There are many stages of grief that we go through after losing a loved one. In the 1969 book, “On Death and Dying,” Kübler-Ross, the author, examined the five most common emotional reactions to loss:
I have, along with my family, gone through many of these stages, but not all, and definitely not in that order.
“Denial” comes in many forms including the “shock” felt at first, and trying to get my head around the fact that Dani took her own life. How could that be true? Later on, including just today, I had a moment where I actually forgot I went through all of this pain. It happened when I heard of another beautiful young girl who died by suicide and, for some reason, this particular loss hit me so hard. “How will the parents handle the loss? Why did this happen to another young girl? Why did my own daughter survive her first attempt and this girl did not? What are they going to do each and every minute as this overwhelming pain consumes them?” Snap. Then I remembered; it happened to me. I went through all of that initial heartbreak 2 1/2 years ago, didn’t I? Yes, denial is real.
“Bargaining” has been sprinkled through my life at one time or another since Dani’s death. I have begged and pleaded in the darkness of the night, that I could somehow take Dani’s place, so she could enjoy this life the way I had always dreamed she would. Bargaining, however, was nothing that made me feel better, so those feelings were short-lived.
“Acceptance” is an emotion that comes and goes like a cool breeze. Driving in the car recently, I remembered a funny story and then actually reminded Dani about it, out loud, and I knew she heard me. Could that in itself be proof that I have accepted Dani being gone? Perhaps, but something I have still not really accepted is that her time with me is over forever.
As days, weeks and months passed, I needed to adjust my medication for the “depression” I felt. Eventually, the correct meds, along with the passing of time, have lifted some of the depression and enabled me to keep going. However, the sadness and depressed emotion go hand in hand for me and I assume they always will.
The Encyclopedia of Psychology describes “anger” as “an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.” The first natural assumption in my mind is to be angry with Dani. After all, she is the one who physically decided to end her life. Or, being a woman of faith, the other inclination would be to be angry at God, who ultimately had the power to stop this from happening. Living through a tragedy such as this, there had to be someone to blame. I could blame me, first of all, for having missed some of the late signs of the depression that Dani battled. Or, I could blame her medication for not being effective enough in her darkest moments. The blame game could go on and on but, for me, my faith then kicked in when I needed it most. Blame and anger had no room at my table.
I believed my faith was somehow shaken by this life-changing tragedy, but I knew the only way I could ever survive it was to stand on the faith I have stood on my entire life. This was the same faith that made me believe I would survive some other pretty tough obstacles in my early life. The same faith that got me through the worry of my kids’ childhood and the same faith that held me up through the loss of my parents. This same faith has made me believe that sharing our story would someday help just one person or one family ultimately have a different outcome than ours.
Life isn’t fair. It’s obvious in so many ways. It’s especially not fair that my world lost Dani just as it’s not fair that food and shelter cannot be provided for everyone. But, to stir up the type of “anger” that would tear apart my insides, mix it with the pain I already experienced, and then upend my faith was something I have chosen not to do.
To borrow the catchphrase of James Bond, I preferred my grief, emotions and faith to be “shaken, not stirred.”