If you or someone you love has been told you will die - sooner rather than later – there are some normal responses you may experience. According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, when faced with major change, be it impending death or a major change in relationships, finances, career, or health, certain responses may arise. She categorized them as the “five stages of grief”:
1. Denial. We may dig in our heels and refuse to accept that something has changed.
2. Anger. We might rail at people or institutions, at the audacity of life, or God, for handing us something different from what we want.
3. Bargaining. We can try to make a deal with life, the universe, or a Higher Power, hoping to get what we want.
4. Depression. We could feel that everything is futile when we sense our underlying helplessness.
5. Acceptance. Only after we have exhausted each of the other 4 responses are we ready to accept that change has occurred.
Acceptance comes in many ways. Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to relinquish the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Mental Health professionals, following the Oklahoma City bombing, talked about finding a new normal.
My friend Jan Greene, who is also facing a sooner rather than later outcome, pondered that statement one day and said it suddenly hit her of the wisdom of finding a new normal and she shifted her thinking. Later she said, “I can’t imagine how much time and energy I would have wasted not seeing things clearly.”
Author Michael Stillwater says, “By facing our fears of dying, and making peace with our own life journey, we can have a more spacious, free and joyful existence.”
He believes it is the embracing of our losses, rather than resisting them, that strengthens our courage to more easily accept when surrender is the only option.
When we are in the throes of these major changes, we often feel as though we are lost and cannot find a compass or a map to guide us. That is normal. It is my belief however, that as we share our stories we help other people on a similar journey.
That is why this website is being offered by the Oklahoman. That is why Jim Chastain, Ken Raymond, John Clanton and I are doing what we’re doing. We invite any of you reading to share your own experiences, believing that if we can make our painful times useful to someone else, they will not be wasted.