The Process of Grief

31 10 2006

j0428492 (2)

If I’d been asked to describe the progression of grief a few years ago, I would have assumed it’d work through a nice orderly timeline.  It would start at the loss and work through different emotions (anger, sadness, frustration, etc.) in some sort of logical order.  Each emotion would be a level and once worked through, you’d move on to the next stage in the process.   

I have since concluded that grief doesn’t follow a systematic timeline.  Instead, it often reminds me of a rollercoaster — up and down, to and fro, and all without any warning.  You hang on so tight your fingers hurt, scream your head off, and try not to get sick on the unlucky person who’s seated in front of you.  You can go from being at acceptance, to anger, and then right back to just feeling depressed, and you would’ve felt like you’d worked through each of those already.   

Just One Wild Ride 

Grief isn’t a cycle — once you’ve worked through something you’re on to the next phase — because the feelings and struggles are always there, but it’s impossible for anyone to try and deal with them all at the same time, so it comes it shifts.  The process of working through grief doesn’t inch along, slowly but surely, going in the right direction.  It takes quantum leaps that seem to lead anywhere but forward, but eventually, someday, comes to an end. 

Some days, I wake up feeling as if the world is almost as it should be, but the reality of what I’m dealing with can hit again and leave me feeling dazed.  It makes me hesitate when answering “How are you?” because I don’t want to drag everyone I know along on my rollercoaster.  If I cry when talking, they assume life must be “bad,” but if I’m able to smile while reporting the details of life to them, then life must be “good.”  But the struggles are always the same; they’re always there.  I think this is something people have a hard time grasping.

Out of the Box

Often, it seems as if people are only able to place me in one of their mental boxes.  If I?m in the “Poor Kelsey” box, they’ll ask sympathetic questions and make sad eyes to such a sickening degree I’d like to sign them up for acting lessons — if they’re going to act, at least they could try looking sincere.  When placed in this box, people seem to forget I’m even capable of talking about anything lighter than grief, death and the like, or would even want to do something simply for enjoyment. 

On the other hand, if I’m stuck in the “Life is Fine” box ,when I mention something about my dad’s health and how life is going, they’ll look surprised for a moment and comment, “Oh, that’s right? how is your dad anyways?”  They’d forgotten anything was even happening.

I hate being in either box, because both are such horribly inaccurate representations of my life.  Some of it might simply be that they can’t understand what the process of working through grief looks like; they still think it follows a timeline, so they don’t understand why I don’t feel “better” yet, or why I haven’t moved on to the next “stage.”  The trouble is, there aren’t stages in that sense; just one wild ride.




11 responses

1 11 2006
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1 11 2006

Very good post. I think the most frustrating part of it all is that even if people themselves seem as if they should have an understanding…they’ve lost loved ones too…most of them just don’t get it either. Some of the people who have been the least understanding to me have been Christians who have suffered loss. They really do just want me to “get on with it” I assume because they were never able to deal with it and so think no one else should either?

1 11 2006

I’ve had trouble with some of the Christians who I thought would be there for me, or would at least be able to understand. Some of them — even though they had experienced loss — hadn’t had to deal with grief at the same level.

Sometimes, I think  it seems as if people don’t know how to deal with someone who’s grieving, so they try to make someone “get on with it” more for their own sake than for the person’s. If the other person’s pain isn’t so bad they won’t feel as badly if they don’t know how to help; how to make it go away. But trying to make someone simply “move on,” or “feel better” by belittling their pain and sturggles never makes it any easier; it only makes things worse, and it’s also very frustrating.

It’s sad that grief is so isolating, because it seems like it’s then that you need and want people the most.


31 10 2006

Yes, Yes, and Yes…. You are so very right on all counts. How strange that all of the emotions and struggles are always there… and all of the joys of life too… and no one seems to be able to grasp that it’s all part of the whole of us.

Thank you for these words. And know that someone else understand why ‘better’ is not instant and that ‘poor you’ is not the only you.

It is nice to know you’re not the only one. I think there are a of us out there.


1 11 2006
Mrs. Nicklebee

Thank you for sharing your perspective, Kelsey. I clicked into your blog from Bill’s. (Or was it Baby Chaos’s…)

I appreciate what you said about being in either the “poor Kelsey box” or the “everything is just peachy and I’m over it” box. It’s not just with dealing with loss that that analogy comes into play. I think it’s with any time in life where there’s a major struggle going on. One moment you’ve caught a breath of fresh air on a crisp fall day and want to get out and do something different, and the next moment you feel like crawling back into bed, pulling the covers over your head and just staying there until Trouble goes to live with someone else.

