Stages of Grief
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a psychiatrist whose work focused on terminally ill and elderly patients. In her landmark book, On Death and Dying, she lays the 5 stages of grief. These stages have become part of the general consciousness and Dr. Kubler-Ross’ ideas have been applied to all kinds of human loss. The stages are:
These can happen in any order, and not every one experiences them all. One can also jump from stage to stage. The goal, however, is to process each one and eventually end up at acceptance.
As I’ve had my ‘feminist awakening,’ it sort of feels like a new Me. But that new me has necessitated the loss of a lot of other things: loss of my old ideals, loss of some beliefs and the clarity they bring, a loss of trust in the church. It seems from talking to many fellow MoFems that this is not an uncommon experience.
The loss of trust has been the hardest to work through. The Church has been my home, my world view, my compass for my entire 25 years on this earth. To realize that it has some parts that are not the way they should be has been really hard. And I am grieving. Sometimes my pinging back and forth across these stages has made me feel like I am crazy because few around me understand. So I’m sharing my experiences in hopes that if you out there in blog-land are feeling this grief, you will know you are not crazy, and that you are not alone!
- Denial – when I first started college, I became aware of feminism for the first time and was immediately drawn to it. Misogyny and sexism were wordly vices that I was happy to be aware of and fight against, but any hint that the church was not immune to them would make me very defensive. I clung to the benevolent sexism that permeates our discourse about the ‘moral superiority’ of women. I voluntarily closed my eyes to and internalized so many harmful messages and practices.
- Anger – Gloria Steinem famously said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” I can testify that this is true! Once the cognitive dissonance got to be too much, I had to admit that the Church has more than it’s fair share of sexism happening. And I was mad. How could the institution that I had leaned on, had thought of as my haven from the world, had worked so hard for, be so…well, so worldly? The double standards, the hypocrisy, the double-speak, the over emphasis on not questioning the status quo of gender relations – all of that goes against what I had learned in the best parts of Mormonism.
- Bargaining – Sometimes my bargaining involves praying things like, ‘Heavenly Father, if no one says priesthood = motherhood in Relief Society today I will come back to church next week.’ Sometimes it is with myself. Sometimes it is with those around me. Sometimes I get what I need from it, sometimes not. But it has so far been enough to keep me coming back both to feminism and to the church.
- Depression – This is probably the worst one. About a year after I started getting involved in the MoFem community it all became too much. I asked for my Heavenly Father’s help. And to an extent I got it. However, I still felt caught between my desire to be true to myself, not knowing what that meant, my desire for community, and a deep hollow sadness. It is hard for me to write about it even now. But by the grace of God and with the help of many in the MoFem community I got through it and I try not to look back.
- Acceptance – I am definitely not here, and am not even sure what this stage would look like for me. Does it mean accepting that the church is a sexist patriarchy and I need to suck it up and deal? Does it mean accepting that the church is a sexist patriarchy and I need to work to change it from the inside? Does it mean accepting that actually this is how God wants it to be and being quiet? Does it mean accepting that the church is a sexist patriarchy and I should leave for my own spiritual well-being? I don’t have the answer. I suppose the form of acceptance can change over time. I just hope that I get to some version of it some day.
Having said all of that, I think we can learn a lot through grief: we can learn about mourning with those that mourn. We can learn about ourselves and our strength. We can learn about how to empathize with those around us. It can help clarify what we do and don’t believe. And we can learn a lot about the love of God. Grief is a human and humanizing experience that is best fully lived, not repressed.
What are some of your experiences with grief and the gospel? What have you lost and what have you learned?