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Stages Of Grief?


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I've given up thinking I'll follow the stages of grief I've read about. It's been four months now, and my grief is not following any pattern at all. I'll feel the weight of reality setting in, and then suddenly - like today - my husband's death will seem completely unreal and I just feel shock and disbelief at his absence. I can't understand how he could be gone - just like that - after nearly 30 years of being here. It's like I'm still puttering around the house waiting for him to come home.

I dread to think what the six month whammy of reality will be like. If it's what I've read about, it will be unimaginably horrible - with immense pain. I really don't think I can handle any more pain than I have now. But maybe it won't be like that - because my grief doesn't seem to follow the set pattern.

Sometimes I think about how I used to fear something happening to my family - my kids and my husband. Now one of my worst fears have come true. It seems like anything can happen now. I'm just rambling here. I'm at work and should be doing work right now, but I can't concentrate. Everything seems meaningless. What's the point?

Melina

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Hi Melina,

I have not found any kind of set pattern to this ordeal. I have read things about the stages of grief, patterns, and so on. The only thing I know for sure is that it is very inconstant. One day I feel o.k. or that I am gaining ground only to fall flat out the next. I haven't found one month to be to different from the last. There are small glimmers of progress from day to day and it is not quite as intense at times. When I have a setback, it does not seem to last as long. These are signs that I am recovering, very slowly though. This wound will take time but I have faith that it will get easier some day. None of us could have ever prepared for what was put in front of us.

As corny as it sounds, "one day at a time" is the only thought that brings me comfort sometimes. It might even be a minute or a second at a time. I have to remember to breath. We will get through this. As I have said many times here before, I don't know what the heck "normal" looks like anymore but I would sure like to get close to it again someday.

Take care...BW

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Hi Melina,

I'm not sure about a 'set' path on this journey, either. It's been six weeks and every Friday night at 10:03 p.m. marks another week. I wonder when I'll lose track. I can't seem to get it out of my head thus far. I have days where I may not be tearful, but the sadness is underlying every positive emotion I try to develop. I cannot believe this man is gone. I mean, I know it, it's just hard to imagine that just a few months ago he was alive.

I have tried to chart my course based on those 'steps' of grief, but I fluctuate between all the steps. I even feel some days that I'm ready for acceptance--I mean what choice do I have? He is GONE and will never return...but then the numbness is still there and the anger, too.

I read that in time this will make better sense. I am hoping this is so. I am on the journey right along with you......

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I really like Genevieve Davis Ginsburg's "take" on this matter of stages in grief. (She is the author of the outstanding book, Widow to Widow: Thoughtful, Practical Ideas for Rebuilding Your Life, recently recommended to us by Sal. If you haven't yet done so, I encourage you to find or borrow a copy and read it. Written by a therapist who is a widow herself, it is a very useful, practical and compassionate guide.)

She writes,

. . . let us define stages of grief at the outset as feelings or emotions or a state of mind, and know that they come and go like the tide. With the possible exception of the initial shock and numbness that follows a deep loss, the so-called stages of grieving can and do return unpredictably with pristine sharpness at any time, any day, any year -- and that is no sin. When recovery is the touted outcome --the expected outcome -- the widow feels inadequate and abnormal as if she has not "gotten over it" in her allotted time. She can be heard to apologize, "There is something wrong with me." It has been three months, six months, two years -- whatever -- she is still crying, and she can't get over it. She has failed the time test. She is still full of tears and anger, she says. She still feels jealous and sad when she sees couples holding hands, still feels confused and rudderless, still cannot let a day go by without thinking of his dying and what she might have done, could have done, should have done. "I should be over it by now," she sobs . . . Grieving is a process rather than a series of uphill steps, and gains are most often realized in retrospect. One day you will realize that a whole day has passed without thinking about him. You actually enjoyed yourself for the entire weekend . . . the little knot of envy has worked its way free, and that the good days far outnumber the sad ones. How long did it take? Six months? A year? Two years and three months? Only you can say. But it does happen, in your own time and in your own way (pp. 17-20)

See also What Are the Stages of Grief?

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Marty,

I've read Widow to Widow - just short pieces at a time. I don't know - reading about grief makes me feel worse sometimes. I'm always worried I'm going to feel guilt afterwards, for some reason. The book is good though.

I found this online and it describes me very well right now:

Three to four months

After about three or four months you may reach a low point in your grief as the reality that your loved one is not returning sinks in fully. Many people find this very hard to accept. It takes some much longer than others. You may find yourself fighting against it, crying out, and yearning and pining.

