What I’m learning about grief

Last November, my husband and I celebrated our 60th anniversary at one of our favourite restaurants: Water’s Edge.
Our son, who is an accomplished chef himself, planned the meal with the help of Chef Tom. And what a festive occasion it was!
Unfortunately, it was to be our last anniversary. Eight months later, Howard was gone.
During those eight months, he had been treated for lymphoma. Luckily, he was chosen to be part of a research project. He was one of 250 people from western Europe, eastern Europe, and North America to take a very promising drug.
The results were amazing—and he was declared cancer-free.
A miracle, indeed! Everyone was delighted: his doctors, his nurses, the lab technicians, his family, his many friends, and especially Howard!
Sadly, our delight was short-lived. The treatment was too much for his already-weakened body. But we still are pleased that he was part of the study that gave us eight quality months and Howard a peaceful death.
But now I’m alone. . . .
Many years ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to interview Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, author of the landmark book “On Death and Dying.” So I have known about the five stages of grief intellectually for a long, long time.
But this is different. There is nothing intellectual about my grief. It’s in my soul!
Still, understanding the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance—can help.
These five stages are universal and can come after any severe loss, such as losing a job or a broken relationship. But, especially, after the death of a person close to you.
The five stages are not chronological. But it is critical to a grieving person that acceptance be the last step.
Losing a husband is life-altering, I’ve found. All my patterns have to change. I have to accept that. As a result, I am developing new patterns.
For example, I now go to the exercise room with my daughter, instead of my husband. And my brother, Jim, who also is grieving the loss of a brother-in-law, comes for coffee every Thursday morning.
We have fun–sometimes catching up on each other’s lives and other times reminiscing about our growing up years in Lewis County, N.Y.
Sometimes, though, I find myself strangely angry–angry at the whole world! I’ve always known that anger was one of the stages of grief but what I didn’t know is that the anger could be free-floating; anger that could escape at any time.
This anger is not against God or the person who left you. It’s just anger.
I’ve also found that talking helps. Susan, one of our pastors, was very helpful. First trained as a nurse before becoming a pastor, she understands the five stages of grief perfectly.
She also encouraged me to take advantage of the hospice social worker.
People are wonderfully supportive at a time like this. But everyone else has their own problems. So ultimately, grieving is a process we each must go through alone.
Consciously experiencing the loss helps. As does understanding the stages of grief.
So always remember death is part of life, and you can go on. In fact, you must.
It’s hard but grief eventually must give way to life.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@cox.net

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