Hillary is a self proclaimed mom of two girls, wife to computer geek, counselor turned SAHM. I met Hillary through, you guessed it, Twitter.
Hillary and I sometimes have relating tweets, which is why I was drawn to her. She, like me, doesn’t try to smother her emotions about grief. This may have something to do with being a former counselor, but she discusses grief, how refreshing! I asked her to share about her journey a while back, and then a while later, now, I’m posting it. I loved her reflection from a counselor perspective, but also from a grieving perspective.
Loss, as experienced by Me in the only way I can explain it…
the Kubler-Ross Stages of Loss and Grief.
(rewritten after the sudden loss of my dear cat Ginko)
Always the first stage that hits me hard whenever I lose something I care deeply for. It feels just like that, like a strong tree limb whacking me in the chest and taking away my breath. Whether it’s a favorite item or a family member, sometimes it holds me in limbo for hours, weeks and in one particular case, years. My mind refuses to believe what my eyes can’t see. My heart is breaking and I need tangible proof to show me what my heart won’t allow to happen. A part of me is thankful for my brains ability to use denial, it allows me just a little more time before I have to face the inevitable. To allow myself to be completely and whole-heartedly in shock and not have to cope with the loss of a friend, loved one, pet. I always know this stage will be there to catch me when my world crumbles and that gives me a little peace for the inevitable crash that will hit me when someone else I love passes away.
It comes and goes. Anger towards myself, anger towards others, anger at the deceased. Anger at what might have been and what never will be. Anger at God, if, there is a God. Intense basal anger at the world for taking something wonderful away from me. Robbing me of something that I had no control over. That is death. Sometimes I break things. Sometimes I beat on my pillow and scream until I go hoarse. This is me grieving. I allow myself to “lose it” in the comfort of my bed with my blankets piled high on top of me. This is me angry. Sometimes I fall asleep crying. Sometimes I drive around singing loudly to rap music, telling the world to FUCK OFF! Sometimes I take risks I usually wouldn’t take. This stage tends to creep up now and then. I’m thankful for the energy it allows me to expend. I’m thankful for the growth it brings about.
“If only I could have talk with her one last time, I swear I’ll never do anything bad again.” I know full well this can never be and will never happen and yet I bargain with the powers that be that if only they would take away the pain and grief that I would be a better person. Instead, I have become determined to connect with those I love, tell them that I love them and SHOW them that I care by spending time with them, sending them gifts and cards and creating new memories and reliving the old ones. That way, when this bargaining urge bubbles up, I’ll know that they knew I loved them.
Even without loss we can feel depressed but when you lose something or someone so integral with your life, your support, your heart and it’s suddenly gone we can often spiral into an open black abyss and hoping that sunlight and supportive helping hands (and sometimes pills) will help us climb back out when we’re good and ready. I think too many of us don’t allow people to feel depressed, like we’re supposed to go around happy all the time. This stage can last years, and in my case it lasted at least two that I can recall. Those who aren’t as affected by the loss can seem insensitive and expect others to “pull out of it, it’s been a year already.” Having been there, it’s not something you can pull out of and it often resurfaces if only for moments or episodes around a birthday or anniversary. I struggle to allow myself to grieve again and heal because I know others are counting on me, that they won’t understand why I’m suddenly overcome with grief at something I lost years ago. I hope for the future that we will find more compassion and allowance for others and ourselves to revisit our grief and allow us to move through it and experience it instead of fight against it.
If you’re lucky enough to reach this stage, you’re doing pretty well. I myself have only been here a handful of times and sometimes I’ve visited earlier stages after this. I have realized I reach it faster when it’s an elderly relative that was suffering, because I know they aren’t suffering anymore and that wanting them back would only prolong their suffering. But acceptance to loss I think is one of the hardest tests of reality. Who really wants to accept all their worldly possessions were just destroyed in a fire/flood/tornado? Who wants to accept that their life partner is no longer going to crawl into bed with them each night? Do you honestly need acceptance to move on with a healthy life? Honestly, I think acceptance is over-rated, but then again, I have issues with grief and loss, so take that as you will.
For example, during each Christmas Eve for the past 10 years I’ve become depressed about the loss of one of best friends growing up. I spoke to her just a few days before Christmas, what I would later learn was the last night of her life and we were to get together over the holiday to play games like we had for the previous few years. Christmas Eve I was setting the table for our annual Christmas Eve family dinner when police cars pulled up in front of her family’s house. Then the call from a mutual friend of ours came and my world fell apart. I would later that night spend time with fellow neighbors and her family. It wouldn’t be for several months that we would learn she had a fatal heart arrhythmia called Long Q-T syndrome. Her family was also just getting over the recent loss of her grandmother right before that and since then her father has also died. I see their strength as her step-mom and siblings go on, making their lives and it too gives me strength. Losing her, was one of my true supports growing up and like a sister to me, was one of the hardest loses I’ve ever faced. She was 21, she had her whole life ahead of her and the one person I can say had everything to do with Paul and I staying together through the rough times. She even helped us pick out our engagement ring. Even in death she reminds us to “Look at him, he loves you, you love him, now kiss and make-up.” I struggle to spend time with and shower my true friends, the ones that know all your faults, have seen you naked and love you anyway, with love. While she is the one person I’ve lost that I can’t quite wrap my “acceptance” around, I feel like she is with me and for that I am grateful. My hope is that I when it’s my time to go, that people will be able to find acceptance in knowing I’ve had just enough life and I will leave loving memories for them to fondly reflect upon.
Thanks for the realistic view of life and loss. I find your embrace of the early stages, (denial, bargaining, and anger,) refreshing. I wish the conventional view of how the Amish responded to the Nickel Mines shooting would’ve been reality checked with your, more humane views of loss. It seems to me that a fictitious reality was foisted upon the Amish and true to the definition of hegemony, they consented to the false reality. There humanity is the lesser for it.
Thank you for sharing. Every culture has unique views on grief, and all are challenging.