Grieving is a part of life. Grief is not only something we go through when we experience the death of a loved one, it is what we go through when we experience any significant loss or change. In her exploration of the grieving process, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross broke down the grieving process into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages represent how we incorporate loss into our world view and how we feel as we learn to live with loss. Although the stages are presented as a progression from denial to acceptance, as we grieve, we move back and forth between the stages and can even experience them all at once. If we really want a sense of progression in our grief, we need to be aware of a sixth stage, transformation.
By focusing narrowly on the five stages, we lose awareness that our grief is a part of our human growth process. When we remember that these painful feelings and experiences are a part of our overall transformation, we can find a sense of purpose, even in the depths of depression.
Knowing the five stages of grief and loss is a helpful mindfulness tool. We may not even know that we are grieving, but we find ourselves angry or depressed. When we are aware of these moods, we can recognize that we are grieving some kind of loss and we can remember that we are in a transformative process. In that moment, we can find acceptance of our mood, experience and circumstance. Although there is a certain amount of peace that comes with acceptance, transformation takes the loss and turns it into a deeper sense of peace infused with wisdom.
Because life is constantly changing, we are constantly experiencing some kind of loss. As we mindfully observe our experience, we can use our understanding of grief and loss to recognize where we are in the process and we can have the courage to be where we are. With the courage to be where we are, we can work through any loss and actively participate in our own transformation.