Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was the psychiatrist who defined the five stages of grief… Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Her study applied initially to patients who had to cope with illness and dying. However, the stages have been found applicable to anyone dealing with any kind of grief. I used to think that people experienced these stages in order, but upon doing some research I found out that Kubler-Ross later stated that grief doesn’t proceed in a linear and predictable fashion.
About a year ago—when moving back to Mexico became a reality rather than an option—I started experimenting some of these phases because looking back now I can see that I was grieving. Recently, a dear family member passed away, which got me thinking about how we experience pain, and ultimately… change.
Sometimes, when we loose something important to us, denial help us cope with the initial shock we are facing. It somehow keeps us moving through this process. Living in a borrowed reality, even if it’s a pretense, can be a lifeline. When dealing with difficult times, I have personally been guilty of burying my head in the sand in order to keep functioning because otherwise, I think the shock would paralyze me.
Then comes the anger… and justly so. In a world so vast and wide… you had to be the one going through this, isn’t that unfair? But as I have stated previously, life is, unfairly, not fair. But you know what I think hurts more than anger? Bargaining… because it opens a world of possibilities. What if, what could’ve, what should’ve… And bargaining comes hand in hand with guilt. The knowledge that you could’ve done better and be better. That had you made a different decision somewhere back in the decision tree, things might have turned out differently. And to me, this was the most tormentous phase of them all, because I could still taste what could’ve been if I had been more wiser, more patient, more decisive.
But eventually, you come to accept the fact that this is the reality you are living, and perhaps depression comes after or them both could happen simultaneously. And in my eyes, depression can heal wounds you didn’t know existed.
And then, one day, you wake up on the other side. Some day, some how. And inexplicably, you are ready to face the world with a smile again. Sure, it still hurts a bit, your grief left a mark, one that you will bear forever, but you can now start to see the beauty and blessings all around you. And that’s what we hold on to, what should be perhaps the last stage: hope.