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Published on May 05, 2020

sun peeking through the clouds

Finding Meaning in This Storm

By Megan Bartel, LIGHT Program Manager

I’ve felt grief deep in my bones and to the very core of being after losing my second child, Briar, 36 weeks into my pregnancy five years ago. I wouldn’t have ever connected the word “grief” to a worldwide pandemic. But resources from Brené Brown and David Kessler have given me some new perspectives.

Grief can feel like:

  • Crying
  • Tension and headaches
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Excessive worry
  • Irritability
  • Not feeling like yourself

David Kessler worked with Elisabeth Kübler Ross in developing the Five Stages of Grief. After losing his 21-year-old son to an accidental overdose, he lived out the very stages he researched, studied and practiced and was in a new reality living the life of a bereaved parent.

After much internal struggle, he felt a sixth stage to grief was needed. He said on grief and grieving that, “It’s not linear. Not prescriptive but descriptive. There are no easy steps to grief.”

He explained after acceptance and time, there can be healing and understanding in finding meaning. Not meaning in the death, divorce, job loss or pandemic but more so, where in your darkness can you find the light?

He is questioned often, “How can I find meaning in this? It hurts too much, it feels SO uncomfortable. This isn’t what I planned.”

Finding meaning can be a “beautiful gift,” if and only if, we go through the stages.  

In this present moment, the six stages of grief can look like:

Denial: “Is this really that serious? Everyone is over-reacting. I’m not at risk.”

Anger: “This is really happening. My hours are cut. My kid is missing their senior year. People aren’t taking this seriously. I’m so mad this happened.”

Bargaining: “Please God, if this all goes away, I promise I will never, ever take for granted the life I had before this. Please make all of this go away.”

Depression: “This is my new reality and will never end. We have missed out on so much. I will always feel this empty. I can’t find anything good that has come from this.”

Acceptance: “OK, what I’ve been doing isn’t working. What will fill me up in this moment? I need to figure out my new normal now, I’m ready.”

Meaning: “I didn’t ask for any of this but I know some good will come or already has. What do I want to carry with me after all of this is over? What can I do to help?”

Kessler explained that “We are all experiencing collective grief and loss of the world we knew. It’s all gone. We will find meaning but we have to feel the grief. If we don’t name it, we can’t feel it," he said.

We are all feeling so many losses at this time and each loss is individual. Some are experiencing loss of work, income and routine; others, physical connection and touch. It’s all individual with no comparison. Grief cannot be compared, only felt. “The worst loss is always your loss,” Kessler said. 

After our son passed away, I wasn’t sure if we would ever feel joy again. We knew from the very beginning we wanted to honor his life in a way he would be proud of us; but, we couldn’t fast forward through the tough stuff and find meaning right away. We had to let ourselves feel it all no matter how horrible it felt.

Because of Briar’s beautiful life, our family founded “Briar Blessings” which has raised over $80,000 for the Avera Women and Children’s Bereavement Program. Hundreds of families going through the loss of a child have been blessed with the gift of more time, physical keepsakes and cherished memories that will carry them through these stages all because of his life.

In the greatest storm of my life, we found sunshine moments and held on to them knowing that without the storm, we wouldn’t have found the joy and greater meaning to life. So, right now, how can we make the choice to get through this grief together and eventually, find meaning? We can use this unique opportunity to work together and come out of this better, stronger and live life with more meaning and intention, only if we let it.

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