Why the Stages of Grief are so Appealing

Mirror Maze photo by Janice E LodatoJust when you think you’ve “moved on” and accepted your new normal, you notice someone who reminds you of your beloved. Or you reach into your closet and pull an old sweater to your face and your mind floods with images of the one you’ve lost. Or you sit on the edge of your bed to get dressed and remember how you sat there that day – stunned by feelings of loss and grief. How can it be? You’re right back where you were before.

If this sounds at all familiar to you in your journey with grief, you are not alone. While the stages of grief, as described by Kubler-Ross, are very appealing – especially in their linear nature, i.e., that we will achieve acceptance and be done – the reality of grief is much more varied. It is complicated, and, well, not stage like at all. Perhaps it’s more of a circle than a line that goes:

Denial –> Anger –> Bargaining –> Depression –> Acceptance

The human mind likes to understand things and categorize them. We’re constantly trying to make sense of our experiences and stages are very appealing. Definitely, there is a lot that makes sense in what Kubler-Ross described and it may mirror our experience.

However, I think a more fluid and less linear approach may be more helpful. For example, we might continue to operate with some form of denial even as we experience acceptance. Though they may sound contradictory, in our day-to-day experience they may operate together. For example, as I accept the death of a loved one, I still may experience, at times, shock or a sense of denial that she is not there when I turn to talk her or I may expect her witty comeback in a conversation.

I think this is where the beauty lies in using creative tools and resources as we journey with our grief. Generally, these tools are not linear and ask our logical brains to quiet down. When we’re in this creative space, we can touch on internal resources to sit with our grief and help us make meaning in a new way. We can explore where our grief or anger resides within our body and how that might help us to discover ways that we can feel better. Or we can create a new self-portrait that shows how the shattered pieces of our former lives are pieced back together in new ways.

These creative approaches to being with grief are at the core of the Creative Grief Studio’s program and woven throughout the work that I do as a grief coach. Please reach out if this sounds like it will be helpful to you. Also, know that the back and forth / highs and lows of grief are a normal part of this very circular and spiraling process.

Wishing you abundant peace!

Working with Grief through Reiki and Connection

Recently a client who was filled with grief said to me, while she was lying on the Reiki table, “You know I really don’t believe in this.” I reassured her that it is not necessary to believe in Reiki for it to work. I then asked her what she had heard about Reiki. She said, “That it is relaxing.” Then we had our ground for agreement: Reiki is relaxing.  I went on to say, “When we are relaxed:

  • we heal more quickly
  • think more clearly
  • act more mindfully
  • and we’re more creative.”

She nodded her head in agreement and said, “I think stress is worse for your health than eating junk food.”

This type of conversation reminds me of this quote from my Creative Grief Coaching Certification program:

Learning process of grief

When we trust and believe we are more resilient, resourceful, and creative. Furthermore, trusting and believing open us to the possibility of connecting with others.  Through connection we turn our backs on shame, which is an emotion often tied with the grieving process and can cause us to be stuck in our grief.

In the Creative Grief Coaching program we have been exploring shame. It is the topic of Brene Brown’s book, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t),” which is filled with heart-opening stories from her extensive research on shame. The stories are often very easy to relate to and heart breaking, at times, too. As we connect with each other we find that, “It isn’t just me. Other women experience the same challenges with their bodies, relationships, and money.” Through this connection we can overcome fear, blame, and shame and work creatively in our grief process.

Reiki is a wonderful tool for our lives as we work with grief and seek ways to relax and connect.  With it we can find the way to open our hearts and connect with ourselves, others, and the universe. We can heal faster, think more clearly and creatively, and act more mindfully.

Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain


Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain

Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain holds a special place in my heart. This particular copy is from my father’s bookshelf. He is a psychologist who has most recently practiced in the field of sports psychology and uses creative visualization and self-hypnosis to improve an athlete’s concentration and overall performance. I remember, as a child, seeing it there on the bookshelf and being quietly inspired by it as I loved to live in the dreamlike world of my imagination.

A few weeks ago, I read this book from cover to cover. Before, I had only read parts of it because it is certainly a book that lends itself to that type of reading.  The first part of it provides a thorough background about, and discussion of, the application of creative visualization and affirmations. In the second part, one can practice with the many visualizations for particular situations, like the Pink Bubble Technique or the Healing Meditations.  As I read it, I was pleasantly surprised to find phrases that I use in my Reiki practice repeated throughout the book. It was as if it had woven its way through my consciousness and connects me to my life’s purpose and to my father.

Shakti Gawain starts off this inspirational book with a crystal clear definition: “Creative visualization is the technique of using your imagination to create what you want in your life.”  This simple and straightforward technique is then presented as a natural part of your imagination.  Something that you’re using everyday anyway, so why not use it to achieve your goals? Shakti builds this book on two important techniques: 1. Relaxation and 2. Affirmation. (Even the Stuart Smalley affirmation appears on page 22, “Every day in every way I’m getting better, better, and better.”)

One often hears that there are people who just can’t visualize and therefore this technique will be ineffective for them.  However, I believe, as with any self-care technique, one has to find the method that works for your way of thinking and your way of living.  Perhaps you’re more of a verbal thinker than a visual one so rather than holding an image of your goal, you’ll create a phrase that captures its essence. If you’re more of a kinesthetic learner, perhaps you’ll dance your way to the heart of your dream.  When you’ve created that image, phrase, or dance, then you use that again and again to help manifest the life you love.

I highly recommend this book as a guide to creative visualization and the effective use of affirmations.  The techniques contained in it also beautifully blend with Reiki.  As you practice your self-Reiki, I invite you to repeat, with a loving heart, a phrase, an image, or a dance that guides you to your highest healing good. Combining Reiki with visualization and affirmation is a powerful technique.

What is your experience with creative visualization?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.