A Life Well Grieved

my kingdom  By JaniceMcCaffrey

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross established the five steps of grieving while working with hospitalized terminally ill patients. She studied the patients’ emotions as they faced their deaths. But through the years her steps have been used for loved ones left behind and every loss we face.

In this time of shelter-in-place we each have many losses to grieve. Interpersonal interaction, income, relationships, trust in our leaders, maybe even doubts about our higher powers. 

Dr. Ross had much to grieve throughout her lifetime. She was born as the runt of identical triplets beginning her life weaker and sicker than her siblings and peers. Elizabeth’s greatest desire was to be a scientist, but her strict father did not believe in education for girls and women. After leaving home she worked her way through higher education to become a medical doctor. She married Dr. Emanuel Ross who happily accepted her ambitions. Just when Elizabeth was accepted into a pediatric residency, she realized she was pregnant and thus was denied the position. She miscarried, her first of two. She was left with neither child nor career.

Eventually she was accepted into a psychiatry residency. She and Ross had two    children but divorced after twenty-one-years of marriage. She suffered a series of strokes and spent the last seven years of her life bedridden. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross had an incredible career and helped millions of people during her lifetime and beyond, especially through her internationally best-selling bookOn Death and Dying (1969). She is quoted as saying “A life well grieved, is a life well lived.” Eilzabeth Kubler Ross

From my life-experiences I have come to believe and embrace her words. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker treating women in substance abuse recovery, I used Dr. Ross’ five steps of grieving to help my clients let go of their pasts and move forward. I’ve taught the grieving process to my family, my friends, and anyone who will listen because I know its worth. Usually we experience grief every day, but our psyche goes through the process within seconds, so we don’t notice. What’s important is that when we’re facing loss, we recognize grief, work through it, and come out on the other side with a healthy emotional outlook.

Here’s how it works: Remember when you were able to leave home to keep an important appointment and you couldn’t find your car keys?

  1. Denial – fuzzy thinking “I can’t believe I can’t find my keys.”
  2. Anger – body muscles tight “Darn it, where are they? Did someone move them?”
  3. Depression – sagging shoulders “What am I going to do now? I need to go.”
  4. Bargaining – dithering “If I had put the keys in their usual spot, I wouldn’t be in this situation.”
  5. Acceptance – deep breathe, ready to move “Oh, well, it is what it is. I’ll call a friend, Uber, cab, for a ride.”

Everyone grieves differently, there is no specific timing for each step, and we can bounce back and forth through the steps. Remember these points:

  • Intensity of emotions can vary 
  • Anger can be directed at ourselves, others, animals, things, even God
  • However you grieve, its normal
  • You are not crazy

Your psyche will grieve whether you want it to or not, crying can be spontaneous no matter where you are or what you’re doing. But there is a way to help the process along. Be aware of your feelings. Release your feelings by accepting them and letting them pass through your body. It will only take seconds and the more you release them the faster you’ll heal. If you suppress your emotions, they’ll eventually burst out when you’re not expecting them.

The gift of the final acceptance is that you will be able to move on with your life. You’ll be able to set goals from the perspective of your new circumstances.

We’re all anxious and grieving our current situation. We’ll all go through the grieving process as we wait this out. Everyone of every age. Be patient with yourself and others, especially children.

Please take time each day to be aware of your losses (write them down, journal about them, talk with a trusted confidant). Determine which step(s) you’re in for each, then let those emotions move through your body. End with deep relaxing breaths and thoughts of gratitude for what you have.

We’ll get through this together and we’ll all know that a life well grieved, is a life well lived.

React Like a Zebra

Betty cowboy hat prairie.1

 

By Betty Kuffel

When you lie in bed worrying about things out of your control and unable to sleep, consider the concepts of stress reduction in the book Why Zebras Don’t get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky. The acclaimed Stanford University professor of biology and neurology is a wizard at explaining how stress can make you sick and what you can do to understand and calm the physiological symptoms.

If you begin writing a list of topics that stress you, Dr. Sapolsky says to stop and think like a zebra. zebra headThey survive frequent acute physical distresses and react quickly to save their lives. We, too, have the ability to adapt suddenly in emergencies, but are challenged by sustained chronic concerns about food, lodging, and money, etc. In humans, the real problem occurs with social and psychological disruptions. That is where we are right now, enclosed for safety from an encroaching disease that can be fatal and dealing with many unknowns.

In the midst of disruption of our plans, lives, jobs and writing, we need to focus on what is important, living wisely and calming our stresses. What does that mean? 

We have all experienced life stresses that resolved, and balance returned. A place of balance is what we seek during this period of disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Human stressors can be anticipatory, worrying about things out of our control. When zebras are stressed, it is abrupt, they see trouble and react. They don’t stand around worrying about what might happen in the future like humans. 

When the stress response spikes, heart rate surges and blood pressures rise. If stress hormones persist too long, they can make you sick. Insomnia, upset stomach, elevated blood sugar, depression, headaches and inability to focus on meaningful tasks.  A chronic stress response reduces immunity, something you do not want to happen at this time in your life with the pandemic.

What are we to do? Take control and take advantage of this time to accomplish some tasks you didn’t have time for in the past and in the process, improve your health with daily exercise and keep a journal with concepts you may use in future writing.

We can take advantage of our hours at home by using habits of ultra-successful people Like Billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Here are some:

  • Focus on minutes not hours. There are 1,440 minutes in a day, use them wisely.
  • Dedicate mornings for 1-2 hours without interruption to the most important task to help you reach your goals.
  • The future is unknown. Do what you can today to accomplish your goals.
  • Check your emails once or twice a day. Don’t waste time.
  • Always carry a notebook. Record notes to free your mind.
  • Avoid meetings at all cost. They are a waste of time. If you meet, stick to the agenda, make it short. Say no to almost everything. Delegate. 
  • Stay organized. Touch things only once.

 

Reduce stress in the face of many unknowns. Don’t dwell on things out of your control. React like a zebra. zebra