Saying Goodbye – The 5 stages of grief

I am at the 2 and a half year mark after my husband unexpectedly died one late summer evening.  I never did get to say goodbye that night. This past week I sent my youngest son off for a semester in Japan.  He is in his 3rd year of college and after spending 3 months with him at home he is gone for most of the next year and a half.  And then there is the winter.  I’m home early due to school closing early from yet another Nor’easter snow storm expected to bring up to 10 inches of snow today. I am ready to say good bye to winter.

The first fresh new fallen snow on those dark evenings in December is always so magical.  The season of Christmas has always been celebrated in our family so the decorations and lights in the home, the parties and meals with friends and family begin and since I like to ski I look forward to getting outside on a mountain and enjoying a crisp winter day bundled up and gliding down the hill.

But when it is the first full day of spring and the snow is still coming down, it is time to say enough.  I am ready for change.  I am ready to clean the house and do some decluttering.  I have a few items I would like to try and sell.  I have a pile going to the truck next week that offered to pick up clothing and kitchen items from my driveway.  I am anxious for bright spring colors and to putter around in my garden and help my perennials make an appearance.

I am ready to say goodbye to winter.

My youngest is on the other side of the world for 5 months and I am very excited for him and all the adventures he will have.  I don’t know much about Japan but I hear there are some very beautiful sites to see. Spending time in a first world city that it so different from New York will be amazing and I may just have to figure out a way to visit him over the summer.

When I studied abroad in England during my 3rd year of college, I brought home a friend I had met from Australia.  My parents were very nice to him.  I think they may have been nervous that we would end up together, but they did not push him away.  In fact they welcomed him into our home and he stayed for the summer.  I decided to go back and finish college that fall and he went on traveling.  My mom always said she tried hard not to tell me what to do, because she knew I would do the opposite.  Moms do know best!

I said good bye to my youngest but thanks to wifi and the internet I have texted or talked to him 2 times this week already.  I hope he has amazing experiences and makes lots of new friends.  Saying goodbye on earth is not really a big deal anymore.

I was not ready to say good bye to my husband.  It was not our plan and we had made some plans.  We didn’t always agree on our plans, but we were going to do them together and retiring and traveling was going to be a big part of them.

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.  I wanted a how to book.  How do people go on living their life after their spouse dies?  Who has done this before? (None of my friends I thought) What steps needed to be done?

My take on 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 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.

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 yelled at Mike.  I hear that is normal so I guess it’s OK to admit that I did.

Bargaining

I am not so sure about this one in my case.  I did not have time to make a deal with anyone before he was gone.  I did not believe that it really happened.  I learned how to function by being kind to myself and understanding that I was going through grief and some days I would not be able to handle the strain as well as other days.

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.  I would take the puppy for a walk on the beach.  But sometimes a simple trigger could send me to the restroom with tears rushing 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.

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 in to collect a box full of my husband’s ashes.  I put the box in the passenger seat, drove home and then brought 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 I knew he shouldn’t really be dead.

It took over a year to acknowledge that he really 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 and had the Pope bless them last year.  It felt like the right thing to do.

Last year on Father’s Day the boys and I took the 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



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Comments

16 comments on “Saying Goodbye – The 5 stages of grief”
  1. I am at 27 years. I agree…acceptance really never happened for me. Great writing.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thank you. That term has always bothered me.

  2. Ellen says:

    I think of you and your family often… embrace the good days, endure the bad, God bless you all.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thank you. That is so kind and it’s true. Take the good and the bad. It happens.

  3. Addie says:

    Heart wrenching and so real…such growth!

  4. Janice says:

    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!

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thank you so much for reading and your comment.

  5. 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. runawaywidow says:

      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.

  6. Rachel says:

    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. runawaywidow says:

      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!!

  7. 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….

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Exactly. So true about the roller coaster image. Journaling was the best thing for me. Thanks for reading!!

  8. 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

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m sorry for your loss.

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