As a First Responder and First Responder instructor I learned about the 5 stages of grief.
Many people accept that these are the stages one experiences after a traumatic event or loss and hold that they are universally experienced. Some people suggest we need “closure” to move on from the loss before we can get back to life. The trouble is, you do not simply pass through grief in stage order, you literally bounce around those stages, constantly pinging and bouncing all over the place and some of us take longer to overcome loss than others because we have contexts that slow us down. Grief may be defined as the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
Two years ago I started moving through a book titled The Grief Recovery Handbook (authored by John James and Russel Friedman), which suggests we need to complete grief as opposed to getting closure. The book took me a while to move through not because it was a hard read, but because you need to invest time in exploring your own misconceptions and concrete thoughts about loss and grief. You have to understand your context. I have also read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazerro. These reads in conjunction with my own context (my lived experiences), put me in a position where my outlook on loss is a bit different from many, but still the same. It is important to me that as soon as I experience loss, I spend time exploring it and figuring out where I am with it. I refuse to be a victim of my own emotions, I feel what I feel but I do not live in my feelings.
April and May are tumultuous months for me. They are full of anniversaries, anniversaries which cause conflicting emotions.
- May 1994 Graduated from high school
- May 1994 Left home for College
- May 1994 Pregnant with my first child (lost her dad #6 below)
- April 1999, I bought my first home and lost my first major relationship
- April 2000 Had my 4th daughter
- April 2010 Loss the father of 2 of my children and the only guy to ever propose
Now, these may not be major losses in your eyes, and that’s fine. This mini list is intended for you to reflect on seasons of your own life when you experience repeated loss or extreme changes – anniversaries. You may notice a pattern if you study it. During the spring (and fall another season of anniversaries for me) my allergies are worse than usual and emotionally I have to be aware of what may try to rear its ugly head. I can whole heartedly say, most of the things above I have completed. That does not mean I do not hurt or that the events have no impact on my life, they just do not hold me hostage like they once did. I realize that there are 2 sides (sometimes 8 or 9) to most of the losses I experience.
There are times when I react from my emotions very poorly – epic failures! Just as I have to forgive myself for reacting irrationally, I choose to forgive others for their poor choices as well. Is it always easy? NO. However, I acknowledge that I did not always feel the way that I feel now. I did not magically wake up one day able to forgive someone for egregious mistakes, it was a place I traveled to over time, so I accept that it may take others a while to make it here as well. I also accept that some will never make it here. It does not add to my life to harbor unforgiveness and resentment, instead it opens me up to not being forgivable myself.
At one point I forgave so I could be forgiven, but in time that forgiveness came out of me because of my genuine love for others.
We live, We learn, We grow. Let’s let the pain go and forgive. It is not easy, but together we can.