Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stages of grief ... beware it is looooooong

I have so much literature on mourning and grief I could start my own bookstore.
Between losing both my mom and husband, people have very generously offered me a ton of books, pamphlets, and other such information to help me cope with death.
And what I have learned is this: everyone deals with it differently.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Well, I guess that ain't really true.
Streaking down the street in your birthday suit or snorting a brick of heroine in order to squelch your sorrow would probably be the wrong way to deal with your pain.
But as far as emotionally wrestling with your heartache, there are an infinite amount of ways to overcome it.
Not that I am any kind of expert, as I am still entrenched in my own bereavement period.
But I have dealt with my fair share of loss.
And it doesn't involve any extreme behavior.
It does involve thinking about it and feeling it.
Although I think it is okay to take that in stride too.
The first few days after going through the death of a close family member it is hard to process that kind of trauma.
After not sleeping for 48 hours immediately following Scott's death, my dad finally called my doctor and picked up a prescription of Xanax.
For the following week or so I was heavily medicated.
So much so that I often couldn't stand without assistance.
It helped to numb the very acute pain and aid in sleeping.
But after everyone went home and the commotion died down, I weaned myself to taking a sleeping pill at night only.
I felt that it was important to really feel everything to better come to grips with my new reality.
That approach obviously was accompanied by A LOT of crying.
When I say a lot, I mean more than you think one person could cry without drowning herself.
For the first six weeks I cried myself to sleep every night and often every day too.
I spent a majority of my time in pajamas and plugged my kids into the T.V.
It hurts like a mother effer but for me it shortens the initial depression.
That first two months after Scott's passing were the worst I have ever experienced.
There was a lot of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and weight loss.
My body also had a strong reaction to his departure.
Disclaimer: Oversharer about to spill:
I also developed several lady infections, one right after another.
My body was so out of whack.
I have never had any problem with "imbalance" before. Ever.
So it was a fun new experience on top of everything else.
I also broke out even more like an adolescent and had headaches constantly.
It was a distraction. Of the negative type.
According to my paper on the Ten Stages of Grief, I was definitely setting up camp in Step #4: Physical Symptoms.
Not that I wasn't experiencing other stages simultaneously, it was just surprising to me how grief manifests itself in seemingly unrelated ways.
Now I reside somewhere in Stage #6: Guilt Feelings, Stage #3: Loneliness, Depression, and Utter Isolation, and Stage #9: Gradual Overcoming of Grief.
People I have talked to with more expertise or knowledge on this type of experience, say many people jump around between stages or skip others altogether.
I think I have hit all of them to one degree or another.
They are as follows:
1. SHOCK (Anesthetized against the overwhelming loss. Not comprehending and not able to face the full magnitude of it.) Yep. This happened immediately.
Throwing myself across his body in the hospital after I found out he was gone tipped this one off.
2. EMOTIONAL RELEASE (Beginning to realize how dreadful the loss is.)
This happened for me immediately as well.
The path my life was on changed 100%.
Literally everything had to be different.
It is hard to make that shift.
You have to reset absolutely everything you thought you knew and worked toward for a decade.
3. DEPRESSION, LONELINESS AND UTTER ISOLATION (Feelings of "No help for me." Down in the depth of despair. Should know this is a normal feeling. Aided by EXPRESSED CONCERN.)
I don't know that I feel as if I am in the depths of despair, but a general feeling of down-ness washes over me.
It happens a little less every day.
I think we're clear on this situation. Gross.
5. PANIC (Convinced that "something is wrong with me" as a person; can concentrate on little else. May fear losing their mind.)
I panic a lot actually.
Not that I am losing my mind. Clearly that ship has sailed.
I panic more about my future and how I will navigate working-motherhood.
I worry about how I will provide for my kids and what it is I need to do to improve/enrich our lives.
I panic about remaining alone. I don't want that to happen.
6. GUILT FEELINGS (May recall own past neglect, mistreatment, or wrongs to the deceased. Wrongs may be imaginary or exaggerated.)
I also feel guilt a lot.
But not because I felt I hurt my loved ones but because I am moving on without them.
I know this sounds irrational.
But I feel bad that I am planning a future that doesn't include Scott.
And entertaining the idea that I might share that future with someone else.
Stab. to. the. heart.
7. HOSTILITY (Feeling better leads to expressing yourself more actively. Hostile expressions toward those who "cause" the loss are common.)
If you call me pointing and screaming at my dad about my sucky lot in life as he slowly backs away down the hall to his room hostility, then yes.
8. INABILITY TO RENEW NORMAL ACTIVITIES (Cannot get back to "business as usual" and must bear loos alone, since others are back to normal activities. Need encouragement to face new realities, not to be sheltered from them.)
This is less of a problem now, but proved to be fairly debilitating at first.
I felt resentment for all the activities I normally am responsible for.
I spent a lot of time in bed, ignoring my kids.
I literally did not shower or exercise or eat. For like a month.
It was ugly.
9. GRADUAL OVERCOMING OF GRIEF (Emotional balance returns little by little, like healing of physical wound. Rate varies with individual.)
I think I am here most days.
Not all the way, but I am piecing things back together and formulating a long term plan.
I feel pretty good for the most part.
Which in turn makes me feel guilt.
10. READJUSTMENT TO THE NEW REALITIES (Not "old self again" because there is a new situation. Stronger, deeper, better for having faced and overcome the disaster.)
I like the sound of that: Stronger, deeper, better for having faced and overcome the disaster.
Someone once asked me if I was more afraid of death now.
I thought about that for a while.
I am not; because I have faced it twice and come out the other end still trying, and hoping, and living. I would say that I am actually less afraid.
Do I want to face it again.
Hell to the NO. But I know I can.
You could too.
And now you are better educated on the steps of grief.
I would also dare to say that the best thing one can do for someone going through these steps is keep calling, or writing, or texting.
After the initial shock wears off and the funeral is over, is where it really gets hard.
And there isn't really a "right" thing to say. "I'm sorry," really is the most appropriate.
So now that I have made you thoroughly uncomfortable and induced an enormous amount of pity, I will leave you with some ridiculous pictures.

^^ Me yelling at a teammate to "take this picture-taking business seriously." Do you like the photo bomb? ^^ 
^^ My friend Genevieve "Rogue" posing with me. ^^
^^ Should have known better than to wear briefs with the words "Hit Me" on them.
I got slapped on the tushie a lot. ^^


  1. I love your roller derby pictures!

  2. Beautiful writing, Brianne. I think about you a lot, pretty much daily, even though we never got real close while you lived up here. Those roller derby pictures are awesome!

  3. They say going through a divorce feels almost like loosing a loved one. I believe it... Especially after reading your post. I remember going through much of the same feelings. I was very hostile. I remember my sister and I went to Walmart one night. My sister said something really mean to me. And I started beating her up right there in the middle of Walmart! And it continued out to the car. My sister called my mom and my brother had to hurry and drive over and come physically remove me from the car. At which that post I was laying on the floor of the van crying/screaming my head off! CRAZY!! Who was that person?? I remember yelling at my parents too. After one of our arguments I slipped a paper under their door saying I was going to end my life. CRAZY!! It's rough. It will still be rough for awhile. But, it WILL get better!! I can hardly remember those days now. And I agree.... Calls, texts,comments help.... So much!! It's what got me through! Love ya!