Lots of folks enjoyed the initial post called Stages of Grief and some were looking for a bit more information and asked that I expand on this notion. So, here is part two.
The diagram that I have duplicated here demonstrates clearly how unpredictable grief can really be. Yes for sure there are markers or signposts we can count and can expect to happen. That is about as much certainty as I can find though. Each person, depending on their age, gender, culture, relationship to the deceased, and their beliefs about death will have their very own unique and personal journey with grief.
For example, Sam and Barb, a married couple, have lost their teenaged son William to cancer. He passed away after a six-year struggle and died at the age of 19. He had two brothers, Alex and Mark who survive him. You might assume the family would be walking down the same grief journey as they all lost a dear family member. Well let’s have a look.
Sam aged 56 was born in Montreal, raised Catholic and works as a heavy-duty mechanic. He is stoic, ordered – kind of black and white – and believes in God, heaven and hell. Sam is a practicing Catholic, practical and down to earth. He feels he must be strong for the rest of the family. A traditional funeral is the best way to say good-bye to his son.
Barb aged 45 was born in Vancouver, raised by two spiritual parents, and works as a creative artist. She believes in a higher power is emotionally expressive and loves life. Barb is not religious she is spiritual and enjoys creativity. She misses William and wants to create a beautiful celebration of life for him.
Alex is 11 and loves sports and video games. William looked out for his youngest brother often protected the youngest of the three boys. He is physically active and likes to keep busy. He really misses his eldest brother and can sometimes be heard crying quietly in his room.
Mark is 17 and enjoys music and math. He enjoys being alone and spends a lot of time creating music on his laptop in his bedroom. Mark is a bit of a loner and though he does well with people he prefers solitude. He doesn’t really want to talk about the death of his brother or his feelings. He has been very busy making music since William’s death.
Each of these four individuals has experienced life in their own way and developed a relationship with William that was different that any of their family members. You would need to approach each person in a way that works for him or her – in a way that would be different than how you would approach the rest of the family. Each of these four people who have experienced the same loss have a totally different experience with it. Each will need their own unique approach to dealing with their grief. Each will have their own “grief style”. One approach will not work for the whole family.
With Sam you may need to approach him in a very practical way honoring his Catholic religion and perhaps talking of the events of the dying, death and after death care. You could try saying a prayer together or discussing the details of the funeral.
With Barb you could likely approach her on an emotional level and be expressive with her about what is happening.You may even have her paint her feelings or draw a picture of the celebration she envisages for William.
You may want to go shoot hoops with Alex and do something physical with him. Going for a walk and being private with him could be a good idea. It will be important for him to feel safe.
Mark might need to just be quiet and sit with you. Perhaps you could listen to some music he has recently created. You might wonder out loud if he has written a song for his late brother.
Notice with each of these four people there are four unique approaches. Remember, grief is an art form and there is no right or wrong way. Do your best to notice the person and wonder what might be the best way to open the grief door for them, in a way the invites them in. Give it a try and then simply notice if your attempt worked. Did they walk through the door or not? If they did, try more of the same. If the didn’t walk through the door try something different – perhaps a back door.
With grief you do not have to paint within the lines – there are no lines, only a blank canvas.
Please read the previous post Stages Of Grief.