Understanding The Process of Grief

30 08 2007

Ride (2)

Copyright 2007 Kelsey Hough.  All rights reserved.

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.

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