In our goal-oriented society, we want to finish grief, check the boxes on grief stages and cross the finish line. We think that grief ends and that a full-recovery is the norm.
If you’ve paid attention to the evolution in grief-theory, you know the problems with those expectations: 1) the 5 stages don’t apply to grief and are not representative of grief experiences (these stages were created by Kübler-Ross as she studied the ways terminally ill patients dealt with their diagnosis – not active grievers) and 2) we shouldn’t expect to ever be “done” grieving. Experienced grievers know that full-recovery is not possible and in fact, over time, not wanted. Grief becomes a part of us that we learn to live in partnership with.
So what is a realistic goal of grief?
Expect that grief will change you.
Grief is a transformative process.
Perhaps you’re now sleeping alone for the first time in decades, maybe the cook in your family is the one that died and now you don’t know what to eat, or the person you spoke with on the phone almost everyday is now gone and you don’t know who to talk to.
The trip next month is no longer happening – you don’t want to go alone. The support you thought you’d have around you as you aged now feels painfully lacking. The family vacation will never be the same.
The worries you had last week about what to have for dinner and when to wash the car feel unimaginable and trivial. The pain of loss is everywhere and the big-picture-problems and priorities of the world feel crystal clear. Our thoughts and actions change because we have changed.
So, what does grief accomplish and what should we expect from it?
What has your grief taught you? How have you experienced transformation?