways: some turn to spirituality or religion, others to the people/things they still have with them, and still others to the promise of the future. But what does it matter what route we take, so long as we reach the goal in the end? We need to face up to our loss and move forward with our lives. Living in the past will get us nowhere.