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!

Grief Coaching is for . . .

Image by Kara Jones, Creative Grief Studio
Image by Kara Jones, Creative Grief Studio

Recently I was talking with a client about the difference between grief coaching and life coaching. As she asked me about what grief coaching is for, we started to explore all the different types of losses that we experience in our lives. We talked about the many losses that cause us to grieve — some of them are more expected than others. For example, the death of someone we love, the loss of a job, children going away to school, divorce, a house fire, the death of a pet, the loss of health due to disease or chronic health issues, the loss of a pregnancy, infertility, and the loss of self can all lead one to grieve.

We grieve because we love. We have been loving and now the object of our love is no longer in our day to day lives, at least not in the form that we previously experienced or in the way that we expected. So often we’re left with feelings of emptiness and a “Now what?” question in our minds. In some ways there are similarities between grief coaching and life coaching. Both types of coaching help us to find our way. To explore new ways of being. Both are action-oriented — rather than just exploring the root cause of our suffering. In coaching we use tools that help you get unstuck and move to a place of wholeness.

For example, when we’re grieving the loss of self, using tools that relax the body and mind and allow us to open back up to the dreams that are at the heart of our true selves can be incredibly healing. As we heal and remember those dreams that live deep in our heart, we start to come back to our selves — we come back to our deepest values and desires.  When we acknowledge those, put a focus on them, create intentions around them — we can start to bring our true selves into the world. And that I believe is what we’re all meant to do here on earth — to bring our true selves out into the world. To share our unique gifts and talents with those around us.

For many women, I think this can be especially challenging because we have a focus on helping others. However, helping ourselves and being able to speak for ourselves, about ourselves, and from the deepest truth of our hearts, allows us to be our best and share that with others.

One of the techniques that I use in grief coaching to cultivate this self-nurturing and caring for our heart’s dreams, is a loving kindness meditation. Another technique is a collage based on pictures of oneself, especially from the past, that evoke memories and feelings around those hopes and dreams that we were cherishing.  Then we explore how we might bring them forward into the present.

What have been your experiences with life coaching and grief coaching? Please share them in the comments below!