Processing Grief

Processing Grief

Recently, I looked up some writing I’d done on Grief and discovered I’d never posted it. While I’ve touched on the subject itself on a number of occasions, I’d not posted about the process of grief.

If you’ve read about the subject before, you’ve probably seen the “5 stages of grief”. How, when faced with major loss, we naturally progress through the stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. However, these are NOT the stages of grief. These stages are what the terminally ill deal with in facing death. They were originally defined by Dr. Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”. While death certainly can have a grief component, it is not the same process.

Grief has come to be understood as “the total response of the organism to the process of change“. But change is deeply associated with how we perceive it. Our perspective of the circumstances and how attached we are to maintaining what is being lost. If we are absorbed in the story, we don’t think “I feel upset”. We think “I am upset”. “I am loosing this”. It is personal, hence there is grief.

A better way to understand grief is the old adage that change is suffering. The basic concept is that change = loss = grief. Fundamentally, we experience grief as a response to the experience of loss. We perceive a loss and thus grieve the change.

Put another way, we go through some process of grief whenever change occurs that results in a perceived loss. This happens to us all the time so it’s very useful to understand the process so we can heal from the many turns on the road of life.

If we experience a loss of something we are not attached or identified with, it simply leaves our life. Like worn out underwear. There can still be a wave of grief if it’s something or someone we’ve enjoyed, like a casual friend moving away. But this is brief. We have not lost something of ourselves. We are not activating the pain body, as Tolle calls it.

Thus clearly it is the attachment that causes the pain, not the event itself. What we hold on to is something we have more control over.

The Process
Really, the process is about adaptation to change. It is typical of all adaptation, not just for grief.

Change Adaptation:
1) Denial or resistance (optional)
2) Accept the reality of the loss
3) Allow and experience the pain of the loss
4) Adjust to being without the lost
5) Reinvest in the new reality/story (optional)

The last step is one that changes with awakening. As we step out of the need for a story, we stop writing new stories or adding to old ones in the face of change. We simply more deeply allow it to be as it is. While some story is needed to communicate, the noise greatly simplifies. Fewer and fewer things are said to bind us.

We can also observe that healing begins only AFTER Acceptance. Before that, we are in resistance and there is no adaptation. It is only when we are willing to see it is it is that we can let go. Thus, the key to all healing is awareness, for it is only with awareness that we can accept.

Last Updated on April 27, 2016 by

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  1. Share

    Thank you for this, D and for referring me to it. It’s so simple and clear and even as I was reading it, I could feel something in me loosen and start to unravel a little. This past week attended memorials for both my step-Dad of 30 years and an uncle of 62 years. Plus just being with immediate and extended family brings up a lot of old grief. Well, and other old stuff too but won’t digress!

    I think it’s brilliant that you put resistance as the first step. I bet it’s present 99.9% of the time and by putting it on the list, you’ve made resistance much less of a boogey man.

    And the part about there being less and less words to bind us has been a welcome aspect of my recent experience. Just that all pervading silence that absorbs all the words and their energies.

    And I also appreciate the part about reinvesting in new reality. Have not seen that before. Wonder if the best reinvestment might be the Self which contains all stories.

    This also reminded me of the three gunas too. How creation and destruction is always happening, so change loss is always happening. Wonderful how you talk about that too. How it’s always a part of our lives. Very profound and useful insights.
    Hope lots of grieving people get to see this.
    With gratitude

  2. Davidya

    Hi Share. Thanks for the feedback.
    Yes, I’ve seen reinvesting in a few models. The “better story”. For example, some New Thought folks suggest replacing a victim story with a more empowered one. Essentially rewriting the story, in this case to match the new scenario. Mind likes to have a story for everything. But this is optional.

    We could say, for example, “I am Married”. Then when that changes, “I am Single/ Widowed/ Divorced”. This is clearly a change and loss. But what if we instead identified with that which is unchanging, as you suggest? Or we allowed what is to be as it is, without needing to make a story about it.

    The first is much easier to do first. When the mind is more confident and at peace, then it is not so motivated to make a story to feel safe. Then there is no story to be lost. Then we can allow what is to be as it is more easily.

    The grief of loss will still arise, but not for the small stuff. And for the important stuff, it will not shake our sense of being.

    When it’s not personal, when it’s not mine, there is much less to grieve. Further, when we see the true nature of a persons life, it is only their departure we grieve. There is no ending.

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