Psychology has always been fascinating to me, and from a young age I always wanted to be a child psychologist. I thought creating sound minded kids would translate into sound minded adults. Seems a simple theory I know, but it is logical. A lot of life circumstances have been put between me and that dream. Now I don’t pretend to know what is going to happen in the future, at this juncture in my life my goals are mostly short term to work into longer term goals. Going to college is definitely on that list!
Saying all that, knowing I am no professional and have no basis but my own experience, and my observed experience of others, the five stages of grief is a bunch of bunk. No offence to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross intended of course, but I just don’t see how grief can be simplified and put on a scale of straight forward emotions. I like to read so I have been doing some studying in my free time of grief and therapy related to certain levels of grief (I know I know, I am a party animal!), The Kubler-Ross model that is so often used even today in therapy was brought about in 1969. To say that a lot in the world has changed since then would be a huge understatement. A lot of the theory and research was done based on people that were dying from a terminal illness and not on people that had actually lost someone to death. That in itself tells me that having an umbrella of just 5 stages is far to few. The theory does state it is not a linear experience and not all people will experience things in order, or can come back to things they had previously already gone through. Which is true. It is more like a roller coaster (which I think I have discussed previously.)
So laying out the 5 stages of grief:
Denial- I believe I still somewhat bounce back to this one far more often then people in my family would. It’s easier to be in denial when you live 3000 miles away from someone that passes away. I saw her once every 2 years for the last 8 years of my life. We did talk a lot on the phone, and through e mail. Denial is like the warm blanket of grief though, when you are just so weary and can’t fight it anymore. You climb into the clutches of denial for a little bit to rest your weary heart before diving right back into it.
Anger- I had a short stint of anger. I think it maybe lasted a few days. I never came back to it in my cycle as of yet. Anger never was one of my go to emotions even being an emotional person all my life. When anger started becoming a present mindset is actually when I knew I was getting depressed and sought help (this was before my sister passed away, but will show why I don’t spend much time in this stage).
Bargaining- I don’t really even think I hit this one. Mine was more of if you are going to take her, please take me too so I don’t have to live without her. I have a good happy life, one that without the depression and anxiety I enjoy immensely and feel I have worked hard to deserve (that sounds selfish but keep up with me here.) That is not to say if someone was standing in front of me and Tiffanie with a gun, I would run. I wouldn’t. I’d take the bullet for her, for kassie, for jeramie, for my nieces, nephew, maddie, trev,my parents and grandparents. I don’t think I went through bargaining because I wouldn’t want Tiffanie to come back to the current life she was living when she passed away. She was in pain, she was running in so many different directions, she was sick in and out of the hospital a lot. Bargaining for her to be in that life and me to be taken from the one I have, seems just cruel.
Depression- Ok so obviously, if you know me or read any part of this blog. You know that my brain lives in Depression mode (well not everyday, I am working on that). This by far is the longest stage of grief that I am experiencing. It is the bottom of the funnel. Denial and Acceptance swirl around and sometimes I find myself flat back in Depression again. I am truly so sad sometimes thinking about my sister that it consumes all of my thoughts awake and asleep. I dream of her, I tear up and sob over missing her. My heart physically aches and I get an actual lump in my throat. I miss her every single day.
Acceptance- This one was the hardest to get to. I thought for many months I was getting close could see it on the horizon and like a bungey chord depression snapped me back. I have reached some level of acceptance, but still saying my sister died out loud sounds like another person is saying it. This is where I want to climb into the warm blanket of denial and just stay there. Some days I look in the mirror and say “your sister died”. It is always like a smack in the face, but its the reality. Its the finality of it. I know she is gone from this earth, I know I will see her again, and I know she is watching over us every day. Acceptance comes a lot from having a strong faith. From my perspective anyway.
I feel like there should be so many more stages in this outline though. Depression should be broken into sub categories itself. Guilt should definitely be a stage. I spent a lot of time in Guilt and still today spend a lot of time in that part of grief. Longing should be a stage. There are so many things that can be added to the journey of grief, the emotions you feel. I think even in cases Happiness is a part of Grief. Am I happy that my sister passed away? of course not! If I had the choice it wouldn’t have happened. Am I happy that she doesn’t have to live a life of pain and agony? absolutely. To think of her whole, happy, pain free is like a blessing for me. It doesn’t mean I don’t want her back because I do (hello denial is that you knocking?) but reality always brings me back. Realization could be another step of grief as well. It is just such a personal journey, no two people will walk the same path or go through the same stages.
I found a passage that just spoke to me today above all others. It is an excerpt from two books, “Understanding Sibling Loss”, CIGNA; Sibling Grief, P. Gill White, Ph.D.; and Surviving the Death of a Sibling, T.J. Wray.
“The loss of a sibling is a devastating life event. Despite this, sibling grief is often the most disenfranchised or overlooked of the four main forms of grief, especially with regard to adult siblings. However, the sibling relationship tends to be the longest significant relationship of the lifespan and siblings who have been part of each other’s lives since birth, such as twins, help form and sustain each other’s identities; with the death of one sibling comes the loss of that part of the survivor’s identity.
The sibling relationship is a unique one, as they share a special bond and a common history from birth, have a certain role and place in the family, often complement each other, and share genetic traits. Siblings who enjoy a close relationship participate in each other’s daily lives and special events, confide in each other, share joys, spend leisure time together (whether they are children or adults), and have a relationship that not only exists in the present but often looks toward a future together (even into retirement).
Siblings who play a major part in each other’s lives are essential to each other. Adult siblings eventually expect the loss of aging parents, the only other people who have been an integral part of their lives since birth, but they do not expect to lose their siblings early; as a result, when a sibling dies, the surviving sibling may experience a longer period of shock and disbelief.
Overall, with the loss of a sibling, a substantial part of the surviving sibling’s past, present, and future is also lost. If siblings were not on good terms or close with each other, then intense feelings of guilt may ensue on the part of the surviving sibling (guilt may also ensue for having survived, not being able to prevent the death, having argued with their sibling, etc.)”
When I can’t articulate and put into words what losing my sister has meant to me, this is what I would refer to. This is everything I would want people to know and understand about my grieving process. It is going to be different then that of my parents, my grandparents, my aunts, uncles and cousins. It is going to mean different things to me (not making it more important) just different.
Just like with most things in life you can’t put a big net over grief and capture everything that it encompasses because its different for every single person.
Maybe someday I will write a book on Grief and call it “No Rules and No Stages”.
Live, Love, Laugh