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Living Gracefully with Uncertainty and Change (#6)

By: Cara Barth

“You’re NOT Crazy, You’re Grieving”

Said by every Grief Coach at some point

As we continue our series built around the stages of grief, this fourth grief pattern takes a lot of folks by surprise. We do not expect such a wave of disorganization and guilt to take hold when all we believe should happen is those emotions linked to “sadness.” This place of grief can literally throw us into an illusion that our immanent insanity is lurking in the shadows.

When we experience a major shift in our lives, we begin to question the meaning or purpose of our life, as well as the life of others that this loss or “shift” has touched. Through the process of questioning, a sense of being “disorganized” usually arises, and we begin to evaluate our ability to do anything “right.” The lines start to blur and all of a sudden we don’t know how to make good decisions about our future, or anything else for that matter, so it seems?!?! This stage of grief also usually creates a huge amount of guilt, because we begin to put under the microscope any action and thought that influenced the loss within the past, present or even future. Knowing this is natural, healthy and normal. We must embrace the knowledge of the 6 Pieces of “Transitional Grief Patterning” (TGP), which include; Loss/ “Pain” → Shock/ “Anger” → Protest/ “Remembering” → Disorganization/ “Guilt” → Reorganization/ “Forgiving” → Recovery/ “Gratitude”, so we can rest assured that we are NOT crazy, do not do everything wrong, and we must keep moving in a healthy manner through all the stages of grief.

“Consciously or not, we are all on a quest for answers, trying to learn the lessons of life. We grapple with fear and guilt. We search for meaning, love, and power. We try to understand fear, loss, and time. We seek to discover who we are and how we can become truly happy.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 

Many folks don’t realize that the guilt after a loss is real. As Dan Moseley points out in his book Lose-Love-Live, “Guilt is a real dimension of a responsible community. Therefore, whenever a significant loss occurs, we begin to raise questions about what we should or should not have done.” As we go into the stage of “Disorganization/ “Guilt”, we begin to call into question the beliefs we held about ourselves as well. As the questioning and identity crises continue and we doubt everything about everything, guilt starts screaming in our heads, “We had the power to make a difference BUT didn’t!” Even if the changes occurring are good things, like a job promotion, a move to a new town, or maybe the purchase of a new home, this loss/change can cut into any semblance of reasonableness we have. Have you ever heard of the term, “buyers’ remorse?” This is the overwhelming feeling that we get after making a significant purchase in which we question, “why would we EVER do such a thing?” Even if the purchase is a wonderful decision for our family or ourselves, we doubt our ability to make appropriate choices. It is this very phenomenon that makes our mind and body feel very unsettled in the face of a new situation. As we cling to the known, this unchartered territory reeks havoc on our mind. “Guilt rides the vehicles of “what if” and “if only,” driving us to near insanity.” Dan Moseley, Lose-Love-Live.

The feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness, and shame are the reasons that we must spend some time dealing with guilt in the grieving process. Truly evaluating what we are responsible for and what we have or had no power to control is vital. When we do this “truth” assessment, it opens the door for understanding the fact that we do not have to carry the burden of a belief that we could have changed and are responsible for everything. Quite frankly, we are not that important! What I mean is that the world does not revolve around us, and we do not have the ability to control and direct the outcome of all aspects of life itself. This processing enables you to claim what power you actually have and release the rest.

Finally, “naming our limits and accepting our humanity opens us up to the delightful human future beyond our pain. When we realize our limits, we are not tempted to over-function in the future. When we are realistic about our responsibility, then we can also be realistic about our mistakes.” Dan Moseley, Lose-Love-Live

The grief process of disorientation and guilt should be seen as a gift in which we are given the opportunity to face our losses in a realistic manner that can produce a large amount of inner growth and freedom in facing the future with realistic, foundational expectations.

“There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”
Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes

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