May 4th of this year, marked the 9 year anniversary of my grandfather’s suicide.
As a psychology major, I am well aware of the stages of grief. I understand that everyone grieves differently on their own time. I am also fully understanding that while we may advance through the stages of grief, we may also regress to past stages at any time.
There is no right or wrong way for a person to grieve.
There is not set timeline for a person to grieve.
We may go through the stages in exact order, we may bounce around different stages, we may move forward to the final stage of grief only to find ourselves back at stage one.
We all grieve individually through the stages of grief:
This is usually the first stage. It is accompanied by numbness and shock. It is hard to believe what is really going on and their are endless questions. You feel overwhelmed, lost, confused. Nothing makes sense to you. What appeared normal is no longer. You may find yourself questioning how or if you should go on. In the denial stage, you are focusing on getting through one day at a time.
Even to this day, I can still remember the day I received the call. Denial, numbness and shock are all things I vividly remember. You know how when you watch movies and someone gets bad news, they tend to kind of lose their balance and just collapse. I don’t recall collapsing, but that’s how I felt. I think back on that day and watch it all in slow motion. Sometimes, I find myself still in denial thinking that it didn’t happen and years later, I still have questions that will never be answered.
Anger is normal. Anger at the person who died, anger at your Higher Power, anger at yourself, friends or family. There is no limit to the anger.
When I learned of my grandfather’s suicide, we left that night to drive 1700 miles from Arizona to Minnesota with hubby, me, Kadenn who was 3 at the time and Buddy who had just turned a year.
During the drive, I hit the anger phase. Initially, I was angry at my God, but then the more I thought about it, I realized I had no reason to be angry at God. My grandfather did not die of natural causes or health reasons. He took his own life. My anger then became pointed to my grandfather for leaving us behind.
There are days that I feel like I have accepted his suicide. I do not find myself obsessing over it every day. But when I do think of it, I am reminded how quickly one can regress to a previous stage of grief and I find myself at the anger stage.
Anger that he left us. Anger that he didn’t see my little sister get married and will not see my other little sister get married. He doesn’t get to watch my sister’s children grow up. He didn’t get to meet my nephew and niece. He doesn’t get to watch my kids grow up and he won’t get to meet my youngest. I am angry that I don’t know the reasoning. I’m angry because it was his way of controlling a situation that was really out of his control. I’m angry that my favorite memories are just that – memories – that I won’t get to experience again in my future. That my children won’t get to experience those favorite memories with him. I question the motives and get angry.
There are times still, that I find myself stuck in the anger stage of grief. And I know it’s okay to be here.
Bargaining comes in the form of “If only…” or “What if…”. You may bargain with your Higher Power that if you do xyz then your loved one can return to you. Or if only you had done this or what if you had done that.
Initially, looking at bargaining, I didn’t recall doing this with my grandfather, but then, it slapped me in the face. I very much so did.
After his suicide, when I got the nerve to start questioning things, I was informed that my grandfather had been depressed and was taking medication for his depression. I immediately asked for the medications and started going through them to see if one of them may have triggered his suicide. I questioned why I hadn’t seen it before. I wondered what I could have done differently and if it would have made a difference. I did the “if only” and the “what if”. It is a part of the grieving process.
While depression can be a mental illness, depression in the case of loss is normal.
We are left saddened, questioning life. This is normal. You need time to work through the depression at your own pace and do not need to be “fixed”. This is a normal stage of grief. Allow yourself to feel these emotions and to work through them.
Been there. Done that. I find myself struggling with the depression a lot during Christmas time. I have many memories of Christmas time with my grandfather. In fact, his last Christmas was spent with me, hubby and the kids. Kadenn’s 3rd birthday was spent with him and my grandma at our house. It is during those times of the year that I find myself struggling with the sadness that accompanies the grief.
Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality (Kubler-Ross and Kessler, 2013).
I couldn’t have said it better myself. We learn to live with the fact that our loved one is no longer here.
On a daily basis, when I don’t dwell on the fact of his suicide, I am in acceptance. I accept that he is no longer here. That it is now my reality. But on days like today, I find myself back at anger and acceptance is thrown out the window. I can’t accept it and don’t want to accept that he is no longer around.
Regardless of how you grieve, just remember that we each grieve at our own pace. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Kubler-Ross, E. and Kessler, D. (2013). The five stages of grief. Retrieved May 4, 2013, from grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief