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Friday, September 10, 2010

Stages - What Stages?

I have made it through another anniversary and I feel so tired, drained, it is as if I have been pulling all-nighters the last few days.  You really don't know how you are going to feel until the day comes and goes. 

Since I have been writing this blog, I have had many people share their stories with me.  They do not post them here on the blog, but relate them to me when I happen to run into them.  Today I spoke to someone who lost her mother 26 years ago, and she told me it still seems as if it were only yesterday.  She recalls what her mother said and did just days before her death.  You can see it in her face and you hear it in her voice, their is still pain, their is still a sense of loss. 

No one can put a time frame on anyone's grieving, we are all so different, so unique, there is no mold when it comes to mourning and grief.  Yet so often someone will tell you oh you really should be over it already.  You read it somewhere that the average time for grieving is a specific number of years.  This expert says this, that expert says that, but who really knows for sure.  The answer is only you know how long it will take, if however, you are not able to function, (for example simple tasks like grooming, or unable to get out of bed for long periods of time) then you should seek professional help.  

There are specific stages if you will that we all go through, they are: shock, deal making, denial, depression, anger, acceptance.  They do not necessarily occur in this order, nor does one pass never to be seen again.  At any given moment in our grief we can experience a combination of anyone of these.  

Shock is generally the initial response, deal making is exactly that, we try to bargain our way out of what has happened, hoping to wake up and find it has all been a bad dream.  Denial is not wanting to accept the tragedy as real, 'they will call you'll see,' 'he is going to walk through that door any minute now.'  Depression saps us of our strength, it can cause physical pain, it can stop us from doing simple tasks, it literally drags you down.  Anger bubbles up when we are trying to find blame for what has happened.  Anger can be directed at any person, even the deceased, or at an institution or object; whatever we feel caused this tragedy.  This is not always a bad thing, because of anger, good has sometimes been the outcome.  MADD is a great example of a mother's attempt to seek justice, and there are many more advocacy groups that have sprung up as a result of someone's anger.  Some deal with domestic violence, others homicide, and so on.  And then eventually there is acceptance, when we realize that our loved one has died and isn't coming back, and we learn to go on.

There is much to be found on the 'stages of grief' if you would like to learn more about them you can check out any number of sites.  The 5 Stages of Grief is one of many that has concise information on the process.  If you prefer to read, Granger E. Westberg's, 'Good Grief' is a small book with plenty of information.  There is a wealth of information on this subject, I could fill pages of books, videos, websites, etc.  If you feel overwhelmed, find someone who has either dealt with loss, or speak to your doctor about getting into therapy or finding a support group.  

I have visited many of these stages in the last four years, and some seem to pop up occasionally depending on what is happening in my life.  I can say with certainty that I am feeling depressed, I could tell by my wanting to be alone, feelings of sadness and a unexplainable heaviness.  I also know that this time of year brings it to the surface because of the anniversary followed closely by my daughter's birthday.  I know it will pass and it most certainly isn't any where near to the depression I felt shortly after my daughter's death.  This I can shake and is to be expected from time to time.  As I grow in my acceptance, I know there will still be bad days, but the good days will be far more frequent.  

There is a beautiful poem that says so much by Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

Nothing can make up for the absence of 
someone whom we love....
It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; 
God doesn't fill it, 
but on the contrary, God keeps it empty
and so helps us to keep alive our former
communion with each other, even at the 
cost of pain....
The dearer and richer our memories, the 
more difficult the separation.
But gratitude changes the pangs of memory
into tranquil joy.
The beauties of the past are borne, not as a
thorn in the flesh, but as a precious 
gift in themselves.

So wherever you may be in the grieving and healing process, is were you need to be.  Do not compare yourself to others, use them only as a guide.  Allow yourself the time you need, don't let anyone rush you through your grief.  Take each day as it comes, allowing yourself to let in the sun, to feel its warmth and experience its light.  Know what you are going through is very normal, seek out someone who will listen to you, and always remember the love.  

In my opening blog 'Loss,' I mentioned that the best advice I received was from a child, and I still find that out of the mouth of babes comes the wisest of statements.  There is a very short book about a young girl's coping with the death of her little sister, it is called 'Anna's Scrapbook - A Journal of a Sister's Love' by Susan and Sarah Aitken.  On the final page, the last entry in the diary speaks to acceptance, 'I am still missing her a lot, but I feel like I can laugh and have fun.  I am trying to remember what Mommy said about being grateful for the time we have with each other.  I Love my family!'

So celebrate the life, welcome the emotions, and live in the warmth and light of the love.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

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