The 5 Stages of Grief sounds like a really bad romantic comedy, doesn’t it? I imagine someone shrill and annoying (Katherine Heigl?) playing a woman who’s lost someone, and in hilariously heartbreaking ways manages to make her way through the 5 stages. And lo and behold on the end of that journey – she finds her soulmate (a brooding Taylor Kitsch or charmingly unaffected Dave Franco, perhaps?). She’s joined by her quirky and much more likable partner in crime, played by Judy Greer (can SOMEONE please get this woman more work? She’s freaking amazing and so well-deserving of more than supporting roles).
That movie hasn’t been made just yet (well, not EXACTLY that movie), but I bet one of these days something like that will be made, loosely based on the 5 stages outlined by David Kessler & Elisabeth Kübler- Ross.
It never fails, when something devastating happens, I’m reminded of the 5 Stages of Grief. I’m always curious if I’ll follow those stages to the letter or if perhaps I’ll skip one and come back to it later. Sort of like leaving the hardest math problem for the end of the exam. Do they all last the same length of time? Does it take a week for each, or maybe just a day? Is there a ballpark timeframe that I can expect to feel absolutely miserable? Why didn’t they outline that part of grieving?
I should give you a bit of insight as to what I’m really talking about here: a very dear friend of mine passed away over the summer. For me it was unexpected, out of the blue. He’d been sick, but he never let on that it was that serious. We were very close and I assumed that he would have told me if something was really wrong. When I received the news I was stunned.
I’ve spent the last few months trying to put the pieces together and I found my mind always coming back to the 5 Stages…(Quick review, here they are in order according to Kessler & Kübler- Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.) Which was I in now? What’s the order again?
With death or losing someone you love, there are so many questions: Is what I’m currently feeling appropriate? What about when I laughed at a joke one of our mutual friends made at the memorial service? What caused me to excuse myself during boot camp this morning so that I could cry in the locker room? How many goddamn glasses do I have to break before I stop being so fucking angry?
Here’s what I’ve learned: those stages are sneaky bastards and they don’t care where you are, what you are doing or what you are feeling, they just show up, knock on your emotional door and camp out for as long as they want.
But there is one thing I know: TJ loved me and he will kill me if I just give up. He’ll literally come down from Heaven or whatever watering hole in the sky he’s currently bellied up at and haunt the shit out of me until I got it together. So here we go. Back to it, 5 Stages coming at me or not, back to it.
I think everyone gets to have their own stages. And in their own time. I never truly understood the process myself until this year. And you know who taught me more about grieving and healing than anyone? My daughter. Not a psychologist. Not a hospice grief specialist. A seven year old. If you want to laugh and be happy, you should. If you want to be reflective, do so. If you want to talk about what the person would do at that moment, talk away, imagine them into your life so that they stay close to your heart. If you want to cry, cry, but remember that you are crying for yourself. Riley told me that since sadness isn’t allowed in Heaven, she didn’t think that people in Heaven could see you being sad either, so the only way to get them to watch you and still be with you, is to be happy and do happy things.