Kubler-Ross started with Denial, “This can’t be happening to me.” “Didn’t I do everything the way they said to keep this from happening?” “I don’t want to be a statistic.” “This can’t be happening.”
The next stage is what she calls Bargaining. I call this the Thinking Stage. “What if we had just known..?”, “What if we . . .? “, “Maybe if we had just done this different or maybe if we had done that different”, “What if we could do this next?”
It is challenging, though, to maintain this different kind of thinking; keeping your mind (and body) in the condition necessary to have access to Inspiration. This is what I call Pondering. Pondering is thinking while remaining calm and confident. Pondering is thinking without fear. Pondering increases the likelihood of Inspiration. Fretting decreases the likelihood of Inspiration.
It is glorious when a miracle can be found. It is glorious when a spouse responds to the ideas you try to implement. But if not… even through Inspiration…
If there is no miracle today, if you find yourself disappointed, you have a choice between 2 types of pain. You can return to Fretting, or you can move on to the next stage of the Grief Cycle.
The next stage Kubler-Ross discusses is Anger. This is what you feel when none of your ideas are working. You kick things, and use strong language in your head (even if you don’t out loud. ;) ) You get mad. Some of your anger can be attached to your frustrations about things not being the way they were supposed to be. This is the stage when women are most likely to misbehave themselves… and feel justified about doing so. I have seen everything from significant eating changes, to throwing things, to serious sexual indiscretions. Not a fun stage to be in. My hope is that each woman will find activities in which they can channel this energy so they will not do things that would make them feel embarrassed if caught on video.
After, or mixed with Anger, there is a Sadness stage. Some call this depression but there is a difference between being sad and being depressed. Sadness is a normal, healthy feeling to have when your life isn’t going as planned. I define depression as when there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate reason to feel sad. Depression is usually a genetic condition. Sometimes it is due to thinking errors. A person can be both Sad and Depressed at the same time. You can guess that this would be uncomfortable. We can talk about Depression more at another time, but let’s return to Sadness. While Grieving, some people spend more time being angry and some people spend more time being sad. Most women bounce back and forth between both.
The 5th Stage is Resignation. Resignation means to come to the awareness that, “This is just the way things are.” The question is asked, “Does that mean to surrender?” There are two versions of surrender. There is the powerless weak version of surrender. This is often described as Victim mode, “My life is ruined now and there is nothing I can do about it.” Or, there is the Pioneer Woman Mode. “You just kicked me out of my house in Nauvoo. Fine, I’ll go to Utah and build a whole nation.” It is a form of surrender, but more of a form of acknowledgement of reality as it stands now. “Things are not the way I hoped they would be, but I’ll make the best of it.”
My own experience with the Grief Cycle revolves around infertility issues. When it finally became apparent that we would not be having any more kids, I went into my own resignation mode asking, “What does that mean? That means that my son (adopted from my wife’s first marriage) will be 20 years old when I’m 40. That gives me a ton of time to do some really cool stuff with an empty house. I could work on a lot of projects designed to serve the world if I don’t have more kids to have stewardship over.” And so, it took some time, but I was ready to not have any kids.
Now, here is where I need to emphasize the main difference between typical men and typical women when it comes to the Grief Cycle. Masculine psychology encourages people to get off the merry go round at this point. Become resigned, stay resigned. There are some healthy reasons for this at times, but I will not address those here. The problem, though, that can occur is that if people stopped believing in miracles, or unlikely outcomes, the whole world would stagnate.
Let’s add a little more to what Kubler-Ross taught. I have observed that this is where, after a brief Resignation, women experience something powerful. Unfortunately, we can’t really clarify whether or not this powerful thing is a blessing or a curse. As you will see, it depends on how things turn out. At this point in the cycle, after trying to stay Resigned, the woman often restarts the Grief cycle by going into what I call a Denial of Reality, otherwise known as HOPE. I consider this “hope-out-of-nowhere” a gift from God. Quite often, the hope that comes into the heart of a woman (and yes, some men also) is against the odds; against logic; against reality. If the idea comes to fruition…it will be a miracle.
My wife said, “What if we try adoption?” I thought, “Have you seen the statistics on that?” I went into a logical, mathematical mode. She says, “Yeah, but there’s a chance.” I now call my wife Babe Ruth. She seems to have a record for the most strikeouts and the most home runs. She gets up to the plate and swings her heart out. So what happened in our case, after dozens of times of going through this cycle, there was a miracle. The beautiful daughter we have now came into our lives due to my wife’s Denial of Reality, or HOPE.
