In helping my clients recover from grief, I’ve discovered that there are specific and unique aspects beyond our senses that consistently surface during the grieving process. In fact, I discovered that there are five. After years of testing my theory, I am confident that every practitioner, coach and grieving person will recognize that there are indeed predictable patterns and pathways that the mind travels on the journey of grief.
When I first toyed with the idea of specifically identifying these aspects of grief, I turned to the longstanding authority on grief: Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. In that book she teaches what she calls “The 5 Stages of Grief.” These stages are known by the acronym DABDA:
- Denial: This isn’t really happening
- Anger: This is not fair, why me, who is to blame?
- Bargaining with God: I will do anything if You . . .
- Depression: It doesn’t matter, I am going to die anyway.
- Acceptance: This is going to happen, I better prepare for it.
Over the years I had given her book to my clients, taught the five stages in workshops and even tried to apply the stages to many of my own grieving experiences. What I discovered was that, while insightful, the Five Stages as Kübler-Ross outlined them often leave us wanting for a solution or a plan of action for addressing those stages.
So I began to explore how her 5 Stages of Grief might be complimented with The 5 Aspects of Grief© and tapping. Using these aspects we can actually do something about those five stages!
It was easy to establish that Kübler-Ross’ first four stages of grief are actually all forms of resistance: Denial, Anger, Bargaining – and yes, based on my experience, even Depression is a form of resistance.
Mentally and emotionally, if not verbally, the person is saying: “NO, NO, NO!”
The mind may “ticker-tape” a dozen different phrases, but at their foundation each phrase exemplifies a NO response:
“I don’t want to do this!” (NO)
“This wasn’t supposed to happen!” (NO)
“Why did this happen to me?” (NO)
Notice that these phrases do not argue or pretend that the event (the trauma, loss or change) has not happened. The phrases simply declare that the client does not want to accept the experience.
Now, just to clarify, I do know what true denial looks like. When my mother was dying, my father was clearly in denial. He went about his day-to-day business talking about “when Momma gets better.” That, to me, is being in denial. He refused to accept the fact that she was dying. He was going to pretend it wasn’t so because he simply was not ready to face the truth. I honored his need to keep hoping for her recovery. Certainly time would persuade him to see and respond differently and, of course, it did.
Personally, when I was standing in the morgue looking at my son’s body, there was no part of me in denial. I didn’t deny it was him. I didn’t deny he was dead. There was no room for such pretenses. I was shocked, yes. I was filled with emotion and resistance yes, but it was never part of my process to deny that he was gone.
When my clients tell me about the moment they received their dreadful news they rarely, if ever, share that they didn’t actually believe it. Few, if any, tried to deny it. They do, however, always mention that they had a strong reaction of confusion, closing of the spirit and passionate resistance to the news. Such dramatic changes simply do not make sense to the logical mind in that moment. We call this shock.
Regardless of how long ago the incident was, a part of you will be metaphorically “frozen in time.” In fact, I like to forewarn my new practitioners in training not to be surprised if their client’s body re-experiences the shock symptoms during the session. Once we tap into the deep energy and emotion of that shock, it’s not unusual to physically shake and shudder as we process and release all of those emotions that never had the chance to fully process prior to the session. Just keep tapping.
Our goal for addressing the first aspect of grief is to help you gently “inch your way” toward digesting the information that was overwhelming and unbearable at the time.
Thus, I refer to the first aspect of grief as “Getting your head around it” or, in some cases, “Getting over your verdicts and vows.”
We do this by reviewing the scenes playing in your mind (or the “movie”), gathering all of the aspects of the six senses and then zeroing in on the resistant thoughts you had at the moment you got the news. I am especially looking for any dramatic decisions that were made – verdicts and vows – afterward.
Some examples of teeter-totter phrases that might help you reframe or begin to accept the story for the first aspect part one (“Getting your head around it”) are:
“I can’t believe this happened – Maybe I will be ready to believe this soon.”
“This is not fair – Of course it is not fair, yet. Fairness has little to do with my ability to take this all in and begin my healing.”
“I don’t want to do this – Who in their right mind would wish for this? Not wanting to do it does not mean I am not capable of it when I am ready.”
Notice that all we need to do is soften the resistance. I am trying to fully acknowledge the resistance and introduce a possibility now, or in the near future, that will allow the spirit to open and feel hope.
The same approach is taken with the second part of the first aspect (“Getting over your verdicts and vows”):
Do you remember sometime in the past when someone said or did something and you got ticked off and made some off-handed – or maybe even seriously thought out – declaration?
For example, when my sibling talked me into climbing on the tin roof of the shed in the summer time and then left me there all day…(I am giggling now, but I sure wasn’t then) I decided (the Verdict) that I would NEVER trust him again and that I would NEVER do that to our little brother (Vow). Silly example, but I imagine that you get the point.
