This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.
Dear Dr. Ted
I have gone to the Golden Willow grief group series for many years and it helps to know how the grief process helps in the journey of recovery from loss. I know that fear is part of the phases of grief but where does it fit into the phases?
This is a great question as fear is not clearly spelled out within the phases of grief. Most people think of the phases of grief from the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross model, which were categorized as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Kübler-Ross's model was actually more complex than this but the "five stages of grief" has allowed the public to have a road map to help in the recovery process from loss. Many experts working with grief have continued to work with the grief process and have added more information to the Kübler-Ross model. I continue to implement the grief model with my own additions as well as remember that there are many aspects of loss and grief that will not fit into a certain category.
Grief is fluid and you move in and out of the different phases without a set, linear process. You may be feeling many aspects of the grief process at the same time or you may clearly be connected to one phase at that time with the knowledge that it can change at any moment as well. There are many aspects that can arise that intermingle within the grief process. Fear would be one of these aspects as fear can arise throughout the entire process. Usually after a loss, there are many secondary losses as well.
Fear can arise as the feeling of safety is often missing and many everyday parts of your life become overwhelming and fearful. I usually say that your illusion of safety is shattered as your life is in transition from your old reality moving toward the present situation. During this process, you may find you are caught in the past and overwhelmed by the future leaving you with no stable foundation in your present situation. This may cause parts of your life to feel frightening during change and transition. Fear is often derived from lack of knowledge so it would make sense that after loss there would be uncertainty in what is next. Fear of everyday needs may arise - finances, housing, status within your community, care for you or others, logistics, legal issues and any other factor that has been impacted with the change that happens due to loss.
Over time your present foundation of your life starts to be reestablished, possibly very differently, but a new norm is built and as life seeps back into your being, the fear starts to subside due to fewer unknown factors. Fear has the potential to be within any of the phases of healing from loss and that is why it is important to find internal and external resources to support you as you reestablish a new foundation and reality within your present life situation.
Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat at GWR@ newmex.com.