In a recent dream I was to give a presentation on the stages of dying. I planned to focus on the 5 stages that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross had written about in her book On Death and Dying (c. 1969). Those stages she addressed were denial, anger, bargaining, depression (mourning about the dying process/loss) and acceptance. I also planned to use the song “Teach me about Dying…and I’ll teach you to live” by Deanna Edwards from her cassette Peacebird (c. 1974).
When Dr. Kubler-Ross did her research on death and dying, the dying process wasn’t much researched or discussed. Around that time Deanna Edwards was writing songs addressing similar issues.
Since then many others have written books and music about dying, mourning and losses. We all experience many kinds of dyings and deaths in our lives: leaving home, losing a job, loss of dreams, health, pet, friendship to mention a few. Each of us deals with these dyings in our own individual way, based on our life’s experiences and our personalities.
On waking I wondered about this dream. It didn’t seem that the presentation on stages of dying were so much about physical death as about situations that feel like dying or deaths in our daily lives.
I see these stages not so much like moving from preschool through high school, but more as a spiral. When we are dealing with losses sometimes we may be in denial. Or we may be in depression or mourning the loss, or perhaps in some part of acceptance. Another time we may feel anger at the loss or attempt to do some bargaining, later coming to a deeper level of acceptance. How we cope with the losses is determined by how important each loss is to us and how we have dealt with life’s other struggles.
By acknowledging our feelings as we face our losses, we not only can learn about deaths and losses in our daily lives but grow in awareness of what it means to live each day at a time.
Reflecting on the stages of dying can be helpful for by looking at each of the stages, we may see where we are in our process.
We don’t forget what was important but somehow by letting it go, and not wishing it was still there, we can move towards some kind of restoration or acceptance and find a new normal.
Our prayer may be brief.
Comforting One, as we face these dyings in our daily lives, help us grow in awareness of what it means to live. Remind us to take each moment at a time and that you are with us. Fill us with your peace as we go through these losses in our lives. Amen.