09 September 2009

Stages of Grief

"Grief is a tidal wave that over takes you, smashes down upon you with unimaginable force, sweeps you up into its darkness, where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces, only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised, reshaped... Grief will make a new person out of you, if it doesn't kill you in the making."
-Stephanie Ericsson

Grief is a process. It is a journey, a long journey. It is not easily divided into precise little steps, it does not have a consistent time frame. You will stumble, you will crawl, you will have days when you wonder if your eyes will ever not be swollen, if you will ever be able to catch your breath. And occasionally, you hear an unfamiliar noise, and wonder if that was you laughing- are you allowed to do that?

Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross worked with terminally ill cancer patients for years. She developed a well-known theory that divides grief into five distinct periods.


These phases may seem familiar, for grief has many consistencies. However, her studies were based on people grieving the end of their own lives. It wasn't the loss or death of a loved one. Now, there are more vaguely written stages of grief guidelines that are focused more on the feelings of the 'one left behind.' They include

-shock, numbness, denial
-yearning to reverse the clock, change things
-anger, pain, guilt
-suffering, despair, loneliness, sadness-reconstruction, letting go, recovery

Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't entitled to a period- an extended period- of grief for your marriage. Today's culture of death that tells you to be liberated- to divorce, abort, discard, move on... move on triumphantly! Without any sorrow! No looking back!

Well I am here to tell you, that no matter how few resources that you find, there are people out there totally devastated by the dissolution of their marriages. Completely shocked that 'this happened to me.' Floored that anyone would ask themselves, "What is wrong with her, why doesn't she move on? That marriage was terrible anyway."

Grief is a natural and necessary part of being human. It is a bridge between lives. If you don't cross it, how will you know how to live in another way? It doesn't matter how your marriage was before the struggle. It was an ideal you had. It was like an unborn baby that never took its first breath. The parents had eagerly looked forward to its arrival. They prepared for the changes in their life. They told everyone the name they had chosen. They begin to think of themselves as parents, as part of an exclusive club... but then they have to tell people that the baby has passed. The world may say they aren't parents. They pack away the tiny clothes. When a marriage is falling apart, it is the same. You have to let go of the idea that you are a wife. You have to mourn the stay-at-home mom bit. You wonder what to do with the white wedding album. You have to begin to identify yourself as a separated woman. A divorced woman. You have to introduce yourself as the new you. There is a big psychological shift when you first realize that you aren't who you thought you were. It takes time to adjust to new titles.

And it is supremely difficult to let go of other titles. If you have stayed home with your small children because of your convictions on how to raise them, it is painful to look at a future away from them all day... letting someone else get the best hours of their day. I had chosen to homeschool, so the idea of sending my kids to government schools was painful. The fears associated with unwelcome change are so strong.

Recover from Grief