We grieve over very simple things. We usually associate the grieving process with great personal loss. Elizabeth Kubler Ross defined the grieving process in stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. She was relating this, in great part, to the death of a loved one.
But, we grieve everyday. We grieve the loss of small possessions, we grieve actions, we grieve opportunities not taken; we grieve taking the wrong exit, we grieve getting into the slowest line in the grocery mart. In those senses, grief is a bit different from what Ross was addressing. But the process is basically the same. Here’s an example:
You’re at the grocery story, you park your car, and hit the door lock button as you exit the vehicle. Something distracts you, and you turn to look, dropping your keys on the car seat as you turn to investigate. Oh, just a shopping cart slamming into a car. You turn back and slam the car door shut, just as you realize you’ve left your purse and keys on the car seat.
DENIAL: “I can’t believe I just did that! This is unbelievable!”
ANGER: You slam your hand against the top of the car. “That was stupid! Totally stupid! What was I thinking!?” You spend the next five minutes berating yourself.
BARGAINING: “Ohhhhh. If only I’d kept the keys in my hand, this wouldn’t have happened. Please, please, please God, let there be the extra set in the key holder under the rear bumper. Please let them be there, and I’ll never do anything this stupid again!”
DEPRESSION: No key holder under rear bumper. ”I’m screwed. No keys, my cell’s in my purse, locked in the car. All my money is in my purse. In the car. Which is locked.” You look around, see no escape from the situation. ”Strange neighborhood, fifty miles from home. I’m stuck. It’s getting dark. I’ll never get out of here. I’ll be robbed and raped and plundered, and they’ll never find me.” You sit on the car bumper, head in hands, feeling hopeless and helpless.
ACCEPTANCE: “Ok. There’s gotta be a way. Think, think, think, think, think. You’re a smart woman. OK: facts. Keys and purse and phone and money locked in car. I’m late. Nothing I can do to change that. It is what it is. Now what?”
The “Now what?” is where the solution begins. Acceptance has become the catalyst to move on.
So grieving isn’t just about death. It’s a basic process we go through, nearly everyday, regarding little things that don’t even rate, on a scale of life and death. Think about it next time you lose your wallet, or forget your laptop, or run out of gas, or forget your ID. Think about the process you go through, at least mentally. See if it isn’t pretty close to my example.
Oh, and let me know, if you have an experience you’d be willing to share !
©Janet Mitchell, November 2011