On Grief and Grieving
Over 30 years ago, when I was in my late teens and in college, I had the opportunity to listen to a lecture given by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. In the early to mid seventies, her research with the dying and her newly minted five stages of dying was still very novel and intriguing.
I remember her clearly. She was very petite and unassuming. She eschewed the lectern and instead perched herself at the edge of the stage with her feet dangling, and proceeded to talk to the audience in that lecture hall in a very intimate and compassionate way.
I was fascinated with Dr. Kubler-Ross and from that point on I followed her life with keen interest. In her later years, when she dabbled in areas that would be considered "New Age," some of my professors in graduate school considered that she had gone off of the deep end.
In the 90's she started a farm in rural Virginia to take care of AIDS patients, but it was torched to the ground because of prevailing biases.
While I was still at college, I also had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Raymond Moody, who wrote the book, Life After Life, and was one of the first to document the existence of NDE's (near death experiences) and to catalog similar characteristics in these experiences.
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross died in August of 2004, but not before finishing one last book, On Grief and Grieving.
In this book, she and her co-author David Kessler, note that that there are five stages of grief and they are the same as the stages of death and dying:
And while this book primarily deals with those who have experienced the physical loss of a loved one, it is really helpful for anyone who has had any experience of loss.
Near the end of the book, Dr. Kubler-Ross writes a section on her personal experience of grief - written a few weeks before she died - after having spent nine years bed-ridden due to a series of strokes. She speaks of this time as a rich one in her life - for she was able to face her two greatest struggles - cultivating patience - and allowing herself to receive love.
The Afterword is poignant and titled "The Gift of Grief." The following passage is an except from this section:
"Grief is the intense emotional response to the pain of a loss. It is the reflection of a connection that has been broken. Most important, grief is an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey to healing.
There is wonder in the power of grief. We don't appreciate its healing powers, yet they are extraordinary and wondrous...Grief transforms the broken, wounded soul, a soul that no longer wants to get up in the morning...a soul that has suffered an unbelievable loss.
Grief has the power to heal...
Grief always works.
Grief always. heals...
Why grieve? For two reasons. First, the one who grieves well, lives well. Second...grief is the healing process of the heart, soul, and mind; it is the path that returns us to wholeness...
The reality is you will grieve forever...
Sadness, anger, and emotional pain sit on our doorstep with a deeper range than we have ever felt...We stand alone with no precedent or emotional repertoire for this kind of loss...
With the power of grief comes much of the fruits of our grief and grieving...
That is the Grace of Grief.
That is the miracle of Grief.
That is the Gift of Grief."