- Denial: When you first learn of a loss, it's normal to think, "This isn't happening." You may feel shocked or numb. This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion. It's a defense mechanism. Denial has come and gone for me over the years, months, weeks, days, and minutes...There have been times when I don't believe Ian is gone. I come home from work and look to where his bed used to be waiting to hear the cluck for me to say hi. I get home from taking Becca to school in the morning, go upstairs to go into his room to say good morning and find out from his night nurse how he slept. Then reality comes back and I realize his bed is not there and his room is empty.
- Anger: As reality sets in, you're faced with the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings later turn into anger. You might direct it toward other people, a higher power, or life in general. To be angry with a loved one who died and left you alone is natural, too. Over the years, anger has come and gone. Up until last night, I thought anger was gone for me, however, due to some recent situations, it's back. I spent some time crying, while yelling at the higher power that I HATE him. I am hoping the anger stage, I am currently in, doesn't stick around long. I know in my mind being angry doesn't get me anywhere. This is a time when the mind and the heart don't want to agree with each other.
- Bargaining: During this stage, you dwell on what you could've done to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are "If only..." and "What if..." You man also try to strike a deal with a higher power. I think I have skipped this step. I have known that bargaining isn't and wouldn't get me any place. Once we learned Ian had VRK1 and the prognosis was grave, there were no "If only" or "What if". I knew it would not change so wasting time bargaining wasn't in my plan.
- Depression: Sadness sets in as you begin to understand the loss and its effect on your life. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful and lonely. Depression comes and goes for me. Over the years, I have struggled with depression. For me I feel anticipatory grief has played into my depression. The depression comes in different ways...crying, sadness, I wish the decreased appetite, staying in bed, not wanting to go out with others...all different ways. Sometimes, I am aware when it hits and try my best to not let it get away...I think that is all I can do.
- Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, you accept the reality of your loss. It can't be changed. Although you still feel sad, you're able to start moving forward with your life. I think this comes and goes as well for me. Years ago, I accepted Ian was going to pass. We didn't know when or how but we knew that VRK1 would physically take him from us. Just as in the denial stage, there are times I come home from taking Becca to school in the morning and don't think about going to check on him and see how is night was. There are times I have started moving forward with my life, I get up in the morning, go to work, go to the JCC to exercise, go out with friends, Brian, Becca and I go out together...so there are times I have started moving forward. But I also know I have a long way to go.
Every person goes through these phases in his or her own way. You may go back and forth between them, or skip one or more stages altogether. Reminders of your loss, like the anniversary of a death or a familiar song, can trigger the return of grief. Only 21 short weeks ago, we lost our sweet little man...only 21 long weeks ago we lost our sweet little man. From speaking with others who have lost a child, this is a life long journey, grief will come and go as the years come and go. Facebook brings up a memory and a smile comes to my face, I know there will be times when a memory brought up brings tears to my eyes, maybe it will bring both a smile and tears. This week, the loss of a friends husband, has brought back memories and the grief has gotten worse. Ian and Bernie are together, playing and having a great time. They are looking out for each other. Maybe they are playing catch together, maybe Bernie is teaching Ian some of Avi's favorite games or maybe Ian is making Bernie watch a spiderman movie with him. Regardless of what they are doing, I believe they are doing it together.
Time will come and go and so will my grief in all the different stages...just one minute, day, week, month and year at a time.