Grief simply put is the act of letting go. The Grief Journey, then, is the process of that act of letting go.
We all experience it! Maybe you’ve not had a loved-one die, or a pet die, or a friend die. But you have experienced grief and the grief journey and the five stages of grief. Everyone has and does.
Did you move from elementary school to high school to college to dating to marriage to divorce? Have you had to let go of one car for another? Have you ever broken your favourite toy? End a friendship?
These are all, in their own way, rituals of the grief journey. This is going to oversimplify the work of Kubler-Ross, but I know she’d understand.
You’ve just ended a romance. So being overly simplified here it is:
Stage of Anger
“$%$&$%&!!!” “How dare he do that!” “Why did she do that to me?”
Stage of Denial
“That didn’t just happen! Even if it did, I refuse to let anyone know. They’ll see me as a victim.”
Stage of Bargaining
“Maybe if I just change this or that, he’ll come back. Maybe if I just go back and try to talk it out…”
Stage of Depression
“I can’t face it! I will never let someone hurt me again!” “I’m done with dating!” “Jack just called and wanted to go for a coffee to chat about me and Neil breaking up. I just don’t have the energy to do it.”
Stage of Acceptance
“Well, that happened! Tomorrow will be another day and I’ll just face what comes with all I have.” “It’s over! And it must be for the best, because if it wasn’t then we’d still be together.”
Yes that’s over simplified! But change out the romance for a dog, or car, or career, or… Also, keep in mind that this grief journey can happen relatively quickly and straightforward or over a longer period of time and quite convoluted.
We’ve all done it. And we are terrified when it comes up again in a new way.
I personally believe that by ritualizing a ‘death’ in some way we can move through the grief journey a little bit smoother. We may recycle some of Kübler-Ross’ stages. But at least we are recycling, not avoiding, not getting stuck in grief.
How can we ritualize?
I’ve already given ideas of what I’ve done in the case of a death. But what about a relationship ending, a career ending, a retirement, a graduation?
Ceremony, in my opinion, does not have to be grim. Cry! Hell, laugh! Dance! Drink! Whatever gets you through it!
When my second marriage ended, I was devastated, even though I was the one who ended it. I had already been doing ceremonies for years. I remember asking the Universe, “What do I do with the rings?”
The answer that came stunned me. It was in the form of another question, “What do you do with your dead?”
Then the answer to that question just about knocked me over. “You bury them!”
So on the second anniversary of that marriage I took my witness from the wedding day, her partner, my rings and went back to the spot where our wedding was solemnized. I dug a hole, read a letter to my ex-husband, as did my witness. We placed the rings in the hole and set the letters on fire allowing the ashes to cover the rings. Then we buried them and walked away and had lunch together. Returning to that park, or even driving by, had, up until that day, been a painful experience. Afterwards, I had a peace that passes understanding. In fact, I have stood on that same spot and officiated weddings since!
It was simple and only took a few moments. It was done! I had drawn a line between what was then and what was now to come. It brought tears of sorrow as well as relief. It was over. I could move forward. And I did!
Did I then move into acceptance and not look back? Well, sort of. I was always moving forward. But I still had to deal with the traumas of that marriage; I still am in some ways. But now with more ease. Now I don’t collapse into a puddle of tears or rage like a tyrant. When something comes up, I can step out of it and look at it for what it is and heal. I have accepted what happened and am completely okay with it all.
There is a movement called Conscious Uncoupling, which has been coming up again and again for me. I am currently working towards my Master Celebrant designation and this is my major research paper. I am planning to begin ceremonies for couples who wish to set aside the acrimonious processes currently in play and work with a Conscious Uncoupling Facilitator®to create ceremonies that will bring healing and the ability to move forward without all the woundedness of uncoupling. I will write more about this in another blog.
So, in conclusion, my grief philosophy, includes the grief journey, the five stages of grief, the ritualization of grief (formal or informal ceremony). We are all going to experience grief, some way, some time, some how. Why run from it? I am stronger for my grief journeys. The old adage, ‘what doesn’t kill makes you stronger,’ definitely applies here. Everybody I know who’s truly faced their grief, done the work and journey are definitely stronger for it. For some it was a solitary grief journey. For others, like myself, it has been a supported grief journey. I needed help. Help from friends, family and professionals.
So embrace it. You can do it!
 Book available from Amazon called, Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After, by Katherine Woodward Thomas. Katherine also trains facilitators. Her website at the time of this article is, https://www.consciousuncoupling.com.