While I don’t understand what it must be like to watch your Dad suffer with this disease, I do “get” what you’re saying about how we relate to people. I think it’s a “people” thing. We want to help but we want the thing we’re helping with to be predictable and not hard. It causes us to have to rely on God more when we choose to think before we speak, when we weigh our words carefully. It’s much easier just to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind and, unfortunately, a lot of times we do just that.

I’m so sorry for what is happening to your Dad and to your family, sweetie.

In His grace and strength,

Mrs. N

Mrs. NIcklebee,

It could have been through either of thier sites. I think I’ve commented on each recently.

Thank you for taking the time to comment. You’re right, it does seem to be a “people” thing. It is easiest to just blurt something out, rather than dealing with the unpredictable and challenging, and trusting God to be God, becasue we can’t fix it.


3 11 2006
Bryan Riley

I’ve been looking at all the places God talks about our hearts in the Bible lately. It is truly an amazing study. The bible speaks of the heart over 800 times. I think it is about 4X as many times as it speaks of the mind. We see Solomon communing with his heart in Ecclesiastes and David communing with his in Psalms. We see that the heart is knowable only to God (not even to ourselves), and that we are dependent on God to search our hearts and see if there are offensive ways in us.

Grief must be done at the heart level. It is much deeper than facts and knowledge, which are processed at the mental level. I think we escape the heart level by analyzing and intellectualizing our pain; at least, I know I do. So, I’ve spent a lot of time lately asking God to search my heart and placing my faith in Him and His ability to change my heart rather than my own trying to analyze all my fears, pains, and sin.

6 11 2006


Thank you for the comment and for sharing some about your own research and thoughts about dealing with things that are at “the heart level”; like grief.

Grief does go much deeper than pain facts and knowledge, which is something I often try to overlook, even when dealing with my own grief. Partly, for me, it’s because I don’t want to deal with it, and I just want it to go away. Thankfully, God is able to know us at a “heart level,” He’s able to heal us, and He walks through it with us.

Grace for the moment,

8 11 2006

this blog rocks

Thank you.


15 11 2006

Kelsey, I have learned so much from my visits to your site. It really does confirm in my own mind, that it is many, many time more difficult for the family than it is for the patient. I certainly know it is much more difficult for my family. I thank you for sharing your thoughts, your pain which I can feel with your writing.
It really does give me a better understanding.
I think your writing is outstanding you express your feelings in such an open honest way.
Please visit my site and leave comments more often. I am sure many will benefit from hearing from you.

17 11 2006

Thank you. When I started this blog I dicided I was going to make a point of being honest about how I’m doing, and what I’m thinking and feeling. I’d been trying to hide or sugarcoat things for so long, and I didn’t want to anymore. I honestly figured it would probably scare most people off, so it’s nice to hear you’ve leaned something from stopping by site.

I am going to make a point of stopping by your site more often. I always appreciate your thoughts and insight. Because of my dad’s brain disorder, he isn’t always able to fully grasp what’s going on, and sometimes he forgets there’s anything wrong at all. I think the rest of my family and I leave with the reality of it more than he ever does.

It’s interesting to hear how you’re dealing with things because you’re able to understand and are living with that knowledge. It gives me a brief look at what my dad might be going through if he was able to comprehend is own illness.

I also like how your site is a safe place to be open about death, grief and lose, which are all subject you can’t always talk about.

11 06 2007

I’ve had occasion to take care of my grandmother when she was dying and suffering from dementia as well so I have a very good idea of what you’ve been facing.
My heart goes out to you and I know that we do what we have to do in a situation like that and it’s not always easy – rather, it’s not easy at all.
I hope you are taking time for you, taking time to just stare at the wall, meditate, eat a bowl of strawberries and just enjoy the little things.
I’m thinking of you tonight.
(I’m new here, hi)
Peace, love and understanding.

Hey, RubyShooZ,

Welcome to my blog, and thank you for taking the time to comment.

I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. Dementia is a horrible thing for anyone to be faced with. Although, it is hard for the person with dementia, I think in many ways it’s the hardest on the close family and friends who are faced with caring for their loved one over a long period of time — it’s like a long and painful goodbye.

It is good to take some time to breath, collect my thoughts, and do nothing. I’ve been trying to make more of a point of it lately for the sake of my own health and wellbeing. I actually took sometime this evening to eat a bowl of strawberries, which was just what I need.

Thank you for your thoughts tonight.


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