One of my first records I purchased was ‘All the worlds a stage’ by the rock legends, Rush. Shakespeare wrote that ‘All the worlds a stage’. Don’t worry I’m not going all thespian on you. But I must admit I fancy my chances these days of doing a mighty fine Richard III stage performance. Why is the Stagecoach Bus always two hours late when I try to catch it. Just watched wrestling on the TV which is staged. So many stages.

Then you get stages in grief. A couple of years ago someone asked me what stage I was at in my bereavement process. I just looked on blankly. All I could think of was two stages. Your life before the death and the life after the death. So I answered – in the second stage and I always will be. I guess that’s not the answer they were looking for.

Last night I was reading an online article about bereavement counselling. It talked about every bereaved person going through the same 6 stage process. I wasn’t convinced. Surely every person’s grief journey is unique. Why force people to follow a predetermined text book bereavement route which doesn’t suit them. So I gave up with the online article and scribbled down my own staged journey so far. It’s my interpretation of MY journey and in no way is it supposed to fit other people. Remember I’m not a Doctor or Psychologist. I moved a potted plant into my bedroom to raise the rooms overall IQ score. The height of my powers these days is to get the cling film wrapper off food without slicing off a finger…. So here goes with my journey.

The SHOCK STAGE. Within a period of 6 weeks I’ve just buried my mum and then my partner. I’m a complete mess. Barely able to function and yet I’m supposed to be a Dad. It’s like living in a prolonged nightmare. Trying to sort out the practicalities and legal side of death, but actually got no idea what I’m doing. Basically doing stuff I’m told to do.

The FRUSTRATION STAGE. The cards, flowers and phone calls have dried up. I’m becoming more aware of the reality of the situation. Trying to get my head round how to be a single parent and at the same time keep some money coming in. I need to find an alternative to my career as it just isn’t doable anymore. The frustration comes from realising that what worked in the past just isn’t going to work now. It’s also so frustrating that the world is still spinning without seemingly even blinking after my partner exited stage left. It feels like I’m fighting this new normality.

The ACCEPTANCE STAGE. Eventually I began to accept the new reality. This is how it is and I just have to deal with it. I came up with a mental picture which I still use today. A door on my former life has locked shut. It’s never going to open again. I can look through the door window and see memories but I can’t touch them. I could stand here forever but this door isn’t opening. So I have a choice. Continue to stand by the door or set off and find other doors which are still open.

The IT’S LOVE STAGE. Linked with the Acceptance Stage. I opened a mental dictionary and found a better definition of grief. It defined grief as another word for LOVE. That sounded so reassuring to me.

The IT’S OK TO GRIEVE STAGE. Up to now I would hide my grief. As if it’s something unhealthy, something deeply embarrassing to others. People might ask how I was doing but they appeared to rapidly change the subject if the answer I provided was not – I’m fine…..But suddenly as grief was another way of saying LOVE, suddenly it became ok to grieve. Yes it could still be so painful but it’s something I shouldn’t be hiding. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It really is OK to be sad.

The IT’S OK TO LAUGH STAGE. Up to now I felt bad about smiling and laughing. It was just not right. I would focus entirely on making our Son happy but shunned doing it for myself. It took well over a year but the penny finally dropped. Yes it’s ok to be sad AND YES it’s just as OK to be HAPPY.

The IT’S OK TO LIVE AGAIN STAGE. After the funeral all my dreams died. When I looked at life I saw it entirely through our sons eyes. When I tried to see it through my eyes all I saw was blackness. Absolutely no future. However over time it became OK to live again. Remarkably I can still be happy. I can find new doors that will open and create new memories. Life can still be at times sad and painful BUT IT CAN also be fun. Just starting to dream again.

That’s the stage I am at now. Embracing the happiness as much as I respect the sadness. Maybe, just maybe tipping the life balance in favour of fun. Yes it still can be a wonderful life.

