Friday, October 2, 2009

The Stages of Grief

As I come upon four months of living without Mi Amor, I find myself increasingly analytical--most particularly with respect to my emotional state. I no longer cry every day, but some days are still very teary. There have been a few days where I realized at the tail end of the day that I had not spoken to anyone about him--not even La Hija. There are moments, fleeting moments, where I forget that I've experienced such a deep and soul rending loss. Seconds where I feel calm and happy without trying.

They say that there are steps that people go through in the grieving process. I identify with some of it and have been conscious of some of these steps over the past few months. Others do not resonate so strongly.

Denial and Isolation.
At first, we tend to deny the loss has taken place, and may withdraw from our usual social contacts. This stage may last a few moments, or longer.

This a strange one for me. I had not seen Mi Amor for four months at the time of his death, although we'd talked almost daily, except for when he was training out at sea. I'd spoken to him around noon on the day he died. My phone rang at around 10:30 pm and I was excited to get to talk with him again, except when I giddily picked up the phone he was not on the line. It was his sister. All she said was he was dead. Oh yes, I protested, but she just kept saying, " I am your sister, he is dead... he is dead. I am your sister, he is dead." I don't know how long we were on the phone, but I do remember repeating "Nononononononono" over and over again. I also do not remember who told me what happened. I do not know if I learned any of the details in Spanish or if I was in the dark until my Tio (who I did not know before this) called and made sure I understood by telling me everything in English. I still did not believe it until I walked into Mi Abuela's house and saw the casket there. No, not until I took a few steps closer to it and saw his face, and even then it was unreal. I had panic attacks every night in El Salvador because the AC kept waking me up with the intense notion that we were back in the old house together and someone was knocking on the door.

I do not know when it became real to me, but eventually it did. Part of the reason it became real was because I told people, even people I didn't know. Everything reminded me of my loss and I somehow found the fact of my husband's death appropriate, and in fact necessary, to bring up at the most random of moments.

I did not isolate myself, and have made every effort to combat the desire to do so. For this, I know I am much better off.

The grieving person may then be furious at the person who inflicted the hurt (even if she's dead), or at the world, for letting it happen. He may be angry with himself for letting the event take place, even if, realistically, nothing could have stopped it.

I was angry, and am still angry at times. Angry at myself, at him, at his attorney, at our governments, at the still unknown killer(s), at the police, at our families, at his fondness for beer, at his fearless determination, at his bosses, at the gangs, at L.A., at Vegas, at the entire state of Michigan, at just about everything that I could somehow link with the path that got us to the point we were at. I've never been one to allow my anger to take over, and seldom think of it as a productive emotion, but I allow(ed) myself to feel it and let it go.

Now the grieving person may make bargains with God, asking, "If I do this, will you take away the loss?"

Now this I don't get. I understood from the very moment that his death sunk in, there was nothing I could do to change this. There was no reason to bargain. He was dead and La Hija and I were not, and that was the long and the short of it. No more time together, no more calls, no more kisses, no more kids, no more hugs, no more arguments, no more laughter, no more "us." It was done. There are no take-backs in death.

The person feels numb, although anger and sadness may remain underneath.

I'd been depressed for a while, since he first left for El Salvador, actually. Quite possibly even since my pregnancy. I do not remember the last time I felt "right." I was briefly back to my old, chipper self during the final weeks of our last time in El Salvador, but our necessary return just sunk me back down. What was so scary to me, is how disturbingly familiar that pit in my stomach felt when I heard of his death. I thought to myself not again! for so many reasons. We'd worked so hard for so long and faced setback after setback. That sense of disappointment and despair came back like an overplayed pop song. You know all the words and tend to get them stuck in your head, but you're miserable for the duration of their mental playback.

I do not know if I was any more depressed than I had been for a while. I was more aware of a sense of resignation--an acknowledgment of the fact that our best would not cut it--that we'd tried hard and fell short.


This is when the anger, sadness and mourning have tapered off. The person simply accepts the reality of the loss.

I am getting to this point. Slowly. I want to feel "normal" again. I want to be free from having to fight off tears for insane things, like the sound of La Hija's old crib mobile, random songs, and spying older couples holding hands in the street. I want to accept that my life is going on, and that does not negate my love for him. I want to open myself to the possibilities of a happy future, even without him by my side. I want to get to the point where I don't feel like I must be alone if I can't be with him. I want to remember my silly, flirtatious side. The side that enjoyed laughing and joking with people and having a good time. I do not feel completely cut off and sinking in the mire, but I don't feel quite whole yet either.

Perhaps I just need more than five steps. This seven step model is a better fit.

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