Grief is not a one-size-fits-all process. Everyone grieves in their own way but if you experience unresolved grief, that process can take decades. Prince Harry was only 12 when Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident. He admitted that he could not grapple with the painful loss initially: “…shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well,” Prince Harry said in an interview. He credits his brother, Prince William, for guiding him to seek professional help.
When you grieve, you may not meet your basic daily needs. Your energy level may flag, your previous discipline for school/work may be compromised, your creativity is on-hold, your belongingness suffers (often fearing the loss of other relationships), and you feel stymied in meeting your ability potential. Speaking from its own version of sign language, your body’s immunity may lower. Intense emotions bluster through you and/or a protective numbness can blanket any emotional expression.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stage-theory of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – was never meant as linear stepping-stones. You may or may not experience every stage. Thoughts flip-flop, making you feel ill-equipped for life. All of us are beginners with grieving.
A helpful model of grieving, the Pinwheel Model of Bereavement, is based upon nursing research of Susan Carter and clinical work of Ann Solari-Twadell and colleagues at Loyola University, Chicago. There is no specific resolution, or one set of stages to master in grieving.
Picture a toy pinwheel set into motion by an initiating wind of loss. To not only survive, but to thrive after loss, consider the very center of the pinwheel as your personal history. The turning and spinning of your grieving depends upon your core resilience as built up over your lifetime so far. Consider these aspects when loss blows into your life:
Being stopped or interrupted; Pain and hurting emotions;
A missing or yearning for all that has been lost;
A holding desire, often holding onto what was good about someone;
A seeking of meaning, comfort, support, and
Valuing what matters most and provides meaning in life.
While a smell, place, or season of the year can trigger fresh grieving, you turn more and more toward an openness to present moments with time. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine and the relatives/friends of Russian soldiers. The winds of war devastate countless families over millenniums.
Grieving is a whirlwind of conflicting emotion that whiplashes every aspect of life. However, consider how the whirlwind is an ancient symbol of some First Nation people. A whirlwind was believed to sweep out old crevices to allow openness to the “new.” Can that “new” be peace? Hope is possible. Alongside U.S. and German astronauts, Russian cosmonauts collaborate peacefully at the International Space Station.
Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:
72. When have you experienced a whirlwind of grief?
73. What “new” possibilities were you able to embrace?