There are several theories out there regarding stages of grief. Some say there are four, five or seven stages. I am more inclined to go with the “Seven Stages” as it was closer to what I experienced when my daughter passed away seven years ago. I felt it appropriate to take this opportunity to discuss the stages of grief due to the most recent horrific events in Kansas. A mother who has just lost not only her father, but her teenage son. Both fatally shot by someone who hated them. The most tragic thing I can fathom is the loss of someone to hate. I found it interesting that the media can’t believe how the mother is able to answer questions and speak so eloquently on TV despite having just lost her son and father. I find it disturbing and frustrating because if people did their homework they would know that this mother is experiencing the first stage of grief called “shock”. She is numb to it all but the time is near when she will begin to shut down and follow the stages of grief.
Allows you to do things that you can’t even imagine doing during a time of loss. I recall that I planned my daughter’s celebration of life ceremony and spoke at her ceremony within three days of her passing. I often look back and find myself in awe of how I could have done such a thing. I was in the first stage of grief called shock. It gives you a sense of calm and peace that only will last for a short time. Shock is the feeling of disbelief. You may experience a surreal sensation, numbness or an emotional paralysis upon learning bad news. In many ways, this stage allowed me to do what I needed to do to make all the arrangements and get through the initial first few days.
Within a few days, I found myself crawling around the floor crying out why this happened. I sat and stared at her picture thinking she’d be home any minute and it would have all been a bad nightmare. People can spend too much time in this stage if they do not have the support they need to process the loss. I found I went back and forth between these first two stages often during the first couple of weeks.
As the days begin to wane, anger sets in and I recall having very strong conversations with God on a daily basis. Some of those moments were very intense. I was very angry with God as I did not understand why I had to endure yet another loss. First my mom and then my daughter. I just became so angry. I had a short fuse. Even shoveling snow ticked me off. I spend a great deal of time thinking I must have missed a clue or I didn’t push harder for my daughter to get better care. Anger can help you release the pain, but it is critical to move beyond the anger or it can cause delays in healing.
Oh I spent a great deal of time praying and talking with God about what I could do so that God could bring her back. I think this stage fuses together with denial and anger so much so that it’s hard to see them apart. For me bargaining and anger go hand in hand.
Depression can set in when you begin to face the reality of what has happened. I do think it’s appropriate to feel sadness during loss. Sometimes it can be so intense that it washes over you and makes you feel like you just got hit by a tidal wave. It comes without warning and knocks the breath out of you. Sadness needs a voice. I found writing about my pain and loss kept depression at a distance and allowed me to grieve in a healthy way. This is a stage that can lead to needing mental health support – and that is OK.
This goes along with depression in that you may begin to seek out help to get relief from the heavy sadness that has consumed you for a while. It’s exhausting to grief. I found it was the toughest during the first year after my daughter died. I also found returning to work was the best thing for me. Getting back to life seemed like it would be too much to bare, but in fact, it helped me stay busy and gave me purpose.
This can take a while to achieve, but I’m living proof that it can happen. It takes a lot of work, support from friends, family and professionals – but it is possible to smile again. It is possible to find joy again. Hard work, but all possible.
Over the past seven years I’ve been through many of these stages and have gone back and forth so much. Stages of grief look and feel different to each individual experiencing it. Grief has a uniqueness that is like no other. Grief helps us to survive loss. It provides a framework to process our feelings and our pain in a way that is healthy and productive. I would also like to acknowledge that having counseling early and throughout various times over the past seven years has been key to my understanding and acknowledging my loss. I have come to understand that loss does not have to define who I am despite having lost my mom while seven months pregnant and then losing my 17 year old daughter. I know there is a purpose that has come out of my loss and pain and that is how I get up each and every day. It’s not easy and I understand that better than most. But it’s a choice to get up and do something positive. To choose the path that is not the easiest to follow.
I urge you if you are struggling and can’t seem to find a way to process your grief – get help. It is crucial to your journey.
Until next time,