Grief and Self-Compassion
Grief is one thing that all of us will face at some point in our lives. However, grief is also a feeling that we struggle to really understand or grapple with. In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified 5 stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying in an effort to provide more understanding on the process of grieving. These 5 stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
While I believe that the 5 stages are a helpful tool to normalize the many emotions we experience while grieving, these stages can also set dangerous and unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others when we use them as a measuring stick instead of a guidepost.
In reality, grief does not follow a formula. It is messy and fluid and unpredictable.
The most important expectation to set for ourselves while we struggle through a difficult time is to offer up a heck of a lot of grace. We may feel depressed one day and the following day wrestling with denial. We could also experience all 5 stages on the same day! There will be days when you are able to follow your 10-step skincare routine, and there will be other days when your best is making sure you brushed your teeth. Your best at any given moment is good enough. How you feel you are remembering and mourning your loved one is good enough. Any feeling that comes under your specific umbrella of grief is valid.
Grieving can feel uncomfortable at times and every-day experiences may bring up emotions that weren’t associated previously. As these moments come up, one of the kindest things you can do for yourself is to practice self-compassion.
Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill, not good feelings… With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.
-Dr. Kristen Neff, 2019
It can often be helpful to find a space where you can safely explore your grief. If you’d like to discuss grief or any other matter in more detail, schedule an appointment with Megan here.