By Audrey: The pathway to healing isn’t a straightforward, or peaceful one laid out at our feet. It must be taken at one’s own pace, there are many twists and turns and the general rule is the best way forward is just to get through. Celebrating the small things in our daily lives is an excellent first step to normalizing life after loss. If recovering from a lost love or the passing of a close friend or family member the pain is overwhelming, it can feel so easy to dwell in the past and live inside a self created bubble of protection.
This bubble can consist of many feelings such as anger, regret, self pity, and of course devastation. Keeping in mind these feelings are completely normal, they allow us to process our new reality and act as a way of coping. It can seem like this bubble of protection will cover our hearts for the rest of our life, but this is not so, the process is different for everyone however it will eventually pass. One day we’ll wake up and the pain will be just a little bit less, and step by step we will begin to find a new normal. There are stages of this process we need to address, not only address but understand so the thought of coming out of the other side can seem feasible.
There are seven stages of this process, they are commonly known as the seven stages of grief. First there is shock, when initially learning of such disturbing news our minds and hearts just simply can not accept the fact this has happened. A wave of numbness crashes over us. We tend to focus on just living as if we were switched on auto pilot. Pure survival instincts kick in and take the wheel. Our minds switch to our most basic needs, eating, sleeping and shelter , in some cases perhaps a dark place full of warmth. Some may experience a lack of appetite, and difficulty falling asleep. These symptoms are temporary, pure exhaustion and hunger will eventually hit and your body will have its needs met.
This leads to the second stage of the grief process, denial. Denial goes beyond nonacceptance, and heads into escapism, it is part of our natural flight instincts. Denial is a whirlwind of confusion, frustration and disbelief. It is our way of heading down the pathway to healing but it feels like a severe right angle, as well it should. Everyone experiences the denial stage differently, there is no right or wrong way so long as it harms none do what feels right. Find solace in the fact that this is part of the journey and is very much a temporary state of being.
The third stage is very challenging and can become volatile, sometimes self destructive, it is our red enemy called anger. Anger can help us feel a small foothold amongst the spinning grief process, but must be kept in check. Living for the positive people in our life and not venting our anger out on them is a valuable thing to keep in mind while facing anger. When feeling like anger is blinding our vision, grounding oneself can offer relief. Grounding techniques such as deep breathing, taking a short walk or squeezing both fists in increments of 3 help tremendously.
After we have weathered anger, bargaining comes slinking around the corner bringing with it vanity and delusion. We try to find a way out, thinking perhaps we have entered a fever dream, we tell ourselves tomorrow we will wake up and all will be as it was, sadly this is never the case. Making deals with ourselves about how a possible alternate reality could be possible. The loss is so difficult to understand, our minds run away with themselves. Eventually the facts sink in and we begin to absorb what has happened, the sadness begins to swell in our throat, crying at night fills our alone time, reaching out for help will be essential during this anger stage. Working through anger is healthy, it allows us to deeply feel and find the root cause of such feelings. After anger we head into the next stage of grief.
The fifth stage of grief can be a self punishing stage, depression. Crying in the shower, curling into a fetal position at night, full blown blue spiral of pain, feeling it, really leaning into it is all part of the get through to move forward process. While in the depression stage, always be mindful of those who depend on you. Communicating how you are feeling with your loved ones and a professional mental health expert is recommended, talking about it does wonders to steer ourselves out of depression and into the sixth stage of grief.
Testing, the sixth stage of the grieving process is very similar to denial, full of racing thoughts of solutions, just grasping at any way to fix what has happened. Wanting to take action will overwhelm you during the testing stage, focusing this wanting into productive action will provide a shot of serotonin to your brain. Enringing out your emotions is the key to entering what will become a time of calm, turning to the last stage of grief, the end of the rocky part of our path.
The seventh and final stage is acceptance, a well earned peace comes with acceptance. A peace that is hard earned, walking the pathway to healing will give you cuts on your feet and a scar in your soul. Remembering how valuable you are to those who remain in your life can act as a salve to the damage that has ensued. Stages one through six are essentially an inner war we fight and ultimately surrender too.
There oftentimes is no reason for loss, sudden or gradual makes no difference. It’s all the same pain, but pain can be useful. It strengthens our resolve, deepens our faith in ourselves and oftentimes a higher power. Drawing from inner strength while embracing the grieving process is getting through as well as moving forward. A trial by fire creating out of the ashes an emerging phoenix.
Rest assured that all that is being felt is very normal and necessary, all part of the getting through phase. Slowly but surely we walk the pathway to healing, we all move forward honoring ourselves and moving away from the pain once the healing has started we can begin living a full life with endless possibilities.
Love and Light,