THE GRIEF CYCLE OR CHANGE
It is possible that when you hear about grief you connect it to the death of a loved one, but grief is an almost continuous process in your life, as you are constantly changing. And with each new change there is a grief about letting go of something old so that you can open up to something new.
This is what is happening now (COVID-19), by physical deaths, in cases of people who have lost a loved one; by emotional deaths, when you realize that you are repeating emotional traumas and you are aware that you need to transform them, or by deaths of beliefs and habits, when something external occurs, as in this case, and you need to change to adapt to the new situation.
In Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ work on grief she develops 5 phases or states: Denial/Rage/Negotiation/Depression/Acceptance
Summarizing this process, when there is a death or a change there is usually a (1)Denial of reality, this is an unconscious act that we use as humans to cushion the blow, where you deny what is happening; a feeling of (2)Rage or Anger, through which you can remove some of the emotional energy that is generated within you before such a situation; a (3) Bargaining with reality, so that you can make a mental transition to adapt to the new idea of loss; a state of (4) Depression, where you have internalized this new situation and often feel that it is not worth living this new reality; and, a (5) Acceptance, a final state in which you integrate the reality of the loss and are prepared to continue with your life.
In parallel in Sufism we find 5 pills or states which you can work on to manage this grief by connecting to very valuable internal responses: Trust/Certainty/Patience/Resolution/Veracity
(1)Trust that, although this situation is not in your hands, you have the capacity to sustain it and manage it until you manage to transform it; (2)Certainty, that you are not alone on this path, that both people and Life itself are accompanying you in this process; (3)Patience, giving you the necessary time, either alone or with others, to integrate this new situation, as well as understanding that this situation will also pass; (4)Resolution, providing you with a new inner space where new paths or opportunities will appear; (5)Veracity, where a new sense of confidence and gratitude for having the opportunity to continue living this unique experience that is Life.
In order to work on this process I want to share with you this dynamic through which you can explore and obtain answers at a systemic level that will help you to live it from a deep space and respectful of your needs.
To do this I invite you, as always, to draw or create by means of a rope or painter’s tape the figure I expose below, adding each step on a piece of paper that you will place on the path. Have a pen and post its or papers at hand to write down what comes up.
In each step you take in this process you will be able to feel and explore how the sensations and emotions are in your body. At the same time you will be able to add each one of the answers that Sufism gives us, so that you can integrate them and feel accompanied by a new sensation and resolution.
As always, before you begin, I encourage you to take slow, deep breaths, so that it helps you relax your mind and body to move through each space in the most conscious and safe way.
Remember that you don’t have to get anywhere, it’s just about experiencing and integrating emotions so that they can be transformed.
Beginning by placing yourself in Denial, feel the movement in your body and recognize where you feel it, take your time. Once you have recognized it, breathe it in calmly and define it as much as you can.
In Denial it is easy to find a sensation of excitement or confusion or even difficult to define it, since in this first stage the tendency is to deny any type of sensation as a strategy to control the shock as an internal measure so as not to damage your nervous system.
Then ask yourself what emotion is behind this feeling. Here is a list of emotions to make it easier for you to define.
In this image the main emotions are the ones in the center, sometimes the first emotion we connect with is usually more superficial. That’s why I always encourage you to go a little deeper to be able to define the basic emotion.
Could you go a step deeper and define what is the emotion behind this first emotion you feel?
Describe what is happening right now, breathe it in and be aware of it.
Now is the time to connect with Trust, you can write this word on a piece of paper and place yourself on it, what is trust to you? how do you define it? where and what do you feel in your body when you say out loud: “Now I can trust me and Life”?
Repeat this phrase a few times until you feel you can manage this first step of Denial.
Repeat the same for the Rage phase. At this point we know what the emotion is, but it is important that you can define where in your body it happens. This will help you to be able to recognize it more easily on future occasions.
Here again, use your breath to manage what happens and describe what emerges on paper.
Now add the role of Certainty and place it on top. Repeat the questions you asked yourself with Confidence, and then feel what happens when you say out loud, “Now I am certain that this will happen and that I will be able to manage it in the best way. Thanks anger for helping me digest this pain.
Rage or anger is an internal engine through which we can begin to externalize this state of shock we are in and thus help our nervous system to relax.
Repeat the previous steps again, now with the Bargaining, and don’t forget to write down any valuable information that comes up.
At this point we are at the gates of the “abyss”, we do not want to believe what is happening, but deep down we know that it is inevitable to start facing this new situation.
Now connect with Patience, this will be of great help to us to go through this and the next phase, the Depression. Try saying out loud: “Now I can recognize this change or loss. Now I can connect with Patience, I know this will pass too.”
These healing phrases that you add are key to your internal system, being able to recognize and understand that you are capable of managing these processes that sometimes seem impossible to move through.
In the Depression we will repeat the questions and steps above. Where and how do you feel your body at this time and what are the emotions that arise, both the primary and the deeper ones.
Remember that the key is deep breathing, not to stop what is happening but to let these anchored emotions find their own way of expression. Emotions are like water, they need to be in motion, if they are to be static, they create illness and states such as Depression.
Once you feel ready add the Resolution paper and say: “Now I feel able of connecting with the emotions, thoughts and actions that will help me connect with my own Resolution. “__________ (Name of the person or attitude you need to let go of) will always be in an important place in my heart. Now I let you go your own way and I can now go mine.”
Many times the fear arises that if you let go of something or someone they will disappear from your life. You may even feel guilty if this happens. But all these people and experiences are already part of your internal system, it’s not a question of excluding them, but of integrating them from a new place in your life.
Finally, you will be placed in the Acceptance. Personally, I prefer the word Integration, since acceptance implies that there is something we want to accept that we don’t like or that there is a certain resentment towards it.
It is not the same to say that I accept something as to say that I integrate something. I encourage you to experience it for yourself.
Take the same steps as before and add this sentence: “Now I am able to integrate this situation that is beyond my control. I take responsibility* for what is in my hands and surrender to the natural movement of Life.”
*The Ability to Respond to any situation
Developing the ability to give ourselves to Life, as difficult as it may seem, will help you connect more with life and its meaning. You do not have to understand or control it, Life simply Is; and it is important that you can integrate it to help your nervous system live from connection and tranquillity.
Life is not a continuous struggle; it is a continuous readjustment. It is evolution in the face of internal and external changes.
Once you have finished the exercise take some time to be able to recognize and integrate all these new movements and information.
You are not alone, these processes are shared by everyone.