I was always taught about the 5 stages of grief as if they were finite. As if you would move in a linear plane from denial to anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance and then you were done. Another experience of loss, shelved. A “To-Do” list of emotions, completed. A gold star for staying “on track” with the trauma of the experience. None of that ever worked for me.
I didn’t find it easy to move from one stage of grief to the next without detouring to another emotion that wasn't listed in the series of stages. I often found myself asking, “What am I doing wrong?” or “How does everyone else seemingly do this without interruption?”. I didn't find it fair to process my grief with such rigidity or manufacture.
And so, I started from the beginning and in a lot of ways I'm still there. Learning that grief can be a multitude of events with a multitude of emotions and detours and pathways. Grief can be the loss of a loved person, place or thing and it can be the frustration of feeling unheard. Grief can be the activation of trauma and the desire to wish you had never experienced that trauma in the first place. Grief can be the sight of injustice of all kinds. Grief can be the loss of support, loss of time, loss of friendships for reasons known or unknown. Grief can make sense and also surprise us with pain we may have not fully known before.
And yet, I am trusting that my body and my mind know. That my whole self knows and that it's okay to listen. That my whole self feels the dread, or disappointment or pain or sadness and is capable of feeling through it. I am unlearning the ideology of compartmentalization when it comes to grief, and my emotions in general. I am unlearning that I have to follow a certain order when it comes to grief and am learning that my emotions are valid no matter what stage they are in. I am learning that I am allowed to sit in it and I'm allowed to put it to the side if needed and I'm allowed to do both of these things in the same day if that's what feels best.
I am learning the truth in the statement, “Grief is never ending but so is love”. I am learning the hope that comes from that-the freedom that comes from that. Learning that there is more room this way. More space for Grief and Love to share a seat at the table without sacrificing one for the other. I’m learning that I can honor myself in both. Learning that there may be a technical set of 5 stages of Grief sometimes and sometimes there might be 50. And sometimes these 50 stages of grief may repeat 5 times a decade, or in a year or in a day but regardless, I am allowed to feel infinitely.
Gabrielle is a proud resident of Kansas, Missouri. As a writer, and person in recovery, she hopes to speckle life with hope and telling the truth. In her free time she loves to read poetry, wear the color pink and drink loads of coffee.