The Process of Grieving
Many people immediately assume that they know how a personshould grieve and that if the person grieving hasnt gone through the ascribedstages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance(Kubler-Ross), then the person cannot move on. There are many problems with thinking that way. The biggest problem is simply this. The people researched for these stages weredyingthey were not the people left behind. I know that it is easier for people to understand logical and sequentialpatterns of grieving. In fact, thereseems to be a time line on grieving. People are perceived and judged to be grieving too long or not longenough, however people who have lost people far too soon do not always grievein the same pattern or at the same rate. It does not mean that a loved one wasloved any less if a person can smile, find happiness, or even love again. The time line and process is different foreach and every person.
As part of this degree that I am pursuing, I am having tolook at death, dying, and life. Grief ishard and there isnt a magic want or pill to get a person through thedarkness. People are 7 times more like to commit suicide after the death ofa loved one. I cant speak for whatanyone else thinks or the process they are going through, but I can speak of myjourney.
I am a happy person by nature. I am the girl that is sparkly and optimisticjust because I love life and I love thelife that I have been given. I have hadhard times beforemany of them, but I always could see an end or a silverlining. I cant say that I felt this waywith Phils death. I broke and Icouldnt find my footing. While I made aconscious choice to fall into my faith, the darkness consumed me. Many, many people reached out to me andcarried me and the key for me was that I let them help me. Maybe they did not have words, and maybesometimes the wrong words were uttered, but they showed up and were fullypresent when I couldnt help myself. Ihurt so much that my body hurt for months. Sometimes, I felt like I was having a heart attack and I wished it tobe.
During this darkness, I felt stupid and I felthelpless, I couldnt remember things andI would have to leave myself notes to eat. Yes, eat. I operated on auto pilot and the routineseventually helped me find stability. Itwasnt easy to get up and go to work in the morning, but the schedule forced menot to hide behind four walls suffering in silence,. Eventually, the masks started to come off andwhat I showed the world was the girl I always had been except I wasntpretending any more. Do those dark dayscreep in and do I struggle with wearing the masks? Yesand sometimes I wonder if there will everbe a 27 November, Jan 11, April 4, or 27 April where I wont feel my heartstrings pulled, but this numbness or this widowss fog is probably the mostrealistic first stage of grieving.
I felt overwhelming fear. If Phil could be so wrong about his assassin, then who am I to makedecisions about people or even for myself? I was scared and unsure. Idrifted not knowing where to go or who to call. I wished to die, but I couldnt give the assassin the bonus of gettingme too. I began to fight back into lifeone small step at a time.
As time crept by, I became aware of shifting friendships andthe fact that I no longer felt like I fit it. I know that even among my family members, people pulled away. I do not think it was an intentionalsevering, rather, I think it was all of us grieving an unnatural death in ourown manner. People who had been longterm friends pulled away and have not reached out. I am not sure if it was because they thoughtthat somehow my moral compass might have changed, if they thought I was a thirdwheel, my sadness was too much to bear, or if I was too much of a visiblereminder as to what could happen to their spouses. It made me feel broken, deficient, and deeplylonely. I have changedI am a betterfriend because I know all too well about how fleeting life is. I no longer sit in the shadows afraid to saythings or to wait for life to happen.
I struggle because after 23 years of marriage, I knew how tobe the traditional wife and the traditional mom. I dont know how to be single or how to fixmy car, electronics, drive long distances, and I could go on. I have discovered that I am capable ofspeaking and that I like certain foods I would have once never had in my housebecause Phil couldnt stand the smell of stronger foods. I have discovered that I know where I want tolive and where home is. Before homewas Phil and wherever the military sent us. Colorado is beckoning meCome home, come home. Like an adolescent, I have moments of self-doubtand moments of anger, but those moments of self-discovery have compelled me forward. These opportunities and this quest to findmeaning and to honor the men and women gone far too soon and the families athome waiting for them have opened doors I never imagined for myself. I saw, and often still see, myself as aninvisible behind the scenes kind of girl, but in my darkest hours, a fire wasfuelled. I need, I want, and I try tohonor Phil and his incredible story, but more than that, I know that every nameflashing across the television screens had someone at home waiting for them,loving them, and whose lives were shattered in the most unspeakable way. This is part of what I consider to be thetrue second phase of grieving for most people.
It is so strange to publicly addressing military loss andgrief and to know that Phil would have hated every moment of this part ofme. It is so breath taking to considerwhether he would even like this new Linda. I have changed and sometimes there is guilt there. Phil got 44 years and it was not longenough. He was robbed of so muchnot justwith his career, but his children and grandchildren. He missed out on what he had waited for withus. I missed out and my dreamsendedevery one of them, but I cannot stay in the staid pooling muckywaters. I have begun to take steps toconsider what I want my life to look like however many days I have left. I am lonely and I do believe in a chaptertwo, but it is sobering to realize that I am not the girl I once was and thatshe no longer exists. That girl isburied and gone. I trust myself and I trust the God who carries me. He hasnot brought me thus far to let me fall.
Finally, I believe that these grieving stages, per se, arestatic. Days or life events can knock meto my knees. Most days are diamonds, butother days are an albatross around my neck. I still cannot celebrate Christmas. I plan to try this year, but there are some areas where the fun is stillsucked out of my life. I still want toturn to Phil and ask his opinion as I step forward and consider a life withouthim. I still hate airport reunions andmilitary homecomings not because I dont want others to have them, but becauseit is unbearable that Phil never got that in any deployment. Time is marching on and I have so manyblessings and happy times, but when the hard times hit, people almost thinkthat I should be finished with negative emotion. To put it into perspective, people never tellanother person to get over being happy, but they will think or tell a personthat it is time to move on. Is it? Only the griever knows and it is differentfor each and every one of us. Theprocess is static and shifting and there is no one pattern or sequence that weall follow. I step forward because Ichoose to trust the faith I fell into in my very darkest hours.
I was not following the "prescribed" path for healing either. I have never been angry. I feel anger is counterproductive for me. And I know I was too broken to even be angry for a very long time.
I went back to work soon after, to occupy my mind on something other than my own pain. But I was not as effective as before. Thank goodness my job supported me both financially and emotionally. But I too have noticed interpersonal dynamics have changed a great deal. And yes, Many people either say hurtful things or nothing about the man I lost.
But I too am determined to pull myself forward so I keep moving forward. It is the most difficult journey and I could never have understood it fully without going through it myself.