I type “5 stages,” and Google responds with, “…of love, of change, of dying.” I love it. Google feels me.
Truth is, I don’t so often share with strangers, but if you’re reading this post I might have to rethink that self-belief.
The 5 stages of grief as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, are:
Seems straightforward enough.
Every person takes his or her own path through grief, and the truth is there is no easy way through grief. My own path was mired with self-doubt. Doubt wound tight around me, bounding to the dark pillars of anger and sadness for far too long.
I beared witness to hours on end of my daughter’s therapy sessions for anxiety and depression—felt her fractured loss as she tried to navigate the sharp edges left behind from her parent’s divorce.
My closest friends buoyed me and patiently tried to help me make sense of my painful, hopscotched path through grief. My new therapist, who I will call “Enrique,” gave a much-needed change in perspective and actual tools to dig my way forward instead of continuing to lie face down in the dirty, shallow pool of my own story. To them, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.
One day during a counseling session, I spoke about feeling stuck and my struggle to make sense of what I could not be understood. I was stuck.
In response, Enrique began to explain the grief process and some common misconceptions about grieving. He produced a whiteboard and began to draw. I am a visual learner, so it was like by magic he had just cracked some secret code to access a little used learning center of my brain. He went on to draw a sort of pie chart, showing the many aspects of loss from a failed marriage—a best friend, plans for the future, financial stability, intimacy, family, most of your social circle. And, in my particular case, self-worth and the ability to trust others and my own intuition… It’s a lot.
And not only that, that path through this mucked up grief pie was not a straight line. It’s messy. And there is no timetable for when a person finally processes all that is needed, sorting through what is and isn’t theirs to own in order to move on.
“It’s a pizza,” I said.
“What?” he said.
“It’s a grief pizza,” I said. “I like pizza better than pie. You should totally market that concept. I think it would sell like crazy.”
I felt like a chimpanzee understanding sign language for the first time and finally getting that Goddamn banana.
I finally understood.
*No, Enrique is not the actual name of my therapist; names have been changed to protect the awesome.