Most likely in your grief journey you have come across the 5 stages of grief, originally developed by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Mrs. Ross was a brilliant woman and I don’t deny she was onto something when she developed these 5 stages. However….
I would like to believe that life necessitates that we change with the times. If you don’t believe me try finding a pay phone to text your best friend…oh yeah, that isn’t going to happen! It not to say that for a very long time pay phones were awesome and very helpful to all of us as a culture.
Why Detox From the 5 Stages of Grief?
I do not deny that each of us will go through the stages of grief, or that it is important for us to recognize that they exist. But I also think it’s too easy to get stuck thinking that somehow this is the sole definition of a process that is much more complex.
You may need to detox from the living in the 5 stages of grief if you are feeling stuck or feeling like you are living in a hamster wheel.
For us to grow from our loss, embrace radical self-care as a method of healing and live the life we were meant to live (which includes our loss), then we must recognize when the time has come to do something more.
Embracing the 5 Stages of Good Grief
The remainder of this post is a transcribed version of a short 5 minute talk I gave in June of this year. If you would rather simply watch the video you can do that below, otherwise read on… Either way, be sure to leave a comment below and tell me what you think about the 5 Stages of Grief.
I’m here this evening to tell you that the five stages of grief are a load of shit.
That’s right! And let me just do a quick review. The five stages of grief are, denial, bargaining, anger, depression. At the end you’re supposed to end up in acceptance. Keep in mind that if you end up in acceptance, acceptance is another word for resignation.
How many of you would like to live a life of resignation? That’s why I’m here. We’re not having any resignation.
We would love for grief to be this very symphonic beautiful thing that travels from one stage to the next and we get to the point where we can just package it up and put it up on a nice shelf and that’s not how grief works.
Grief is a little bit more like ordering food from a fast food restaurant where you get out of bed one day and you decide you want to have the number one with a side of denial.
But then you roll out of bed the next day and you’re like, “Oh, super size that acceptance and give me a little bit of anger and maybe some depression while you’re at it.”
It really doesn’t matter what you order from the grief menu, grief makes you feel like shit.
What entitles me to be a grief basher? In 2010, while home on leave from the army, my oldest son passed away. This is when I learned that the five stages of grief have nothing to do with living a happy life after loss.
The other thing I learned shortly after Brandon died is that as grieving parents, we don’t get a title like divorcee or orphan or widow, so we have to create our own. So I took it upon myself to give myself the title of “binge drinker” because that seemed to be an appropriate title.
Lucky for me, about that time, my neighborhood was having a recycling contest and I figured – This is perfect. I can console my grief while at the same time being a great citizen of the planet and recycle my beer bottles and my wine.
A few weeks later, I was standing in my kitchen fully dressed in my pajamas, beer in hand, not realizing whether it was too early for beer or too late for the pajamas. I wasn’t clear on that but I realized this grief thing wasn’t working out so good for me.
So I thought about it and it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t accept that my son wasn’t coming back. It was all about that resignation. I could not accept a life of resignation.
Here’s the kicker. Each and every one of you is going to get to go through the five stages of grief. You are going to lose someone or something that you love and that is close to your heart.
What are you going to do, right? The five stages of grief are a load of crap. So what I decided to do was recreate those five stages and create good grief.
I went back to the drawing board and I exchanged denial for gratitude. I am eternally grateful for everything that I have learned about life because of Brandon’s death. That allowed me to have a lot of gratitude and I have a huge life left to live.
Then I exchanged bargaining for letting go, letting go of thinking that the world owed me anything or that anyone else was responsible for my happiness other than myself.
Then I took this big bucket of anger that I had at the world because it owed me something and I exchanged it for love because what I realized is that with love and compassion, we can make change and move mountains that will never get touched if you’re living over here with anger. So I let it go.
So then I moved on and I decided that maybe instead of depression, humor is a better way to look at the world. The world has a ridiculously weird sense of humor and when you can plug in to those bright spots in life, life becomes immeasurably easier.
Then there was this piece about acceptance, right? Resignation and acceptance.
I decided rather than having acceptance, I would build expansion joints. I would build expansion joints from my broken heart so that I would live a life that is bigger and better than anything I would have had had it not gotten broken.
So when it is your turn, I hope that you realize that you have a choice and I hope you choose good grief.
Now it’s your turn. Comment below and tell me what you think about the 5 stages of grief.