ONLY after three full years is there now the drawn-out dawn of a new era. New perspective continues to grow.
The stages of grief theory was of course posited by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (and David Kessler). It involves denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. The strength of the model is it highlights real stages we go through as we experience loss. One of its weaknesses is it’s not linear — the stages tend to reoccur chaotically. But it’s overall flow is true.
Here are my observations of the grief I’ve experienced over the past three years:
DENIAL – I’ve written a lot about our experience of grief losing Nathanael, which seems to eclipse the hundreds of articles I’d already written on grief previously — viewed through the lens of divorce. Much of what I’ve ever written is true to my experience, but some of it is aspirational. I’m an appreciative communicator and person, believing the best in others and myself — too much at times. And some of that I see as denial — the idealism that confounds realism. It’s the strength of light, but it’s also the weakness of not bearing the world well. I can admit that weakness now. I have often so wanted a particular better reality that I have attempted to wish it into creation.
Of course, life never quite works out that way.
ANGER – I’ve dealt with a lot of anger over the past three-plus years. It’s had a negative and regrettable impact on some crucial relationships. My anger revealed fear, and grief like nothing else breeds fear. Often pride has risen up, but it was truly fear that underpinned it. I have hated admitting my anger, as if pride would not allow exposure of such an odious weakness. No man wants to have an anger management issue, but my anger manifested mainly in ways that led to my own demise. I’ve had to pay for it. No one ever excuses it as a product of grief.
BARGAINING – linked somewhat to the comments I’ve made in ‘denial’, I’ve bargained so much through the past three years, mainly due to peripheral losses (that hurt just as much if not more than the central loss). I’ve bargained with God for the work that I’ve lost and therefore wanted back. And yet, the grief process has suggested I’ve had to grow through it, because not one iota of bargaining has worked. I’ve had to learn through not having the work that the work is superfluous. I am not defined simply by what job I do.
DEPRESSION – I can chart my progress with depression quite easily. Early in the three-plus year period I had low days, but the season was punctuated by never being too far from the black dog. More recently I’ve faced significant challenges — 2016 was the hardest year of my life thus far — and yet those low days don’t defeat me like they have, nor am I anywhere near the black dog these days. But I know the black dog well enough to know I’ll never be too far ahead of it.
ACCEPTANCE – I honestly have felt in the acceptance zone from day one, and yet I’ve experienced the full grief experience — all stages seemingly at the same time on occasion. Sometimes it’s hard to know how much ‘acceptance’ I truly experience as I endeavour to wish it into creation. Somehow acceptance has elements of the other four — denial, anger, bargaining, depression — in it.
Nobody ever tells you how hard it is to hold your world together in grief. And sometimes people simply don’t understand. Nor do some want to.
You can experience compassion from ninety percent of your world, but if the crucial ten percent regales without kindness your whole world is easily fractured. Such as it is with grief.
Grief is the embodiment of all stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — some days all five at once.