Several spiritual directors have told me to use social media to pass on to others my experiences of how I live life to the fullest by using tools from my toolbox. Letting go when endings occur is the most difficult. It puts me in unfamiliar areas where I have no control of the situation or the future. This is an area of my life I’ve had to deal with in career, friendships, and health.
In dealing with a loss in each of these areas I experienced a grieving process. In 1969, psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but many people have generalized them to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as job, friends and health.
The five stages of grief:
After ending a lifelong career in sales I assumed I would be offered a part-time position as promotion director of the concrete association. I had been groomed for the job for 6 years by the executive director. While working in my full time job I volunteered for this position and spent many hours developing strategies. Shortly after I retired I received a call from the executive director with whom I had worked so closely informing me he was resigning.
When the new administration took over the job was never offered to me. The surface feeling of anger easily resonates in me especially when I am disappointed with an outcome that I judge not to be fair. I eventually recognize that it is a deep hurt I am really feeling. Once I went through the grieving process new doors opened up for me with a job offer that was much better and more suited to my retirement expectations. I received a call from a company offering me a part-time job in developing a market for their services in my previous marketing area in which I had 43 years of contacts and experiences. I made a six-month commitment to work for them. The six months grew to five years and I enjoyed every day of it.
With years of financial planning we anticipated our retirement years to be full of nonstop travel, both domestic and abroad. In the third year of my retirement my wife suffered an outbreak of shingles which in itself was mild but resulted in major nerve damage. Once again the grieving process started with anger. Then disappointment and a sense of helplessness surfaced as I saw my wife having such a difficult time dealing with the pain. That first six months was extremely trying until we found the help she needed. Because we had been on the path of alterative wellness for many years we also started our search for solutions to help her deal with the pain more effectively. We are blessed to have found several great therapists with innovative measures to experience better quality of life while managing pain. We are planning our 50th anniversary celebration next year by treating ourselves to a European River Cruise for 21 days.
The more recent experience of “letting go” has been very difficult because it is very personal when it comes to friends, particularly friends that have been a part of our lives for many years. Friends are a true gift from God to reflect the best in us that we often do not see in ourselves. They are there to lift us when the journey of life is too difficult to bear on our own. They inspire us and motivate us to be the best that we can be. They are with us as we travel on similar journeys.
The signs of the ending come when life’s experiences are no longer shared together to strengthen that bond of friendship. This is where the “letting go” becomes painful for both parties. It is to recognize that life has changed our journeys and the familiar paths we were traveling have changed. This is where the major shift happens. The great memories of the friendship will last a lifetime. The appreciation of the growth from the road traveled together will never be forgotten.
In the process of going through “The Five Stages of Grief” that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced I also use one of the tools from my tool box. This tool symbolically helps me. I release a balloon to let go of something I no longer have control of that has ended. I also release a second balloon writing down the great memories I have of the relationship, the job, or anything else that has brought me to where I am in life. This certainly helps me but realistically the whole grieving process is still extremely important.
Lizabeth Kubler Ross’s book On Death and Dying is a great book to guide us to let go of endings in all areas of our lives.