The five stages of grief: where are you?

(110 Posts)
policywonk Sat 04-Oct-08 22:57:17

Following on from another thread, and not wishing to hijack; the five stages of grief are, supposedly:

denial
anger
bargaining
depression
acceptance.

They don't necessarily go in that order, and you won't necessarily experience them all, but apparently most people with experience at least two.

My mother died four months ago. I've never been at all angry. I don't think I'm depressed. I certainly haven't accepted it.

What I do seem to be doing is a mixture of denial and bargaining, which is slightly bizarre given that she's long gone. My unconscious mind is constantly burbling something like 'well, you never know what the consultant might say at the next appointment; you never know whether a new drug might become available and change everything.' It's weird (I'm usually pretty rational and literal).

She was ill for a loooong time and defied her prognosis many times over, so I think I got used to this sort of Pollyanna thinking.

The thing is, I don't really want to stop thinking like this. I don't want to accept it.

Anyway... what about you?

OP’s posts: |
Habbibu Sat 04-Oct-08 23:01:36

Acceptance, mostly, with dd1, I think - 3.5 years ago. But her due date was 27 Oct, so I feel funny about that, and this year's loss has brought up feelings I thought were gone. I did anger instantly, and the rage was huge and surprising. Don't think I did much in the way of denial and bargaining, but anger I did in spades. I did decide that the only way to deal with it was to accept how I felt, to not try to make it change. It was my grief, no-one elses. As is yours, pw. Man, it's a strange business, though, isn't it?

policywonk Sat 04-Oct-08 23:05:55

Yes. It's not at all as I thought it would be. Mostly I'm surprised at how easily I've carried on with things, but every now and again it leaps up and stabs you. I agree that you can't try to force a change. I suppose my underlying worry is that I might be a bit 'stuck' - but then four months isn't long I suppose.

I'm glad you've come to some sort of accomodation with it, habs.

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Habbibu Sat 04-Oct-08 23:10:28

Four months is nothing, really. I don't think I'd thought much about it before dd1, but I think probably I pictured sitting in the house and crying a lot. And I did that, but I also went out, and did shopping, and watched TV, and made dinner and stuff, which surprised me at the time. Actually, we did a kind of deliberate denial when we got dd1's prognosis - came home, decided we couldn't cope with the information, went out and spent £200 on comedy DVDs. Would never in a million years have imagined that, but it was absolutely what we needed to do.

WhatSheSaid Sat 04-Oct-08 23:12:33

One book I read on bereavement said that you can go in and out of those stages for a long time - bargaining one day, angry a few days later etc.

My mum died 11 months ago and I have been through all those stages apart from the bargaining I think. The most dominant was (and is) anger as it was not a "natural" death but a RTA which was the other driver's fault. He is still awaiting trial for death by dangerous driving so until that has happened (next year) I don't think I will be able to "move on".

Actually I don't think I'll ever really move on. Like you, I don't really want to accept it. It was not her time to go. Another thing I read in a book was that you can feel if you accept it, you are "forgetting' the person who died, which isn't true of course.

Also, I believe there is a stage of shock, especially in cases of sudden death, which I was probably in for the first couple of months.

Despite what I have written I am much closer to acceptance now than I was even a month or two ago.

WhatSheSaid Sat 04-Oct-08 23:14:22

Actually, reading the list again, the shock stage I talked about is just the same as denial really.

And four months is not a long time at all.

FanjolinaJolly Sat 04-Oct-08 23:15:08

Hello,sorry about your Mum.

I think there is no way that the grieving process can be completely quantified really.I remember studying Kubler -Ross oh so many moons ago and thinking it seemed very compartmentalised and "tidy" IYKWIM,and humans aren't like that are they?.Even though she states you can go through some/all stages in vasrious orders.

I am lucky enough never to have lost a close relative but think that I went through(and am still going through) a kind of grieving from finding out one of my children has a neurological problem and will need lifelong care.It flits between depression to bouts of anger.Some days I think I've accepted it and something happens to set me off again......

Anyway thats not nearly as final as somebody dying is it?So I'll stop waffling,but I think four months is still very early days when you have lost someone you had a very close bond to.I remember talking to a bereavement counsellor who talked about "abnormal grief" being when people got stuck in the same pattern of grieving and never moved on to reach (eek I hate this term) "closure".They didn't put any kind of "time limit" on grieving though.

Habbibu Sat 04-Oct-08 23:17:18

Yers, I think "stuck" must be years and years, and when it's damaging other aspects of your life and relationships. So sorry about your mum, WSS.

policywonk Sat 04-Oct-08 23:25:23

WSS, how awful about your mum. I can quite see how it must be difficult to move on until the trial. One of the sites I looked at when I was writing the OP said that in the case of sudden deaths like your mother's, the grieving process can take longer.

Yes, I think I too instinctively think that acceptance means forgetting, or perhaps a downgrading of that person's importance to you. I know that this is irrational.

Thank you for your post and for the info, Fanjo (I do like your name BTW). I agree that the 'five stages' system seems suspicious neat - did she have much empirical evidence for it?

I'm sure it's quite valid to think of the process of coming to terms with your child's diagnosis in the same way as grief - you're still mourning the loss of something (an independent future for her, maybe?)

OP’s posts: |
BoysAreLikeDogs Sat 04-Oct-08 23:25:30

3 and a half years since I lost my dear Dad.

Now - accept the reality, don't like it, one little bit.

I had some major therapy after the event, I had post-traumatic thingy (Mum had lost the plot, my older sister who always was the leader was abroad and uncontactable, my remaining siblings could not cope so I had to HAD to take charge on his last day) because I was too busy dealing with the shit and fallout from it to allow myself to cry.

