Almost from the moment you lose a loved one someone sticks the five stages of grief in front of you. Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s 45-year-old tome On Death and Dying remains the crucible for grieving loved ones.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance trip off the tongue of anybody who has taken the grief journey. The most amazing aspect of that for me is how often you go through the entire list. I have hit acceptance already–20 or 30 times. Obviously my tongue is in my cheek. We just think we’ve hit acceptance and then we slide back down the cycle again.
The stage I have encountered most often was bargaining. Just a couple of weeks ago I had a long talk with Jean in my car. I knew I was on the brink of two big decisions Jean probably wouldn’t like. So I offered her a great deal. I told her that if she came back I would abandon both decisions. I am afraid I am still looking for her.
The one emotion I never felt was anger.
I interpreted anger as anger at God. When Jean, my wife of 39 years died I never got angry at a divine power because I don’t believe God killed Jean anymore than I believe God crippled my limbs or made my son Jason Down syndrome. So I thought anger simply didn’t apply to me.
My tune has changed. In recent days I find myself horribly upset at Jean. As I start to put my life back together and take baby steps forward I find everything is far more complicated than I imagined. And dammit, that’s Jean’s fault. If she hadn’t died and left me here alone everything would still be as it always was–sweet, simple and predictable. I know I am not alone among grieving widows and widowers but boy, when you are experiencing that sort of anger you feel amazing isolation.
I don’t stay angry at Jean long, but the futility and seeming silliness of my emotions make me feel empty.
As I reread the above it strikes me that for someone who hasn’t experienced such grief this probably seems frustratingly vague and perhaps even overwrought.
For those of you who understand the five stages, and battle through them on a regular basis I hope this helps.