Hope & Despair
The Grief Process is our built-in ability to both “make sense” of loss, and to move past it to a personal resolution, whatever that might be. It might be a movement from resentment to forgiveness, from weakness to strength, from injury to wholeness. It always leads us to become more than we were.
Grief is an emotional, physical, and spiritual reaction to a major loss. Grief may be triggered by the death of a loved one, or an illness for which there is no cure, or a chronic condition that affects our quality of life. The end of a significant relationship may also cause a grieving process.
Everyone feels grief in their own way. However, there are some commonalities that our personal grief processes share. The process starts with recognizing a loss and continues until a person eventually accepts that loss. The Grief Process seems to be made up of of five stages. These stages might not occur in a specific order, and can (at times) occur together. Everyone may not experiences all of these emotions:
- Denial, disbelief, numbness
- Anger, blaming others
- Bargaining (for instance “If I am cured of this cancer, I will never smoke again.”)
- Depressed mood, sadness, and crying
- Acceptance, coming to terms
Since grief is not just one thing, it is important to give “voice” to each facet, but not to allow only one part of it to dominate entirely. We cannot allow feeling to so dominate us that we lose our ability for “doing”. Nor can we allow “doing” to so dominate us that we cannot feel. We are seeking balance, a new balace. A good example is when we are both sad and angry about a particular loss. If we are entirely stuck in only sadness, we do not have the energy necessary for daily tasks, and if we get stuck solely in our anger, we lose our empathy and approachability. I give “permission” to each of my parts to express all that I am feeling, and make conscious decisions to pull out of anything I seem to be getting stuck in. As the hours, days, and weeks go by, I seem to revisit all my feelings many times, until I find at some point, that it has all subsided on its own, and I am better for it.
Dreams and Love are the sustenance of a child’s soul, which must have an abundance of both to power them properly later as adults.
He had accumulated little of both as a child. What he had accumulated had come later in life, from therapists, friends, from his wife, and from himself, as he learned to view himself and his history with compassion. His wife had suggested that they take this trip, as a way of fulfilling some of those “lost” childhood dreams.
Darkness, drizzle and grey clouds hung in contrast to the bright lights of motels, restaurants, and other tourist attractions on the strip about a mile from the entrance to Disney World. Two young Japanese tourists hurried to their cab, which had just pulled up to the curb. On one side of the lobby was an internet café, frequented by two well-dressed professional looking women in their late twenties. Next to the front door was an ATM, numerous racks of Disney coupon pamphlets and other publications. On the right, signs indicated the way to various in-house restaurants and bars, shuttle buses, a miniature golf course and a swimming pool. People bustled everywhere with intention and good spirits, typical reactions of folks on vacation. Everywhere, folks talked and laughed unselfconsciously, especially the children.
He stood by the registration desk of The Best Western, mortified, frozen in painful all consuming self-conscious isolation, not sure how to proceed. One more humiliation, one more hope-crushing disappointment on public display robbed him of his decision making abilities. The desk clerk pretended to be busy, to not notice his discomfort. A previous motel had double billed him for a week’s stay in the Keys, and there were no funds available on his debit card for either his hotel room, or his one day at Disney. Countless phone calls had proved fruitless. This was Mickey Mouse land, a place of magic, and childhood dreams. This shouldn’t be happening here in Orlando, one mile away from fulfilling a childhood dream that he had given up on nearly 50 years ago!
Every child who grew up in the fifties and sixties shared this special dream given to them by a kindly Walt Disney; the dream of going to Disney Land, or (later) Disney World. Sometimes, if we hide things well enough from ourselves, we don’t know what we desire, until we have lost it. Disappointment didn’t even begin to describe what he was feeling. Frustration hadn’t surfaced yet. There was no room for frustration, so large was the black void of shame, despair and isolation. He would have felt no more “exposed” if he had a big letter “L” for loser tattooed to his forehead.
Why had this happened? Did he contribute to it happening? Was this some sort of punishment from the God of his parents, a God of fear and retribution or proof of the Devil’s existence? Did he deserve this? Why did stuff like this always happen to him? Was this one more proof of his parent’s assertion that he was “no good”, and that no matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, he would never be “OK” in their eyes or in anyone else’s for that matter? Would Hope always be a fantasy that he tried to hold onto, while despair was a fact that he could never disprove?