By Marissa Kurtz
ARLINGTON, Va. – Grief is typically defined as a deep and poignant distress often linked to bereavement. But to those who have been there, a poignant distress only graces the surface of the fuller meaning of it.
“Grief can be sadness, anger, shock, depression, loneliness, guilt and not understanding the reason why,” said Joanie Green, associate director of planning and development at Haven of Northern Virginia, a bereavement support services organization.
Green, who has counseled the grief stricken for 20 years, said: “You can go through grief over almost anything life changing. It used to be that we categorized stages of grief, but now we don’t really use them as a guideline anymore.”
The categories that Green is referring to are spelled out in Elizabeth Kübler Ross’ outline of grief. In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Ross breaks grief down into five aspects: shock, denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance.
However, Green said that not everyone goes through these stages during their grieving process. She said grief is unique to the individual.
Take Leah Jones. She was in third-grade when her mother died on a warm day in January here.
“Sometimes I still feel like I am in that phase of denial,” Jones said. “It just doesn’t entirely set in. There wasn’t a certain period of time that I was in denial, but I just feel that I have switched in and out of denial phases sometimes.
“There are times where I expect her to be there, even now. And there are also times where I wonder why did this have to happen to me, but I’m not really mad with anyone, even God, because I believe everything happens for a reason,” she added.
Divorce is another experience, which sometimes causes all involved to go through a process of grieving.
However, Green sees a distinction between grieving the loss of a life and the loss of a relationship.
“When a loved one dies you will not see them again. Whereas with a divorce, you go through the same emotions, but there is always a hope. People will go through the belief that, ‘Maybe my parents will get back together, maybe I will see them again,’ ” said Green. “So you always hope things will go back to the way they were even though this usually never happens.”
The family Quinton Dickerson had become accustomed to suddenly ceased to exist when he was nine years old. Although he knew his parents’ marriage was in trouble, he still felt some stages of grief.
“When they said they were over I understood why, but it still hurt. I wanted my family the way it had been for awhile, but I guess I finally learned that wasn’t going to be an option,” said Dickerson.
“It doesn’t matter to me anymore and I don’t really care,” he said.
Dickerson said he fears the divorce could possibly effect his future relations with others.
“I’ve seen how messed up it is and I never want to experience marriage, ever,” Dickerson said.
Green said that acceptance is part of the grieving process, too, and every grieving person struggles to get to this place.
“After acceptance, there will no longer be a grief, but there will always be a missing: Christmas time, a mother won’t be at the table. When someone gets married, a mother won’t be there to help them with the wedding or a father won’t be there to walk them down the aisle,” Green said.
“There will be times when grief will revisit you and you will miss them terribly, but if you work through the grief and understand the process, then the sadness will be short lived,” she said.