My experience with grief

Grief. What does that even mean?

There are 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I think that I’ve been through almost all of them, at least once, if not several times. But what was it like? How did I know I was grieving? First of all, the stages of grief are all different for everyone that goes through them. They can go in any order, and are often repeated. Some individuals may not even go through one of the stages. That being said, I am not going to talk about the stages of grief in any certain order. I am just here to express the stages I have gone through, and how I recognized that I was going through them.

Acceptance

I’ll talk about acceptance first because I think that it was one of the first stages I experienced surrounding my father’s death. He had been in the hospital for nearly a month before he died, and it had become a “normal” part of my life to go visit the hospital daily amongst the other things I was doing. When I found out that he was dying and his body was slowly shutting down, I understood. I understood the biology of what was happening. I understood that he probably would never wake up again. I accepted that he was going to die, and I accepted the scientific reasons for why. It was like a sense of calm that spread throughout my body- everything just made sense.

Denial

Shortly following that sense of calm and cool understanding, came the questioning. Why? Why did he have to die? Why was this happening to me? I am 18. I shouldn’t be losing my father right now. This can’t be happening.

But it was happening. And there was nothing I could do to stop it. When the news came shortly after 4pm on August 10, 2015, it didn’t seem real. How could this be happening? Time seemed to freeze and speed up all at once. There were people around me but I was all alone. What was I feeling? How could this be happening?!

Bargaining

When I think of this stage, I picture me on my knees, begging to a higher power that I don’t actually believe in to let my dad live- to let him recover miraculously. I picture me praying and pleading and sobbing and wishing that my efforts could affect reality. But that was not what I did.

I sat next to my father’s bedside and held his swollen, clammy hand in mine. I had to wear a mask, temporary surgical gown, and gloves in order to be in the room with him (to prevent the spread of germs). I remember just hoping as fiercely as my body could hope that things would turn around, that my dad would wake up, or squeeze my hand. All I could do was hope, and that wasn’t enough to save him.

Depression

The depression came months and months after my dad’s death. I was thrown into life after he died. He died exactly one week before my freshman college classes started. I was swept away into being a focused student that strived for her good grades. I was swept away into making new friends, forming new memories, and having great laughs. I did not have time to be sad, or to grieve.

Fast forward from fall 2015 to fall 2016. Depression hit me like a bus. I was already battling my eating disorder and fostering my growing anxiety about school, and suddenly depression was there, too. Covering me in a dark fog. I isolated. I was lonely, and I was sad. Miserable. Before the depression hit me head-on, I had experienced moments of it in little bursts of pure agony and grief. These bursts came while I was driving or while I was sitting in the middle of class. They were not easy to deal with, but I pressed on until I couldn’t anymore and was admitted to the Ridgeview Institute where I stayed for five weeks.

Anger

I don’t think I have really experienced anger yet, and I am hoping to experience it (as odd as that sounds) during my second stay at Ridgeview this summer (yes, I’m going back.) Anger is a difficult emotion for me to feel, and it might do me some good to experience it.

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