Sometime in the first two weeks after Julian’s death, I remember asking a friend, “what are the 5 stages of grief, again?” My expectation was that I could check them off, one by one, and track my progress toward the last one, “Acceptance.”
Turns out, the “5 stages of grief” aren’t as applicable to my situation as I thought. They have been taken out of context and oversimplified and generalized. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s research focused on the stages a terminally ill patient went through as they prepared for their own death, not 5 linear stages in which humans process death and loss.
This was news to me, and somewhat frustrating. I like to plan, and I’m good with a to-do list. I wanted a checklist that I could work through. Turns out, grief has an infinite number of stages, and comes in waves.
Sometimes those waves can knock you right off your feet. But also, sometimes the waves just gently roll over your feet, reminding you they are there without disrupting your balance at all. Usually, my personal waves of grief are somewhere in between.
Sadly, based what I’ve read in books and blogs written by parents who have lost children, some parents wake up every morning and get pummeled by those waves all day long. They seem to accept these crushing waves as their new reality, their life sentence.
I don’t want to be one of those parents.