Giving Grief a Face - Reflections on a Road Called Grief - Part 2
A Personal Look at the Five Stages of Grief
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote "On Death and Dying" in 1969. In her original research, she observed five stages of grief that were common to people that found out they were terminally ill. These stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
The Stages with "Skin on"
- Denial - My denial began even before my grandson entered eternity. I expected a miracle, that somehow God would raise him up and heal him. I really wrestled in my rational mind with the fact that God numbers our days and that God called Gabriel home. He had fulfilled his purpose in this life even though he was only here for eight years. As the days passed into months, I still found myself in disbelief that somehow Gabriel would not come walking through the door. It just did not seem possible! Leaving his toothbrush in the bathroom for almost six months was another example of the denial I felt.
- Anger - My anger took the form of blaming others, including myself. Gabriel drowned in a community pool. I found myself in the office of an attorney wanting to blame. Wrongful death! Untimely death! I was mad! Mad at myself for not letting him stay at home with me when he did not really want to go swimming. Mad at the community association for not having a life guard on duty. Mad at the fire department for taking so long to get to Gabriel. Mad at my daughter and her boyfriend for not knowing CPR. However, I never felt anger toward God.
- Bargaining - Guilt has often been refered to as bargaining's companion. This is where you repeatedly beat yourself over the head with the "if only I had ....," the "what if ....", ....... the first six months seemed to be filled with a repetition of denial, anger, and bargaining. It must be noted that there is no real order for these stages; that a person can revisit a previous stage that they thought they might have been through. Again, my guilt (barganing) often took the form of all the ways and things that could have been slightly different to prevent Gabriel from being up at the pool at that precise time that he was.
- Depression - There were days when I just wanted to stay in bed all day. I had no energy; nothing seemed meaningful. The ache in my heart was ever-present. Days weighed heavy on my ability to see anything good. I even considered seeing a doctor for some anti-depressants but decided to use exercise instead. I was fortunate to have some true friends who could hang with me on days that I just felt like crying. Fortunately, I did not have a job that required I hold it together all the time. I could walk outside and cry or even leave early if it got to be too much for me to handle.
- Acceptance - Acceptance does not mean feeling all right or okay about a loss. I will always continue to miss him as I pass through each new season, each new year, wondering what that year might have looked like in his life. How tall would he be? What would he be like at puberty? Because of my faith in God, I think there was always a degree of acceptance toward Gabriel's home-going. Even though it has only been a week beyond the first year, I have started to go on with my life without him. I am now ready to pursue a teaching position. (Last September, I was not in any state of mind to even consider a new job.) Something very supernatural happened last week - actually it was a supernatural revelation. My daughter pointed out that Gabriel drowned on 7/7/07. None of us had even thought about this over the entire past year! "To be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord."(2 Corinthians 5:8) When Gabriel was pulled from the pool, he had no vital signs - no heartbeat - no pulse - no breath. He was absent from his body. Man and machines did revive his body for two more days, but Gabriel visited heaven on 7-7-07. Seven is the number of perfection: of completion. God showed our family that indeed, it was Gabriel's time to go home.