Saturday, March 28, 2020

Having Lost a Lot, We Grieve

     Covid 19 has shocked many of us out of our comfortable, trance-like, self-absorbed complacency. We hoped that we could float through life comfortably, without being overly bothered by the ridiculously miserable life circumstances of so many in the world, the escalating extinction of species & meltdown of our environment. But now suddenly, we're (almost) in the same boat as our fellow human beings around the globe. Almost, because we are able to comfortably remain in our homes to minimize exposure. Almost, because even if we do become infected, we're rested & well nourished to better fight the infection & have ready access to proper health care. Not so for the millions trapped in sprawling refugee camps and slums around the world.
     Nevertheless, we are now grieving for our lost innocence (naivete), our lost illusion of safety, our lost illusion of control over life. 
     It's very useful & beneficial to deeply understand our grieving process:

     “The five stages of grief are: 

Denial: shock and disbelief that the loss has occurred
Anger: that someone we love is no longer here
Bargaining: all the what-ifs and regrets
Depression: sadness from the loss
Acceptance: acknowledging the reality of the loss

     (These) describe only a general process. Each person grieves in his or her own unique way. …

     The fifth of Kubler-Ross’s five stages is acceptance. At this stage, we acknowledge the reality of loss. We take some time to stop and breathe into the undeniable fact that our loved ones [or other important relationships or possessions etc] are gone. There’s nothing easy about this stage. It can be extremely painful, and acceptance doesn’t mean that we are okay with the loss, or that the grieving process is now officially over. However, there’s been an assumed finality about this fifth stage that Elizabeth and I never intended. Over the years I came to realize that there’s a crucial sixth stage to the healing process: meaning. This isn’t some arbitrary or mandatory step, but one that many people intuitively know to take and others will find helpful.
     In this sixth stage we acknowledge that although for most of us grief will lessen in intensity over time, it will never end. But if we allow ourselves to move fully into this crucial and profound sixth stage – meaning – it will allow us to transform grief into something else, something rich and fulfilling.
     Through meaning, we can find more than pain. When a loved one dies, or when we experience any kind of serious loss – the end of a marriage, the closing of the company where we work, the destruction of our home in a natural disaster – we want more than the hard fact of that loss. We want to find meaning. Loss can wound and paralyze. It can hang over us for years. But finding meaning in loss empowers us to find a path forward. Meaning helps us make sense of grief …
     What does meaning look like? It can take many shapes, such as finding gratitude for the time they had with loved ones, or finding ways to commemorate and honor loved ones, or realizing the brevity and value of life and making that the springboard into some kind of major shift or change.
     Those who are able to find meaning tend to have a much easier time grieving that those who don’t. They’re less likely to remain stuck in one of the five stages. For those who do get stuck, this can manifest in many different ways, including sudden weight gain (or loss), drug or alcohol addiction, unresolved anger, or an inability to form or commit to a new relationship out of fear of experiencing yet another loss. If they remain stuck in loss, then they may become consumed by it, making it the focus of their life to the point where they lose all other sense of purpose and direction. Although you can’t pin all of your troubles or vices on getting stuck after a loss, there is almost always a connection.
     Grief is extremely powerful. It’s easy to get stuck in your pain and remain bitter, angry, or depressed. Grief grabs your heart and doesn’t seem to let go.
     But if you can manage to find meaning in even the most senseless loss, you can do more than get unstuck. When circumstances are at their worst, you can find your best. You can keep growing and finding ways to live a good and someday even a joyous life, one enriched by the lessons and love of the person who died [or memory of other serious loss].” 

      David Kessler. “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.” Scribner, 2019.

      David Kessler's recent (15min) television interview:
      A recent magazine interview:


  1. Very nice article and I am impressed by no. 6, which I learned about today!

  2. Thank you - I'm glad you found it beneficial! Here's the author, David Kessler in a very recent interview: