Denial Anger Sadness Bargaining Acceptance Anger Bargaining Denial Sadness Acceptance Anger Sadness Denial Anger Anger Anger Acceptance Sadness Bargaining Dennniiiiaaaaaallllllll Acceptance Saaaaaaaaaaaaaadddddddddddddnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeessssssssssss Anger Acceptance.
You know the drill.
I'm not a grief counselor.
Nor do I want to be.
And I'm certainly not an expert in grief or grief counseling.
But I am taking all these trauma classes and grief comes into play with trauma. One of the principles of the program is that you can have grief without trauma but not trauma without grief. So there is a whole bunch of what-goes-where-and-how sort of reading.
Anyway, what I didn't know about those Five Stages is that there is some and/or's tied to the stages.
It's not just denial. It's denial or disbelief. Which are related, but they aren't the same thing. I'm good at denying that some things exist. Repressing, more likely. But denying is really easy for me. Much to the chagrin of others at times. But disbelief. Yes. Oh, right. How often have you just not believed that something is possible? Like it's a dream. Or someone is mistaken? Gotten their facts turned around?
Loss isn't always death, remember. It's loss of stuff. Loss of feeling. Loss of trust. Innocence. Expectation. Hope. Love.
Last year when I had something stolen out of my house (it was my engagement ring. I didn't really share that at the time) I just couldn't BELIEVE that happened. Did I misplace it? Did I just somehow miss it when I looked? As if it got mixed up with all those other diamond rings somehow? ha ha. I couldn't believe the person who took it would ever do that to me. I couldn't believe that any person would ever do that to any person.
I was in a total state of disbelief. For sort of a long time. Like, I still kind of am. As if it is going to just turn up one of these days.
And it just isn't sadness, it's sadness and grief. Grief is sadness times one hundred. And sometimes when we lose something, we flux between "upset" and "I wish I was dead". And that's okay. It's all okay. It's okay to feel this way, that way, and every way in between. We don't have to feel guilty if we are just a little bit upset one day after wishing we didn't ever exist the day before. Who knew? I didn't. I just sat there and felt guilty about the way I was feeling.
Anger is actually anger and resentment. This was the big one for me. I had what we call in the business "an ah-ha! moment". The heavens opened up and light shone down on the top of my head and my mind became full of information that it didn't have before. Resentment! Of course!
I'm famous for resentment. Resentment for the things I didn't do (i.e.- call and write and speak to and do things for and see
And isn't this the one we shut each other down on all the time? When we are ready to open up and say, "man I wish I wouldn't have skipped out of town that weekend/called him like I said I would/spent more time at home that last Christmas" to someone, what do they invariably say?
"Oh, come on now. You can't blame yourself. You can't change history. You had a really good reason not to."
And so on.
Right. I can't blame myself or dwell on past decisions. But I do. We all do, I think. We blame ourselves for things we know we should have could have would have done. And it doesn't ever seem to be honored so we bottle it up and let it fester and turn into something that affects us deeper than it was ever meant to. It can change who we are. How we see ourselves.
A terrible friend/daughter/lover/colleague. Heartless and cold and uncaring and self-absorbed.
Or is that just me?...
My new years resolution is to let people- including myself- wallow in the what could have should have would haves that come up surrounding death or loss. To honor that feeling as a real and valid and necessary feeling, just the way we are supposed to do for all the other feelings.
Bad feelings aren't bad to have. They are just icky to feel.
If that wasn't bad enough, sadness and/or grief is in bed with anger and/or resentment and they make all sorts of wonderful emotion-babies like frustration and emptiness and worry and fear and disappointment and irritability and all those things they make pills and therapists for.
Bargaining is really similar to denial. It's like denial that has stewed over and over in your head and mixed with blaming anyone who lies within a 50 mile radius of your loss and covered in a thick coat of guilt and tossed with a bit of shame just because who doesn't love to wallow in shame from time to time.
Guilt and shame walk side by side just like grief and trauma. I forget the exact wording that I've read one thousand times, but it's something like guilt is the feeling that the thing you did is shitty, shame is the feeling that YOU are shitty right through to the core. You can have guilt without shame but not shame without guilt.
And finally (and sometimes not finally) acceptance. It's okay to accept reality. Loss. It doesn't mean we have gotten over it. It doesn't mean we won't slip back in to one of the other four stages someday. It just means for right now, life will go on and will be enjoyed to the fullest possible extent we can possibly effing handle. For now. No promises for tomorrow. Or the next day.
It's okay to be a little further along- or further behind- in your grief than the rest of your family. Than the other person in your broken relationship. Than your friends who lost their friend too.
It doesn't mean you loved any less deeper or less harder or less intensely than everyone else. It just means you are moving along at your own pace.
And that is the best way to do it.
**A great, user-friendly book that I am reading right now is Trauma Through a Child's Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing by Peter A Levine and Maggie Kline.
It's written for parents, educators, and health professionals and it isn't techy or jargony or douchey and there is a lot of really good every day "what do I do if/when..." information that everyone can use. Not just parents of kids who are abused or trauma impacted. And there is some really good self-helpy sort of stuff in there just by nature of the material, which always scores points with me.