Most people have heard the old saying “seeing is believing” … but people who have also lived through a traumatic life experience have a deeper, more emotional understanding of this simple phrase.
For example, when a parent receives call from their child’s school saying that their child has been hurt – even if they are told their child is ok – they’ll still spend the rest of their day counting the minutes and worrying … waiting to see their child …. because seeing is believing.
The Grief Experience
Psychologists tell us that all traumatic events introduce a certain amount of chaos and uncertainty into our lives. The lingering effects of this chaos is what most people refer to as grief.
Our need to “see” is tied to our need to re-establish our sense of order. What we actually see is more real to us in our experience than simply knowing. By seeing and witnessing the aftermath of the event we start to move through the process of grieving, and thus minimize the long term pain that is associated with the traumatic event.
Grief’s Five Stages
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her book “Death and Dying” described five stages of grief. The five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. These widely accepted stages are now taught in every psychology program in the country.
We can try to deny the stages, or delay them …. but we cannot avoid them. The five stages are fundamental to our human nature. We move through these stages so that we can bring chaos back to order, and integrate the event into our life.
Seeing the outcome of a traumatic event is a critical component of Acceptance. In fact, without seeing it is extremely hard to get to the point of Acceptance, or ever move to the point of experiencing emotional healing.
Seeing Is Critical To Accepting
Consider the difference between the pain associated with the death of a loved one, versus the disappearance of a loved one. With a death and the reality of saying goodbye to your loved one you can eventually move through grief, reach Acceptance and on some level… heal.
But with a disappearance there is no closure. You will experience grief but you will never reach Acceptance. Because there is no certainty of the fate of your loved one, you will instead be bogged down in Depression…. sometimes you will stay there for the rest of your life.
To View … Or Not To View
A debate in our culture today is whether or not there should be a public viewing of the body after the death of a loved one.
Some people think that the viewing makes it even harder for the family. In fact, viewing the body plays an extremely important role in moving a person through the five stages of grief in a healthy way.
If someone you care about passes away, you can never avoid grief – you can only move through it. Seeing the remains of a loved one is an undeniable confirmation of the death.
For those who are stuck in the first stage of grief (i.e, Denial) it empowers them to move forward through the grief process and to eventually heal from the loss.
Seeing the final disposition of the body is also critically important because it brings closure to the traumatic event. Whether it be the lowering of a casket into a grave or the scattering of cremated remains, it is important for everyone who had an emotional connection to the deceased to witness the final ceremony.
Only by experiencing this final goodbye ceremony firsthand can we find closure and begin healing.
Some people who are preplanning their own funerals wrongly assume that they are making it easier for their family by requesting no viewing of their remains. Sadly, they are actually making it harder for their family.
Letting The Healing Begin
Allowing their body to be present is actually the last meaningful gift that they can give to their loved ones. Their soul may have departed but their earthly body will help those who remain accept the loss and begin their journey through the natural grief process towards emotional healing.
Remember… if someone you love passes away you will not avoid grief. Instead you should reach out to others who can help you navigate this difficult time so that you can honor their life, accept the loss and begin emotional healing.
Seeing is believing.
And believing leads to Emotional Healing…
Thanks to – John Callaghan
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