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The “5 stages of grief” aren’t applicable to me.

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.


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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in month 1

 

I’m not so sure our culture wants us to move forward after such a loss.

Losing a child is almost unspeakable in our culture. There isn’t even a word for it. A person who loses their spouse is a widow or widower. A person who loses their parents is an orphan. But a parent who loses a child is… a parent who loses a child.

One of the first steps in any recovery process is to name it, to own it. Yet I’ve noticed that in subtle and non-subtle ways, there are signs all around me saying “you are experiencing hell on earth, and you will never ever EVER recover.”

This is a parent’s worst nightmare. And as human beings, we get so easily paralyzed by fear. Most parents (including myself, 6 weeks ago) tell themselves, “If my child died, I would die. I would just DIE. I could not survive.” Yet here I am, surviving.

It turns out that when my worst fear became my reality, I changed, but I didn’t die. I feel like there’s a part of me that died – the same part of me that grew when Julian was born. How could it not? Physically and energetically, he was created inside of me. I carried him for 9 months, and when he was born, something was born inside of me too. Now this “something” inside of me has been replaced with a hollow emptiness that is similar to what I imagine an amputee feels. The me I used to be is now missing something profound – but the me I used to be didn’t cease to exist.

I don’t expect to “recover” as in, “get back to the way things were.” But I do expect to move forward. I want to cherish my memories of Julian, and honor his life by bringing those memories forward with me into my “new normal” – which will include joy and love and happiness. Because that’s what I’m determined to create for myself, and my family.

But why do I feel like this is a controversial perspective? Why do I feel that I have to be careful who I say that to, and how I say it?

I plan to explore that more in this blog.

 

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I’d love to know who visits my blog, and I’d especially like to know if you have any thoughts or comments about it. If you’d like to send me a note or just let me know you were here, click “Leave a comment” below to get access to a comment box and a “like” button. Just like on Facebook, you can “like” the post as a method of saying hi.
 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in month 1

 

Many books have been written about losing a child, but most are focused on the loss itself.

I have skimmed, or started and abandoned, many books that talk (and talk… and talk…) about how horrible it is to lose a child. I know how hard it is. I’m living my own worst nightmare right now. But reading about the horribleness of it isn’t helpful to me.

I would have expected that, given how horrible this experience is, there must be people out there writing books and blogs about, “it’s horrible… and here is my story of how I moved forward from that experience.” But, no. Not that I’ve found so far.

I recently skimmed a book called “New Normal” (selected based on it’s title, which is obviously similar to the title of this blog). It had a section on specific losses: spouse, parent, friend, job, pet. No section on losing a child. What? The author included job and pet, but not child? At the back of the book, a Q&A section included a question about that, and the author basically said that the loss of a child was too significant to summarize in a few paragraphs. I think that was a total cop-out.

Losing a child is something that no one wants to talk, think, or write about it. But it doesn’t change the fact that there are people like me who need inspiration, motivation, and hope that the future can be better than the present.

Where are the messages of hope? What are the techniques for cherishing my son’s memories, and bringing them forward with me into a future that includes joy and happiness again?

I’m determined to find them.

 

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I’d love to know who visits my blog, and I’d especially like to know if you have any thoughts or comments about it. If you’d like to send me a note or just let me know you were here, click “Leave a comment” below to get access to a comment box and a “like” button. Just like on Facebook, you can “like” the post as a method of saying hi.
 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in month 1

 

Four weeks.

Four weeks ago today, my son died of cancer. Six weeks ago, my son was diagnosed with cancer. Seven weeks ago, cancer was something that impacted other families. Not our family. We are healthy!

Before all this, the only time anyone in my family had spent time in a hospital was when our 2 babies were born. My youngest, Julian, had never even had a need for antibiotics in his life. Until… cancer. Julian was diagnosed with leukemia on 2/16/11, and died 15 days later. That was four weeks ago.

Four weeks. One full cycle of the moon. An eternity, and a blink of an eye. How much grieving can happen in a month? How many tears can be shed? A lot. A whole lot. And how much can I read and learn about grief? Again, a whole lot.

I’ve devoured books, websites, and blogs. I’ve talked and talked… to my husband, my parents, my friends, and professionals. I’ve been seeking something, anything, to help me make sense of this and learn how to move forward.

In these four weeks of grieving and seeking, I’ve learned a few things that surprised me:

  1. The “5 stages of grief” aren’t applicable to me.
  2. Many books have been written about losing a child, but most are focused on the loss itself.
  3. I’m not so sure our culture wants us to move forward after such a loss.

Four weeks. I can’t believe it’s already been four weeks. And also, I can’t believe it’s only been four weeks. These were the first four weeks of the rest of my life. The first four weeks of the “after.”

So what comes next? What comes after the “after”?


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I’d love to know who visits my blog, and I’d especially like to know if you have any thoughts or comments about it. If you’d like to send me a note or just let me know you were here, click “Leave a comment” below to get access to a comment box and a “like” button. Just like on Facebook, you can “like” the post as a method of saying hi.
 
12 Comments

Posted by on March 30, 2011 in month 1