Sunday, 9 December 2012

I Am Still In Denial

In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book called "On Death and Dying" in which she explored the emotions and feelings felt by terminally ill patients. These people were facing their impending death. She looked at their experience and found that each of them went through, in varying degrees, five clear stages in their emotional process - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

What is interesting about these stages is that they are neither linear nor progressive. It was entirely possible to for a person to feel fully accepting of his or her circumstance one day, or even for one hour, and then the next feel anger, denial, or depression. It was entirely possible for someone to engage in bargaining with God for life while at the same time cursing God for death. The only truism is that these feelings were universal.

I go through this. Some days I can accept my fate; other days I get depressed. Sometimes I do these things at the same time! Other days I rail in anger against a God who could do this to me and yet a few moments later I thank Him for all he has given me. Interestingly enough, I don't do the bargaining thing and I feel more acceptance more often. Yet I still have this denial in the back of my brain that says none of this is true and soon the doctors will find out that they made a mistake. I don't believe it.

Around the same time as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross pubilished "On Death and Dying", a group of researchers published a paper on the feelings of people in their final weeks. Those people who had a high level of meaning and purpose in their life consistently faced less fear and despair that those with lives holding less purpose or special meaning.

When my final weeks come, I want to face them with dignity and grace, in loving bond with God, in touch with those I love and knowing that my life meant something. I am working on it. The fact that I have time to do this makes me a lucky man.

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