My 5 Stages of Grief


In December of 2013 my husband, Dennis Dintino, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. We were blessed with a year of remission and another 2 years of ups and downs. On October 6th his battle was over and he crossed over. I met this man when I was 15 years old and we have been married for 45 years. He was my best friend. Now don’t get me wrong we had our ups and downs. He was a workaholic and all I wanted was a 9-5 guy but through the years we adjusted and got comfortable with who we both were. Not an easy journey but one we finally got the hang of.

As I studied the five stages of grief to talk to you about I realized that I have been going through these stages since my husband’s diagnosis. The five stages of grief concept, also known as the Kubler-Ross Model, is based on the work of psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.  She published her book, “On Death and Dying,” in 1969 and based her findings on dealing with the terminally ill.

The first stage is denial. I realize that with my husband’s original diagnosis I pretended it was not true. When he qualified for genetic treatment and went into remission it was easy to deny his diagnosis.  I certainly prayed for that miracle and we were able to go to Italy and take a trip that he had always wanted to take. Discovering his roots and the town his grandfather was born in. Denial was my security blanket.

Second is anger and I was ANGRY! My daughter had successfully battled leukemia but in the process because she was 8 months pregnant we lost our baby grandson. Wasn’t her battle with this disease and that loss enough? Hadn’t my family been through enough? This was not fair I would say as I shook my fist to the heavens.

The next stage is bargaining and I can kind of relate to that. I created a meditation for him that focused on perfect health. I thought about the if onlys. He visited his doctor regularly but he had not had a chest X-Ray. He had given up smoking years ago but should I have pushed him to do that since one of his doctors had recommended it? Would it have made a difference? I really never got into bargaining with God and I never looked at this as any kind of punishment.

Depression follows and boy that speaks to me. After the first year, the cancer cells outsmarted the genetic drug and it was no longer working. My husband had to get chemo again and then a new drug was available. This time there was no denial. I started asking the hard questions outside of my husband’s earshot because he was never going to give in to this. I shed so many tears and then once again he began to feel better. We had dodged another bullet. However in May of this year symptoms began to appear that made it evident the new pill was no longer working. My husband stayed brave. We never discussed his passing. He just would not talk about it. He owned two successful businesses and fought his battle privately. Very few people outside the family knew of his condition. He was a Leo in every sense of the word. As I watched him getting thinner and thinner putting on a brave front for him, I was drowning. I could not cope with his suffering. I did my best but there were days I could not get past being depressed.

Lastly is acceptance and I feel I am in that stage now. The loss for me is heart breaking but I am relieved to see his suffering end. It tore me apart to watch and although he never once complained I could see in every way the toll this was taking on him. I wanted two things for him and that was the he would always be given hope and not be afraid. We were trying one more treatment when he passed and I truly believe till the very end he felt he would beat it. In the hospital room after his death I knew that the shell that was there was not my beloved husband but was merely biology. His soul had moved on leaving the pain behind and he was finally at peace.

This week on The Night Shift, 10/18, 7:00 PM Eastern, 4:00 PM Pacific we will talk about dealing with grief. I have a few stories to tell about signs I have gotten from my husband and my journey thus far. I will be taking your questions in the chat room for some mini readings. I am really looking forward to connecting with you.

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Diffusing Family Tension

I’ve spent over twenty years working with families as a spiritual life coach. Many of my clients divulge painful or embarrassing situations that their families are struggling with, believing there must be something wrong with them since other families they know appear so well adjusted. I assure them that even in the most seemingly normal families there are often veiled matters of concern. Dealing with tension and strife in our family units can present unique challenges. In our social environments we can more easily disengage or remove ourselves from problematic circumstances. But when your sister marries someone who defines the very essence of drama, exiting may not be a logical option. Is there a way families can reduce the amount to tension between them? While we may not be able to completely eliminate it, we most certainly can take measures to make family interactions more enjoyable.

1. Always be polite and cordial to every family member, even those you may not be particularly fond of. Avoid ignoring or showing favoritism as it can easily lead to hurt feelings, jealousy, and resentment.

2. In disagreements, refrain from using the terms right and wrong. Leave your ego out of all discussions and respect each person’s position.

3. Don’t second guess other people’s motives for what they are saying or doing. If you are uncertain, either give them the benefit of the doubt or ask questions to gain further clarity.

4. Avoid engaging in hot topics. If someone initiates a discussion known to evoke intense emotions, redirect the conversation to a more neutral issue. Likewise in regard to fuel-injected statements, those comments that are designed to anger the other person: “You Always…”, “I Never…”, “You have a problem!” “ANY” Words: Always, Never, and You can be toxic in conversations. Ban them from your vocabulary.

5. If you have an issue with a particular family member discuss it with them in private. Do not invite others into the conversation. Respect their privacy. Remember: too many cooks spoil the soup. Be respectful by refusing to gossip or speak unkindly about the individual with others as well.

