Disillusionment and Other Minor Losses
Disillusionment and Other Minor Losses
By Rev John T. Schwiebert, ThM
In the 1970’s, many of us became aware of the dynamics of personal grief for the first time, as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and others helped us recognize, in our own experiences of loss, several stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
In the late 1990’s, in the book Tear Soup, we were helped to see that grief is not only an experience that issues from profound losses such as the death of one’s child or one’s spouse, but from lesser losses, as when we confront “bad news” or a “big disappointment.”
I have personally found it helpful to realize that the experience of grief can also be at work in situations that I would have to consider trivial alongside the bigger issues and challenges of life. I am thinking here about really minor losses, “little disappointments” that I will get over quickly, but which are personal losses nevertheless, and therefore occasions for short periods of grief.
Some minor losses that I have experienced or observed are:
- Caught driving 30 mph in a 20 mph school zone. Fine: $95.00!
- Performance is sold out. No seats available.
- Missed my daughter’s soccer game after car broke down on the freeway.
- Found out that the car warranty expired last month!
- Haircut was a disaster
- Favorite sports hero admitted to using performance enhancing drugs.
- Spouse is temporarily emotionally distant or unavailable.
- Favorite team lost Super Bowl XLVII.
Okay, I admit it. I was the one who was caught speeding. I remember driving away after the cop gave me the traffic ticket and experiencing all the stages of grief: denial that I had done anything wrong because there were no school children who were present or that I was putting at risk, anger at the cop for trapping me and anger at myself for not observing the school zone sign. Then there was the element of bargaining as I considered fighting this charge in court. Finally I remained stuck in feelings of depression and helplessness for about an hour, until I finally came to a place of acceptance. I had gone through a whole season of grief in less than ninety minutes!
Identifying grief as the common visitor in these everyday occurrences of life has allowed me to realize that what I am feeling in such moments is normal and predictable. It has also helped me to monitor the progress of my feelings in specific instances. So, for example, I can recognize that my anger is normal in the grief I am feeling in the moment, but I don’t need to let that anger build until it consumes me or distresses anyone else. And I can engage the feelings of depression that will ensue knowing that I will get through them soon enough.
My insight about minor losses was especially helpful for me when a famous sports figure recently admitted to using performance enhancing drugs to help him win a series of championships. When I read about it I covered the range of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in less than 15 minutes!
In my disillusionment about this person, and perhaps about the professional sports in general, I realized that disillusionment itself is almost always an occasion for grief. To become disillusioned means to lose one’s illusions about something or someone. This could be a huge loss, to be sure, if the lost illusion had to do with something big, like the fidelity of a spouse or the trustworthiness of a business associate. But there is a lesser grief if the illusion that was taken from us was something smaller, like when a public denial by an elected official is later proven to be untrue. Better in such cases to welcome the grief, move through it, and let it go.
So, dear reader, I invite you to see if these insights can help you to negotiate the realm of low profile, everyday grief because of disillusionment and other “minor losses” in your own life.