Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler teamed up to write the last book of Kübler-Ross’s life. In fact, she wrote it from her death bed and was not alive to see On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss published. As with all the resources created by these two authors, it is full of helpful information for moving through the grief process. This one seems to best address the question of “how long is this going to take?” In this week of blog posts, the focus is to explore slowing down. When we #SlowDown and take the time we need to be human, and when we are fully present for our experiences, we can experience contentment even in the face of grief. We stop judging ourselves and we stop listening to the judgment of others.
Illness forces us #SlowDown. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to consider what it feels like when this happens. I was in bed for a week with fever. I could not focus on a computer. I was too cold to get out from under the heated blanket on my bed. I was also not sleepy. I have not experienced a life threatening or terminal illness first hand, but this week of sickness allowed me to step into a place where I could consider what that might be like.
For the first few days I was in resistance and I was measuring my self worth based on what I was not doing. I wanted to do some work — write a blog, make a social media post, practice my music, anything. I did do some of those things, but then the fever really took hold and I could not sustain the energy and concentration to continue. Then I started to settle in and realize that, as I have counseled others, the world will not stop turning if I take a day off. In fact, it will not stop turning if I can never get out of bed and I contemplated what it would be like if that was my experience. How would my conception of myself change? How would I provide value to this world? Is it my job to provide value or can I just be? Is “being” enough to provide value or must we also “do”?
No one is immune to the grief process, not even the experts.
Kübler-Ross grappled with this scenario for nine years. She had a series of strokes that left her bed ridden. She became dependent on others for care and she went through anticipatory grief as she faced her death and the loss of her lifestyle. She had been a world traveler and was always the one caring for others. She did not know how to be in one place and she did not know how to receive care. She also, during this phase of anticipatory grief, moved through grief for all the losses she experienced in her life.
Kessler also details his own experiences of grief, including his loss of Kübler-Ross. Learning about the personal experiences of the authors was helpful to really make a connection through their vulnerability. No one is immune to the grief process, not even the experts.
When we lose a loved one and illness has not forced us to #SlowDown and think about these big ideas, it can be helpful to slow down anyway.
One of the suggestions in the book that really struck a chord was the importance of taking the time for ritual when a loved one dies. In the United States we are, in general, resistant to slowing down and uncomfortable with ritual. Although death (and all the responsibilities that go with it) is not our favorite part of life, it does offer some benefits. One of those benefits is that it brings the rest of our friends and family together. People travel from across the country to celebrate the life of the deceased and to grieve with others who loved that person. When #GrandmaJan died, much of my family came closer together and we have stayed in contact and created our own rituals to continue celebrating her life. While there are some deep conflicts that have kept some family members separate (my family is not perfect), coming together around death has had an overall positive affect on our lives.
“…grief is an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey to healing. There is wonder in the power of grief.” - David Kessler & Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
When we #SlowDown we can see that grief is a necessary, messy, and beautiful part of life. When we release ourselves into that process, we free up the additional angst that comes from judging ourselves. We all grieve differently, but we are not alone in that process. How has grief cracked open your heart?
Please share, ask questions, leave comments, suggest topics, and tell stories! I want to hear about your moments of magic, miracles, and synchronicity.
Dare to be immortal.
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