You may be frightened of losing the memories of your loved ones and temporarily be unable to visualise their face. You will never lose those memories. They just become hidden for a while and will re-emerge later. You will hold on to them and they will become very precious to you. This is one way your loved one will be with you now. Making the change towards that acceptance can be very difficult.

You may be given constant subtle reminders of your loss. There are no telephone calls and no home-comings. You watch your loved one's friends continuing with their normal lives. Support from family and friends may be diminishing as they have at this point moved on through their grief and are getting on with their lives and expect you to do the same. You may be feeling intensely lonely.

You are also probably becoming physically and emotionally exhausted. It is usual for the body's mechanisms which promote the coping responses to become drained about this time. And, incredibly, most people expect you to be back on your feet by now.

Melina

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Melina, for myself I have stopped looking at the different stages of grief and that seems to work well for me. I don't think any one of us will fit into anything that is written in the same precise manner. Our loss is unique to us and for myself I think it unfair to me to try to fit in to someone elses belief's about this journey and how it should evolve.

For myself I believe if I stay stuck in one stage as they say and don't move through then I believe it is wise to seek professional help with our grief. I think it entirely normal to go back and forth in this journey. For myself how I gauge how I am doing is I refer to my journals. From this, I can see that I am healing, I am moving forward.

Look at me for instance when I found out I had endometrial cancer, the pain of of not having Melissa here hit me like a ton of bricks all over again it seemed. Personally, how I am choosing to be is to welcome my pain now, embrace it, and tell myself that more healing will come of it. For me it is my belief that we feel as we do in each moment for that is exactly where we are and that is just fine.

I have decided to let myself be at peace with where ever I am in this journey at any given moment. I understand Melina, I am just so sorry that you and all of us have to be on this journey at all. You are not alone Melina.

Blessings and Courage, Carol Ann

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Marty, I have bought and read "Widow to Widow", and found it very insiteful and helpful. Those "stages" were just manufactured by someone, and we are all different. I agree with Bill that one day at a time, or one second at a time is all we can do. Some days are better than others. Some days I slip back. There is no "set" timetable to grief, we all experience it differenly. I also do not know what "normal" is anymore, guess we are making new "normals".

Mary (Queeniemary) in Arkansas

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Hi Melinda,

I have not even been thinking of stages of grief. I know that was a popular topic many years ago, especially with the work of Elizabeth Kubler Ross. I did take a class recently that had a section on grief and loss, and I found that the latest research pretty much puts to rest any ideas about stages.

Grief is such an individual thing. We grieve differently. Women often grieve differently than men. It is difficult enough without starting to get involved in worrying after whether you are doing the stages in the "right" way.

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You may be given constant subtle reminders of your loss. There are no telephone calls and no home-comings. You watch your loved one's friends continuing with their normal lives. Support from family and friends may be diminishing as they have at this point moved on through their grief and are getting on with their lives and expect you to do the same. You may be feeling intensely lonely.

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Melina,

This is where I am right now. It is very lonely and I feel as though I'm isolated on some grief island all alone. Life moves all around me, yet I'm in this daze of disbelief. Everywhere I go there are reminders; there's nothing that happens daily that doesn't remind me of his absence and my loneliness. I miss him terribly and struggle with the loss, anger and resentment of everything that has transpired over the last few months. I am not sure what stage of grief I'm in at any given time.

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You mentioned a grief island. I sometimes think of this as having been dumped somewhere in the middle of a desert - feeling disoriented, confused, tired, helpless and completely alone - and I haven't a clue as to what direction I should take.

Melina

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Melina,

I don't think there's a set pattern either, it seems more random than that and it's unique to each person's journey. When they talk about the stages of grief, I think they're just mentioning the different kinds of stages, not that they follow in any particular order for most people. You can feel anger and numbness and crying on any given day, or back and forth in a random order. Don't worry about the pattern, it's enough to know you are not alone and you're not crazy...everything you feel is normal and to be expected...but the fact is, you're dealing with it and that's pretty amazing when you think about it!

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Melina - I think I asked "what's the point?" about a thousand times. I did the same as you, in the beginning - not knowing what I was feeling, I wanted some kind of vantage point whereas I could see what my emotions were all about. And that's ok. The grief books helped me form some kind of semblance to what I was feeling. But Melina - you're you. You're going through your own private hell - and don't worry if your emotions don't adhere to what you're reading, because, in fact - they won't. And that's normal, too, for you. In reality, I've had (and still do) emotions and feelings that are off the scale. BTW. rambling is good - hugs, Marsha

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