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Friday, January 20, 2012

A Grief Revisited...The Five Stages

In my last grief post I talked about how surreal my life had become. Today I'm going to talk about my experience with the Five Stages of Grief that Elisabeth Kubler Ross first introduced in her book, On Death and Dying, in 1969, two years before I was even born.  I recalled studying about them in school but I was amazed to discover just how right on they really were...

These stages did not necessarily happen in order for me as I am sure they don't for most people. The first one I recall experiencing was Bargaining... I think I knew he was gone before I ever even knew he was gone, if that makes any sense.  I felt it in my bones and in my soul before I ever got out of the house.

I remember trying to bargain with God though.  I begged him not to let this happen... promising, vowing to be a better wife, a better person, a better Christian, if he'd just let him live.  As if this was somehow my I was being punished for my imperfections. I realize now how irrational and self-centered this belief was but when you're in the midst of something so monumentally tragic, your thoughts are anything but rational.  

I think I experienced a little Anger pretty early on, before we had even left the hospital, but what I was mostly feeling then was shock.  I remember the Denial clearly because once the finality of it sunk in for me, I was mortified by some words of denial I spoke to Devin a few days after his death. But I know I fully believed them at the time which is so bizarre to look back on because I've always considered myself a person with a pretty good understanding and grasp of reality.  

I don't remember the date exactly but I know it was probably within just a few days after the funeral. Devin was only four so I can only imagine how he was processing this in his mind since I was finding it so difficult to comprehend myself.   We were in the living room, just the two of us, and he was lying on the couch when he said, very matter of fact-like, "My daddy has been gone for a long time now. When is he coming back?"  

And I spent a lot of time later on beating myself up for this but God help me, I was in such a shattered state at the time that I actually thought it was possible.  I said, "He's in heaven now, remember?  But maybe God will let him come visit us as an angel."   And I believed that somehow.  I really did.  

Grief does some crazy things to us.  

The Anger and the Depression seemed to come and go as they pleased.  One minute I'd be pissed at Darin for allowing such a thing to happen to himself and leaving me with so much responsibility and two boys without a father.  The next minute I was shouting at God for allowing this to happen.  I wanted to know where his guardian angel was that day!  I wanted to know WHY?  Why me?  Why him?  Why us?  

If I wasn't angry, I was depressed.  I hated sunny days because the sun and singing birds seemed to be mocking me.  I wanted them to be depressed too.  Misery often does love company.

Yeah, the anger and the depression took turns for quite awhile.  I sometimes felt like I had more personalities than Sybil, never knowing which emotion I was going to be hit with when I got out of bed each day.

Finally there is Acceptance.  It, however, was not the final stage.  It wasn't as if I woke up one day and said, "Okay, this is it.  He's not coming back so I'm going to stop grieving and get on with my life now."  Grief is nowhere near that simple.

Looking back, I'm going to say I probably entered the full on acceptance stage sometime just after the one year mark.  It was like a turning point for me.  I had survived all the firsts. And for me, that was huge.  I knew that everything was going to be okay from there on out...Not perfect... (I mean whose life ever really is?)...But okay.  

I felt like a true survivor for the first time in my life and I was ready to start rebuilding...


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  1. Beautiful post.
    'ready to start rebuilding' ... love that line ... filled with hope and resilience!
    The blogosphere is the most awesome place when people share like this, its like a lifeline placed out there for someone you don't even know, but could turn their lives around with your words.
    yes, beautiful post.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing so openly with all of us, Diane. When you're experiencing grief, it helps to know that you're not alone. Those 'firsts' can be incredibly difficult...I remember them all too well myself.

  3. I can't imagine getting through the grief of losing a spouse or child. It must be God breathing life into you every step of the way.

  4. Diane thank you for being transparent. I appreciate your honesty and realness. Blessings and safe hugs to you.

  5. Thank you for sharing this with us as I know writing this could not have been easy. Going through an experience like this has also taught me a few things about myself and I definitely know it helps to have other people around you so you are not alone.

  6. I still can not even imagine. :(

    Part of me is still a bit mad at the ex, and I wonder if I will ever get past it. It's weird, I have forgiven him for his stupidity, but I am angry that I have once again, been left with all the responsibility on my lap. Does that make any sense?

    I think I've moved past denial, and clearly I have accepted the situation. But I still have moments where I'm still mad.

    I guess... there's no handbook.

  7. This is a wonderful post.

    Joan Didion's book, "The Year of Magical Thinking" is about the year following her husband's death ---the year before acceptance when, at times, she was a bit crazy, expecting her husband to return and need his shoes. It might be a difficult book to read, but I'm sure you will see yourself there.

    On an Amazon reader review, someone wrote:
    "Buddhists have a valuable outlook on death. They meditate on it regularly... Not viewed as morbid or surprising, death informs them how to appreciate life. In the West, we are always stunned by death, and instead of being always ready to accept it, by being kind to one another, knowing how quickly and unexpectedly a lifetime ends, we spend all our energy denying its existence, even after we've lost someone we love."

    I think our culture has taught us that we can avoid death with medicine, surgery, clean living, prayer ---but we can't. We deny that death can touch us at any moment and therefore, accepting it is so very difficult.

    I lived in Brazil in the late 1960s where it was still common for people to have 8-12 children. If I asked a student how many brothers/sisters he had, he might answer, "11, 6 living." I'm not saying it was any easier for someone to lose a loved one then, but it was easier to accept it because death happened so easily and so often and no one expected that it wouldn't.