6. Never interfere with the relationship between one family member and another. If you do not care for someone, at the very least be tolerant of others who still do.

7. Leave the past where it belongs. Do not dredge up old issues or reopen past wounds. Address current issues only.

8. If you find yourself becoming upset with someone, stop and discern what is really troubling you. Very often it has nothing to do with the other party. They may be triggering an unresolved issue within you that needs healing.

9. Whenever possible and appropriate, use humor as a way of diffusing tension. -appropriate being the optimum word.

10. In any situation, we have the option of being an instigator, participant, or healer of family tension. Always choose the latter. Be the voice of reason, the peacemaker, the example for others to follow.

And if for some reason you cannot contribute to the well-being of your family then at the very least do not contaminate it further.

Family members may not always cooperate with your efforts. But remember: you are not here for their approval, you are here to please God. In the words of St. Francis: “Lord make me an instrument of your peace.”

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We all seek to be powerful. I’m not speaking necessarily about having authority over others but we certainly want to have control over our own lives. Yet even the most well-intentioned, enlightened person wants to control a particular situation or individual at times. Certainly, parents impose their authority over their children which is not necessarily a bad thing. Children, especially those who are young and immature or who may be developmentally slow, are not fully capable of making responsible decisions for themselves and rely on the judgment and guidance of the parents to do so for them. For those in the military, or other organizations responsible for the lives and safety of others, a leader must be in charge in order to keep all those under their command safe and to create the favored outcome for all. And we’re all familiar with the person who is a control freak, the one who needs to feel powerful at all times, never letting their guard down or relinquishing dominance over others.

But is there a connection between anger and power? The very definition of anger is that it is a feeling of discomfort or displeasure brought about by feelings of helplessness or powerlessness. Feeling powerless makes us feel vulnerable, susceptible to the whims of others. It takes an enormous amount of trust to permit others to have dominion over one’s life in any capacity. Very few are willing to relinquish such authority. Humans instinctively protect themselves from any perceived harm or unpleasantness and anger is an appropriate tool to get the job done.

Think about what occurs when someone gets really angry: people pay attention. If my boss is screaming at the entire office, you can rest assured that most everyone is affording him their undivided attention. Anger makes us feel powerful in the moment because we generally get the attention we’re seeking and very often the cooperation of others as well.

However, this kind of power brought about by anger is an illusion. When we lose control and allow anger to dictate what we say or do, then in essence we have given command to the emotion itself. We are no longer operating from an intellectual, rational mind but rather from a place of tumultuous feelings. When one is in a highly emotional state they typically are not making rational judgments, therefore they are not thinking logically by collecting the necessary facts that enable them to make an intelligent decision. In this case, one becomes power-less (a victim) to the rage.

Here’s the primary issue in the case of the boss: his anger evokes fear in his workers. When one is engaging in irrational or threatening behavior, others are uncertain as to what to expect. They feel at risk for any unforeseen consequences (such as an impromptu firing of a coworker or a cutback of privileges). They are unable to reason with a boss who is not displaying rational thinking and are hesitant top even try. In that moment, employees may comply with his demands but the long term and far reaching effects of his tirade create a breakdown of trust and respect, thus seriously undermining his effectiveness as a leader.

The authentic power of anger lies in our willingness to channel it in a constructive manner that will bring about positive change not just for the self but for all parties concerned. When the message of anger is deciphered, that is when we are able to identify what we considered wrong, unjust, unfair, corrupt, dangerous, disrespectful, and so forth, then the messenger (anger) has served its purpose. Much like an announcer who proclaims, “Play ball!”, once the proclamation is declared his job is complete and the players commence the game. Anger is an announcer, it tells me that something is wrong. Once I receive the message I can dispose of that specific emotion and put my energy into the solution.

Here’s an example: a young mother is outraged that her father-in-law favors their oldest son. Her younger children have noticed the nepotism and she can see the hurt in their eyes. “How could he be so insensitive and mean to my other children?” she thinks to herself. But rather than verbally lambast him, she sets out a course of action to create a more balanced family dynamic. She puts down the anger and addresses the issue with the grandfather stating that she realizes her son is a very special child and she loves the bond he has with him. She also knows how much her other children would cherish the same kind of relationship with him. She then offers suggestions as to how they can work on creating that as well as the benefits for all of them. In this regard, her anger motivates her to improve a family situation before any serious damage was done. The ability to make thoughtful, intelligent, positive decisions with extenuating benefits for everyone is where our authentic power lies.

Take great care when choosing anger for it can be highly deceptive. Never relinquish your authority to such a powerful emotion for once you do it has the potential to have devastating consequences. Like an announcer, listen to its message, set it free, and set your thoughts on a path to positive actions. And in this way, you will find the true power that is rightfully yours.

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