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How Do People Deal With Grief?

Updated on December 30, 2014

Grief, especially the grief of losing a loved one can manifest itself in various ways. They say there is a progression, stages of grief which run from denial to anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance. I'm not sure if all people go through all the stages, especially after they face grief a few times. I feel like I fast track to acceptance but then fall back to bargaining and depression, sometimes anger. I'm not sure I feel one is better than the others. Maybe we have to just hit them all eventually to be done with it? I deny even that I do denial but I suppose I do... I suppose, it is those times when I think I can pick up the phone and call my mom, who passed last October. Or when I think she is whispering at me to write something, like this.

Pet Shop Boys & Kylie Minogue - In Denial


Denial has to be the worst. You can't move on. You keep yourself safe. I think a person can stay in denial a very long time. When my dad died on me at age 15, I did a lot of denial. Denial that he was a good dad. Denial that we had any happy times. It was pretty easy as the hurt was too raw to face, especially since for the first five years I felt like I was responsible. My dad died with me trying to do CPR on him. My mom was shrieking in the hallway of their bedroom. She was of sound mind enough to call for help because the ambulance did come and somehow our neighbor, a guy who I was sure couldn't stand me, was there at my side helping when the ambulance arrived, but my dad was dead. His gasping was not breathing, I know now, it was a reflex. I pushed out all the times he messed around with me in the pool or how much of an adventurer he was on the vacations we took, usually two a year and ALWAYS one trip to Florida. I loved those trips. I was my dad's co-pilot as my mom was inept with the maps. Sure, he got pissed at me once when my pleas that his short cut was taking us to Louisiana and not Florida but I remember seeing that look of pride that his nine year old could read a map and navigate. Just like him. A skill I have to this day. It took until my 20's until I could let those memories in. For a long time it was just easier to pretend he wasn't there. He might not have been around as much as he should've been but he wasn't absent either. I wasted a lot of time in denial. I try not to do it anymore. I try to face grief now as a challenge. A chance to show my best for myself and my family. It isn't easy. But these days I try to skip over denial. Although, honestly, between just you and me and the 30 people who read what I write... I still do denail. I just don't like to admit it.

David Bowie - Look Back In Anger


Oh man, am I good at anger. I excel in anger. When I'm angry you don't want to be around me. I will cut you to shreds. Sometimes I'm angry at my sister for making me so proficient at anger and cutting others down, for making them feel stupid, for keeping track of their weaknesses and then just hammering on that when I am angry. Anger NEVER works out for me though. It almost always back fires. Then I have to apologize. Usually, the person who gets my anger is the innocent victim. Sometimes it is that very sister I just mentioned who made me so good at it. I feel like if I don't watch my tongue I could destroy that sister. The last thing I want to do. Man, the very last thing. My biggest victim is my wife, she gets the magma that explodes out of me like a volcano that just went off. Because I was a lying sack of shit up above there when I said I don't do denial. I do denial until I explode. My oldest sister doesn't seem to ever explode. I fear she's stuck in denial. I totally unloaded on her when we were caring for my mother. Feeling badly, I told her to vent on me about the crap I do to her and she said she couldn't come up with a list. WTF? I can come up with her list. I'm a friggin' asshole at times. I ain't no saint. I hope she unloads on someone or in therapy if she goes... somewhere. I worry more about my oldest sister than my younger sister, both of them are 10+ years older than me. I'm angry that I feel like the oldest brother, instead of the kid brother. I don't even know if that is reality or just how I feel. I shouldered a lot alone with them out of the house with my mom after my dad died. My mom wallowed. Who could blame her? I think about losing my wife now, which would be about what she went through. I'd be devastated. My dear sweet mother is dead and I'm still a tad pissed at her for stuff I can't blame her for. It's messed up. I don't like anger and I've done well to learn to vent it in other ways so I don't explode and hurt the ones I love, like I do at times. I used to be proud of my trash talking skill, but not anymore - I don't want to be proud of something like that. I realize this now, finally. At 46, I'm still growing up it seems. After the last one I pulled, spewing hot magma over my wife for caring about me... I think I'm done with that crap. God please, I hope so. It isn't good for anyone to be angry. It can actually kill you. I think stress is the actual number one killer of all of us. And dying, venting anger on innocent people or just giving up doesn't help anyone, this I know.

Adam Sandler - I Feel Pretty


Not sure if my Adam Sandler video is a great representation of negotiation. But I think it shows his therapist trying to get him to negotiate with his anger. I did a lot of negotiating with God when my girl had leukemia. I'd say, "You can do some shit to me if you could just make this spinal tap go easy on my girl today." I don't think it worked. If there is a God, and I do believe there is one - I'm just not sure exactly what that Being is - that if there is a God he is definitely hands off. What kind of God would do to my girl what has been done to her? She's no sinner. She's innocent. What kind of God gives two year old girls cancer and has painful treatments to save them? We tortured our girl, which tortured us, to save her life. They used to do those spinal taps without much in the way of meds, to where the main thing was literally to bite down on something rubber. Thankfully, although my girl was awake for the process - they had meds that made her feel comfortable and that would actually have her forget the experience. I wouldn't want to bypass those 30 months but I wouldn't have minded a little bit of that medicine she was getting on those days. Then I wouldn't have to eat 300 grams of fast food, ice cream and snacks every 6 weeks when we'd stick her in the spine. Hell, sticking her in the spine was a picnic compared to making her take medicines by mouth. I'm still not sure why doctors can't make good tasting medicines. Now my daughter hates Hersey syrup. Negotiation never worked out for me so I didn't do much of it. Especially after my girl, now 15, was done with treatments. You can't negotiate with pain and grief. They don't listen.

