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Living Gracefully with Uncertainty and Change (#7)

By: Cara Barth

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”

Oprah Winfrey

As we proceed through our series built around the stages of grief, which include; Loss/ “Pain” → Shock/ “Anger” → Protest/ “Remembering” → Disorganization/ “Guilt” →Reorganization/ “Forgiving” → Recovery/ “Gratitude”, we become increasingly aware of how fluid this whole process can be. We seem to float in and out of these stages as we are learning and growing, everything seems to be shifting. I believe that Dan Moseley speaks to this quite well in his book Lose-Love-Live, when he says, “The way to new life, or the way to living without the presence of someone or something that has been significant, requires that a person live through several dimensions of life.”  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, these are all “touch points” that help us get our bearings as we wrestle with our new identities.

With all the above in mind, a number of psychology models describing grief refer to the next grief stage as “resolution”, “recovery”, “re-establishment,” or what I like to refer to it as “Reorganization.” A lot of models see this stage as being the final destination of your grief journey. I beg to differ with this idea of “closure.” Through my own grief events, as well as my observation of others, the truth as I see it, is that we are forever changed and the old sense of “normalcy” will and has been altered. How can you have an “end” when the journey is always changing and becoming a new one? You are reorganizing daily the awareness of things to come and how you will fit into this new equation.

To me, “Reorganization” is a more appropriate term for this fifth stage of the process. With the courage one finds to reorganize, a renewed sense of energy and confidence emerges. We become re-involved with the activities of living this new life. I do not see this as an ending point but a fabulous new beginning! The work that is done to get to this stage is extensive. What was understood at the “head” level has now sunk in and is accepted within the “heart”. Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD in Understanding Your Grief wrote, “To experience reconciliation requires that you descend, not transcend. You don’t get to go around or above your grief. You must go through it. And while you are going through it, you must express it if you are to reconcile yourself to it.”

A hidden gift of this fifth process is a “forgiving spirit.” Once we have struggled and identified the experiences of our humanity and the humanity of others, we find ourselves being more gracious toward others and ourselves. This breeds a sense of compassion for others who are in pain as well. When we are no longer dependent on what we have lost for our sense of well-being and identity, we soften. When I say that we become more forgiving, I do not mean we have to forget or that we are free from our memories. Actually, remembering the loss should become a part of who we are and is a catalyst for self-understanding. However, forgiving allows the memory of the loss to shape what we do with our future BUT not control the path.

“People have to forgive. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to be friends with them, we don’t have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don’t we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!

 ~JoyBell C. 

Whether our loss was by choice or by circumstances, anger and guilt will be a part of the process of grief. The power of that anger and guilt to control our future will lesson if we allow forgiveness to be a part of our future life.

“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”

~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner 

Finally, please remember that the journey of growth and loss does not always happen sequentially. There will be good days and bad days. Forgiveness has a way of weaving itself back and forth through the multiple dimensions of the reorganization process. Growing into your “newness,” you will start to have more energy for future ventures and there will be less time spent in the painful places. This reorganizing and forgiving progression plays out in bits and pieces. Be open to it when it comes; see it as a breath of fresh air to help you sore above and beyond past perspectives.

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future” 

~Bernard Meltzer 

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