Grief is preceded by loss. Loss of any kind. Loss of life of a dear one. Loss of a relationship. Loss of a dream. Loss of a job. Loss of a business venture. Loss of livelihood. Loss of a home. Loss of a business deal. Loss of a child. We have all at some point in our life lost something or someone so we have experienced grief. Grief is the feeling associated with loss of something of value. Grief can be defined as intense sorrow over loss. While grief may be subtly defined in a single sentence, the process is more complex. Loss is accompanied by other emotions.
I have also learnt that grief is very personal and cannot be avoided. We may postpone, and deep in our hearts believe we have let go, but it is only a matter of time before something triggers and the process must be gone through. We may keep postponing, but just like postponed sleep, it eventually catches up. We crush. We get depressed. And until we process all those emotions associated with the loss, we shall remain enslaved.
Denial is the first stage. Denial according to Kübler-Ross is characterized by avoidance, confusion, shock and fear. It is a system the body adopts to deal with traumatic situations. The mind just numbs everything. If you numb it you don’t feel it. You refuse to live the actual reality, you live a preferred reality. And when the reality starts hitting home, you make excuses so the reality doesn’t look as bad as it is. You get away with statements like, it is well, because admitting it is not well would mean unearthing emotions you are not yet ready to deal with. You tell yourself and others you are okay, yet deep inside you know, you are not close to okay.
When my father passed away, I was not consciously in denial. But I refused to feel what I needed to feel. I rationalized that since I was pregnant, I could postpone the process. I told myself my mother needed me sane since she was the one who was always strong when death happened and she was crushing. I convinced myself everybody else needed me, but myself. I was the strong one. I numbed my emotions of sorrow. I deliberately refused to mourn. My conscious mind appreciated the turn of events. From the time of his diagnosis, I knew it was a matter of time. I even knew it was better this way. He was in pain, a lot of pain. There was a time he begged that we just let him end it all. He was getting frustrated. He was feeling helpless. Helpless was not a place comfortable for him. There was a time he was so mad at the nurse taking care of him for asking if he had taken a bath. He was the guy who was always up by 6am and by 6.15 he was showered, shaven and dressed. And when he couldn’t do this routine, he felt really hopeless. So death was imminent, but when it came, it was just easier to shelve it somewhere. Someday I would deal with it. And when someday became years, I believed I had actually dealt with it.
Only to realize, years later, the crap you sweep under the carpet will stay there until the day the carpet will be too stinky to be ignored…