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The Non-Linear Process of Grief and THE LAST LOVE NOTE by Emma Grey

Cover of the book The Last Love Note by Emma Grey used to teach the therapy concept of the non-linear process of grief.

Kate and Cameron had a love story for the ages. They met at University, explored the world together, launched impressive careers, and added a son to their family. It was almost a fairy tale until Cameron was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, which stole first his memory and then his life. Kate became a widow and single mom at thirty-eight.


Kate’s grief was complex and swirling. She seemed fine, then she’d start crying. She wanted to feel better but worried that a shift in grief was an affront to her love for Cameron.


Grief is both a universal experience (it happens to everyone at some point in life) and a unique experience (everyone moves through it differently).


In the 1960’s, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Decades later, we know that people move through grief stages in personalized and unpredictable paths. Some mourners work through all five stages, others only touch upon a few. Many people think they’ve resolved a stage then find themselves, months later, back in it. Twists and turns are standard in the grieving process.


Here are skills to face the non-linear process of grief:


Create Structure Where You Can: You can’t control your feelings, but you can prioritize sleep, eating at healthy intervals, spending time with others, and engaging in positive activities.


Feel Your Feelings: Bottling feelings prolongs grief. Allow yourself to be sad. It’s normal and will get better. Try expressing your feelings by journaling, talking, and creating art or music.


Accept Unpredictability: Grief is a long, twisty road without a specific timeline. Don’t judge yourself for sitting in grief or moments of happiness when things are overwhelmingly sad.


Seek Support: Everyone brings a casserole initially, but your needs are longer-lasting. Support groups, therapy, and talking through grief with friends and family can help.




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