My Stages of Grief

Everyone experiences grief in their own way. I wrote out mine on request and found it really helpful – hopefully this will be helpful for others. (I recommend writing out what each means to you. It lets you take a good, detached look at yourself, and can explain why you reacted the way you did.)

Denial is…somewhere inside, you know this terrible thing has happened but you refuse to face it. For some people, that manifests itself so strongly that they refuse to believe the event has happened at all. It colours everything in the smallest ways, like a slightly out-of-tune note on a piano, or a guitar string that never holds the right pitch. I liken it to an abscess that sits, painful and swollen on your back, until it eventually pops and you can’t deny its existence anymore. Once it pops, there’s nothing you can do but try and deal with it.

Anger was something I could paint the wall with, that’s how much I had. It approaches really quietly, and then BOOM, you’re upset enough to burn any bridge or tell any lie – as long as it meant you didn’t have to deal with it right then. It’s an emotion that ran so hot that it left you cold and shivering afterward, and it was almost always anger at myself even though it wasn’t my fault. How could I let this happen? Why couldn’t I stop it? It has always been something I reserved for myself ever since I was little – I started getting gray hairs at the age of 12 because I bottled up all of my rage. Very stressing, like a stretching string that eventually snaps you into motion whether you’re ready or not.

Bargaining was a weird one for me, where you try to make this terrible thing reversible. The event left a pretty big hole in my heart, in my personality, in a lot of things. I was a religious person before it happened, and then that crumbled within a night. I was a really open, trusting (and naive) person, and that fluctuated so wildly afterward that I could be a different person every other month. I was trying to find anything that could make that hole go away, or at least be invisible for a while. Maybe this will work. Or this. Or this person. Or that person. I went through several relationships because of bargaining, some of them very abusive. Bargaining is also where I tried self-medicating – either pot (and lots of it) or people. It’s tumultuous, because you’re constantly trying to find something or someone to fill an impossible cavity. These failures to fill that missing part will lead to being depression.

Depression was the bottom for me, as I assume it is for most people. I hit the depression phase and it lasted for years – and I do mean years. I still struggle with depression day to day. I’ve passed the phase of grief, but it still lives with me. I also think that because I lived in the phase for so long, I came out the other side with a permanent view change – not ‘oh this is life changing’, but more like it made me…careful. It was a pit that I lived at the bottom of, the one I tried to fill. In a way, I see bargaining like the eye of the storm – and depression is when the tail end of the storm whips around and sucks you back in. I experienced everything again, the anger, the denial, the bargaining, but it was very…drawn out and muffled. Like stuffing cotton in your ears. You know you’re upset, but you can’t really hear how upset. You don’t really care why, you’re just upset. It’s a kind of oily feeling, in the pit of your stomach and in the back of your head. It’s also a kind of pulling feeling from your lungs and through your back.

Acceptance isn’t ‘feeling better’. It’s finally realising that this terrible thing has happened, and that you can come to terms with it. It’s not a happy place, just a place that exists free of the previous emotions. Alone in this, but okay. You’ve been sad. You’ve been angry. You’ve tried to fix it however you could.  You tried to ignore it completely. Now you’ve come out the other side, at arguably the same level before.  I really wish I could explain the nearly clinical feeling of accepting and moving on. It’s  an almost sterile environment.