The five stages of grief, fact, or fiction
Several weeks have passed without a Ponderings contribution. One of my friends asked if it was because of the loss of my muse. My wife of sixty-six years and I frequently discussed my column, generally it was after the fact. She has always been a positive force over the eight-hundred or so columns during twenty-five years, however I have considered myself an independent thinker. Maybe subconsciously she had more to do with my inspiration than she was given credit for. (Never end a sentence with a preposition, seemed to crop up in my mind.)
I have lost many friends over the years. Some of natural causes, others of violent accidents; the result is still the same. Throughout those loses I never had the occasion to invoke the five recognized phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Recently I lost my wife of sixty-six years to a two-months to the day illness. I began to wonder and to evaluate my emotions. Then I began to read again. The experts wrote that one must go through the phases. I can look again at the phases; I can tell you that they do not necessarily go in that order. Mine immediately went to anger.
I was scheduled to go first; so, I thought. After surviving a heart attack in March, I began to make plans for what I thought was going to be the inevitable. I made lists for Pat to follow. Who to contact of our friends far away. Which credit cards to cancel, where the wills were and what I thought would be able to guide her through my demise with the least amount of pain. The pre-planning was for nought. To follow the Robert Burns quotation “the best laid schemes of mice and oft go awry!” Sadly, I was able to use those lists myself.
Let’s go back to the five stages. Denial; maybe a little. Accepting the loss is not easy though I knew at one point that it was inevitable. You know that it is going to happen, but not to your mate of so many years. Anger is next, heck yes. I was mad! Why now, out of the blue? We had made more travel plans. One was to be in the United States without taking a plane. Starting in Arizona, then Texas, Arkansas, up to Michigan, over to Connecticut, New York and then every state going all the way to Florida. Staying with friends in every state; like a farewell tour. That was not to be; and it’s not a trip I will take on by myself.
Who was I mad with? Not the great people who took care of her for two months at the Billdora Senior Care Center. They did an exceptional job. So, who else? Maybe myself. Maybe if I had done her care differently. A feeding tube was suggested since she was not eating. I went against the indignity of that, to simply extend her life a short time. She would have been with us a bit longer, but in a comatose state. Next target was of all possibility, she was a great believer in God. Should I be mad at God, for taking her this early. After all she was only eight-four and had outlived every member of her immediate family. Now after two months and eight days the anger is subsiding; it is supposed to go on to bargaining. I’m realistic enough to know that no amount of bargaining will bring her back. I can’t bargain with doctors or even God won’t bring her back. So, bargaining to me is a useless step.
Depression! I can understand depression. I look at the chair next to mine where she has sat in the evenings for so many years, sometimes even with a glass of her favorite wine. Then with a book or conversation; of proofing my columns when they were finished. Now I know that will never happen again. I can say that the depression stage can be a valid one for me. Now how to overcome it and going to acceptance. I am so fortunate, I have a son living a couple of hundred yards away, a grandson, one mile away, I have a daughter who owns the Coffee Caboose in Tylertown where I go almost daily for breakfast, then, their spouses, and children. A frequent telephone call from our oldest daughter who lives four hours away; what more can I ask for? I am well on my way to acceptance with still a tinge of anger.
I have shared with you some of my innermost thoughts, some may say that I was out of line. I know many of you, perhaps sharing in this manner will lighten the load on the way to stage five, acceptance for the loss of my lifelong partner, wife, lover, and mother to our children.