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.