Friday, June 27, 2008

Not That Anyone Asked Me - Travels Through Griefland

There should be signs posted at every funeral home, every hospital entrance, every dangerous patch of highway:

Entering Griefland:
Life Will Be Different From Now On

Of course, no sign, anywhere, could ever prepare you for just how different life will be. Nothing could do that.

But it might be nice if they tried.

According to the experts, there are 5 stages of grief. These are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

As I have experienced it, through the deaths of my parents, my sister and my mother-in-law, the stages are as follows:

If the death was unexpected, there is numb shock.

If it was expected, especially if it comes after a long or difficult illness, there is relief. Elation, almost, that the fight is now over and your loved one can rest.

This lasts only as long as it takes to realize that said loved one won't actually be with you to celebrate the end of the struggle.

After, or, really, interspersed with that, there's crying till you're sick (or at least feel like it).

Some people can get this started at the funeral itself. I, for one, bring an entire box of tissues and a wastepaper basket. My crying isn't over with the end of the last hymn, but at least I have found some relief.

Others, for a variety of deeply personal reasons, may not cry at all, at first. But then something happens later on, sometimes even years later and the tears come.

This is perfectly normal.

I knew a man once, who didn't cry at his father's funeral. But when his granddaughter's beloved pet died and needed a decent burial, the floodgates opened.

At some point after the funeral, we enter the biggest and, in many ways, most difficult portion of the journey.

I call this phase "All of Life is Pointless".

You go back to your "normal" life, only to discover that "normal" no longer exists. Things that used to excite you, like earning a living, or communicating with people or, let's face it, basic hygiene, no longer hold your interest.

It's not depression, exactly. It's just the long, cold November of your grief. All you can do is hold on, knowing that what was important to you once may be important to you again.

Just try to maintain some sort of standing in that now-foreign country of "Normal Life" and trust that, eventually, you will come back, changed, as all travelers are, by your your experiences in Griefland.

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