I had a session with the counsellor yesterday and we talked through a ‘7 stages of grief’ model. This is the model that we are using:
7 Stages of Grief…
1. SHOCK & DENIAL-
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
2. PAIN & GUILT-
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
3. ANGER & BARGAINING-
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.
You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never drink again if you just bring him back”)
4. “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
7 Stages of Grief…
5. THE UPWARD TURN-
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.
6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.
7 stages of grief…
You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.
I talked about how I felt as I went through the shock and denial phase, remembering back to those first few hours and days; maybe even weeks, certainly I was still in this phase when planning the funeral.
The pain and guilt phase lasted probably the next two years or more, probably up until my partner and I split up. The pain hurt to my very core, it’s a pain you just cannot put into words. And the guilt – that still lives with me now – why couldn’t I give him life? Why couldn’t a be a proper mother? What did I do wrong? I tried so hard to have a healthy pregnancy, why had this happened?
When he had the first affair I think the pain and guilt started to change into anger and bargaining. I was angry at him for how he had treated me and yet I was ready to excuse his actions as I bargained for him to come back to me despite how much he had hurt me. I bargained for my little one to come back. I went into a manic episode and took out loans left right and centre, as I became delusional I started buying baby items and believing my baby was here at home with me. I got my ex back only for him to have affair number two just a few months later. That’s when all the anger really started to come out of me; although I never said it to his face I started to blame him for the loss of the baby in my head.
For a long time I had thought I was still in the ‘bargaining’ stage as I say inside my head I will end my life if it meant having one more minute with my little one. I make attempts to end my life, I self harm, I go through a whole load of thoughts (sometimes delusional ones) where I will do anything for another minute with him. But I realise now that actually I’m at stage 4 of the model – the depression phase. And it is the worst because everything feels so fucking hopeless that you end up in very dark places – like shooting up heroin. It’s such a scary phase as well because you know the only place left (other than dying) is finding the way to ‘move on’. And moving on is a bloody scary thought. What if I don’t think about him as much? Can I really laugh again and not feel guilty? Will there come a time where I don’t need to punish myself any more? It feels only right that I should remain in the hopeless phase of depression because I don’t believe that I deserve to be happy.
On saying that I know I have to start moving into stage five sometime and the counsellor makes me feel like there can be a happy future if I’m willing to walk down the painful path of leaving the guilt behind.
Totally off topic, there was a really good three part documentary on about social workers and child protection, anyone interested in the work of social workers working in the child and family sector should definitely watch it. It’s heartbreaking at times but you get to see the full picture and I have to say I did to a large extent agree with the decisions they made – but as always in programmes about social workers it will be controversial. If you want to watch it the links are below (I’m not sure if it’s only available for viewers in the UK)
Part One can be found here or by clicking this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01bpjf7/Protecting_Our_Children_Damned_If_They_Do_Damned_If_They_Dont/
Part Two can be found here or by clicking this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01c1d3k/Protecting_Our_Children_Expecting_Trouble/
Part Three can be found here or by clicking this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01cbn5h/Protecting_Our_Children_I_Want_My_Baby_Back/