Shock & Disbelief. Denial. Guilt. Anger and Bargaining. Depression and Reflection. Reconstruction. Acceptance and Hope. The seven stages of grief and loss. Except these stages don't always come order and certainly not in short time. Some people don't experience all seven, others do. Some people take years while others take months. In my experience with watching others and having been through it myself this has been found to be true.
The truth in these is that the seven stages are never easy. Honestly, I'm not even sure if I've successfully surpassed all seven yet. For those of us who are in the midst of these just know that there will be periods of delay, periods that are stagnant, periods that are harder than usual for no apparent reason. It will stick with you like that person did when they were here. Loss can be a variety of things though, and it doesn't always even have to be a person.
Death is a part of life, and it is one thing all people are marked by at some point in their lives. It doesn't mean it is easy, it doesn't mean you are prepared, it just means you aren't alone—even when that special person leaves you.
In my personal experience with these stages, they happen without realizing. When my cousin took his own life last year in May, these stages happened automatically—starting with shock. It happened suddenly and without warning, as many deaths happen, and we didn't expect our lives to be so drastically changed on that day in that particular moment in time. I still remember where I sat when I got that phone call. I still remember my heart dropping, those words on the phone, and how to world seemed to get a little quieter. "Spencer died", my dad said. He didn't say why or how, he left the overwhelmingly terrible truth out of it all. All I knew was that he wasn't with us anymore. It's a sudden emptiness, a sudden moment where your brain doesn't seem to fire and it goes numb with tingling. A moment where nothing is processed and the world really does seem to stand still.
Maybe that's the reason my stages were delayed, maybe the fact that I didn't know how, and that I didn't go to the funeral due to being a hundred miles away. I'm not sure why. I remember where I was when I found out the truth of the passing, and the guilt and anger that surged up too. The anger of why, the anger of the world being cruel, the anger towards greater things both above and below. The anger of leaving two sons and a wife behind.
It wasn't until recently where the true sorrow set in. The sudden re-introduction of the loss hit me abruptly. I felt alone in that grief because I felt like my grief was coming at a time so much later than everyone else's. And it overwhelmed me. The creeping of that gray mist in depression, the sadness that just doesn't shake. It had been settling in for a while now, but I was unaware. The loss of clarity, the feeling of weeping and not wanting to move. For me that was the last stage. And in that stage I wept for everyone and everything I've lost in the past two years. We've done our best to reconstruct in these past two years, but it is like building sandcastles next to waves that come in as often as the tears.
Lastly, that final stage. Acceptance and hope. This article has been the hardest for me to write. These words don't come easy, because mostly there are no words I can form to fully describe it, as I'm sure others who have experienced this would understand. But, I guess in writing it I am looking to step forward to take ownership of that hope that is long overdue. There is always light that we cannot see. This world is cruel sometimes and death is present, but in that mess is the beauty of life.
I will choose to focus not on what I have lost, but that time and love that I have gained in these two years. His life was celebrated, cherished. I have time, and in that time mine and those next to me will be too. So here's to the last stage, here's to hope. And I hope that you all find that too. Take your time.