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Grief, in Stages

Updated: May 26, 2023

I’ve never understood the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Well, what I don’t understand is the concept. It suggests to me that grief is a process that has a beginning, a middle and an end, and at any point along the way you can actually stop and get your bearings. That you can look at the grief roadmap and say, “Well, I’ve passed through Denial and Anger, so I should be coming up on Bargaining.”

Then I’ll hit Depression, and once I get to Acceptance, which is only a bit farther, I’ll be home free. Of course, it’s possible to get stuck in any of those towns — you might hit bad weather in Denial that forces you to hold up for a while.

Or maybe the traffic signal in Anger is broken, and you sit and wait for a light that isn't going to change on its own.

Or, maybe, you have smooth sailing until you reach Depression, and all of a sudden you look at the gas gauge and see the tank is completely empty and you're nowhere near a fueling station. But the truth is, grieving is not a journey down a long stretch of road. It’s a complicated and convoluted trek with a lot of hairpin turns, switchbacks and detours. Grief takes you in circles.

In my travel, I frequently find myself going back and forth between Depression and Acceptance. And at any given time I might find myself in Sadness or Desolation or even Hilarity.

It’s been years since I set out, and still I run the gamut of emotions every day. Some days — or hours — grief is a silent companion and I’m okay with the situation; I can accept that no one lives forever (not on this physical plane, anyway) and it was his time.

And I can even laugh.

But other times, I’m overcome with such heart-wrenching sorrow that all I can do is weep and feel the immense void that is the place where he existed.

I have no map. I have no idea how much progress I’m making on any given day, and I never know when I’ll find myself backtracking and revisiting some stage of grief I thought I’d passed through and left behind.

Because there is no map. There is no paved road, no signs and no mile markers. There is only me, machete in hand, hacking my way through my own jungle, one strike at a time.

And what I know is that grief doesn’t end. It doesn’t go away. It travels with us forever — sometimes a silent companion, sometimes a monster screaming for our attention.

Writing prompt: Describe three qualities about someone no longer with you, and write about something about him/her/they — an occasion or an incident — that was particularly funny or goofy.

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