“There is no greater gift you can give someone in grief,
than to ask them about their loved one, and then truly listen”
– David Kessler
It’s Saturday evening and I’m putting the finishing touches on this post. To be honest, it’s become a part of the weekend routine; throw something on the grill for dinner and then retire to the deck to proof and finish this week’s piece. Later tonight I will light the candles, do some reading, and enjoy a bourbon and cigar with Harry. If I can stay awake, maybe I’ll get a glimpse of the lunar eclipse just after midnight. Happy 4th of July! Does that sound a bit facetious? It should! This whole day felt like a non-event. The parades were cancelled, as were Saturday night’s fireworks. Neighborhood picnics and similar traditional events gave way to social distancing and the camaraderie we once took for granted has been replaced by a sense of isolation. This Pandemic has turned our world upside down and we have all lost something; a loved one, a job, a way of life, and we are grieving.
Last week I mentioned Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book Grief and Grieving within which she helps us understand the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. I would label my current feelings to be reflective of anger and sadness, and I have come to accept many of the changes in my life as temporary inconvenience; masks, social distancing, etc. But it is through David Kessler’s work, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. that the most valuable part of the grieving experience is experienced.
David Kesler is considered the world’s foremost expert on grieving. In 2016 his son died unexpectedly. He writes, “I canceled everything and stayed home for weeks. It felt as brutal as I could ever have imagined…..I did not want to stop at acceptance. I started to notice that people who felt stuck in grief were those who were unable to find meaning. I began to see meaning as the sixth stage of grief.”
According to Kessler, meaning is not to be found in the event itself, but rather in what follows. Finding meaning takes time. It becomes a unique process through which we find healing. For some, meaning might be discovered through the wonderful memories and joy associated with something or someone. For others, meaning may be found in the gratitude expressed to those who stood by our side or displayed empathy. What is important to remember is that meaning will come in many forms. It will not be the same for any two people. It will be personal and it will not necessarily be a profound “aha moment”
The COVID-19 Pandemic has shaken us personally, professionally and collectively. Making meaning allows us to develop a new sense of hope and purpose, to redefine our place in life, and provide a purpose for our life as we work through our grief. Making meaning enables us to regain a sense of control over our lives, and increase our own sense of self-worth and life satisfaction. Equally important, it can bring inspiration to our lives and to the lives of those around us.
This Pandemic will be with us for a while. It will continue to take lives, impact the economy, and alter lifestyles. When we seek meaning, we are not discounting the damage or loss, nor are we forgetting it, rather, we are no longer letting the damage control our lives. In doing so, we are choosing to discover something meaningful from our loss, begin the healing process, and move forward in our grief.
Embrace Your Grief
Embrace the Challenge