The problem with these Verdicts and Vows is that we are now trapped by them; doomed to live by the limits they place on our hearts, minds and relationships.
Vowing to never trust my brother again may have meant that I would have no one to turn to when I needed serious marriage advice. It would certainly affect how open and loving we could be to one another.
So imagine the number of verdicts and vows that are made at the time of serious trauma, loss or change. How could we soften our commitment to them so that we might introduce the idea of choices?
Shall we toy with a couple of random examples?
“I will be brokenhearted forever…if I want to be. I may wish to change my mind about that later.”
“I will never forgive – that is my right. I always have that choice. It is good to know that being forgiving is an option.”
When trying to assist you with such verdicts and vows, my goal is to simply introduce the awareness that you are choosing deliberately. This awareness can go a long way to keeping you feeling trapped and powerless over your pain. As long as we are conscious of our choices…we can change.
The next aspect was no surprise to me, having looped around this one for months. You see, my relationship with my son was pretty typical – we butted heads a lot. In fact, someone described mothering teenage boys as playing bumper cars. There was always a power struggle or a resistance to conforming to the family rules.
Aspect two is: “Regrets from the past!”
If you’ve ever sat down with someone after the loss of a loved one or after a divorce or disaster, it doesn’t take long for everyone to begin reminiscing.
Unfortunately, the first memories that seem to surface are often saturated with guilt or regret. I have come to wonder if it is maybe because our mind is always trying to match memories by emotion. With the onset of grief our energy drops and our mood is sad. Thus any incident from our past that is colored with sadness may be the first to surface.
If you’ve read my book, Grief Is…Mourning Sickness, you’ll recall that in Chapter Six, An Inconsiderate Guest, when David went back to work he was understandably sad. His mind was consumed by sad memories. The most pervasive was, of course, any memory that affirmed his despairing belief that he had failed to rescue his sweetheart from her disease. As he was plagued by this perception, his mind hashed and rehashed some of the darkest moments of her journey. He was obsessing on the sad moments that filled him with guilt and regret.
We address these regrets again by reviewing the mental “movies.” After gently releasing the first aspects that accompany the shock, the mind is calmer and we are more open to seeing a bigger picture or a new angle on the experience – which, of course, is a reframe of the memories.
In my book, David told me of his regret that he felt (“he should have done more”) so we tapped on those feelings; all the while recalling the ten thousand things he did that were above and beyond loving and supportive. Soon, he was able to choose to stop listening to the little EGO voice that seemed to want to add insult to his injuries by convincing him that if he had done something different, she would still be with him.
Anyone who has experienced grief will tell you that it is an exhausting process. You’ll find that this is, in part, because the mind is so twitchy. By that I mean that it is nearly impossible to keep one train of thought for very long. Like a jack rabbit, the mind will hop from thoughts of persistent resistance to thoughts of regrets; and then in a heartbeat bolt into the future, imagining pain and disappointments that were never experienced!
For example, one of the early thoughts that popped into my mind soon after my 22-year old son died was, “He will never meet his twin nieces.” I understand that this is the mind’s way of anticipating and preparing for a future without the person, place or thing that has been lost. Oddly enough, however, these “Imagined Future Disappointments” that I consider the third aspect of grief are often of the “fairy tale” variety.
In another part of my book, Clara was working through her grief and the holidays were quickly approaching. She was inundated with “imagined future disappointments” about the family gatherings. Upon further inspection, the story she was imagining was unrealistic. She envisioned that Momma would cook all of their favorite dishes. The family would laugh and visit for hours. Then everyone would part with hugs and promises to get together every month for Sunday dinner or something.
So, do I need to tell you what I discovered when I explored her fairy tale wish?
The truth was that they had each been assigned to bring one side dish or dessert for the holiday meals for years. The day often ended, not with hugs and promises, but with angry words and hurt feelings.
The challenge with trying to emulate the Norman Rockwell painting is that it is one moment in time captured on the canvas. The painting does not show before or after the carving of the turkey. It doesn’t show the piles of dishes that beg to be washed or the grocery store receipt for purchasing all the fixings.
Truth be told, I imagine every family can – and probably does – emulate that one instant of peace and harmony during the holidays, at least for an instant. It just isn’t always sustainable.
We can address this third aspect by tapping on the “hoped for happily ever after” wishes. The key component to dig for in this aspect is the disappointment. We are not trying to negate any healthy wishes or dreams. Our objective is to be realistic and consider if our imagined future is in alignment with the truth of our past experiences.
The fourth aspect of grief is addressing all of the behaviors, attitudes and comments that “Everyone Else” exhibited around the trauma, loss or change. What, if anything, did or didn’t “they” say or do?
These are often the first things to pop-up after the shock. Again, this may be due, in part, to the fact that we are often “shocked by what others do or don’t do and say or don’t say” at such distressing times.
