Grief and Loss
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a pioneer in the field of death and dying wrote a book, “On Death and Dying, What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy, and Their Own Families”. The book that is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, allowed the reader to better understand the journey of being faced with our own mortality. The doctor shared her conversations with her patients as they explored their terminal diagnosis. The stories were life changing for me and I can see why the Five Stages of Grief have been used by psychiatrists and therapists, and healthcare professionals, for decades to help patients go through their grieving process.
In 1991, my mother lost her life to bone cancer. She suffered in pain for so many years. I remember near the end, that I was saying prayers, speaking to her in the ethers, and on Christmas Eve 1991, I remember saying, “it’s okay to let go mom, I love you, and I will miss you so much, but I cannot stand to see you suffer another moment, we’ll be okay” and three hours later, my dad called from Texas to let me know my mother took her last earthly breath. My mothers’ death was so hard to accept. She was my soft place to fall. The one person in the world who I knew loved me unconditionally. She protected me and was always there for me. Losing her was like losing a part of myself. She was the glue that held our little family together and once she was gone, so was the glue. Each of her three children had to learn to live without her in their world and each of us suffered our grief in different ways. It was hard to lose her on Christmas Eve, it was equally difficult that her birthday was Christmas Day. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how hard the holidays were for many years after her passing.
The year after my mother passed I was still not moving forward. I was still so sad about losing my mother. It was the first holiday since her death so I reached out to my doctor and got a referral to go to grief counselling. It was in the group that the book by Kubler-Ross was introduced. The group, along with the book helped me. For a time, that group became my soft place to fall and then and I learned the tools to go inside and find that safe place within myself. But, even with all the years that have passed since her passing, I still think of her daily and miss her but celebrate her goodness and what I loved about her. I have my memories, and lots of photos.
In May of 2018, my big brother passed away. It has hit me so hard. In fact, I immediately felt that same feeling that I had when my mom passed away. It was like when you fall and the wind gets knocked out of you or you get punched in the stomach. I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t cry. I was in a state of shock for weeks. He went for a biopsy and ended up being in the hospital for a month where he contracted sepsis, c-diff, and pneumonia, and ultimately died.
He was there for a routine procedure. Mistakes were made. Things were missed. It was a senseless death that didn’t have to happen. However, and unfortunately, it did, and now my sweet brother is gone. Leaving behind family and friends that miss him and are trying to find their way, figuring out a way to be in this world without him. His family was everything to him and he always made sure that you knew it too. My brother was a great story teller and he enjoyed making people laugh. He was a gentle, kind, and loving man and he didn't deserve to die this way. I am still processing that my brother is gone. I miss him so. I’ve since reached for the phone to call him, looked on the computer to see if he was on line, and then I remember, he isn’t here anymore. It is still sinking in, and in other words, I am now working through the stages of loss, once again.
I’m sharing so soon after his death because, grief is BIG. There are so many people that just don’t know how to deal with it, with themselves, with their feelings, their emotions and this could be for so many different reasons. Others trying to help, don’t know what to say or do. Kübler-Ross’ Stages of Grief are an opportunity to understand the enter workings of who we are and the way we process the information of loss, grief, and dying.
These stages, these steps, are there to assist those who are grieving a loss. If you are having a difficult time with a loss, then I suggest that you reach out to a support group or let family or friends know how you are feeling. If a support group isn’t your style, perhaps reach out to a therapist that can help you maneuver through your thoughts and feelings surrounding the loss. Your GP can connect you with a number of resources, as well.
I know that a lot of people talk about death and dying as the only form of grief and loss, but it can show itself in many other ways. It could be the loss of a job, a home, financial stability, a divorce, an estrangement, a breakup, a misunderstanding, the loss of ones’ health, physical limitation, mental, emotional limitations, and death itself. It is coming to terms with loss, regardless of the circumstances.
What I know for sure, everyone processes grief in their own way, in their own time. I also know that often times people need to know that there is help, a way to get through it, because the loss can feel so great, so heavy, and they feel so alone. Some don’t know how they themselves can go on without their loved one, or their loss, and they need to know there is help, they need to know they aren’t alone. When we suffer a loss, it can shift some people into a downward spiral of depression that could push them to do things they would not do normally.
We need to ask questions, pay attention, listen, really listen, and make sure that there isn’t something we can do to help. Perhaps they need you to sit there and talk with them. Hold their hand. Just be there. Ask questions so you’re sure that they are okay and they are sure that someone really does care. It may not seem like that big of a deal to some, but for those who live alone, or who do not have a good support system, or may be dealing with physical and/or emotional limitations, or some kind of abuse, etc. I can assure you, it means everything.
In this current climate, and so many suicides, I think people should be careful with their words, and their behavior, because you never know what others are dealing with in their lives. Some people are at the end of their ropes, emotionally, physically. Some just had the last straw pulled and they are suffering. We NEVER know what others are dealing with so when you have a choice, and there is always a choice, be kind. We are all of the human race…plain and simple. We really are ONE. And the bottom line, is none of us are getting out of here alive. Everyone is in the same life raft, and we are all just trying to figure out life, so when you see someone “going down” don’t just turn your back. Reach out because not everyone is in a place where they can ask. If you have a good support system, count your blessings, but think of those that don’t. Take a hand and help guide, don’t judge, just help.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Website: http://www.ekrfoundation.org/five-stages-of-grief/