Barbara Streisand - The Way We Were


Depression, what I call "wallowing", feeling self-pity - I despise.  I'm surprised it is only a step away from acceptance.  My middle sister is stuck here now I think.  When I come to see her, it isn't unusual for her to have a slide show of our mother running on the computer.  I can see she's wiped away tears from red swollen eyes.  I like to wallow myself.  Usually, privately, in a bath.  You can cry in the bath and no one knows and get yourself over it before you come out.  I've done so much self-pity that I can't even stand other people's pity any more.  I fear it will get worse and I'll want to be back where I was.  Watching my mom die, and the constant care and sleep deprivation and tug of war between duty and family just about ruined me in 2009.  Just about ruined all of us connected to it.  But most of the time, actually, was pretty good.  I didn't worry about looking for work, I had severance and I had a big badge of honor I could show people that said "CAREGIVER".  I could play on my PSP, walk and visit and not go to work.  A job I didn't much care for anymore anyway.  Without guilt.  I don't have that now that she is gone.  Even then, when it was so hard I just wanted it to stop - knowing that meant my mom would be dead - I knew that after she was gone I'd long for a hard sleep deprived day of waiting for that doorbell ring to sound, meaning my mom needed to be lifted from her chair to the toilet or a drink.  A constant 24 hour doorbell.  God I hated that doorbell sound.  But now, as I knew it would be, I wish I could hear it and go to my mom.  Her mind, thankfully, was sound up until the end.  I knew, although there was less and less of her everyday, that I would miss those horrible days.  So I tried to appreciate them and hold onto them the best I could.  To not let the 5% of the time that was terrible to be the focus.  Most of my time with my mom was enjoyable.  I bet, if you asked my mom, 2009 was one of the best years of her life even though it was certainly the worst one.  Now, I try to think about how I handled my dad and I don't want to wait 20+ years to get to acceptance.  I'm too old now to do that and have to many people around me that need me.  Sometimes though, it is nice to wallow.  And how long a person should wallow?  I just don't know.  I can't watch wallowing very well... it will drag me into that dark black hole.  It is hard to escape from.  When you do it is like you are actually breathing in fresh cool air.  Like you weren't even alive before.  I like being alive. I like being happy.  So I try not to do much wallowing and not fault those who aren't so lucky as to have escaped it.

Kris Allen - Live Like Were Dying


Whew, we're here. Sweet acceptance. I like to try to fast track to acceptance. I've been on the grief train a few times. Who hasn't? Sadly, doing that sort of ignores denial and then that badass pulls you in and then you have to go through angry to get back to Kris Allen here... to live each day like we are dying. When we found out my mom wasn't going to get better, I said to myself, we are not going to wait to die. We are going to live. We are going to make the most of each day. It wasn't that hard, as my mom was two weeks away from dying in October 2008, death was staring us in the face - laying his sickle in the corner and sitting down to watch, "Deal Or No Deal" with us. My mom actually lived for a full year more from that October. A full year of living like we are dying - it's one of those experiences you don't get too often. We had a lot of awesome days amongst a handful of really hard ones. My mom saw so many people. We talked so much. Wallow sister up there I think feels she didn't do as much of that as she should've but I disagree. She did as much as she could. She has always kept contact with my mom before the congestive heart failure, calling her most mornings and lived with my mom full time throughout 2009. In the past I called my mom maybe once a week. I feel bad about that sometimes but that is stupid. Each of us, her kids, her family, her in-laws, her friends... we all had different and unique relationships with her. We should just cherish what we had and not regret. Our stories with mom, we wrote in life, and now that book is read and put up on the shelf. Not forgotten but we know the story. We can't go back and re-write it. Each of us have our own stories with her, filled with all that humans have to offer: love, anger, frustrations, laughter, understanding, sympathy, adoration... all of it. That book is written and read. If it involved my mother, it was a good story, one worth reading. My mom is grief, and my mom would want all of us who loved her or liked her and if any even those who didn't like her - to move on. I'm sure she doesn't mind some tears and whatever emotions go along with her in the form of grief but I know she wants us all to move on. My mom was on a journey to understand life that didn't end when she died. She didn't have all the answers when she died. Her death, to me, is her next birth. She's moved along the journey. Perhaps even, we shall meet again. I believe we will. I have to, to survive I have to believe that or feel there is a chance. There's always a chance in this Universe.

So, I like acceptance even though I do realize you have to touch on the other steps as well. Even me. And not beat yourself up if you are stuck on a stage. We need to move through these things in our own pace. I'd love to help move someone along but I don't have that power. I can maybe inspire but in the end, each of us walks our own path. At the pace of our chosing. Sometimes the best I can do is stay clear, for myself as well as for that person. Sometimes my "sage" advice burns and isn't helpful at all. Hard to fathom that, eh?!?!? That was sarcasm, by the way. Where ever you may be, I wish you well on your dealings with grief. Grief is a bitch, but it is a part of what we are. It molds us into what we are. For better or worse. It is what it is.


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    • marieryan profile image

      Marie Ryan 

      8 years ago from Andalusia, Spain

      JBeadle, thanks...this has helped me move on a little ...I'm sort of stuck in one of the above phases...need to 'fast-track to acceptance' as you put it so well!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Damn, this boy can WRITE.

    • Winsome profile image


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Grief comes on you like a big yellow dog when you are seven. It knocks you down and until you realize it doesn't want to kill you, you let it. Finally you wrestle with it and realize you're stronger than you thought and the big yellow dog wags its tail and you know it only wanted to play rough and when you start to chase it around the yard to get back whatever it stole from you, you find you get back more than you lost. Great writing J.


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