When it comes to grief, most of us immediately think of The Five Stages of Grief presented by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying: 1. Denial and Isolation, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression, and 5. Acceptance. What isn’t well-known is that this grief model applies to people with a terminal illness - THEY are dying.
For those who are experiencing grief in their lives and who are not dying, we must add anxiety to the grief process. Claire Bidwell Smith does an amazing job of explaining the role of anxiety as it relates to grief in her book, ANXIETY, The Missing Stage of Grief.
We are learning a lot from Ms. Smith, and her book brought up a memory for Ada that helped her realize JUST YESTERDAY her experience with anxiety as it relates to moving in her childhood – which was definitely a SIGNIFICANT LOSS to her.
It was the night before our big move from Seattle, WA to Grand Junction, CO. I was crying – wailing – BEGGING my mom to buy our house back from the new family who was ready to move into MY home. “Buy it back! I don’t want to move!” I screamed through tears, hoping that moving was nothing more than a bad dream.
We had moved once before, but that first move didn’t pose much of a problem for me – at least looking back on it. During my first move, I was six years old and in the middle of kindergarten. I was just starting my school years and didn’t have any close friends that I can remember, so I guess for me, it didn’t really count.
This second move, however, was much different! Now, I was 11 and finishing the fifth grade. To me, this move did count and counted a lot! I was leaving my home and the place where I knew what was mine. Not mine is a possession sense but in a belonging sense. I knew who my friends were, I knew where I liked to go for my birthday, I knew where we shopped, I knew the restaurants I liked and where they were. This was my world, and now I had to say good-bye.
I was very sad, and that sadness stayed with me. After we got to Grand Junction I would ask myself, “When am I going to have to say good-bye to the life and things I enjoyed again?” Since I was six when I first moved and 11 for the second move, my little kid brain did some math and concluded that I would be moving every five years.
So, as time went on, I counted the years we had lived in Grand Junction, and when we were here for five years, I assumed we were moving on. Even when we didn’t, I didn’t think I was wrong, I simply thought it was going to happen and happen soon!
Well, we didn’t move again. Yet I still believed, “Soon I am going to have to say good-bye to the life and things I love.” That thought didn’t leave me for a long time – long after five years had passed. Looking back, I see now that I even lived like I would be leaving in five years and therefore, I kept my distance. I didn’t connect with others for fear I would have to say, “good-bye.”
This example goes to show you just how powerful a significant loss is to our lives. It also illustrates why we open our GRIEVING TOGETHER group up to anyone who has or is suffering from a significant loss, not only the death of a loved one. Even though we all have different circumstances, grief is grief and grief comes with anxiety.
Another way of explaining anxiety’s role in grief is “always waiting for the other shoe to drop.” When we are living life on the edge of our seat, wondering what bad thing is going to come our way next, we can never envision a life where happiness is a possibility.
If you are experiencing grief, you are invited to join us on Thursday afternoons at Noon to 1:15PM. Feel free to bring your lunch and if you must arrive late or leave early, that is perfectly fine with us.
Lots of love,
Annette and Ada