1. Shock and denial
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is the one everyone thinks of as having created this taxonomy of grief, but apparently she was misquoted. Her stages weren’t about grieving so much as the stages cancer patients tend to go through during the dying process. Nevertheless, it did form the basis for the idea that when we lose someone, we do stagger along some kind of looping, winding pathway beginning with shock and denial and ending in final acceptance and release.
It probably won’t surprise you to realize that the Radical Grieving process follows more or less the same five stages that characterize Radical Forgiveness: telling the story, feeling the feelings, collapsing the story, reframing the story and integrating the new story. Additionally, there is some limited correlation between these five stages and the normal stages of grief, albeit only at the beginning.
The first three stages of Radical Forgiveness correlate to the commonly described stages of grief; shock (telling the story) anger and depression (feeling the feelings) and some of the bargaining (collapsing the story).
But that said; let me say I totally support the notion that we should allow ourselves to feel all the feelings, and to feel them fully. Grief, anger, rage, disappointment, loneliness, sadness, guilt and any other feeling that might be included. Radical Grieving is not a way to short circuit our grief. It is a way to transform it. But it cannot be transformed if we don’t allow ourselves to feel the pain in the first place. So, yes, we need to feel the anger, the depression, the guilt, the sadness and the rage for as long as we need to in order to get that energy moving. Only then can we move into the transformation of those feelings.
But where the correlation between the normal 5-stage approach to grieving and Radical Grieving comes to an end is in how we complete the bargaining and come to the place of acceptance. Acceptance, in the 5-stage approach means coming to terms with everything according to how things operate according to the (old) world view. By that I mean we still feel ‘bad’ that death occurred, simply because it did. This pain is separate from the pain we feel because we miss them. (This distinction will be discussed in a moment.)
The fourth and fifth stages of the Radical Forgiveness process— reframing the story and integrating the new story are, on the other hand, grounded in the new paradigm. As you know, this asks us to be open to the idea that there are no accidents or mistakes and that everything that happens is exactly how it is meant to be. This includes the manner and timing of our death if we make the assumption that, as souls, we choose and create all the experiences of our lives. Even death by murder, if were to happen, would be included because we would have to assume our soul wanted that experience.
I am writing this having last evening watched a BBC documentary about the London Underground bombing that happened in 2005, killing and maiming a lot of people, and how the surviving victims and the loved ones of those who didn’t have since coped with the pain and the grief. I have to admit, when I see things like this, or the 9/11 event again on the TV screen, I find it all the more difficult to buy into the new paradigm that there is perfection in everything. But even so, while we may have a lot of Radical Forgiveness to do on the perpetrators of such crimes, we have to ask ourselves whether we are really entitled to say that it should not have happened if that was the wish of the souls who died at that time and in that manner. And what about the family members left behind? Might it not have been their soul’s wish to experience the pain of separation that way?
Radical Grieving, then, is very much akin to Radical Forgiveness and is just as much an affront to our normal way of thinking and strong beliefs. But, as you know, the caveat we always add is that we don’t have to believe any of it. We only have to be willing to be open to the idea, and to express that willingness in some form — either by using the 13 steps to Radical Grieving Process, or a version of the three-letter process.
If there is some blame attached as well, perhaps even a need for revenge, then it will necessary to do a Radical Forgiveness worksheet, in addition to the Radical Grieving Worksheet. If there is some guilt to be released, then you may have to do a Radical Self-Forgiveness worksheet too. It is only in the use of these tools that the grief (once it is fully felt and acknowledged), will be transformed and anchored back in our body as a new way of looking at death. That’s the fifth stage – Integration. Next week we will examine the basic assumptions underlying the Radical Grieving Process.
PS, I am honored to be a featured expert in the transformational new film SACRED JOURNEY OF THE HEART. If you are going to be in Scottsdale tomorrow, I encourage you to attend the movie’s premiere:
Friday, October 19th, at 7 pm
The Harkins Camelview 5 Theater
Tickets are on sale now at Harkins Theaters:
To find out how I got involved in the movie, see the video here: Ronna Prince Before and After
Screenings are not the only way to see the film. Visit the film’s site to find out about the upcoming DVD.