Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Celebration Chart Upstages Stages of Grief Chart

Depressing but Helpful Stages of Grief Chart
In the process of coming to terms with the death of my sweet daughter earlier this year, I came upon this chart during one of the rare times I looked through online discussion groups on grief. I was pretty discouraged, encountering women who had lost children and as a result became pretty stuck in depression, even up to 25 years later - unable to love their children who were still very much alive, unable to engage in spousal relations, and just plain unable to experience pleasure and happiness. 

I understand this, but since I'm already 56, I want to avoid spending the rest of my life depressed, so I've found and created some good tools to work with in creating happiness, even though the grief is also present. Integrative thinking, which my therapist has taught me, helps us to allow ourselves to be sad, yet happy at the same time. One of my favorite quotes that illustrates this is by Kahlil Gibran, who says, "Your deepest sorrow is but a reflection of your greatest joy." What a magnificent joy I have in my daughter, and my son, and my wonderful husband, as well as other members of my family and friends.

The chart above is helpful in determining where we are in the process, but the design could use some updating, since the truth of how it plays out, as expressed vehemently in the grief group comments, is that we are usually in more than one place at a time, and we bounce back and forth between all of them, sometimes several times in a day. Our healing is not "progressive," where we one day reach a point at which our grief is "behind us." We carry it with us like a boulder every single day. But we can lighten the load by focusing on the good.

In order to do this, I decided to spend some time creating a new chart, which I call my Celebration Chart. 

Click on the image to enlarge it.
Isn't it pretty? I love how the connecting lines make a sort of geometric design. 

As I designed this chart I thought about the story of the two wolves inside us. It is a Native American story that teaches us that where we put our energy and focus, we create growth. This applies to the "bad wolf" (negative emotion) as well as the "good wolf," (positive emotion). In the story the little grandson asks his Grandpa which wolf wins, and Grandpa's reply is: "The one you feed."

So with my chart I was thinking of how we come together with others, and why. It is a reflection of our society that we've become much more isolated as a result of the Internet, global travel, husbands and wives both working, and consumerism taking center stage. There are plenty of scholarly articles out there exploring this phenomenon. We "think" we're connected, but unless there's some real social interaction, we don't get to feel real, abiding emotion behind the communications - the kind of emotion that supports and encourages us, a sense of true community. 

In my chart, I explore what gives us a sense of love, accomplishment, satisfaction, and connection. As I bounce through the original grief chart, I'm aware of what I'm experiencing, but now I spend more time focusing on applying the activities in my Celebration Chart. We can apply these to ourselves in a very personal way, or we can take notice of others that we care about and reach out to apply them to our loved ones.

My little chart is a work in progress and I'll likely update it, but for now it's feeding my good wolf (grin).

Along with my other Lovies, I celebrate my sweet daughter - the time we spent together, her accomplishments, her beauty inside and out, her emotions, all of them, her joys and her challenges. Such love.

Another step in the journey.



  1. I like your chart. There are so many truths in this post. I've read the Gibran quote before and believe it to be true. It was hard for me to adjust after my father's death, I think because I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye. A long discussion with my family physician helped me understand the grief process. At least I understood there WAS a process. That was before there was an internet. A reflection on our society is evident when those on Facebook think those that read what they post are "friends". So sad.
    xx, Carol

  2. Hi Carol, So nice to hear from you. I remember telling my English teacher in High School how much I loved Kahlil Gibran, and her comment was that he was a womanizer and his words weren't worth the paper they were written on. That was when I started learning to question and think about the perspectives of those in authority positions. I decided that even though the man might not have been perfect, his words were full of wisdom. I also have found through the years that people who don't gain any experience in life can be somewhat lacking in depth and compassion. I do feel some connection to people who post in response to my posts, and I also feel some connection with those that I follow as I see their colors singing out. But to me, these things are different from spending time with true friends, sharing eye contact, having some sense of continuity. I'm so happy for the Internet because I can learn so much and enjoy so much, but at times I also remember my Grandmother's comment in her diary of 1926, when she said that she thought people were becoming overwhelmed with the amount of information available to them. Imagine the peace of her childhood. I think it was probably a very good time.