When we lose a dearly loved companion, well-meaning friends may tell us about the five stages of grief we will go through. But do we really have to endure a long drawn out process in order to find peace and healing? Not necessarily.
The current theory about the “five stages of grief” began in the late 1960’s after Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published her book, “On Death and Dying.” Since then this has been the common approach when dealing with the loss of a loved one, and many of us have accepted that healing will take a long time – if ever.
But Dr. George Bonanno, a grief researcher at Columbia University, challenges the notion that grief has five stages, and is a lengthy process. Through a wide range of studies, he looked at how people grieved, and found something quite different. His conclusion is that people experience grief in various ways, and there is no evidence that they need to go through these stages. Dr. Bonanno found that resilience, along with a more forward and outward looking mental position is key to healing.
When I shared these ideas with a friend who had recently lost her husband, she was actually quite relieved. Being a Buddhist, she had a very different approach to grief. She found that the meditative practice of acceptance helped her to let go of a sense of loss. Additionally, part of her tradition is the giving of alms – which for her means the doing of good deeds. These activities helped propel her forward in her new life. Still, at times, she felt pressure to conform to the western model. Read more…