I’ve struggled with whether or not to blog about this and finally decided that my story may help someone struggling with the same thing I did and still do after the loss of my daughter.
Nine years ago today, we lost our daughter. She was 14, too young to die. Since that day I’ve struggled. Will I ever be able to enjoy life again? Will I ever go back to the person I was before? Will I survive this?
The Kubler-Ross model says there are 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Others have elaborated on this, with some showing as many as 12 stages. A basic premise is that all people grieve the same, go through these stages in a specific order and once they get to the acceptance stage, the grieving process is over. That is NOT the way it works.
There is no formula, no set pattern for how people grieve. There is no time limit for how long you grieve. Me, I’ll grieve forever. I have lost other people in my life; grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Please do not take this as diminishing those losses, I know how hard they can be, but for me, they pale in comparison to the loss of a child.
Of the Kubler-Ross 5 stages, the easiest for me to process, was denial. I had no doubts, I was there, I knew she was gone. I know for others this is one of the more difficult stages, especially for those parents who have lost their child in war or those who have been missing for example. The idea of not knowing for sure would be unbearable. To carry that hope, unimaginable.
The anger and acceptance stages. I went through these two stages, the beginning and end, the Alpha and Omega, at the same time. I was there, I had no choice but to accept that she was gone. However, after 9 years, I’m still angry. I think I always will be. No one had the right to take my daughter from me. No one. I hit things, threw things, screamed, fell into a pile sobbing, and drank heavily to alleviate my anger. Nothing worked. I still have days when I’m so angry I can’t stand it and I let that anger out in unhealthy ways, on people who have done nothing to me, loved ones and friends. I was and still am angry with myself. How could I let this happen? I was supposed to take care of her. It was MY job and I failed her. The one thing, deity, whatever you want to call it I was most angry with was the Maker, Creator, God. This mythical miracle worker could have stopped this and chose not to.
I did not bargain. What I wanted, I knew I couldn’t have.
Depression, the toughest stage for me. I am still depressed, but most days with the help of medication and therapy, can work through it enough so that I can function in society. I have days where I’m so depressed, the only thing I want to do is die and be with my baby girl. Therapy has helped, but I don’t think any amount of therapy will ever get me to the point where I don’t have those days where I can’t get out of bed. Lying on a couch, which isn’t what I do, isn’t the only therapy I’ve tried. I’ve tried to engage and become more social. I took up dancing, which in the beginning helped a great deal. I found a joy, a happiness I hadn’t had in a long time. That happiness died when I realized they were using the memory of my daughter to get me to spend money. I quit, got angry at them for using her memory, and myself for allowing it. I had a naivety about people, thinking they genuinely cared and wouldn’t do something like that. My world crashed after that and I was more depressed than before I’d started dancing. It got to the point where I considered being hospitalized, as suggested by my doctors.
As I’ve said, it’s been 9 years, and I still haven’t managed to get through the 5 stages of grief. The charts show an easy and simple line from one to another. When you reach the end you’re done. That is NOT how it works. I recently saw a grief chart that showed it how it really works. It was a squiggle, doodle, if you will. One continuous line that circled, cut through and across, went straight to the end, back to the beginning, and ping-ponged back and forth through the middle. That IS how it is. You bounce back and forth. When you think you’re done, you’re not.
I have found as the years have passed, people forget. I don’t think it’s intentional, it just is. Some remember days after the anniversary (I hate that word as it implies a happy occasion) of the death. They send vague texts, “Thinking of you” or heart emoticons. Unless you’ve had that loss, you can’t understand how a parent feels when they believe, misguided or not, that their child, the most important person is their life, has been forgotten.
As a last note, there are things that I as a grieving parent did not want to hear. I had people, strangers actually, ask me what happened, wanting details. That is one of the cruelest things a person can ask. Don’t ask a parent to relive, it’s cruel. Don’t intrude, if a parent wants to talk to you about it, they will. Let them be the guide. When my daughter died, people who didn’t know her or us tried to force their religious beliefs on us. “It’s God’s will” or “She’s in the hands of the Lord now” are not things to say to someone who has just lost a child. At that moment in time, parents are ANGRY with God and blame God for taking their child away. Whatever your religious, spiritual beliefs or non-beliefs, don’t try to impress them upon the parents.
If you know someone who has lost a child, please be respectful and understanding of what they’re going through. Just be there. Don’t expect them to “get over it”, as I was once told. There is no time limit on grief.