Monday, June 14

Tuesday’s Temptation: Fake Joy

This may be a peculiarly western temptation: Move through grief, fast, so you can claim joy. But I would contend that it is a fake joy when you don't go through the angsty, agitating, worrisome moments of grief.

By now, most of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler Ross's five stages of grief. David Kessler writes:

I was privileged to co-author two books with the legendary, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, as well as adapt her well-respected stages of dying for those in grief. As expected, the stages would present themselves differently in grief. In our book, On Grief and Grieving we present the adapted stages in the much needed area of grief. The stages have evolved since their introduction and have been very misunderstood over the past four decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss.

The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ‘s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss. At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is an unique as you are.

I bring this up now because I'm having one of those moments. My grandmother died. My grief is not so much for her passing, she was 104 and it is not unexpected, but for the passing of the potential our relationship never lived up to. She died the Friday before Mother's Day. My brother also died the Friday before Mother's Day in 2010. Eight years ago. And of course, my mother passed in 1992 when I was pregnant with my first child. So Mother's Day is basically ruined for life.

I bring this up because I believe people say things like, "He's gone to a better place." or "Have you moved on yet?" or "Death is a victory!" out of some mistaken belief that it will shorten up the grief if we just focus on the positive. That just side-steps grief even if it is all possibly true. As the Royal College of Physicians puts it: "You may have problems if you can't grieve properly at the time of your loss because of family or business commitments. Some people don't appear to grieve at all and return quickly to their normal life, but then, years later, have odd physical symptoms or spells of depression." Simply put, moving to a false-front of joy can have consequences years later.

I know that right now, I'm feeling really griefy. Spell check tells me that isn't a word, griefy, but I want to make it official. We should be able to feel griefy. It is a peculiar mix of wondering, sadness, weariness, agitation, anxiety, and even peacefulness. I can feel at peace with my grandmother's passing but still be sad. It is a state of holding tensions together. We don't do that very well at all.

My prayer for you this day is that you will be able to hold the griefiness of whatever passing, shift, change, or death you have experienced. And that you will grow through it to find a true joy that has room for the world.


Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

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