Anger (noun): A strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility
A few years after my dad passed away, my Aunty M gave my mum a book called On Death and Dying. I don’t think my mum read it, but I did (pretty full-on reading material for a child, I know, but I was always considered precocious), so I’ve known about this body of work since I was around 13 years old.
The book centres around Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ theory on the stages of grief. I’ve been wanting to write about the it since the 4th August, but the truth is, I’ve had nothing to add to the subject, as I’ve been stuck in anger. However, now that we’re approaching the year end, progress or no progress, I figure that it’s a good a time as any to pause and reflect.
According to the original model, there are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Since being published, it has been recognised that grief doesn’t follow this set pattern, these are nevertheless the most commonly observed emotions experienced by the grieving population. Though I have lots to say on this, I’ll try my very best to focus on brevity.
Denial (and isolation): When Summer first died, I was tormenting myself with thoughts I just knew made no sense. I logically understood that she had died but I kept thinking “I can’t leave her, it’s the longest she’s been without me, I can’t leave her”.
Since then, the overarching feeling has been isolation (some self-inflicted, some due to world circumstance). Because grief is unique to the individual, it’s asynchronous and so, it’s lonely. There’s been no way around that. I still feel that it’s me and my grief, against the world.
Glancing forwards, I’ve always liked to think that if I got pregnant again and had lots of symptoms and no reason to worry, then I just wouldn’t. I would force myself to enjoy it, to reclaim what’s been lost. Although that’s something I hope for, it’s very naïve. We know and have been through too much. Ignorance is bliss and I’m in denial if I think pregnancy after loss will be a remotely enjoyable experience.
Anger: Blame, guilt, lashing out: that’s what I’ve used my Mumoirs for, haven’t I?
For this particular paragraph, I’ve done something I’ve never done on this blog before: I’ve typed and rewritten and deleted and retyped. (This pantser of a blog, with its now one planned section) That’s because I now feel muzzled (blame). This corner which is mine, which I can no longer write for myself, because I fear that I am being misunderstood (guilt) and some are now reading this for all the wrong reasons (lashing out). I am trying to keep a lid on all this rage. There is so much rage. WHY US?
There has been so much anger, but this is what persists: I have always known who has been there in the good times, but this year I learnt who shows up during the bad. I have been shocked and disappointed, enraged and embarrassed, but ultimately I have redefined my inner circle and so if you’ve not spoken to me about my baby this year – you’re no longer in it. So do not expect me to show up for you. The previously distributed titles of “family” or “friend” are insignificant to me now. They, like myself, have been rewritten.
You took me for granted. You took my husband for granted. You took the strength of my relationship for granted. So please, ask yourself a fundamental question: why do you expect me to care about you, when you’ve failed to show that you care about me? In our time of greatest need, when you failed to show up, who does that say more about, me or you?
Sometimes I wonder, is this all just one big test? Not for me (that would be too obvious), but for you? Am I bashing absolutely everybody so that I can see who’s still standing at the end? Who actually thinks I’m worth it? Or am I just hateful?
Bargaining: There’s a quote which stayed with me, it’s “I felt like I had died too and they just forgot to bury me”. This morning, I thought “wouldn’t it be something, if you could choose to go with them?” and I remember earlier this year, almost putting in a blog, “if ever you need to do a deal with a devil, trade me. I’ll take one for the team”. But these bargains do not exist, except inside my mind.
Recently I’ve been pondering about whether I’ve invited this additional heartache. I mocked the law of attraction, and I’ve opted to sit in the sh1t this year. A new approach for me and look what’s happened: things have gotten worse. I started a blog, I started to talk, and then more of the proverbial hit: an adhesion, a 12 week delay, a blood clotting disorder, pre cancer cells and a further 6 month delay. Perhaps if I stop embracing the bad, some good will happen? Perhaps if I start painting on a happy face, things will turn a corner? That’s the new bargain I’m contemplating making.
Depression: I’m having days where I find it difficult to get out of bed again. Too much has happened recently. Hair washing, getting dressed and showered and generally leaving the house, is proving too much at the moment. I’ve also not wanted to verbally speak as much, which is new. And motivation, for Christmas and life in general? At an all-time low.
I had a bunch of new counselling sessions authorised last week and although I’ve always balked at the patient description of “depressive disorder” (since “bereavement counselling” doesn’t seem to be an option in the system), I must admit, it’s never felt more fitting.
Acceptance: Apparently this means learning to live with the new normal, having longer streaks of good days over bad. I’ve definitely had bursts of this. And I’ve spent a lot of time (as you know) writing and thinking and ironing out what this all means. How do I live with the memory of a dead baby? How do I break down this taboo, for myself? For my friends and family? I’m actually really pleased about the progress in this area, I feel relieved that we’ve carved out a Summer-shaped space, that it’s not awkward, that she just fits. In conversation with remaining friends and most family. Normal or not, she has become our norm.
Meaning: The reason I remember the date that I first toyed with writing a blog about the stages of grief, was because I was having lunch with a friend. She was asking me about the progress of this Mumoirs blog and she said that it sounded a lot like the newest (6th) stage being introduced to the Kübler-Ross model: Meaning
This makes a LOT of sense to me. People ask me a lot about whether this blog is still helping me, it is. I will always feel at peace with how I spent this time (both grieving and in lockdown): creating an outlet and resource for myself and for others going through it. This blog has enabled me to bring about some measurable good from Summer’s short life, which I’ve blogged about here and here.
I have repeatedly said that if we have to go through this, some good must come from it. And I guess that’s what finding meaning is all about. Since I’m on the hunt for meaning, I think it’s interesting how this sixth stage of grief book was published on the anniversary of my dad’s death: I always think that stuff like this is a sign.
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