For my generation, this is the time of our lives—the time we must say goodbye to our parents, aunts and uncles. This happens to all of us who live long enough, but still we stand a little stunned to have suddenly become part of the oldest generation in our families.
Over the last six weeks, I have suffered the death of my father and I have watched the grieving of three friends who have also lost a parent. Four funerals. In all cases, the deceased had lived a long and fulfilling life. That’s a blessing to be sure, but it’s still hard for those left alive. Not only do we miss our loved ones, we know that we’re next in line. That Mortality Gorilla in the room is getting harder and harder to ignore.
A couple of days after my father’s funeral, Time magazine arrived in my postal box with a very appropriate article: New Ways to Think About Grief. In recent decades. psychology practitioners have used the five stages of dying (denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross‘s On Death and Dying, and applied it to the grief process. Kubler-Ross, herself, got in on the action with On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss.
Today the psychology community is saying, “Not so fast!” As with all advice that attempts to package human experiences into nice little boxes wrapped with a bow, we instinctively know that one size does not fit all. There can be vast differences in how individuals experience these universal experiences.
The article busts through the wall of certain myths about the grieving process (i.e. We Grieve in Stages, and Grieving is Harder on Women than Men) to communicate the truths we’ve always known, and what science is confirming: grieving is different for different people; some can benefit from the stages approach to grief, while others (indeed, most of us) are resilient enough to get through loss on their own without stages or phases or tasks.
There may be traditional, religious and cultural scripts we follow when we grieve the loss of our loved ones, but in the end we take our own paths. Grieving is for the living.
Want to read what others have to say about grief and grieving? Well, this wouldn’t be Okie Reads if we didn’t point you toward some titles. Amazon’s page on Death, Grief and Bereavement is a good place to start, as is your local bookstore or Oklahoma Public Library