In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross compiled the five stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying. When a group, such as a coven, dissolves or when an individual either makes the choice to leave or is forced out, it is a major life adjustment. In many ways, it is a process by which the individual goes through a death and rebirth cycle. Here is an application of the Five Stages of Grief as it applies to coven separation.
Stage 1: Denial. In this scenario, denial can manifest in many different ways. Sometimes denial takes the form of “All of this will blow over and things will go back to normal.” Other times, denial can manifest by you holding on to remnants from your previous coven experience, such as retaining your coven name, keeping your copies of teachings or books of shadows, or a need to interact with people, beings, or even tools/ritual items from your coven experience. It can be a sudden shock and adjustment to know that you’ll never do certain things the same way again, such as attending rituals with certain people or even something as simple as being able to call up an individual when you just want to talk. In general, the denial phase is
the most brief for most people going through a coven separation. If it is the dissolution of a group, denial can also take the form of a desire to try and form the group again with a new name but the same people and format (going by the assumption that there was a single person who was the point of failure, which is almost never the case).
Stage 2: Anger. Contrary to some new age love and light philosophies, anger can be a healthy emotion. It is not uncommon, nor is it undesirable, to be angry about a coven separation incident. In most cases, an individual in a coven has devoted a lot of time, energy, resources, and emotion into their coven life. To have it not work out exactly as desired can be frustrating and lead to anger. Sometimes this anger may be directed at an individual. Other times, this anger may be directed to the coven as a whole, the tradition, the religion, or even the gods themselves for letting things fall the way they did. Although anger is healthy, it is problematic to lash out at individuals or try and find scapegoats. The best solution I have seen for dealing with anger is to first accept that it is okay to feel anger and then spend time in prayer or meditation to help work through the anger. If you are not able to work through the anger on your own, talking it out with a trusted advisor or counselor can be helpful, but remember —talking through anger is not the same thing as engaging in malicious gossip. In general, if you can find someone to talk to who is not directly involved, that often makes it a more healthy and positive experience.
Stage 3: Bargaining. This phase is one of the least pronounced in the stages of grief following a coven separation, however when it manifests, it is important to be aware of how it influences future actions. Sometimes the bargaining process can be done among individuals as a way to try and get the group unity back together. Some examples I’ve seen include individuals asking to come back for a “trial period” or meeting socially to try and show how everyone has moved on into a healthy space. Other times, bargains may be made with the gods themselves, and sometimes not for healthy goals. For example, an individual may say that they are willing to take the karma of their actions in the situation if the other people involved get their dues, too. Like the other stages of grief, bargaining in itself is not bad, as long as it is executed in a healthy way. Bargaining should never be used as a way to try and return things back to the way they were before—that never succeeds.
Stage 4: Depression. The depression phase can be one of the more challenging phases to get through, and not all people who enter this phase ever exit from it. There may be a sense of hopelessness at the current situation, or a fear that if you open yourself up to love and trust ever again that the results will be the same. Depression can also result in a desire to be isolated from the world at large. It also may not be wholly confined to your spiritual growth—depression may also leak into every aspect of your life. Although it is natural to go through depression over a major life change like this, if depression starts to interfere with your life as a whole, makes you unable to engage in the enjoyment of life or function in your day-to-day living, or lasts long-term, it is advisable to seek professional counseling to assist with your movement through this stage. Remember, burdens shared are burdens lightened.
Stage 5: Acceptance. Sadly, not everyone who goes through the upheaval of a coven separation moves to this phase. In some cases, this healthy stage is replaced by an unhealthy desire to rebound to whatever group
comes along next just to fill the void that was left from the original hurt.
Ultimately, if an individual can accept that every experience in life is a
growth experience, and although growth can hurt, an individual can survive it
and thrive from it, then they are stronger for the experience. Acceptance
doesn’t mean that you forget all that has happened to you—rather the reverse.
You are able to see lessons from what has happened and hopefully have the grace not to end up in the same situation again. It is a time of karmic resolution and a rebalancing of the scales. From this point of acceptance, you are able to
love and trust again, and although you may never choose to join a coven again,
you are not so hardened on the experience that you cannot see the
benefits and beauty of coven done right. In fact, you are able to see the world with eyes wide open. More importantly, you are able to get on with your life path in whatever direction it is meant to go.
Recognizing the stages of grief can be useful to help move through them and back into a stage of healthy living. Not everyone experiences these stages the same way. Not everyone experiences them in the same order. In
addition, just because you have been through one phase doesn’t mean you can’t
end up back there again. You
may feel that you have moved beyond the anger phase, for example, and into
acceptance but then some other trigger that you didn’t realize comes up that
brings you back to the anger phase. Learning to recognize the stages of grief
and how they affect your life is a part of “know thyself”—and knowing yourself
is a project that is constantly in progress.
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