107 thoughts on “Stages

  1. It was enlightening to read this Gary. Yes there is no text book style of grief, and no, people do not want to know about it and just want you to say you are fine. It just isn’t and can’t be like that. I don’t know if you know or not but my mother died just before Christmas and because people would not let me feel its full impact, and wanted to move me on even within a couple of weeks of her death, I am a mess now. I try to bury it because no one wants to know about it. But it won’t bury. I also have the door thing, like you. That door is never going to open again but I can see through the window. And, for me, this is so regarding my cancer and the way I am now from what I was before. Life to non life. But again, no one wants to,listen. If I do try to talk, everyone wants to “fix” me. It cannot be fixed. It never will be fixed. Maybe if I was healthy and able, I could deal with my mum’s death better. But for now, I write stupid humorous poems and stories. Nit helps a bit, but then the hysteria rises in me again. If only I could talk. If only I could cry. If only I could scream. If only someone could just accept me, love me despite all, and put an arm around me. I now jyst wait for the time when I can leave this earth. This damned virus I am NOT coping with.

    I am glad you have found your way through to where you are Gary. It has been a hard road for you, and you deserve some happiness. Much much love to you and your precious son xxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your poems are not stupid. Purposely silly sometimes but never stupid. Stupid is me forgetting to boil the hard boiled eggs before we broke them open. Yes we are not looking for fixes because you need to know someone staggeringly well before your in any position to start to go down that road. x

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks Gary. I now that you understand. Lol about the eggs. I think hubby has done that too! Actually though, NOTHING is stupid. We are all just as we are. Not really stupid. Just being ourselves. Lots of love Gary x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I really appreciated this piece. Your process echoes my experiences — especially in the gradual intertwining of ache and smile. At random moments, one thread is more prominent than the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is one of the best things I have read on grief… Mine was buried for years as you know as I just had not a clue it was a real experience.. this is so real and true to your life… I think its a unique journey and two losses so close together is such a huge double whammy….and yes, to know grief is an expression of love somehow makes it okay… just wish the rest of the world knew this, but by its very nature grief is problematic in our culture…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is fantastic! I love the door analogy! I haven’t yet lost a person close to me, but I’ve lost my old way of life…a couple times actually. We grieve for many things in our lives. Each person’s process is unique and you’ve explained your’s brilliantly! I’m glad you’re opening doors and laughing again!

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of people will be on your same journey in the coming days.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Gary. You are not only a great dad, a nice person, but also a very strong and determined and you have suffered. So yes, no time limit on grief. NEVER that is for you alone to do. But yes be happy get back in the stage and laugh and take care of you. Very beautiful and insightful post. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is beautifully written. I do agree and think grief is different for each loss. And a new loss has echoes of the ones that came before it, but even they are different. Sometimes it’s not even one day at a time. Just one moment. It’s nice to hear that fun is sneaking in. Have a wonderful day! 🦋

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You do write so wonderfully well, touching on the tough with humour – I think your stages of grief make far more sense than the rote ones, I especially like the Love Stage and the Acceptance Stage – Be well.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love your description of your “journey” (ugh, kinda hate that word in this context) with grief. It is individual, and I have found, circular, non-linear. Giving yourself permission to feel sad, happy, etc, important, but done at your own pace.

    Most people struggle with other people’s depth of grief.

    I also equate grief with love. It’s the whole reason for the – overwhelming at times – emotions. And sometimes lack, of just numbness. Take care xxx


  9. Beautiful post!! Wow! Nice one.

    I went through similar things… my difference is I just “need” comedy to cope… it’s an escape for me.

    Not at first though… mine was also boom boom boom… so was just like being punched in the stomach and you couldn’t catch a breath…

    At first there was shock – what just happened? And then just you lose it for a minute cause you can’t really function. I had to stay a mom too. My kids just let me cry – they were an amazing comfort ❤️ they knew cause if you even say anything about me dying – they cry ❤️

    I was able to grieve with my mom ❤️ she clung to me. Anyway…

    Then there comes a point I was all cried out – and ok, here is what you deal with.

    I had other things that kept happening for awhile and it was hard to go through all that at the same time… holy F… and then to still be a mom! I did it though! ❤️

    Comedy and laughter saved my life – my whole life… so my coping is comedy… I can’t live without that.

    I accept and have kinda processed? Decently 🤨😄 mostly lol … no ones perfect … I still have moments I get choked up or cry … because it will never heal.. there will always be that spot… but I can’t myself live sad because it crushes me too much – I want to be happy and feel life before mine is over.

