Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was the psychiatrist who gave the world its most famous psychological model of grief: the five stages we all go through after a loss – anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
While there exists debate within the psychological community as to how many stages the process of grief consists of, there’s are a few things they do agree on – Kübler-Ross’s model captures the universal qualities we all experience with human loss. And like life, the stages don’t happen in a linear fashion. Some stages are more like lifelong journeys than destinations, particularly acceptance.
Hope and Grief
But what about hope?
Hope is a major part of healing through the grieving process.
When tragedy comes, even if we were aware of its potential, there’s still a loss of self, safety, or physical property that was impossible to anticipate.
This is where hope can help.
Where grief happens when the lights go out, hope is what happens when they come back on. Grief is the place where memories are held. Hope is where dreams are born. Grief holds the beauty of everything that’s been. Hope has the beauty of all that’s yet to come.
And just as there are five stages of grief, hope has five stages too.
Where the five stages of grief involve emotional states (or feelings) hope’s stages depend on things we must either find or somehow create. Hope is the feeling. Therefore, it’s important to learn how it works differently.
These are the five stages everyone must go through to regain hope:
The first thing that’s needed for hope is other people. There would be no point in hope if we found ourselves completely alone in the world. It’s difficult to admit that we need others sometimes because it makes us feel vulnerable. We don’t like the possibility of rejection or things not working out, but everyone is needed to make the world a better place. This is why hope starts with others.
Finding hope with others. Seek connection with the people who make you feel the most like yourself—people who don’t judge, who make you laugh, who will let you be you (four-legged friends are often particularly good at this). Don’t feel like you need to ask for help—offering kindness to others is a wonderful way to heal yourself.
The second thing needed for hope is opportunity. Without something to look forward to in the future, or a promise of something being better, hope has a hard time staying alive. The opportunities never need to be grand, especially for trauma survivors. Sometimes, all it takes is the opportunity for safety, to know that everything will be ok, and that we and those we love are out of harm’s way.
Finding opportunities to hope. It’s perfectly okay to start small. If you’re ready for that big eat-pray-love trip around the world, go for it! If not, celebrate small things—planting a garden, trying a new recipe, anything you’d like to look forward to.
The essence of trust is when you can count on others to honor their agreements; that people will do what they say they’re going to do. Trust is the essence of social cooperation. It’s the feeling that all is well, and it’s a promise that things will stay that way in the future. Trust is one of the pillars of hope that leads to healing, and reminds us of the truest parts of ourselves and others.
Finding renewed trust. This is a long and often difficult road that begins with self-trust. Know that there is some important part of you that trauma did not and cannot take away. You will find this part of yourself by listening to your feelings, being kind to yourself, and paying attention to small wins.
Hope is a dare for something better. It’s holding the belief, against all odds, that the world can be a better place. Like the process of grief, hope isn’t always easy and there are always difficulties along the way. That’s why courage is is needed to maintain hope.
Finding your courage. Often our greatest courage is found in the smallest of things. We knew a woman who’d had a terrible phobia of frogs since childhood. One day she discovered a frog that was so tiny, so timid, that even she couldn’t be afraid of it. “What do I do with this discovery?” she asked. “Keep finding slightly larger frogs” was her advice from a friend.
From connection, we can grow and help others grow too. Connection is how hope begins to make the world a better place. Connection coverts desire into a new reality. For trauma survivors, this can give their stories either a happy ending or an exciting new beginning, where everyone can begin to thrive with love and support.
Finding connection. Do something positive for someone else who needs it. Any gesture, large or small, can save their day… and one good day can save someone’s life. It is also powerful proof that no matter where you are in life, you really do have something to give.
Hope is one of the foundations of our world. It can endure anything, even paralytic fear and crippling despair. Hope is never lost. And what’s more is that hope isn’t just something we can have, it’s also something that we can give.
Stars of HOPE works with trauma victims all over the world to help heal the emotional wounds suffered. We depend on volunteers to paint messages of love and support onto wooden stars that we send to trauma victims all over the world. These stars help remind them of who they were before the tragedy and of things they loved and that gave them hope in the world.
If you’d like to get involved with Stars of HOPE, please click here to find out more.