Grieve to Gain

Leaving the old way behind can be a gut-wrenching decision.

When confronted with a life-altering fact, we are left in stunned silence. What was familiar shifts in a moment, the anticipated future vanishes into thin air…and we sit quietly to mourn the death of all we’ve known and believed would come to pass.

The sinking feeling is familiar.

Any change, regardless of how trivial, creates a hole in us just big enough for “what might have been”. Though we must move on–the world will keep spinning–it’s important to acknowledge what’s being left behind. As with losing cherished family or beloved friend, passing into a new phase begs us to grieve.

It is impossible to embrace the future before letting go of the past.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross shaped our understanding of loss in her landmark book On Death and Dying more than four decades ago by laying out five stages people go through. In my experience, this progression manifests itself during growth as follows:

1. Denial–“I can stay the same.”
The initial reaction to any situation, it is a reflexive defense for all we’ve held dear. We swing our arms around our toys and pull them close to our chest like a spoiled child when cousins arrive. To ignore the clarion call of evolution is to wilt in the sunshine of brighter days ahead.

2. Anger–“I shouldn’t have to be any different.”
Offended by the suggestion something is amiss, we seek to find fault beyond our boundaries. Personal myopia prevents us from seeing the positive side of the coin. We like the way we are and, at this point, are resistant to the idea other (better) options exist for us.

3. Bargaining–“I’d do anything to go back.”
As knowledge begins seeping through our pores, we regret choosing the red pill instead of blue and wish we’d remained blind. Suffering through the growing pains of expanding awareness and understanding, we cry out for simpler days.

4. Depression–“I wasted so much time.”
Sadness befalls all us as the realization our choices were misguided washes away any remaining doubt a transition is in order. Stricken with guilt or shame for the mistakes, regardless of our good intentions at the time, self-flagellation ensues. Every step is analyzed and agonized over in the lonely darkness between our ears.

5. Acceptance–“It’s time.”
Finally, having traversed four circles of hell, we ascend into the light of a new day. Armed with fresh confidence and boundless energy, we take a sure first step in the right direction.

This process varies in length from person to person and is defined as much by stubbornness as it is age.

It is a challenge which demands steady patience and consistent effort, like clearing fallen trees from the road after a tornado.

Freeing ourselves from the attachments of our history leaves us with much to gain.


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1 Response to “Grieve to Gain”

  1. 1 Movements « MeBuilding Trackback on September 14, 2010 at 5:50 am
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