Saturday, July 10, 2010

What Stage of Grief Are You In?

A good friend of mine asked me an excellent question - "what stage of grief are you in"? It really got me thinking...Their are varied definitions of the stages of Grief..Here are just a few:

The five stages of grief:

• Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
• Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
• Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
• Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
• Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Some More:

• Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
• Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
• Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
• Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
• Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
• Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
• Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.

I'm an Engineer so I love this graph

1. Shock: Anesthetized against the overwhelming loss. Not comprehending and not able to face the full magnitude of it.
2. EMOTIONAL RELEASE: Beginning to realize how dreadful the loss is. Venting or releasing these feelings is better than trying to repress them.
3. DEPRESSION, LONELINESS AND UTTER ISOLATION: Feeling of “No help for me.” Down in the depths of despair. Should know this is a NORMAL feeling. Aided by EXPRESSED CONCERN.
4. PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF DISTRESS: “Ill” with symptoms related to the loss. Best help is to understand the grief process.
5. PANIC: Convinced “something is wrong with me” as a person, can concentrate on little else. May fear losing the mind.
6. GUILT FEELINGS: May recall own past neglect, mistreatment, or wrong to the deceased. Wrongs may be imaginary or exaggerated. But they may be REAL wrongs with REAL guilt. Confession and unburdening of real guilt gives best relief. “Forgiveness” of real wrongs, as if they were imaginary, is no adequate solution.
7. HOSTILITY: Feeling better leads to expressing self more actively. Hostile expressions toward those who “caused” the loss are common. Such hostility is normal but not to be encouraged.
8. INABILITY TO RENEW NORMAL ACTIVITIES: Cannot get back to “business as usual.” Must bear loss alone, since others are back to normal activities. Need encouragement to face new realities, not to be sheltered from them.
9. GRADUAL OVERCOMING OF GRIEF: Emotional balance returns little by little, like healing of a physical would. Rate varies with individuals.

This is one of the best descriptions that I have come across - it truly captures it...
Great Description
Grief is not an elevator ride. You cannot get on and off at the appropriate floor. Likewise, it is not a racetrack where you circle continually but never really get ahead. Grief is a spiral. It denotes movement and progress through a slow dance with repeated partners. Two steps forward, one step back. Until one day, you find the music has ended and you are free to carry on at a usual pace. But don’t be surprised if at some unexpected moment you hear an old tune and find yourself locking arms with sorrow for one last round; because a spiral also denotes cycles and repetition. And the process of grief, though it moves, moves in cycles.

A Few Things You Need to Know

Yes, the cycle of grief is a real thing. Pick a definition and cycle it doesn't really matter - bottom line it's real and yes it's out there...
Second, the cycle is totally, and I mean totally unpredictable. You never know when or how it will affect you at any given time.

I could be standing in line at Target, or grocery shopping at and you see a Mom with her kids, you hear a song on the radio, you see a stupid commercial on TV, I hope you get the picture. It's TOTALLY random, unpredictable, and uncontrollable, it's friggin nerve wracking and to a detailed planner / control freak like myself it's horrible.

I like to think I am doing better than most. I think I am ahead of the curve and capable of handling the situation for multiple reasons. I honestly do think I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I should be and I have said why on past blog entries.

Jen and I got to have the "hard and difficult" conversations that I hope YOU readers NEVER have to have with you loved one. But the fact that we did talk about it meant so, so both of us. I sincerely believe that it brought Jen some sort of inner peace in talking about it and deep down I think she knew that whenever I said that I did not and could not want to have the conversation - she looked at me and said "yes, we need to talk about this and we need to talk about it today".

I make no bones about wife was stronger, and more prepared than me, she was more in tuned to what was happening and she was not afraid of anything. SHE prepared ME and the girls for this journey after her departure and for that; I will always be thankful and grateful.

So now...back to the original question posed by my good friend..."what stage am I in"? My answer would be the following and here is why...

I'm the following stage:
Stage 9. GRADUAL OVERCOMING OF GRIEF: Emotional balance returns little by little, like healing of a physical would. Rate varies with individuals.


The ACCEPTANCE Stage: Finally finding the way forward

In my opinion, it would be a total disservice to the memory of my wife to sit around and be depressed for the rest of my life. AND I have these two amazing little girls that absolutely need a strong and positive influence in their lives. Please, PLEASE I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea on this - I will NEVER let my girls forget whom their Mother was. I can't and I won't...I loved Jen too much to let that ever happen...but flat out refuse to let this be the defining moment of their young lives...if I allowed that to happen...Jen would never forgive me.

Man...Such a rambling post...I hope this makes sense to those who read it...


  1. Makes perfect sense. Peace to you as you move forward...

  2. It makes good sense, Bill. I think anyone who has experienced loss can relate to some model of the grieving process.

    You’ve talked before about how valuable Jen’s determination in having the difficult discussions and facing the hard truths has been to your journey. She was obviously a very strong and intelligent woman whose legacy continues to bless you and the girls. I think by carrying it forward, you are honoring her memory in the best way possible.

    As you said, it’s important to be able to move forward without regret. I’m sure the grieving process is extended for many people who suffer the loss of a loved one with whom they were unable to have the heartfelt discussions that you had with Jen and they suffer from regret. Regret can be a powerful obstacle to moving on. But I think it’s important to remember that true regret does not stem from making mistakes (we are All fallible) or from missed opportunities (None of us can master time). True regret can only stem from bad intentions. Even when you act in love, you can make mistakes, but it’s those who act with deceptive and hurtful intentions – they are the only ones that have to carry the burden of shame and therefore regret. Understanding that in and of itself is an Incredibly freeing process.

    As you move forward, know that you have a ton of love and support behind you and all around you.

    Take care…

  3. i just recently lost my mother 1.5 months ago. Been looking for something to help me and I found your blog.

    I can relate to structure so I find your explanation helpful.

    I can say i'm in between 6-8.


  4. That was a pretty good description. my dad died recently, and i have been "checked out" for a while now, as if i am watching myself go through this awful awful horror show. a little piece of me died along with my dad and i have been desperately trying to get it back, but i feel like i am grabbing at air.
    so i am going to grief therapy in a week, because it is getting really hard to watch myself drown through life.
    im really scared to go to therapy and i feel so removed from everyone at school and the rest of my family. i feel crazy and overly emotional like i am making everest out of a hill.
    but thank you for validating my feelings :)


Inside Bill's Head -- Previously Known as (Inside the Head of a Grieving Single Dad)

In August of 2009 my wife Jennifer passed away from an Anaplastic Astrocytoma Brain Tumor. She was only 38 years old. She left me and our two little girls Abbie and Allie to continue life’s journey.

I promised her that I would NOT become angry and bitter about what order to do that I am attempting to write to express my thoughts and feelings.

This site is a place where I can express my thoughts, feelings and rants...