This “Everyone Else” aspect often includes one form or another of your own unfinished business. When our lives come to a halt and we are forced to process a current grief, the EGO mind likes to take the opportunity to heap wood on the fire by reminding us of other unresolved situations from our past when we felt disappointed, hurt or misunderstood.
I could sense I was onto something profound when I realized that these very common elements of grieving are noticeably absent in the Kübler-Ross process.
Once again, for this aspect I call on our simple movie technique and walk you through the incident with the person or persons with which you had the conflict. I’m always eager to validate the hurt, shame or disappointment that you felt; I have keen awareness of such feelings from my own story. Then, as the opportunity presents itself, we begin to explore choices. More often than not we come to some conclusions and awareness that it is highly probable that, sometime in the past, we may have inadvertently caused others similar pain with our thoughtless words or behaviors. I would hope to be forgiven for such mistakes. Please?
The final aspect of The 5 Aspects of Grief was revealed and clarified for me when I was having one of those “closet days.” I was fed up with feeling sad and pitiful. I wanted my life back. I no longer wanted to let my EGO use grief as my excuse, my buffer or my banner. I deliberately made a decision that I would not go another day allowing my mind to tell me I was the victim of a tragedy.
First, I made a conscious and deliberate decision to “Forgive.” I tapped to forgive God/ Universe, the car my son was in, the weather that was so hot that August that he was exhausted that night, the things people said or didn’t say. I tapped to forgive myself for any remaining ‘Motherly sins of omission or commission.” I tapped to forgive what people didn’t do that I wish they had…on and on I tapped. I wanted to find absolutely every file that my EGO had opened since my son’s death.
I reviewed every story I found; I tapped, I prayed, I meditated. I was determined to release any remaining shock, regrets, imagined disappointment, hurt, fear and judgments around the experience of losing my son.
Then I made a deliberate decision to “decide to decide” how I would respond to this experience for the rest of my life. I decided that I would “Forge” ahead with open hands and heart. By working through The 5 Aspects of Grief over and over, I finally felt liberated to move into my future. It was as if I had emptied my heart and hands of all the sadness and I trained my mind to, instead, consistently focus on the joyful and loving memories of my son. My mantra became “No self-pity; no regrets.”
You might be thinking, “It is impossible to dissolve all of the grief. It would not be realistic to think we could have no remaining hooks and triggers surrounding something so traumatic as the death of a child.”
I wasn’t sure myself until several months ago when I was leading a class. As part of my usual introduction to who I am and how I got to be a tapping practitioner and trainer, I told my story. The story, of course, included the attainment of the EFT Master title and the death of my son.
At the lunch break one of the students approached me and asked “Did you really loose a child? A few of us were talking at one of the lunch tables and we were not sure if you were telling that story as a metaphor or if it was a real life experience. You just seem way too peaceful about it.”
I laughed and assured her it was a real life experience. After lunch, I addressed it with the students and we were able to explore the power of tapping and the deliberate and artful use of it as a modality for healing even such traumas as losing a child.
Now, I want to mention that whenever I am working with a client, I never tell them that I am looking for The 5 Aspects of Grief while we are doing the work. I do not want their little EGO mind to get distracted and focus on processes. The five aspects generally present themselves as a natural part of our sessions. If, for some reason, one or more aspects do not present themselves naturally, I am then secure in the knowledge that I do know what to look for to ensure their complete and total recovery.
Whenever I train on The 5 Aspects of Grief I always include several of The EGO Tamer® Formula’s that I have developed along the way that supercharge the healing work. These formulas give us concrete tools and templates so we can methodically walk through every trauma, loss and change experience swiftly and gracefully.
I’ve had numerous clients who had been grieving for 10, 15, even 20 years or more, and were unable to find peace about their trauma or loss. By intentionally seeking to explore and address The 5 Aspects of Grief and by applying the formulas, every client – without exception – experienced relief from whatever had been giving them grief – in minutes not months or years. At the conclusion of their first hour with me, they expressed that they felt lighter and more hopeful; often, for the first time in years.
Occasionally, one of these clients will express remorse that they have suffered so long, needlessly. If they feel this way, I will add a few rounds of tapping to relieve the upset at the belief that they had wasted so many years stuck in grief.
Fortunately, you don’t need to waste another moment at the mercy of grief.
I invite you to observe your jack rabbit thinking, record the stories that your mind pulls up and with a bit of tapping, heal The 5 Aspects of Grief once and for all! I have listed them again below for your convenience.
The 5 Aspects of Grief©
G= Getting your head around it or, in some cases, Getting Over your Verdicts and Vows about it.
R= Regrets from the past (Guilt and shame)
I= Imagined future disappointments (“Fairy Tale Endings”)
E= Dealing with Everyone Else’s reactions (Unfinished Business)
F= Forgive the experience and Forge Ahead