Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Grieving, Bad Movies and Shopping

A headline in a magazine caught my attention this weekend. It said "Good News on Grieving". It reviews a new book  called "The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss". It is about how we process loss, and psychology professor/author George A. Bonanno says the conventional wisdom is wrong.

To quote:

Q: Aren't there five stages of grief? 
A: Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) were for people facing their own deaths. No research extended those to bereavement. (Italics mine.)

Q: What does your research show?
A: There are three grieving patterns: 10-15% of people have chronic difficulties, 15-20% struggle for months and then recover, and well over 50% show resilience.

Q: What do you mean by resilience? 
A: People are deeply pained, but from the beginning they can function.
They oscillate between turning inward, to face the fact that the loved one is gone, and turning outward.

Q: Why are so many people resilient?
A: Any nomadic creature who spent time grieving would have been left behind. We seem to have the equipment to deal with very difficult things.

These few words have stopped me in my tracks this weekend. How often have you thought of the stages of grieving or even quoted them to a hurting person? I know I have used this little taxonomy many times. It has invaded the grieving process. If it is indeed erroneous, many (including moi), will need a new lens to look at grieving through.

I am not saying I am through the grieving process. (Evidenced by being asked to return to my grief class next semester. First class I ever "failed"!) But this certainly affirms that maybe, just maybe, I'm further along then I thought. I've had that sneaking suspicion on some occasions, but people continue to tell me that I am in "denial" or "bargaining", and I duck my head and think, "DRAT! I still have many stages to go! I thought I was doing better and I haven't even gone through stage 4: depression."

And maybe I won't have to go through depression. Certainly I don't want to, and that has never been part of my personality makeup. So why would it be now? Just saying.

I'm not through thinking through the repercussions of this study, but it has made me how aware of many things we are exposed to through the written word and marketing that may not be totally true if taken at face value.

For example, the new movie "A Christmas Carol". It was purposely released early with the express marketing wish that families would return to see it again as the holiday drew nearer. Double dipping the audience, as it were. The advertisement says, "Share the magic of the holidays with your family!" Loyal Sister and I bit, and went to see if we could gather a little of that holiday magic yesterday.

SPOILER ALERT:  There was no magic or laughter anywhere in the movie. It is dark and scary and depressing (maybe I did work through a little of that grief stage watching this movie!). I cannot imagine taking a child to this movie. The only reason I think we stayed until the end is we were at a theater that serves food and we had some pretty good pizzas sitting before us. We also believed that there would be a stomping good ending that would make up for all the gloom, doom and disaster. How wrong we were. If my bloggy opinion counts for anything, do not attend this movie for holiday cheer. And do not take  a small child to this movie for any reason.

Just how, you are wondering, did I get from the five supposed-stages of grief to a movie review? Marketing: it is all about marketing. What the conventional wisdom tries to tell us we need. I want a world view that is based on The Truth, not the opinion or who can advertise the most successfully.

Because the 10-pound paper is landing on your lawn on Thursday before the turkey is cooked. And it will be full of enough adds to cover your living room floor when they are scattered about.  They are selling the image of What Will Make Your Christmas Merry. (And truth be told? I will be out at predawn sales with some dear friends just for the time together. I always finish with my holiday shopping before the insanity starts.) 

You know the drill:  don't get sucked under by the promises of lots of presents=lots of happiness. Remember last year? Well, to quote Einstein, "Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results."

Focus on the family and friends. Focus on what you are already blessed with. May there be a blessing of peace on you and yours during this media-crazed season that started before Halloween this year. And might inch its way back to July 4th eventually.

Keeping the Real Reason for the Season before us all.

1 comment:

Sister Beta said...

You and your new lense of grieving rock! I would bet money that you won't go through the "depression phase".

And thanks for the movie tip, I won't waste my money.