Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stages of Grief

Dear God,

I’ve read before that there are stages of grief – some say three, some say five, some say seven – whatever, it’s all the same concept: Grief is complicated and is (often) a lengthy period of working through a wide range of emotions, making progress and then backtracking, making progress and backtracking.

I’m tired of the grieving process already. I am not sleeping well (which You already know, since I’ve been talking to You about it). I wake up in the middle of the night feeling just flat out sad. Not even specifically thinking about my mother – just overwhelmingly sad. Days are better because I have things to keep me busy, despite the sadness.

The experts say that the grief one feels after a loved one dies shouldn’t be put off, shouldn’t be swept under the carpet or denied. You must expeeeer-ience (Nora Desmond drama here) the grief to move beyond it.

With all due respect to the experts, this is an expeeeer-ience I could live without.

I. Don’t. Have. Time.

It used to be that there were specific things one did socially that helped to mark the grieving process: wear black clothing and/or a widow’s cap, refrain from going out in public for a set period of time, wear a black armband, etc. I’m beginning to see some wisdom in those artificial constructs, because they seem, in my opinion, to help the subconscious mind benchmark the process as it unfolds, and provide a glimmer of hope in that life will return to normal at a specific point in time – normal clothing, normal social interaction, etc.

I have a busy career that demands all of my faculties be in working order. I have a husband and son who need me to be in the game at home. I have grown kids who, in varying ways, need me as a fully-functioning member of the family, too. And I have the sinking feeling that I am just in the beginning of this grief thing, with no mile markers to guide me on the trip.

Frankly, there isn’t time for grief, and it scares me and frustrates me to think that I’m going to have to make time, whether I want to or not. Absent the man-made markers that we used to observe, what is this going to look like as it plays out in my life? Brain fog? Uncontrollable weeping? Lack of interest in life? Wishing for death? All of the above? It’d be easier to wear black clothing for three months, a black armband for another three, and then call it good, thank you.

I’m a little bit like my mother in that I want to plan it all out so I know what to expect and when. What is this going to be like – I want to know. Now. And I want it to be over. Now. I’m looking forward to the day when, as Roberta Temes states in her book, Living with an Empty Chair, “Life is no longer one frantic anxiety attack.”

Temes separates the grief stages into behaviors:

Numbness (mechanical functioning and social insulation)
Disorganization (intensely painful feelings of loss)
Reorganization (re-entry into a more 'normal' social life.)

My Father, as You already know, right now I’m into Disorganization -- with the occasional retreat to Numbness. Here’s to Reorganization coming soon, yes?

And maybe I’ll go find myself a black armband, too.



Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

There really was something to be said for that old-days formal mourning - it did give people the acknowledgment and the time to grieve, even though its rigidity did force the same parameters on everyone. Nowadays it's different. The world rewards those who get on with job, and heaven knows, businesses and colleagues are still under pressure to meet goals and deadlines, no matter what we have to process, but the need to grieve is still there.

Wishing you your needed time in any increments you can get, and some sleep too!

Joyce said...

Be kind to yourself. You're walking something new. Time is a healer of sorts...give yourself time, however much or little you need. Still keeping you in my prayers.

Christy said...

Just wanted you to know I'm still thinking about you and praying God's peace will be real to you.

Susan said...

I agree that there is something to be said for the "old days" and customs of grief. You know why? I think those people TOOK the time to go through it. We are so busy that it's something we go through simultaneously with other STUFF!

Praying for you and that you'll continue to gain strength in each new day and each new whisper of the spirit!

Catherine said...

Thank you, everyone.

Jessie at Blog Schmog said...

You know, I find comfort in this post and remembering it's ok even necessary to grieve. Mine is a different type. My beloved dad has alzheimers and while he is still with us the fear of the unknown and the things he can't do now that could I am grieving. Does that make sense. :( I miss him. I miss who he was, what he did, how he contributed.

I need to enjoy what I do have. He still knows us all and is very much with it on most things.

I hope the best for you. :( So sorry about your mom.