Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
Five stages meant to encompass the entire, painful roller coaster known as grief.
I remember learning about these stages in college, memorizing the Kubler-Ross diagram in order to pass a test. I had no idea that I would be having a close encounter with their grief model just a few years later.
I hate to say that I fixated on the Kubler-Ross diagram after Nate passed, but I did. For months afterwards I remember looking back at this model in a lame attempt to try and better understand my own grief along with the confusing, overwhelming emotions I felt on a daily basis. All I wanted was to feel better. It’s so bizarre how in moments of pure shock your mind tries to piece together a puzzle that quite literally has no pieces. Nothing can be explained or revealed. And for somebody who just seeks out understanding? That’s a painful pill to swallow.
I just wanted normal. A normal day. Normal stressors. Normal routine. Jesus…ALL I wanted was that blissful piece of normal I always took for granted…Without realizing that that normal would no longer be a part of my vocabulary.
I longed for a finish line…for a day when I would wake up and feel like the old me. The acceptance title of this diagram always had me assuming that there would be a day such as so, but little did I know during those early days that the old me I longed so much for, died right along with my husband. Each day I continue to learn that there is no finish line.
When I look at these five stages of grief, I am not going to say that Kübler-Ross was wrong in the theory, however I have a hard time applying it to my own journey in grief. Those first few weeks and months I would say I was in all five stages at once. I spent a majority of the time in a daze of all consuming numbness along with sporadic moments of intense anger, depression, and hopelessness. Numbness however, took the forefront of every other emotion. I blocked out every memory…I blocked out every moment of intense reality that my husband had died and tried to cement my daily thoughts on what the fuck I was going to do next. Denial and acceptance took a forefront in my mind. I rebelled against the pain of the reality that Nate was dead while spending every waking moment and sleepless night trying to figure out what came next.
Fourteen months in, if I had analyze my own grief cycle thus far, I would probably only have two stages.
Denial, for me, encompasses the anger, depression and bargaining. I still wake up in shock that it’s been 14 months since I last saw my husband…I still get pissed off as all hell that this life happened to us and our son. I battle depression on a daily basis trying to rectify and understand how a man in the prime of his life gets ripped from his wife, son, family and friends with no warning? How the hell did this happen?
But in the same breath, with all those emotions and questions…This did happen…
Oh how it happened…
I spent two or more hours lying with my head upon my husband’s cold, strong chest absorbing the silence of what used to be his warm, beating heart…From the moment in that emergency room, even though disbelief put me in survival mode, deep down inside from that moment on, I knew I would need to figure out a new direction. For Ian. For Nate’s legacy. For me.
So that’s why I feel that grief is too difficult to try to understand by putting it into a cycle. Five stages don’t quite exist for me…I fluctuate between denial, numbness, bargaining, and depression on a weekly basis, all the while trying to figure out what comes next…Or the “acceptance” part of this model.
Nearly fourteen months on this journey in grief has told me that it’s a matter of living with these five stages rather then finishing them…Some Days I am experiencing once stage…Some Days even none…Some Days, I am fluctuating amongst all of them. Grief never ends…It causes denial. Anger. Depression. Has you asking why more than you thought possible. But grief also evolves and becomes more manageable. It strengthens and transforms. It makes you ask what now more often than why. It even makes you grateful. Makes you want less and live more…Fourteen months in, I now realize the grief in losing my husband will never be encompassed by stages or words…It’s a lifelong process of learning how to live the rest of my life without him…
And learning, I am doing…Every minute, every second..
Living? Well, that’s the hard part…But each day I try…no matter what stage I may be in on a particular day, I try…And I have learned that perhaps that’s what living is all about. That’s what the acceptance is all about…choosing to wake up and try better for tomorrow. Because even though tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, possibilities are. So I’ll continue living for the possibilities…Because Lord knows Nate would…And our son deserves all the possibilities the world has to offer him.
So here’s to the possibilities people…Grief has taken alot…but it will never take that from me.