Firstly, a little background. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published her findings of the stages of “death and dying” (not grief) in 1969. Meant as a way to bring a listening ear and heart to the experience of dying patients, her work was quickly extrapolated, hoping to make sense out of the grief journey. This was never her intention. But, through the years, the “stages” became the most popularized guide to how we should grieve.
If you have experienced the death of someone close to you, you already know that it’s impossible to fit what your heart and soul are feeling into a neat and linear progression. That’s because grief simply isn’t, neat or linear.
Maybe it helps to think of a grieving heart, the same way we think of a heart in love. It’s ever-changing. It may expand, as we allow for more vulnerability. There are moments we feel anger, confusion, loneliness, relief, and a yearning…all wrapped in the experience we call “being in love”. There is no rhyme or reason for the ways or how we experience love.
As years go by, love often settles in. It may not feel as magnified as it did in the beginning, perhaps it feels more so, but it certainly continues to exist. The shape and intensity take on a new and different form. And just as love is a fluid process, so is that of grief.
Although our hearts may be tempted to put both love and grief into a box tied up with a pretty ribbon, we simply can’t. And why would we want to? Love and grief are both mostly the outgrowth of joy. The joy we experience when two hearts collide. When relationships break-up love doesn’t disappear into thin air. Neither does it when someone dies.
So, just as we give permission to the heart “in love” to ebb and flow, we must do the same for our hearts “in grief”.
Be as gentle toward your “grieving heart” as you would for your heart “in love”.