Grieving to let go

We are going through times of dramatic change at present; A few months ago in Australia, all we were talking about and all that was in the media was the Global Economic Crisis.

Along came the North Queensland Floods and the scale of those captured us enough to break free of the economy as a focal point.

Then came the Victorian fires and we finally got some perspective back on what is truly important.

Some changes, like the seasons, are foreseeable. Some hit without warning, like a flood or firestorm or global breakdown.

Whichever, we can be left reeling; buffeted by events which are completely out of our control and swamped by emotions which also seem to be out of our control.

These changes can be as simple (!) as losing a job, more complex like a divorce, the death of an elderly relative or the sudden massive loss of loved ones and all we own.

The emotions we feel and process of coping with change is the same – no matter what the change is. The process of grieving for the loss of what was; accepting what is; and moving towards what will be, is the same process.

Managing the change or transition, letting go of where you are today to a new beginning in your life, is a process which can be massively alarming. It is helpful to understand the process you are going through, because such transitions are complex experiences.

So what happens and how do we cope?

Sometimes simply recognising the change is enough, at other times we seem to battle against a tide of emotion.

A job loss, for example, is an event. A loss of a loved one is an event. The total loss of a community is an event.

Your reaction to the external event of loss is the transition. This is an internal emotional process that has three phases – The Ending, The Exploration, and The New Beginning.

An old and battered graphic of the transition of emotions is shown on the link. This is created for those going through the process of job loss, however as I mentioned the change transition process is the same – no matter what the event.

The amount of time we spend in each stage is dependent on the external event and on how we respond as individuals. It could be seconds or years.

I write this thinking of the Victorian fires.

As a nation we have gone through the Denial, in my case it was an appalled “this cannot happen in Australia, we are too organised here, we deal with big disasters too well, this just cannot be real”.

The Denial was quickly followed by Shock, Confusion, slipping into Resignation where we could no longer deny the awfulness, and into real palpable Anger.

Right now, as a nation this Anger is a multi-headed demon; “Who can we blame?” “How did we let this happen?” “Whose fault is it?” are all anger based questions. These are now the subject of our headlines as we express anger towards anyone in the path of blame.

There is also a degree of Fear, that is can happen again, it will come back and some Frustration at the pace of response. Even though logically we know all is being done as fast as possible – the Frustration and impotence linger.

As a nation we are on a path of transition through the emotional upheavals following our largest ever national disaster.

As individuals we are also on a separate unique path moving through our own emotional journey. I mentioned this journey may be the result of the shock of the Victorian fires or it may be as a result of a recent job loss.

Each journey has its steps for you to tread at your own pace, and tread them you will.

The end point may be so far in the distance you cannot see it or conceive of ever getting there, but you will tread the path.

Mark where you are on the graphic and notice the journey you have come along already.

Notice that the scale looks like a roller coaster with the end point being a high!

For some, the first 2 stages are easy and happen quickly. For others, the journey is a far greater challenge.

You may choose to deal with your change as a victim, as a survivor or as a navigator, determined to learn and grow through the experience.

I noted in a telethon appeal after teh Victorian fires; one gentleman happily thanked the previous owners of the clothes he was wearing as these donated clothes were now his sole possessions. He said “I am not victim, I am a survivor”
What an attitude.

We are on a collective journey coping with the changes thrust on us by the Firestorms, the Floods and the fallout of the Global Economic Crises . It may take us a few years to get there, or we may speed through.

The one thing I do know is we will get there.

Note: I am unable to attribute the graphic to a source. It is not my original.

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