This current series of discussions entitled, “Living Gracefully with Uncertainty and Change” has been built around the idea that Knowledge = Strength. Breaking down the process of grief into palatable parts through the two previous discussions entitled, “Introduction to the Process” and “The 6 Pieces of Transitional Grief Patterning” (TGP) gave empowering key points such as:
- Everyone goes through seasons of life;
- Change is the only certainty;
- We are not alone in our process and therefore need to find grace in the “growing pains” each place holds;
- The grief cycle may be triggered by any of life’s transitions, good or “bad”;
- Grief patterns are not “defined” transitions but rather touch points;
- There are “Six Transitional Patterns” that are foundational.
Loss/ “Pain” → Shock/ “Anger” → Protest/ “Remembering” → Disorganization/ “Guilt”
→ Reorganization/ “Forgiving” → Recovery/ “Gratitude”
With all this in mind, I will unpack one of the first patterns of grief further: Loss/ “Pain”
When we look at the term “Loss” on the surface, such as the definition in Webster’s’ dictionary, which states a loss as: “Failure to keep or to continue to have something: The experience of having something taken from you or destroyed”, it seems self-explanatory. However, I have come to understand that a loss felt through some of life’s transitions has depth, and we need to “peel the onion” so to speak and look at all the layers! A perceived loss can, and will usually, cause a physical and/or emotional “Pain” as well, and the two seem to be companions of each other. It’s very hard to experience loss without a visceral and/or emotional sensation of some sort.
Take, for example, when a divorce happens. There is the loss of a life that one thought would take place, loss of dreams, possible loss of income, loss of companionship, loss of security, and the list goes on… With these losses comes the emotional pain of, “What will my life look like without this person?” “How will I make or supplement my income?” “Who will I spend time with?” As the emotions escalate, so does the physical response. Some examples might be the “divorce cough,” which I personally experienced (for 2 years) and have now observed in my clients. This is a condition where one feels as though there is a dry place in the back of the throat all of the time and nothing can relieve it. Another physical example is that many folks lose significant amounts of weight when going through the divorce process. Both are physical manifestations of the body and mind under duress after a significant loss pattern. Losses create pain, whether it’s emotional, physical, cognitive or spiritual. We all experience some type of transitional “undoing”.
Finally, I would be misguiding if I didn’t mention a final triggered “bedfellow” of Loss/ “Pain,” and that would be “Fear.” Fear defined is: “A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined…” Cara Barth, CTACC/Webster’s Dictionary.
Believe it or not, “It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
As I close this discussion, I want to reassure you and leave you with two thoughts below. The Lord knew we would go through the process of Loss/ ‘Pain” and ultimately experience Fear, BUT in knowing this, He sent a message:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13