To let ourselves wholly grieve our losses is how we surrender to the process of life and recovery.
How do we grieve? Awkwardly. Imperfectly. Usually with a great deal of resistance. Often with anger and attempts to negotiate. Ultimately, by surrendering to the pain.
The grief process, says Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, is a five-stage process: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and, finally, acceptance. That’s how we grieve; that’s how we forgive; that’s how we respond to the many changes life throws our way.
Although this five-step process looks tidy on paper, it is not tidy in life. We do not move through it in a compartmentalized manner. We usually flounder through, kicking and screaming, with much back-and-forth movement- until we reach that peaceful state called acceptance.
When we talk about the unfinished business from our past, we are usually referring to losses about which we have not completed grieving. We’re talking about being stuck somewhere in the grief process. Usually the place we become stuck in is “denial.” Passing through denial is the first and most dangerous stage of grieving, but it is also the first step toward acceptance.
We can learn to understand the grief process and how it applies to recovery. Even good changes in recovery can bring loss and, consequently, grief. We can learn to help ourselves and others by understanding and becoming familiar with this process. We can learn to fully grieve our losses, feel our pain, accept, and forgive, so we can feel love and joy.