    Everyone processes things differently… so whatever, but amazing post

    Comedy is my coping ✌️ plus I get to laugh and enjoy life for the most part

    Loved this post!! Glad you are processing!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol – have never thought of smiling as a “habit” – that’s a odd concept/thought to me

        Hopefully you smile not just from habit … but because you feel that smile or laugh.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Well in some areas I can relate so ok lol… just never related that to smiling or laughter. That’s what keeps me alive. Like breathing

        I went through a lot so those moments of a smile or laughter – sounds funny but really does keep me alive

        I’m sorry you lost that for a moment. Hopefully you remember and get lots of practice ✌️

        Liked by 1 person

  10. How you described the stages was very moving and also comforting to read. There are so many people out there who will draw so much encouragement from your words. It touched me deeply and I had tears in my eyes while reading and also a big smile on my face. What you share is balsam for the soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think is beautiful and will help many people who are at different stages of their grief journey.

    On a completely different point, the first concert I went to was ‘Rush’ … my dad took me what I was around 10! Still on of my dad’s (and my brother’s) favourite bands. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow. Ten weeks after I lost my husband, I lost my mom.

    I can relate all too well to every word you’ve written. My problem is as the first anniversary of his death draws near, I feel like I’m starting the process all over again. I thought I’d be “strong” enough by now to erase his texts and voicemails and give away his clothes, but I’m clinging to them more than ever… trying to hang on to him, I guess.

    I’ll add one more category for me – DEFEATED by my own best efforts, and realizing it… but still moving forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for sharing. I’m too afraid to say much more than this as I am convinced I will fail miserably with my words, but I’m glad (I’m supposed to stop typing by now…) that your at the it’s okay to live again stage.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. We seem to live in a world that insists on labelling and partitioning everything. It can’t be plausible to apply a single metric to an entire species but we insist we must. You recant your personal journey in grief so eloquently and so humanly. You remind me of Neruda’s ‘The Dead Woman’ used with aching tenderness by Mingella in his superb ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ ‘My feet will want to march to where you are sleeping, but I will go on living’. And you shall. Thank you for writing this. I will save it – I have no doubt that there will be people I love who will benefit. For death is the one thing we can’t protect ourselves nor those we cherish from. x

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I think of grief as a sort of dance, sometimes forward sometimes back but in movement all the time. I really like a quote that goes something like “Grief is the price we pay for love”. That seems genuine to me. I don’t think it can be contained in stages like some kind of ladder you climb, step one: crushing heartache; step two: overwhelming (fill in the blanks: anger, depression, whatever). Until you eventually get to that top step on the ladder and have completed all the stages like some kind of ‘how to get through grief 101’ course.
    No, not at all. Grief is messy and, as you rightly observe, unique to each of us, both the experience of it and our expression of it.

    I really like how you describe how grief has been for you. You do so with empathy, compassion and with a nice dose of reality. I am sincerely glad to read how you are finding more happiness and joy in your days (present covid situation aside). Thank you for sharing this well thought out post and your wise insights.

    I wish you and your son all the blessings of a peace-filled Easter and much happiness, always.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. So, so important, Friend. You’re absolutely right–grief is not a one-journey-for-all road. Everyone takes twists and turns to find where they need to be on THIS day from the day all changed. My mom called the other day looking through boxes of Dad’s stuff. It can be a struggle still, defining what holds true memories and what’s just there–like, a card Dad got from his parents vs. a bowling ribbon. But if we surround ourselves with nothing but stuff of the past, we complete miss out on making the present worth remembering. So I’m glad Mom’s doing her best to take one step at a time, just as you are. Keep holding your son’s hand and finding reasons to smile xxxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really hope things are going as good as they can for you, given the circumstances beyond our control. Last week I realised how little I have from my Dad. That’s so sad. Sometimes memories, even the seemingly mundane ones are all that we have to cling on somedays. Sending you some Yorkshire hugs. xxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean. There’s this pile of DVD discs I found from Dad, stuff he’d burned onto discs for us because we don’t have cable. And it’s like Ican’t get rid of them, not just yet–not for what’s on the disc, but because it’s his handwriting.
        You keep smiling, too, and enjoy a Wisconsin hug! We survived another week of school, which I’ll write about soon…

        Liked by 2 people

  17. When my first husband was killed (by stabbing) at the age of 23 and they’d asked me that question, I’d have told them I was at the valium and vodka stage … it lasted a good while!

    Liked by 2 people

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