Our family is grieving. While working for a church, I lost count of the number of families we walked alongside during a loss. I’m not sure how many hospital rooms we have been in, how many funerals we have attended, how many passages we have read or songs we have sang. When I was mindful enough, I would add a reminder to my personal calendar of a loss. I wanted to be able to check in, to send a note, or to be praying for that family when those anniversary moments arrived. Last week I was sitting in my living room and a notification on my phone appeared, “Sal Mazzola added mom passed to your family calendar.”

It’s different when it’s your family grieving. It’s different being on that side of these moments.

One of the most impactful courses I took was “Counseling through Grief, Transition & Loss,” but I found so much of that training lost when it came to last week.

We have been taught the “5 Stages of Grief” for so long (number of stages can vary). A few years ago a counselor friend of mine shared with me a shift in grief counseling. Having been reminded there is no certain “order” or “process” for these “steps,” we still tend to look at grief through the lens of “something to be done.” My friend shared with me the Dual Process Model (based of the work of Stroebe & Schut). Essentially, it’s this idea that in the midst of everyday living we bounce back and forth between “loss oriented” and “restoration oriented.”  It’s not between “right and wrong” or “good and bad,” more like landing on one side of hurt, sorrow and distraction, or on another side with adjustment, new changes and less interruptions. Honestly, the phrasing of the theory is less valuable to me than the image between the two zones. It’s a crazy zig zag line with no real pattern.

That’s such a great depiction of grief. Just that crazy line. No rhyme or reason to what bothers us, or how often memories pop up. No predictive timeline of when pain seems to ease before it overcomes us again. Just a crazy line.

If you look at it, you can see the pinball-type-motion it sets up. A bouncing back and forth. I do think as time goes on the pinball slows down, leaving us landing in a zone for longer periods of time. And I do think we can end up in seasons of grief that are more concerning than others, but just looking at that line, grief is exhausting.

The pattern also reflects the randomness of grief. I have heard people often say, “The things I expected to bother or upset me have not, and the most random and seemingly silly things tear  me up and the hurts comes rushing back all over again.” We expect holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries to remind us, but I’m not sure how we can prepare for that song, that phrase, that commercial or just the not-at-all-prompted-moment-of-sadness.

As we have just begun this “back and forth” as a family I have noticed some things, things I am trying to give voice to, things I have no doubt most of you have experienced or sensed.

Over the next few posts, I want to share what I am learning, and I want to hear from you guys as well. What has been your experience with grief?

So Long Stages of Grief

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