The Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief Model for Coven Loss

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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Comment by Strata on November 15, 2010 at 21:08
Leisha, this post is excellent, and so very true. And though the grove I was involved with was only established for a short time compared to many other groups, I went through each of these stages when it fell apart. Indeed, some of them I went though repeatedly. Having something like this would have been a great help in understanding that what I was feeling was natural. I am just lucky that I had such a strong suppport system that helped me get to acceptance as quickly as I did.

I blogged earlier today about my experience. It is just a highlight of some of the things that went on.


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