I've been reflecting a lot on grief. I've been living with it for about a month now. Each morning that I wake up and don't cry immediately feels like I've won some sadness lottery. My loss is a living loss. The loss of a life I was attached to, a love, a piece of my soul and dreams I held as truth in my heart. You can grieve even without death. I want you to know that. That what you might also be feeling right now is valid. When you struggle to move on or get through the days or figure out which single task you can complete in a day. Your emotions, your pain, your rage, you confusion, is valid. You need to know that. You are not flawed because you are struggling. when these feelings come up, let them come. Tell them you see them, acknowledge them. Your pain wants to be seen not healed.
I heard it said today the stages of grief could be classified as follows:
Crying in public.
Crying in your car.
Crying in bed.
Crying while slightly (or extremely) intoxicated.
I don't think they're wrong and anyone who has dealt with grief via the death of a loved one or just the death of something you loved and held close to your soul, knows these stages to be true. The streaks of tears rolling while you wait for coffee. The near collapse in the grocery store lineup. The staring at the ceiling for who knows how long. It's okay.
The real stages of grief are laid out in 7 'stages' though everyone grieves and goes through the process differently. Some go through each of the stages in order, but often you cycle through them again and again or skip some and go right through to the next. There is no one way to grieve. There is no timeline on your grief. Whether you are going through living or dying grief you might want to see how these stages are classified. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded your human and not insane.
The first stage is Shock+Denial. You might react to the loss with numbed disbelief. Denial of reality may come. This shock protects you from being overwhelmed all at once. Again there is no timeline here, it may last for days or weeks.
The second stage is Pain+Guilt. The shock you originally felt may begin to wear off and pave the way for shocking pain. It may be nearly unbearable. Often we might try and hide in drugs or booze to numb the horrendous pain. It's important to feel it fully, to sit with and be with it. You may feel immense guilt and ruminate over what you did or didn't do that could have changed an outcome or the loss.
The third stage is Anger+Bargaining. When the anger comes you may lash out and send the blame to someone else. Thought it can be difficult to control, try and direct your anger appropriately. Do you release the anger, validate it, tell it you see it and that it's warranted. You can be mad.
You may bargain with the Universe, begging or exchanging for that which was lost. Anyone else ever found themselves praying to anyone or thing past the ceiling of their apartment?
The fourth stage is Depression+Reflection. At this stage, you might come to a long period of sadness and reflection. The true magnitude of your loss will hit and it will suck. It can be depressing to know what you've lost. You might reflect deeply on the time you spent with your lost love and live in memories long gone. You might spend a whole morning re-reading every message you ever sent or sifting through poetry and polaroids. This is a normal part of the process. Be with this overwhelming time. Let yourself feel the loss. You aren't wrong to cling.
The fifth stage is Upward Turn. (There is glory in those words) There is hope here and you'll start to see it. Life will start to feel calmer and you'll be able to get back to a new normal. Your depression will lessen and the physical pain that's weighing you down will lighten up. (I don't think I'm anywhere near this stage and right now it feels like I may never be, but just reading it is hopeful.)
The sixth stage is Reconstruction+Working Through. At this stage you're starting to become less paralyzed by your loss. Practical things and realistic solutions will start to be more clear to you. You'll feel like you can think again. Your life will start to take on a new shape, one without him or her.
The seventh stage is Acceptance+Hope. This is the last stage of grief. You'll find new ways to accept and to deal with the reality of your situation. This doesn't mean you'll find pure happiness but you do now see a way forward. You'll start to look forward to the future, to plan things and to live your new life. You will be able to think of your lost love without pain. There will still be sadness but it won't carry the immense pain that you started your grief journey with. You'll find happiness again, there is joy.
Though you may cycle in and through these stages time and again, eventually you will come to this last stage. You will accept and move forward. The greatest gift you'll give yourself during this struggle will be compassion. Know that you might not make it through these stages quickly and that's okay. It took time to find normal with your loved one, it will take time to find a new normal without your loved one. The plans and dreams you lost will start to transform into new dreams.
Even as I write this, I am overwhelmed with sadness. Those public tears are quickly streaking through my makeup. I am only in the beginning stages but I want you to know that you are not alone. You are validated, you are right, you are human and you're doing great.
If you're here too, let me know. You can find me @kassyoga or via email.