To put it mildly, my wife’s faith transition allowed me the opportunity “to get familiar” with a lot of emotions that I would rather not spend time feeling. Being aware of the emotions, understanding the thoughts that went with them and being OK with feeling those emotions were and are a big part of working through this time of change. The coaching package “How to Develop a Strong Mixed-Faith Marriage”, walks you through the some tools to help clarify these emotions.
My emotions confused me at first. I would vacillate between being fine with what was happening and being angry or frustrated and feeling hopeless. I found it helpful to grieve and impossible not to. I was grieving for the lost dreams and saying good bye to a way of life. The grief process (cycle) has many emotions that I have felt and was able to “work” through. Reading the 5 stages of grief really helped me because I was able to see and understand why I was having these feelings.
Grief does not work in a linear manner and many of these emotions can pop up and disappear in moments, in reality we bounce from one to another. The stages are in fact feelings (responses) to thoughts and situations that can last for minutes or hours. It is good to feel them, experience them, and recognize them. They are part of the healing process and are why we have shared the STEAR model with you in the course. These “stages” are part of the thoughts and feelings that I encounter and you may also be dealing with these. Recognize that like other thoughts and feelings these are healthy as long as we feel them, let them wash over us and then move on. The grief process is important because we want to get past it. Mourn the “loss” of our expectation and then we must change the expectation to appreciations and get on to the action portion of our lives. The five “stages” of the grief cycle are:
Denial– This helps us survive the loss. The world can feel meaningless and overwhelming as we are in a state of shock. This denial and shock can help us to cope. It is a type of grace that allows us to continue on in our life as we start to accept the reality of the loss and start the healing process.
Anger-This stage also helps us heal and it can be a catalyst for action. It seems to provide a structure, a strength, a way you can be in control, a direction out of the shock and hopelessness of denial. Be willing to feel it, as you feel it , it will dissipate.
Bargaining- Bargaining is when we want life to return to “normal’. We ask ourselves what we could have done differently, we remain in the past. We are caught in the “if onlys”.
Depression-After bargaining and living in the past we see the present. It can seems empty, purposless, hopeless and the grief seems deeper. This is the depressive stage and at times it may look like it will last forever.
Acceptance– You may not feel OK with what has happened, but this stage is about accepting the reality of the change. You recognize that this new condition is your new reality and that we need to learn to accept it and move on. Life has changed, roles may be reorganized, task reassigned. As we start to live this new life we again start to see that we can enjoy life. We are not replacing the moments we had in our “old” life but we are evolving and creating moments in a “new” life.
When dealing with the emotion of the grief cycle remember – The past is the past. We need to mourn and then move on to the future. An old adage says ““Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” While I was in the grief process I read several books that really spoke to me. One of those books was “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World”, authored by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abram. The books advertisement says “Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.” Can trials and grief bring joy? The Dalai Lama says he was taught “If there is no way to overcome the tragedy, then there is no use worrying too much.” This echoes the Serenity Prayer “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”