It seems like this is a topic I should have reflected on long ago, but none-the-less, I want to share with you my experiences through the five stages of grief. There are some schools of thought that say there are seven stages of grief, but I better identify with the five. Mind you, different doctors and psychologists may differ on what each stage is called, how many stages there are, and many other factors. The important thing to remember is that grief is a journey with some-what defined stages. How many and what those stages are, are as unique as each person that grief effects.
I used WebMD as my point of reference, and they listed grief in the following five stages:
1.) Denial, Dumbness and Shock
Numbness is a normal reaction to a death or loss and should never be confused with “not caring.” This stage of grief helps protect the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss. It can actually be useful when the grieving person has to take some action such as planning a funeral, notifying relatives, or reviewing important papers. As the individual moves through the experience and slowly acknowledges its impact, the initial denial and disbelief will diminish.
Jacqueline’s Denial, Dumbness and Shock: I was definitely in shock when I got the call from my Dad at the hospital. It was like in movies when the world around you slows down and you are the only one moving at a normal pace. I didn’t cry until a few days after the funeral. I couldn’t. I was trying to stay strong for my family, and help with as much as the planning as I could. I tried to field as many phone calls as I could, so that my Mom and Dad didn’t need to do it. Also, I hid mail that was address to Jennifer and slowly merged it back into the normal mail flow in days and weeks following the wake. I’m in no way saying I am mad I needed to do this; this was my job as their oldest child. There was a point that I was laying on my kitchen floor eating goldfish crackers, but that was because I didn’t really want to eat anything.
This stage of grief may be marked by persistent thoughts about what “could have been done” to prevent the death or loss. Some people become obsessed with thinking about specific ways things could have been done differently to save the person’s life or prevent the loss. If this stage of grief is not dealt with and resolved, the individual may live with intense feelings of guilt or anger that can interfere with the healing process.
Jacqueline’s Bargaining: Ah yes, the dreaded “what ifs?” This may have been the worst stage, because I replayed every single detail over in my head. “What if it was raining?” ‘What if I was a better sister?” “What if she was just stuck a red light a little longer?” These questions will drive you insane. The best thing I learned was that I will never have any of these answers, so why make myself crazy asking them? After I was able to accept that the situation was out of everyone’s control, I felt a little bit better. I think I was truly able to get past this stage after going to some support groups, and hearing other people’s stories of loss.
In this stage of grief, people begin to realize and feel the true extent of the death or loss. Common signs of depression in this stage include difficulty sleeping, poor appetite, fatigue, lack of energy, and crying spells. The individual may also experience self-pity and feel lonely, isolated, empty, lost, and anxious.
Jacqueline’s Depression: I think this is the slipperiest slope of all the stages. I think anyone who says they were not depressed after their loved one’s passing is lying to them self. I was depressed for a while, and I think this is the stage of grief that most people, including myself, find themselves relapsing back to. There have been many a night I cried myself to sleep, or have just been “out of it.” I wish I had the poor appetite, but instead, I had the mentality that, “I am sad. I deserve this cookie/cake/brownie/frappucino.” It is usually triggered around the 17th of the month, or when friends talk about their own sisters (especially when friends have their own sisters as Maid of Honors in their weddings). I think, and I may be 100% wrong, that if you know you are depressed, and you are not acting like yourself, you can pull yourself out of the rut you may be in. I don’t ever want to think that being sad and crying is how I am supposed to act (because it is not).
This stage of grief is common. It usually occurs when an individual feels helpless and powerless. Anger can stem from a feeling of abandonment because of a death or loss. Sometimes the individual is angry at a higher power, at the doctors who cared for the loved one, or toward life in general.
Jacqueline’s Anger: I have been very angry at times, but don’t think it was directed at any one person. I think my anger coincides with my depression, and I get very snappy. I know I get like this, and find myself apologizing after the fact for my actions, but do not realize I am doing it at the time. I know I get very short with people, use one word responses, and the very popular, “I’m fine.” (Boy, I could wright a book on all the things that, “I’m fine,” really means). I find the best relief for me when I’m angry is going to get a pedicure, laying in bed, and just disconnecting from everyone and everything around me for a few hours, until I feel less like a b!#ch.
In time, an individual can move into this stage of grief and come to terms with all the emotions and feelings that were experienced when the death or loss occurred. Healing can begin once the loss becomes integrated into the individual’s set of life experiences.
Jacqueline’s Acceptance: Have I reached the acceptance stage of grief? I don’t know. Do I have really good days? Absolutely! I can go for weeks feeling great. But there is always that one thing that will trigger a memory or a feeling, and it brings me back down again. However, I believe that this is completely normal, and happens to everyone. Heck, I hope I have bad days in 50 years; I just don’t want the bad days to consume my life. I think a good way to define acceptance of someone’s loss is if you can talk and think about them, and not feel the urge to cry, but rather smile and laugh about all the amazing memories you have. There are many times I tell stories about Jen, and all the crazy stuff she did, and I don’t feel the urge to cry. On the other hand, there are days where I do cry. And that’s okay too. Most importantly, everyone needs to know that acceptance does not mean forgetting. It just means that you and your body have realized that something bad happened, and you are able to continue on with your life (the best you can) even in their absence.
Sometimes I think Jen is away at school, and just never updates her Facebook anymore ❤