Why is it that every time you get your haircut, you leave the salon feeling like you’ve lost a part of yourself? Especially for those of us with long hair, getting a haircut can be a necessary but dreaded appointment. Though your hair now feels fresh and smooth, you can’t help but feel a void when you run a brush over your head.
I had my haircut on Friday afternoon. I needed at least three inches off due to my neglect to have a regular trim. While the hairdresser was at work, I felt a twinge of grief looking at the floor and seeing my own hair discarded there on the cold tile. Though my fresh cut looked great, I am still “missing” my hair. Next week I probably won’t notice a difference, and next month I’ll get another haircut.
I am aware when I walk into the salon that some of my hair will be cut off and that it will surely grow back. Yet I still grieve in the week after the haircut. People who have a limb amputated due to trauma or diabetes are warned before surgery that when they wake up they will be missing a body part. Yet they still grieve over the lost limb even after it has healed. Each of us knows death is unavoidable, those we love will die and we will die ourselves. Yet we still grieve when family and friends pass away.
The grief process is important, whether it’s over lost hair or the death of a loved one. We grieve in order to make meaning out of loss. Some of us may tend to hasten the process, in order to get it over with. Yet if we let grief happen, if we surrender to the pain, the anger, and the remorse, we will be led to healing through our relationships with others and through faith.
There is an old theory (called the Kübler-Ross Model) that grief is linear. The idea is that there are five stages of grief, which are made in progression:
Denial → Anger → Bargaining → Depression → Acceptance
However, there is another theory, created in part by my nursing professor P. Ann Solari-Twadell, that grief is not static, but cyclical and dynamic. This theory, The Pinwheel Model Of Bereavement, argues that loss is like wind that blows a pinwheel methodically or chaotically (depending on the individual). The grief process is different for each of us. If we surrender to grief and let it have its way with us, we will make meaning of our loss and begin to heal. Yet there will be times when we revisit that loss, and grieve anew. Such as coming across a photo of someone who has passed, and feeling the stabbing pain of loss all over again. We sink into despair but are pulled out again and again, rejoining life, through the love of others and our faith. The pinwheel continues to spin.
As long as we live in this world, there will always be something or someone to lose. The grief process, though individually different and constantly dynamic, is what leads us to healing.
Each person uniquely lives her or his loss by getting fully in touch with the lived experience of sorrow and by having the presence of another who will witness and be supportive in bereavement. – The Pinwheel Model of Bereavement