Joe Crawford's personal website.

K-R Grief Observation

In Wikipedia, about the Kübler-Ross model, it’s said of the “5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance)” this (the emphasis is mine):

Kübler-Ross claimed these steps do not necessarily come in the order noted above, nor are all steps experienced by all patients, though she stated a person will always experience at least two. Often, people will experience several stages in a “roller coaster” effect—switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through it.

Significantly, people experiencing (or caretakers observing) the stages should not force the process. The grief process is highly personal and should not be rushed, nor lengthened, on the basis of an individual’s imposed time frame or opinion. One should merely be aware that the stages will be worked through and the ultimate stage of “Acceptance” will be reached.

I can verify the observation of bouncing back and forth, particularly with the death of my Mother recently. Prior deaths and traumas, my cousin by suicide in the 1990s; the implosion and dissolution of my first marriage; the death of my Grandfather last year, were in retrospect much “cleaner” and I think followed the classic sequence closely.

Currently I’m experiencing all five them, often the space of the same day or few hours. The lack of a coherent “plan” for how to view my day or week is very hard, but I’m managing to get some things done, thankfully.

So I push forward and onward.

six comments so far...

I reached your blog through Fussy. I am very sorry for the loss that you and your family are experiencing. I am on my fourth Thanksgiving/Christmas without my mom. She passed away October 20, 2006 of Stage IV lung cancer.

I cannot express to you how much your words have hit home. This was the first death for me (other than the deaths of three grandparents that I didn’t really know) and boy was it a whopper! I am not writing this comment to give you advice but to empathize. The thing that frustrates me the most about death are the comments that people make, in particular, “It gets better with time.” Because, really, it doesn’t get better with time. This is just now my life without my mom. I am learning to live with it.

I pray for you and your family during the holiday season.

Tracy, thank you for your words. Time does do some healing, but for me, this is a new world. This is the Post-Phyllis world. And the choice is either to learn in this new world or not.

I suspect I will learn to live in this new world, but like a newborn baby, as I learn to talk and walk I’ll be making plenty of mistakes.

Love and prayers right back at you, thank you for visiting and for your very kind and thoughtful words.

Hey Joe. Here’s an interesting article on grief from earlier this year at The New Yorker
kinda debunks the stage theory… turns out grief is a bit messy, and we humans don’t really follow the rules.

I also read an interesting essay by Judith Butler, “Violence, Mourning and Politics” from Precarious Life. It’s a bit esoteric, but one passage really resonated with me:

“When we lose certain people….we may simply feel that we are undergoing something temporary, that mourning will be over and some restoration of prior order will be achieved. But maybe when we undergo what we do, something about who we are is revealed, something that delineates the ties we have to others, that shows us that these ties constitute what we are, ties or bonds that compose us. It is not as if an “I” exists independently over here and then simply loses a “you” over there, especially if the attachment to “you” is part of what composes who “I” am. If I lose you, under these conditions, than I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who “am” I without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constituted, we do not know who we are or what to do. On one level, I think I have lost “you” only to discover that “I” have gone missing as well. “

And as a person who is going on, omg 32 years without my mother… it does not get “better” with time. It gets different. And know that you are not alone.

It does debunk it somewhat, though nothing in human relations is surgical-steel precise where transitions occur. Great article and food for thought though.

I’m glad to know I’m not alone Jennifer. I have taken from your choices of projects and what I have read of your work online that your Mother’s death is part of your own Hero’s Journey. I understand that so much more profoundly now.

Thanks for reading, and for commenting. I wish you peace.

Joe, you get the honor of being just like the rest of us. They never tell you that you can bounce back and forth between stages, and even find yourself in several at once.

Losing parents is especially tough. At the end of the day, I felt like I was walking on the high wire, by myself, for the first time. Fortunately, I could, in fact, accomplish this. Seems that being raised by them left me with two parent simulators I could run at will. Kinda handy, but I’d still rather have them around.

My mother died Christmas day, which still casts a filmy pall over the holidays. But, we’ve learned to incorporate little bits of her knowledge into our lives. For my mother, it was recipes. So, we cook something from her recipe file.

For my dad, we always take his rifle down to the shooting range for father’s day. It was one of the few activities we really enjoyed together.

For my grandfather, I still use some of his tools, and feel that connection whenever I build something, or go fishing.

You’ll find little things to help you get through this. Best just to accept them.

Thanks for sharing that Dave. I like the “simulator” analogy. I know we have the capacity to have that parental voice in our heads. The key is to have the positive aspects of that–at least for me.

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