A few decades ago, the concept of ‘the Five Stages of Grief’ was first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her ground-breaking book, “On Death and Dying”.
These five stages consist of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages can be applied to anyone suffering from any form of major personal loss – job, income, freedom, relationship, health, tragedy and disaster.
The 7 Stages of Grief
Kübler-Ross indicated that they were only guidelines and that not everyone would necessarily experience them in that order, nor would all steps be experienced by every person.
However, she did believe that everyone would experience at least two of them. Up until the last 10 years, this system was the foundation that grief counselling was based on. In the last decade there has been a lot of expansion on her model, including the very popular 7 Stages of Grief. Shortly we will look at these seven stages in more detail and in conjunction with the Bush Essences.
Stages Can Occur In Any Order
It is important to note that there is no neat progression from one stage to the next in the stages of grief. In reality, there is much looping back, or stages can hit at the same time, or occur out of order. This model, though, can help sharpen perception of what to look for and understand the process someone is going through.
For example, outsiders might not expect you to be experiencing a long period of "depression" (not clinical depression), isolation, and loneliness late in the grief process, months after a major loss. Actually, it is normal and expected for you to feel despondent and sad around the eight-month mark after the event. Outsiders usually do not understand this, and feel that it should be time for you to "get over it" and move on. Just knowing that it is normal for you to wish to be alone with your sad reflections at this time will help you deal with outside pressures.
Moving Through It
This is symptomatic of regarding grief as being like the flu, that is, it has to be treated. Thankfully, today, there has been a move to a position where an individual is encouraged to fully feel the emotions that they are experiencing.
When you are allowed to express your grief, you move through it. A child who is allowed to be sad when he is feeling sad will become very healthy around sadness in adulthood and therefore usually move easily through their adult sadness.
Children who are not encouraged to cry, or stopped from crying “don’t be a cry baby”, may likely have a hard time crying as adults, as they have been conditioned not to cry. So they detrimentally repress their grief. I have often prescribed Sturt Desert Pea to patients who say that they do not or cannot cry. Often they then ring up within the next week in tears telling me, between sobs, how wonderful it is to cry.
Grief that is continually repressed and held in can become chronic depression, a very unnatural emotion.
The Best Way to Let Go of Grief: Express It
Neale Donald Walsch (author of Conversations with God) mentions that the thing about grief is that we all want to let it go. Yet the irony is that the best way to let go of grief is to express it - to fully have it. You let go of it by having it, which may seem counter-intuitive. Yet it is the best way to bring grief to an end.
How To Help Someone Experiencing Grief
If someone close to you is experiencing grief right now, the best gift you can give them is to let them have it. Do not try to “comfort” it away. Allow it to flow. Encourage it. Talk people into it, don’t try to talk them out of it.
Speak into their grief - “This must feel awful to you right now.” “I can imagine that you must be devastated by this,” etc. Don’t try to talk all around it - “There, there…it’s going to be all right,” “He wouldn’t want you to feel this sad,” etc. Don’t try to talk others, or yourself, out of your grief over anything. Express it fully, that’s the way to get past it.
Don’t Try to Hide It
Quoting Neale Donald Walsch again, “We grow through grief. By watching carefully what we most deeply grieve, we come to know ourselves and what our deepest values are, as well as what we want them to be. Grief teaches us to be human, to be compassionate, to be deeply caring. It is a wonderful tool of release as well, allowing us to release negative emotions.”
Feel your grief fully when you have it. Don’t try to hide it and don’t seek to sublimate it. And whatever you do, don’t try to shorten its time with you. People who tell you that “you’ve grieved long enough” are trying to make themselves more comfortable, not you. You’ve grieved “long enough” when you stop grieving. And you’ll stop grieving faster the more fully you grieve.
"The 7 Stages of Grief" model:
- SHOCK & DENIAL –
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
Emergency Essence is an obvious choice here. (Fringed Violet helps for the initial shock upon witnessing or receiving the shocking news whilst Sundew helps you to accept things as they are).
Also both indicated at this stage are Bluebell, to help you stay connected to your feelings, and Red Suva Frangipani for the rawness when a relationship or person is lost.
2. PAIN & GUILT
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
Monga Waratah gives you the realisation that you have enough resources within to cope and you do not need to be dependent on substance behaviour or another person.
Bluebell will help you to experience your feelings and not suppress them. When feeling the intense pain of this, many people have said the following “It is as if an old hardened, barnacle encrusted layer over their heart cracked open to reveal a vulnerable, soft, tender heart inside”.
This was usually preceded by intense crying and grief. If this experience was attained, invariably the earlier tears and suffering were described as well worth it as they felt reborn emotionally and very much in touch with their feelings.
Sturt Desert Rose can also be helpful if there are any feelings of guilt coming up at this point. You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase and Mint Bush would be the Essence to end the perturbation and bring clarity.
- ANGER & BARGAINING
You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair ("I will never drink again if you just bring him back"). Southern Cross is the “it’s not fair” Essence when someone is feeling a victim, powerless and the need to blame others.
- "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, and LONELINESS -
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders.
Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
- Tall Yellow Top addresses alienation as well as loneliness. It is my first choice for depression.
- Pink Flannel Flower is a very soft and nurturing Essence that instills a sense of gratitude for everything that life brings to you, including the really challenging aspects, and thus can help you rediscover your joie de vivre and accept these changes.
During this time, you finally realise the true magnitude of your loss, and it can depress you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
- THE UPWARD TURN -
Cognis helps here as it contains Sundew, which assists you to be very grounded and pay attention to detail.
- RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH -
Cognis is still indicated here, especially as it contains Paw Paw. If you have not been able to attend to your paperwork and affairs etc. for some time, you may feel overwhelmed when starting to tackle the backlog.
- ACCEPTANCE & HOPE -
Pink Flannel Flower can be a very useful Essence at this point. You can also consider the Transition Essence or the White Light Essence, Earth, to help you get back on track with your spiritual journey.
Eventually you will start to look forward to and actually plan things for the future and once again anticipate some good times to come. In due course you will be able to think about your loss or lost loved one without pain - sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone.
Grief changes you, and you need to find what your new needs are. What should I do now that I don’t have that person, in my life? What should I do now I don’t have those two legs that I used to have? What should I do now that I don’t have that marriage or that job? What should I do now to find happiness and meaning?
Also your friends and family have got to come to terms with the fact that you’ve changed. It’s a time of being gentle with yourself, recognising and attending to your own needs.
Grief is normal - and we will get through it
Grief is a normal and complex emotion; it’s with us to stay. Some people find great difficulties at times, and they need a little bit of extra help, but that’s different from thinking that grief itself is a problem.
The greatest healing that occurs in grieving is when people are simply allowed to feel what they feel, not what they should feel or what other people think they should feel, but just to feel what’s there.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Grief is the emotion of the element of metal. You can shift and balance stuck Grief by using the emotion of the element of Fire – joy. Laughter and feeling joyous releases stuck grief.
The two best Essences to help bring this about are Pink Flannel Flower and Little Flannel Flower. The former brings gratitude and the latter brings back joy and a sense of playfulness and delight in life. Let the fun begin!