So how many times have I heard from friends, family, and even myself these words, “I thought I was DONE with feeling this pain…when will it end!?” Well, let me tell you, A LOT! I find myself having these thoughts now and then, especially when I am under stress, as I go through some change of some kind, and when I am feeling uncertain about something. Through my transitions, whatever they may look like, waves of emotion wash over me and from what I’m hearing, it happens to others as well.
As I began thinking this all through, I realized that everyone goes through seasons of life and that change is the only certainty. When we go through a change, we open grief’s door…again and again. The grief cycle, now hear me….grief “cycle,” is the natural way we process change. We feel as though we should be done with certain emotions and that something is terribly wrong with us if we are triggered and feel things over and over again. BUT, let’s be perfectly clear, it’s a CYCLE! Grief is not a linear, “check the box,” “got the tee-shirt” sort of process, AND it’s unique for everyone. Knowing and understanding this about grief can be empowering because knowing it’s cyclical and unique creates a new mind set to work with.
If someone dies, leaves us, we lose a job, a friend, a pet, change careers, or another large part of our life is disrupted, we experience loss. Grief is the healing process our subconscious uses to help us re-adjust to life altering changes or transitions. Therefore, every time we go into a situation that may feel similar to a past event, such as the anniversary of the death of a loved one, we feel as though the grief door is flung open all over again and we are re-starting the whole process.
Here is where it’s important to understand that we all have different triggers. We all have stages of the grief cycle we need to process and this is all normal. Everyone enters into these grief (transitional) cycles and spends some time bouncing from feeling to feeling until we reach a point of acceptance and re-adjustment. However, there is no particular order to this process. As we move in and out of the cycles, before reorganization and recovery occurs, we must be kind to ourselves and give ourselves some grace because this can take weeks, months, and even years, and that’s OK!
Let’s unpack this a little more by exploring the grief cycles. There are many theories and explanations of the grief cycle. I have found through my own experiences, research, and study of many sources, as well as reading books such as Dan Moseley’s Lose-Love-Live, there are “Six Transitional Grief Patterns” that hold true and are foundational:
1: Loss/”Pain” → 2: Shock/”Anger” → 3: Protest/”Remembering” → 4: Disorganization/”Guilt” → 5: Reorganization/”Forgiving” → 6: Recovery/”Gratitude”
As I stated earlier, these are not defined transitions, but touch points where we can explore the losses through knowing we are not alone in our processing and finding grace in the growing pains each place holds. Nick Hornby described this well in his book A Long Way Down when he said;
“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go….The outward manifestations of an inner combustion are never very directed.”
Finding Strength in the Process: As hard as this might all seem, take heart my friends, for the Lord created us to be beings that can survive hardship. He has placed deep inside each of us coping skills which allow healing in a productive way, IF we allow ourselves to take the faith steps needed to do so through each grief phase as it arises. Each cycle can teach us about whom we truly are and what we will become in our next season.
As I close this discussion around the grief cycles, I pray you feel more enlightened, empowered, and encouraged.
I will leave you with a final thought….
“The path is the goal. The source of our wisdom is whatever is going to happen to us today. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now. When we find ourselves in a mess, we don’t have to feel guilty about it. Instead, we could reflect on the fact that how we relate to this mess will be sowing seeds of how we will relate to whatever happens next. We can make ourselves miserable, or we can make ourselves strong.” ~ Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times