On Grief and Grieving – Rebuilding yourself around the loss

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.  ― Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler

I dare say On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler is the most famous book on grieving ever written. The five stages of grief (more on that later) have stood the test of time but perhaps, like me, you didn’t realize that they were first mentioned in another of  Dr. Kübler-Ross’ books, On Death and Dying. I realized, as I was doing some research, that I mix the two up – a lot.

Today, to be clear, it’s On Grief and Grieving.

David Kessler, Kübler-Ross’ co-author, is no dummy. He shares the credit on this book (and another he co-authored with her) because he deserves it… but again, being honest, I didn’t even realize he was involved. I always thought Kübler-Ross was the sole author.

(Perhaps it is as simple as the umlaut – you know, those two dots above the ü… or maybe the “-” in her name, was kind-of unusual in the 1970’s? I just don’t know why I remember her and not him. Interesting, though.)

Kessler is an expert in the field of hospice and palliative care. Kübler-Ross (who died in 2004) is the authority on death and dying. And it was in her book On Death and Dying (as linked and mentioned above) that she first introduced us to the five stages of death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These five stages are revisited in this book (written nearly 25 years later) although we think of them as having always been the five stages of grief.

By now, you may be confused. I understand. The five stages have been synonymous with the word “grief” for so long! Also, we have adapted them to fit nearly every psychological trauma. And then there’s the word “grief” itself. It has become so much bigger than the kind of grief that Kübler-Ross initially wrote about (physical death). We grieve broken relationships NOT due to a death, the loss of a job, and tangible things like a home, either to catastrophe (like fire) or because we lost it to the bank because we couldn’t pay for it. These days, like all good self-helpers, I would even add grieving about the “loss of self”… though you might consider that a stretch, if not a load of hooey.

All that said, this book is NOT AT ALL confusing. In fact, it is a wonderful sourcebook to guide you through the five stages and beyond. It also talks about the gifts in grief, which of course means little-to-diddly-squat to the person actively grieving. Later… be patient.

I have quite a few books on grieving, from the scientific to the spiritual to the sublime. I try not to share about them often because I understand it can be depressing.

But ya know…

This morning on my way to work, I drove through the cemetery close to the office. I love it because it has mature trees, a tree-lined path and lots of (pun alert) soul.

I saw this in my travels:


I took the photo and then mentally calculated the years (and you know I’m woefully horrid at da mafs) but… even I can figure out it’s not parents and a child, as I had assumed at first glance. It must be siblings. In 2017, Linda lost two of them.

I dislike the stones where people who haven’t passed away have names carved in them… what must Linda think when she comes to visit?

I’d guess it’s a reminder of what’s to come. Maybe it reminds her that nothing is promised… tell people you love them while you still have time… life is precious…

And really, that’s what On Grief and Grieving is talking about… why it’s so important to grieve. Unresolved grief will eat away at you.

And really, isn’t grief a reminder that you love? You love!

At the end of the book, in the chapter about the Gifts of Grief, Kübler-Ross talks about how grief teaches us that we can survive loss. For anyone who has lost someone they love, there is a glimmer of good news in this.

It may feel like we’ll never make it, but we will. Because we are human, we grieve. We will not forget. We will always remember. But we will survive and heal. That is a gift.

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