Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
When someone we love dies, these are what ‘they’ say we have to go through. These stages are not fixed. I actually wish they were. I wish I could just go down the list, go through each one, check it off, and move on to the next. At least I would know that I was one stage closer to reaching ‘the last’.
But that is not how it works.
I cycle through 4 out of the 5 daily. The last one, however, is not in the mix at present. That one is for another blog on another day…which feels like will be another lifetime.
This is the shit that consumes me on a minute-to-minute basis- complete denial to blinding rage. Countless attempts to negotiate the outcome, complete resignation, back to blinding rage.
But the sadness. It is ever-present and all-consuming. An impenetrable, wool blanket on a sweltering summer night- the unbearable weight pinning me down- tucked too tightly around my neck, covering my eyes, my nose, my mouth, trapping in the darkness and fear that I won’t be able to breathe in anything again other than this stale, depleted air.
The sadness. It is omnipotent. It is palpable. And it feels like it is slowly sucking the life out of me.
I catch myself getting up from my table multiple times a day to go check on him, to give him some love or a quick walk.
I walk into Eric’s house, waiting for him to greet me like he has a thousand times before- tail wagging, whatever the nearest treasure he can find in his mouth- a shoe, a blanket, a squirrel… squirrel only happened once. And no, it was not alive.
I look behind me on my walk to the coffee shop, expecting to see him running to catch up. I wake up in the morning and feel this pull to hurry out of bed, to get him his breakfast, to share in his excitement for our first walk of the day.
Denial. It lasts seconds. And then reality sinks in. He’s not running behind me. He’s not waiting for his breakfast. He is dead.
Anger. Worse, regret.
Why didn’t I do more to help him? How could I have left him?
Bargaining. This doesn’t make sense. How did this happen, exactly? Could I have kept him alive longer if I had changed his diet earlier? If I had taken him for his annual check-up, would they have caught whatever was wrong with him? What if I would have done more research? What if I had not left him?
And I’m just so very sad. Label it however you want- depression, despondency, dejection. It is all of those things and so much more. Depression I know well. This. I have never experienced anything like this.
There was a point in my life when I would judge people who would get so distraught when their pet died. I understood it on some level. They loved their pet. But it’s not like it was a person who died. Since I had lost both of my parents at a young age, I just could not relate. I would hug them and walk away thinking, “I hate to see what happens when you have to deal with a ‘real death’. So self-righteous, and so inaccurate.
There is such a huge void now. His presence is everywhere…and his presence was extraordinary.
It is infuriating.
And the cycle continues.
There is a separate but very similar process we go through when grieving the death of anything really- a lost job, a rejection letter, a failed marriage, the loss of the person you thought you would marry.
It is a death- of a dream, of a love, of a future that you had built your life around. A future that will now be dramatically and painfully different.
So, interspersed with the process of coping with Biscuit’s death, I am in the thick of cycling through this madness- this journey towards accepting the death of a dream, of a love, of a future that is now so dramatically and painfully different than I could have ever imagined.
Desperate for answers, Denial, Bargaining, Relapse, Anger, Initial acceptance, Redirected hope
The first one I have found to be the most infuriating.
I want fucking answers. And I have written email after pathetic email demanding them. I want to know why? When did he make his final decision? Was it a specific moment? Did he suddenly just stop loving me? Or was it a gradual compilation of all the things he found wrong with me? Does he still think of me? Does he miss me? Does he remember more of the good or the bad?
I just don’t believe it. Yes, denial. He couldn’t have really meant all of those terrible things he said. He could not have just stopped loving me. This can’t really be over. He will come back. As soon as he realizes what he has lost. He is going to come back.
Our infamous hours-long negotiations. Bargaining. He, explaining why he left, why he could no longer be with me. Me, carefully explaining, from every angle, all the reasons why he would never forgive himself if he didn’t come back, then switching approaches, trying to make him remember how he feels- about me, when he is with me, when he is without me.
Relapse. Over and over. I would reach out, he would come back. We would consume each other. He would leave. One of us would reach out. He would come back. I would take him back. Over and over.
This stage, however, is no longer in the mix. This one, I can definitely check off the list. He didn’t come back. I’m not going back.
Anger? No, it is not anger. It is beyond. There are simply no words to describe it. None.
And I want to know why. I refuse to accept that we are over. I have to force myself to not reach out in yet another attempt to convince him that he is making a mistake that he will regret for the rest of his life.
And the cycle continues.
In a very rare, lucid moment, the following logic prevails:
What if he did answer all of my questions? Would I believe him? Would I not still try to strike a deal, to convince him to not give up, to not settle? After he told me his reasoning, after he reminded me that ‘we’ are no longer an option, would I not lash out in anger, would I refrain from saying anything possible to make him feel a fraction of the pain that I do?
The reality is, there is not one reason that would quell my need to understand. There is not one thing he could say that I would actually believe, that would prevent me from trying to negotiate another ending, that would stop me from asking him to come back and give us another chance. There is not one thing he could say or do at this point that would not infuriate me. Because it is dead. The ‘we’ that was us, is dead.
Acceptance. Hope. Where I am eventually supposed to arrive. ‘They’ might as well tell me to fuck off. Those two words feel just as offensive right now.
So in the meantime, today, I will do whatever I need to get through today. And tomorrow, whatever is needed to get through tomorrow. I will numb the pieces that I have to in order to preserve the whole. It is what I have to do if am going to save her, to keep the bitterness and despondency from killing her spirit. I simply have to disconnect from the pieces- now too broken, the edges too jagged- that threaten to sever the parts of her that she needs to survive.
And so the cycle continues.
Picture: One Against All. Artist: Ionut Caras – http://carasdesign.com/
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