What I have learned is that if you stay Resigned there are no miracles. There are no miracles if you stay logical. There are no miracles if you don’t hope. Unfortunately, this is where tension and/or contention surfaces in many relationships. One spouse wants to stay Resigned…the other experiences Hope. If you stay Resigned you don’t have to visit Anger and Sadness anymore. “Honey, if you just stay resigned you don’t have to be angry or sad. That is the solution to your emotional problem. If you hope, statistically speaking, we are probably going to have to go through all this pain again.” Spouses or other loved ones often try, with good intent in most cases, to prevent anger and sadness by killing hope.
I have realized that hope is very deeply ingrained in women. When I look at the big picture, especially the divine picture, what if all women stopped hoping? What would happen to our culture? At best it would stagnate, more than likely it would deteriorate. This means women are blessed with a curse. Women get up to the plate and hope and will probably strikeout at least two out of three times like a baseball player does. This means women are going to be Angry and Sad. Men validate it all the time in sporting situations.
I have learned that if I want to be on a team with my wife, if I am going to be one with her, I need to join her in both Denial of Reality and Pondering, not to just sit on the sidelines (stubbornly resigned) and wait for her to “get over it”. Miracles are by definition something that is based on a low percentage. So if I can join her in experiencing a miracle, it will/can be glorious. But if I am going to be a connected spouse, I need to join her in the anger and sadness as well.
There is an energy inside of all women. They go to bed crying under their wagon and before the men wake up the next morning, she has the fire built and says, “Let’s do this!”, because she has been filled with a new Hope. Knowing where you are in the Grief Cycle, helps facilitate. Unfortunately, if you have been brainwashed a little bit by American psychology, you may have been told that the Denial of Reality, and reigniting the Think stage again, are mentally unhealthy. I propose that it is important and healthy (although uncomfortable most of the time), for people to revisit the grief cycle. If people don’t hope beyond logic, opportunities for miracles cease. By the time I meet a couple in my office for marriage therapy, there is a lot of damage to the marriage. It is this Hope, this Denial of Reality that gives the relationship a chance for a miracle. In almost every case, if both can tap in to Hope, a miracle can be found. Statistically speaking, this Hope usually comes from the woman.
When you break out of the Grief Cycle Prematurely:
What is unhealthy is when a person skips or avoids any one of the stages. Imagine having hope and your hope doesn’t come to fruition and you don’t get angry. That means that you have no fire in you. You’re bland. You go straight from failure to sadness. You don’t have any energy at all to be upset about it?
Now imagine not being sad at all, that would be weird. That’s a little unhealthy to not be sad at all.
Skip Resignation and you have problems. Straight from sad to happy and hopeful? That’s like being bi-polar. You ought to plod along like a Pioneer Woman for at least 24 hours before you get enthusiastic or hopeful again.
And if you take all Hope out of your life…then what do you have?
Yes, there is a time to stay Resigned and not regain Hope again, but you are the only one who will know when it is that time. Only personal Inspiration can tell you when it is time to let something die. We can talk more about when to just let something die and how to survive the death of a dream another time. You can read about this Pioneer Woman Mode in I’m Not Okay, You’re Not Okay, and That’s Okay.
In my experience with quality women, they need to feel like they have done all they can do. So they are going to have to go through the Grief Cycle many times. It is usually painful and difficult, but if a miracle can be found…it makes it all worth it!
He married his wife, Nanette, shortly after graduation. At that time he became the adoptive father of his then 3 year old son, Nikolas, who had been born to his wife in a previous marriage.
Maurice spent three years working at Decker Lake Youth Center, Salt Lake City’s maximum security facility for teen-agers. He went on to work for the State of Utah as an Independent Living Specialist helping youth who had been in foster care to transition into adult living. Maurice teamed up with his wife to run a group home for girls with Utah Youth Village for a year, followed by a few years working in treatment foster care.
As he was finishing his Professional Counseling Master’s Degree program at the University of Utah, he took an internship counseling position at Davis Counseling Center in Farmington, Utah. Upon graduation he also started working as a counselor at LDS Family Services in Farmington, Utah. His daughter, Syrena, was adopted during graduate school.
In May of 2005, Maurice opened the private counseling agency Life Changing Services, while still working part time at LDS Family Services, primarily as the Pre-Mission Evaluation Specialist for northern Utah.
In September of 2005, Sons of Helaman was created due to the influx of young men struggling with sexual addiction issues. The development and expansion of this program has been a major focus since then. In his ongoing private practice at Life Changing Services, Maurice specializes in marriage therapy (especially if sexual misbehaviors are part of the problem). He trains adult men to overcome sexual addictions. He works to help heal the wives of sexual addicts. He works with individuals fighting anxiety and depression issues.
He runs another program called The W-O-R-T-H Group: Women of Rebirth, Therapeutic Healing: designed to help women work through difficult issues relating to any form of abuse in their marriages. He still sees clients for various issues once a week at LDS Family Services in Centerville, Utah.
Memoirs of an LDS Therapist