Angry - yes, a lot of that

Guilt too - I believe his illness and subsequent death was caused by me - a bit dramatic to an outsider but it's my reality.

I am so sorry for your losses.

Tinker Sat 04-Oct-08 23:28:07

I lost my mum 17 months ago and think I'm still sometimes in denial. I still think she's in her house and I can picture her doing what she did there. And then it is like a slap when I realise she's not there and the house is sold and I'll never be able to go back there. I remember stuff she had/I'd kept there and think I must go back and get it and then remember it's gone.

Mostly I am at the acceptance stage but recently I do think I've entered a period of depression.

BoysAreLikeDogs Sat 04-Oct-08 23:30:48

Oh Tinker, the slap is just awful isn't it?

Does anyone else dream of their lost one?

I see my dad often, in my dreams, hear his voice. It's lovely but the crashing of reality on awakening is nearly unbearable.

I want to hug you all

policywonk Sat 04-Oct-08 23:33:10

Gosh, what sad stories. I'm going to have to crack out the sad face, much as I find it inadequate.

Very sorry to hear about your dad's death, BALD. It sounds like a horrible situation.

Tinker, that rang a real bell with me. I find that I'm avoiding my parents' house (where my dad still lives) like mad. When dad comes over to me it's one thing, but whenever I go over there her absence is like a slap, and I always have to make an excuse and lock myself in the toilet for five minutes as soon as I get there (don't like to bawl all over Dad as he's as finely balanced as I am at the mo).

OP’s posts: |
WhatSheSaid Sat 04-Oct-08 23:35:21

I did read somewhere that the "five stages" thing was actually written about people who have terminal illness - so the person who is dying going through denial, bargaining etc. But it has somehow become a kind of template for the people grieving after the death.

I think it is only troublesome if someone feels they "ought" to be going through bargaining and they're still at the anger stage or whatever. You just have to realise you may go through the stages in a different order, or go between stages, or be in several stages at once!

Yes, I believe it is much harder when it's a sudden, unexpected death (though not meaning to make light of anyone else's experience by saying that). My dad died the year before my mum and it was much much much easier to come to terms with (though still awful) as he had been ill for a while. I just felt he had come to the end of his natural life and she hadn't.

BoysAreLikeDogs Sat 04-Oct-08 23:40:17

It's good to talk, trite I know PW.

But y'know what I mean.

Ach, it doesn't get easier as such, you get inured I guess.

WhatSheSaid Sat 04-Oct-08 23:40:38

BALD I did dream of my mum quite soon after she died. It was pretty awful as in the dream she was telling me she had cancer and I was happy, because it meant I had some more time with her.

Then when I woke up I felt horribly guilty because I had been happy she had a horrible terminal illness (even if only in a dream). I think the dream was my brain trying to come to terms with her death but it still made me feel awful.

policywonk Sat 04-Oct-08 23:41:19

Yes, WSS, it has probably been misrepresented. I suppose it's a seductive idea - grief is just so messy and crap, it's nice to think that it can be divided up into little stages, or that it's a 'journey' through which we all progress in an orderly fashion.

BALD - I haven't deamed about my mother yet - I think I'm deliberately suppressing it. It's something that I dread, actually. Waking up must be terrible.

OP’s posts: |
Tinker Sat 04-Oct-08 23:44:25

Interesting about the five stages. After the initial shock of the first few days I was horrified at how normal I felt after my mum died. Felt really disturbed and disappointed that I felt "normal" and "over it". Felt like I couldn't have loved my mum properly. So, in a way, I feel reassured when I feel crap or tearful now.

I lost both of parents in sudden unexpected deaths. Have friend who has lost one parent after a long illness and is nursing her other parent through similar. There isn't a "better" way really is there?

Am so sorry for everyone else on this thread

BoysAreLikeDogs Sat 04-Oct-08 23:46:57

Hearing his voice again is worth it

[watery smile]

Such early days for some of you.

Thank you for sharing, and listening.

WhatSheSaid Sat 04-Oct-08 23:48:06

Yes I think how you grieve is different for everyone depending on so many different factors - your relationship with the person who died, your support network, how they died etc. Will be different for every person.

I got all this stuff from books btw. I've read a lot of bereavement books. Quite a relief to get back to some nice chirpy novels after a while.

policywonk Sat 04-Oct-08 23:53:06

It is good to get it out, BALD, I think. I can't do it with DP really because he's terrified. And I can't do it with my dad because I'll make him cry. And I don't like to do it with RL friends, because who wants to sit in a soft play area/pub/swimming pool covered in snot and tears? This sort of thing is made for the internet.

Tinker, my suspicion is that sudden deaths are worse for the bereaved. When my mother was diagnosed, she was given six weeks to live and I've never felt as bad as I felt then; the pure shock and revulsion was unbearable. Then, marvellously, she survived for five and a half years. I'm sure it made it a tiny bit easier for all of us just to have that time to begin to conceptualise what a world without her might be like, rather than being pitched head-first into it.

OP’s posts: |
Tinker Sat 04-Oct-08 23:58:57

Agree that this sort of thing is made for the internet. I hardly ever talk to real people about this stuff; I just can't, don't know how to begin. Not even sure I want to.

WhatSheSaid Sun 05-Oct-08 00:00:57

Do you have siblings, PW? I found the only people who really understood what I was going through were my brother and sisters as they, of course, were going through the same thing.

My DH doesn't quite get how deeply it has affected me. Same with friends - some of them have grandparents alive and I can see that the concept of losing parents is still totally unimaginable to them. Fair enough, I would prob have been the same a few years ago.

policywonk Sun 05-Oct-08 00:08:04

Message withdrawn

OP’s posts: |
BoysAreLikeDogs Sun 05-Oct-08 00:13:05

Good night, and take care all

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