I suspect we have all heard of the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. We are most familiar with it as it relates to death or loss of a loved one. At first we can’t believe it, then we are angry about it. We then begin to say what we would give to have them back, realize it won’t happen so we become very sad, and finally we accept it as it is. It is what it is.
What we don’t realize is that we tend to go through these five stages of grief with more things in our lives that just death. It can be applied to all loss in our lives. It could be the loss of a relationship, a job, or even an expectation we strongly held. Let’s talk about these.
Loss Of A Relationship
Ever been in a “long term” relationship (I’ll let you define what “long term” means), that suddenly ended because the other person didn’t want to be involved with you any more. It could be a simple friendship or an intimate relationship like one between two lovers. The person who didn’t want the relationship to end is suffering from a loss and goes through the five stages of grief. Here’s how it can look:
Denial: “You’re joking aren’t you? We’re in love, you can’t just walk away.”
Anger: “Fine, go then. I’ll find someone better and you’ll be sorry.”
Bargaining: “C’mon take me back. I will do better. What can I do to make this right?”
Depression: “It’s over. I’m going to bed and never waking up.”
Acceptance: “It was fun while it lasted and it meant a lot, but I guess it is time to move on.”
Loss Of A Job
Ever been laid off from work? I have!!! Many people will go through the stages of grief relative to how long they had the job. Sort of like how long they had the relationship with the job. Here’s how it can look:
Denial: “Wait, what? What do you mean? No way.”
Anger: “I can’t believe you’re laying me off. Are you crazy? I have been here for 20 years.”
Bargaining: “What if I take a cut in pay, or start coming into the office more? I am sure I can do better.”
Depression: “What am I going to do? I will never have another job like that one.”
Acceptance: “Time for bigger and better things. I can’t believe I stayed there as long as I did.”
Loss Of An Expectation
This is the one I really want everyone to see. The first two types make sense, but a loss of an expectation happens a million times a day and we can quickly go through the five stages of grief. We quickly run through them and experience them, which can suck joy and happiness from our lives. For example, you and your friend have been planning to go to the concert for a month. Last minute they cancel because they have finally been asked out by that person they have been crazy about for years. They back out. It looks like this:
Denial: “Stop teasing. We have been planning this for a month, you wouldn’t let me down like this.”
Anger: “Unbelievable!!! You have got to be kidding me. If you do this, it will kill our friendship.”
Bargaining: “Why don’t you have an date earlier in the day with them and then meet me at the concert a little later? That way you can do both.”
Depression: “Am I really that unimportant that my friend would choose a date over me?”
Acceptance: “I don’t really like that this happened, but they are still a good friend and person. They just made a choice that I wouldn’t have made.”
A Better Way
Many times, we will need to go through these stages of grief, but with practice, we can learn a better way. Instead of taking time to go through these stages of grief for every disappointment in our life, we can listen to the words of the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius…
“Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?”
Life is going to throw you curve balls and disappointment will surely land on your doorstep. Instead of viewing these challenges as a loss, we need to see it as what destiny has decided what is best for us. Accept what happens as it is, since it has already happened. It is as it is. Lean into the challenge that is presented in your life and move with it. Try not to lose days, weeks, or months of happiness and joy to the five stages of grief. Whatever happens, accept it for what it is and see it as what your higher power has decided you needed. This can help you get your life going again, much faster than the five stages of grief.
The five stages of grief is what we all naturally go through with any type of loss, once we identify something as a loss. Marcus Aurelius and I are challenging you to not see every set back in life as a loss. Accept what life throws at you as it is. See it as an opportunity and lean into it, trying to make the best of every situation. Now, I know this can be easier for some things than others. I am not suggesting you view the loss of a loved one as a good thing. I am simply saying don’t label every thing that happens differently as you expected as a loss. Accept things as they are and move with them. This will help you move on and put joy back in your life faster. We can kick and scream all we want, but life is what it is. Embrace what comes at you and turn it to your advantage if you can. Try to avoid a long drawn out grief process and move forward stronger. Good luck!!!