Apparently there are five stages identified by the mental health professionals to be the cycle of loss and grief. (I do not know if this is a series that implies linear psychological movement or if a person oscillates between stages) They are in order:
- Denial & Isolation ~ This is the stick your head in the sand and pretend nothing is happening phase. Actually, it is the first reaction to finding out very bad emotional news such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, etc. This phase allows a person to block out harmful words and to hide from the facts. It is a temporary response meant to get a person through that first wave of pain. It is not intended to last forever.
- Anger ~ This is the phase where you point an enraged finger at everything and everyone. In reality, this phase arrives after the masking phase of denial & isolation wears off and the reality and pain of the situation reassert themselves, and we are just not quite ready for them. During this phase, we tend to deflect the most intense emotions by redirection and expression as anger. This anger can be pointed at anything or anyone. One may also feel guilty about feeling angry and become even more so.
- Bargaining ~ The “if only” phase. Bargaining is a normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability and often represents a need to regain control. I call this the “if only” phase because a person in this phase is thinking to themselves “if only I had been a more behaved child, my parents would have stayed together” or “if only I had noticed the changes sooner, my husband would not be as ill as he is.” Basically, one is telling oneself that “if only” they had been or done x,y, and z, then everything would have turned out differently. This is a much weaker line of defense against the pain that is reality. Whatever has happened is done. There is nothing to bargain for or with at this point.
- Depression ~ a fairly obvious stage, i would think. There are two types associated with mourning. The first is a reaction to the practical implications of the loss. Sadness and regret play a big part in this phase. It is kind of an extension of the bargaining phase in that one regrets things one has done, and experiences remorse because one is still going through the “if only’s”, but is about to come out the other side into the reality of what has happened. The second type of depression that occurs is much more subtle and perhaps, more personal in nature. This is the phase in which one is quietly preparing themselves to separate from and say goodbye to someone or something we love(d) goodbye. This is the deeply personal sorrow at one’s loss, and is uncomfortable because while one is still deeply sad, at the same time, a person is preparing to move on.
- Acceptance ~ or in my opinion, a form of enlightenment. This is not a phase that everyone reaches. Some people may never move past denial and anger. It is not a brave and noble thing to deny the inevitable and the opportunity to make our own form of peace. This phase is very quiet and withdrawn, however, it is not a period of happiness, although it must be distinguished from depression. Coping with a personal loss is a deeply individual and singular process. No two people will grieve a loss in the same way. Nobody can help a person go through it with more ease or to understand the very personal emotions one is experiencing. The best thing one can do is to allow oneself to experience the pain when it comes because resistance will only prolong the process of healing. I call this a form of enlightenment because if one can work their way through this maze, and come out of it changed for the better and more at peace with oneself and the world around you, you have achieved a form of enlightenment, in my opinion.
i thought I had already prepared myself for the loss and grief of the death of my marriage. I had been unhappy for at least two years, apparently completely missed by my husband. I thought I had already decided the relationship was over and that I had been alone for awhile. Nope, I was really wrong. When something like a divorce is just a thought, albeit a very serious thought, one is still married. There is still hope for change if both parties are willing to put in some serious work, and both parties are willing to work on changing things their partner is really unhappy with. But, even counseling is an exercise in futility if even one person is not on the same boat. When one person feels that the other is the one who needs to do all the changing while they continue happily along with their own odious behaviors, even the most skilled therapist will not be able to effect any change in the marriage.
That is how it seemed to me in my own relationship. I was the one who was mentally “interesting.” I was the one who got angry and yelled and threw mini-tantrums. I was the one who just couldn’t get with the program which was my husband could watch Internet porn all day, but I could not bring a male friend to the house. Apparently, I was the “only” woman who ever had any problem with his viewing porn. I had no problem with it either, just not 8 or 9 hours a day, every day. Eventually, it got to the point where I wasn’t even saying anything about it because that was a pointless way to spend breath. I just let him do it, and continue doing it, and I would periodically make unhappy grumbling noises about a divorce which he erroneously thought of as a threat or an ultimatum to get him to slow down. It wasn’t either, it was a certainty. It was just a matter of when.
I truly have been questioning why I stayed in a relationship that so obviously emotionally and insidiously verbally abusive for so long. I am not a weak willed person, at least I did not think so. Yet, I stayed in a relationship that was incredibly abusive in the ways that leave no visible marks but eventually erodes your sense of who you are in the most basic of ways. I no longer think of myself as attractive (I couldn’t live up to the women on the Internet), I no longer think of myself as a sexy, feminine woman, I question my rationality, I question everything i once held to be true about myself. I question my worth to anyone. Hell, I question my worth to myself. I think I am moving between denial, anger, and depression. Even that I am unsure of. I cannot figure out how I could have let this happen to me other than hope springs eternal, and I thought maybe one day he would wake up and realize what I was worth to him. He knows now.