The nature of the world is change. Circumstances will change, people will leave or die, and things we value will fall apart or be lost. Even someone enjoying lots of good karma is going to face some tragedy and loss in their life.
Grief is “the total response of the organism to the process of change.” Put another way, when things change, we can go through a grieving process.
Scientists have defined the typical stages as:
1) Shock and Denial
2) Intense Concern, digesting the change
3) Despair and Depression, processing emotions
4) Recovery, moving to acceptance
We may find specific stages more difficult than others, or we may move through them smoothly.
You’ll often see reference to the “5 stages of grief” defined by Kubler-Ross. However, those are the stages of acceptance of impending death. It’s also not a model that’s been verified scientifically. Grief can be part of that process, but it’s distinct.
I bring all this up because it’s helpful to be conscious of how we’re adjusting to change so we can move through it more smoothly and not get stuck in denial or depression.
Often, it’s just giving ourselves space and time to process. It’s also valuable to recognize the process is normal. We’ve all been here, even if it’s not talked about much.
In fact, it’s valuable to talk it out with someone appropriate. Someone who’s inclined to want to “fix” you or the situation is not.
Talking, journaling, and similar can help process it mentally. But don’t stop there. We can’t think through our emotions. And until we work through that energy, we can get stuck and turn the experience into suffering. We may repress the experience, but it will surface again later.
By acceptance, I don’t mean giving up or apathy. We need to address problems arising. Acceptance means allowing what is arising to be there so we can complete with it. This resolves the karma and allows us to move on.
It’s amazing what a difference acceptance makes in moving through difficult experiences. We can see we’re in denial, adapting, and healing. A value of acceptance is useful throughout the process, even if we only adapt fully at the end.
With acceptance we experience it as it is. And it completes.
Engaging the process allows nature to support us. If we’re awake, we may sustain our inner happiness in the face of deep challenges. It may seem odd to suggest we can be happy and grieving at the same time. But when we’re in deep acceptance, this is possible. Happiness and grief operate on different levels.
The more we’re allowing life to be as it is, the more we step into the flow of it, the greater the support, and the greater the fulfillment.