The Stages of Grieving

“Valley of the Shadow” explores the archetypal emotional and spiritual journey undertaken by those who suffer loss. This was famously articulated by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On death and dying”.

Although the area of grief studies have developed since then to include alternative approaches such as the “phases” and the “tasks” of grieving, her 5 stage process based on a lifetimes observation of the bereaved provides an excellent basis for a musical interpretation.

Western culture tends to relegate grief to “special” occasions such as the death or loss of loved ones, incapacitation or material loss of homes, land possessions, or the interior loss of cherished dreams or ideals. However, spiritual traditions both East and West have long maintained the centrality of the grieving process and the need to come to terms with the reality that all die in time, and that we are moreover continuously needing to “let go” our attachments to things, fantasies or images which may have served us for a time.

Paths such as “non-attachment”, the “Dark night of the Soul” and “via negativa” as well as contemporary psychology, provide tools to process loss. This would apply to things willingly renounced as well as those which are brought on by calamity and tragedy.

“Valley of the Shadow” is an image from the well-known Psalm 23:

 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

The aptness of this text is its sense of journey – one passes through the valley as part of the ongoing voyage of life. And this journey is far more universal than one might imagine.