grief

Saying Goodbye – The 5 stages of grief

Saying goodbye to a loved one is hard. Saying goodbye to winter is easy. What are the 5 stages of grief? Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

I am at the 5 year mark after my husband unexpectedly died one late summer evening.   Grief was not in our plan.  We had made some plans and looked forward to our years as empty nesters.  We didn’t always agree on our plans, but we were going to do them together: retiring and traveling were topping the list as we reached our fifth decade in life.

 I never did get to say goodbye that night. 

The stages of grief outlined by Kubler-Ross are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Originally written as a progression of emotional states, Kubler-Ross later noted that the stages are not a linear progression but often unpredictable.

I read a lot of books after Mike died about how to deal with his death.  10 Best Grief Books .I wanted a how to book. How to be a widow?  How do people go on living after their spouse dies?  Who has done this before? What steps needed to be done?

Reading books helped. Joining a bereavement group, participating in widow and widower Facebook pages and visiting a grief therapist also helped me on my grief journey.

Here is my experience with the 5 stages of grief:

Denial

This one was indeed in my emotional state initially.  I kept thinking if I could just convince everyone that this should not have happened, it would be over. This was all a big mistake.  This was ridiculous.  I left his flip flops by the door for 2 months. I was sure he would come back and even dreamed that he came back on several occasions.  The dreams were so realistic.  I would tell him that everyone thought he was dead and I didn’t know that he was going to come home but we carried on as usual.  I was quite confused.  I unconsciously refused to believe that this had really happened.

Anger

I did some journaling those first few months and that helped me express myself.  I wrote Mike letters and had him write back to me.  I wrote letters to the people who killed him.  I never sent those letters.

I even did some crying and screaming. I cried in the car.  I screamed. I yelled at Mike.  I hear that is normal so I guess it’s OK to admit that I sure did those things.

My anger turned up in jealousy as I saw couples together in those first few months.  I felt sorry for myself and angry that Christmas was coming.  Everyone was acting like nothing happened but I was pissed off.  The decorations were going to have to wait.  Typical traditions were avoided and instead I took my kids on a cruise for Christmas.  I showed them!

Bargaining

I did not have a chance to make a deal with anyone before he was gone.  When death is sudden, maybe we skip this stage. I did not believe that he had really died because in my mind it should not have happened.  Pursuing a civil law suit continued to emphasize the fact that this was all wrong. 

Learning how to function by being kind to myself was key.  Understanding that I was going through grief and that some days I would not be able to handle the strain as well as other days was a revelation and I just let myself have some down days when I needed them.

Depression

A woe is me feeling can be very overpowering.  Also just waking up everyday can take such an effort.  I would listen to positive affirmations.  I would read pages from self help healing after loss books.  Taking the puppy for a walk on the beach helped break up the day and sometimes make me smile.

But often a simple trigger could send me to the restroom with tears rushing uncontrollably down my face.   Depression is awful and that is why there is therapy and medication.  If it is something that is preventing you from living your best life, you need to take care of it.  It doesn’t have to be a crutch forever, but it is OK to ask for help.

Acceptance

I do not like that term.  I will never accept that it was Mike’s time to go.  I know everyone has a time to go, but since his death was deemed a homicide I don’t think it should have happened.

I have learned, for my own sanity, to “acknowledge” that he is gone.  That was an important milestone for me.   We had always agreed that we would be cremated but we never really talked much more about that.  A few days after the funeral, I was called by the funeral home to collect a box full of my husband’s ashes.  I placed the box in the passenger seat, drove home and then carried the box up to my bedroom.  I wasn’t sure what to do next.

My kids had gone back to college.  School had started and I was taking an extended leave to mourn and take care of all the paperwork and stuff.  Since I still was in the denial stage, the idea of doing something with the ashes wasn’t so important since in my mind I was still trying to change the past.  Convincing others that I should not have a dead husband was my primary focus.

It took over a year to truly acknowledge that he wasn’t coming back.  I felt that the ashes needed to be blessed by a Catholic priest since he always connected with his Catholic upbringing.  

So, I took some ashes to the Vatican City in Rome .  It felt like the right thing to do. My son and I visited St. Peter’s Basilica and then since it was Sunday, stayed for the pope’s blessing at 12:00 noon.  We had brought along some ashes so I counted that as a blessing for Mike.  

One month later on Father’s Day the boys and I took the blessed ashes out to sea and said Goodbye.  It had been almost 2 years but I felt it was time.  He will always be with me.  I believe he is looking over us and sending us good things for our future.  I have faith that one day I will see him again.

So, maybe I will never really have to say goodbye.

5 stages of grief - saying goodbye

18 comments

  1. You may be helping someone else through your writing – what a blessing that is….keep growing through your loss. Make something good come from tragedy and defy the wrongdoing of haters. You’re a gift to so many – hoping Spring and all of its glories arrives soon!

  2. I ran across your blog today. I just want to say thank you. I lost my husband to cancer two months ago and I can relate to this so much. I’m only 46 and we had so many plans for our future. This weekend is prom for my my two youngest. Usually after the day spent getting them ready and lots of pictures, David and I would enjoy a date night while the kids enjoyed prom. I’m dreading Saturday night. I’m in the very early stages. Blogging has been helping me and I will be following your posts. I, too, believe I will see my sweet husband again.

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss. Blogging has been a real helpful way for me to express myself and heal. It will be hard but life will go on and you will be able to handle it. Thanks for reading- I’ll read your blog too.

  3. There are so many different forms of grief. And how it affects you at different stages of your life. Many times i thought i was over it only to find, i wasn’t. Always trying to stay positive and remembering how blessed i truly am.

    1. I feel that way too. I’m strutting along thinking I’m all better when I get knocked down again with such pain in my heart. The only thing now is that I know it’s temporary- and that the feeling will pass but it’s ok to be sad sometimes too. Thanks for reading!!

  4. Like you, I’m at the 21/2 year mark of his sudden death with no chance to say ‘goodbye’ and like you, find those 5 steps of grief ironic at best. They are more a roller coaster you never got a ticket for. All I could do was journal the ride and one day my blog was born from all those crazy grief missives. Thank you for always sharing your heart….

  5. I recently lost my gran, I recently wrote about my similar experience, it seems strange that we all seem to experience denial at the beginning.
    I am sorry for your loss, you should be proud that you have managed to put feelings into words and help others though the grieving process… thank you x

  6. I find that grief is far from linear, and rather more like floating on a small boat. Sometimes we are tossed about with wrenching remembrances, and sometime we can enjoy a sunny day of sweet memories. I lost my oldest son at 34 years old almost three years ago. Thank you for writing. I enjoy writing as well. My blog is brokenheartedgrace.

    1. Oh I am so sorry that you lost your son. How devastating. I will definitely visit your blog. Thanks for reading.

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