The 7 Seven Stages of Grief
There is a list out there that says there are 7 stages of grief one goes through after something traumatic, such as a death. The steps are:
1. Shock - Initial paralysis
2. Denial - Trying to avoid the inevitable
3. Anger - Frustrated out pouring of bottled up emotions
4. Bargaining - Looking for a way out
5. Depression - Final realization of the inevitable
6. Testing - Seeking out realistic solutions
7. Acceptance - Finding the way forward
A person experiencing grief is "supposed to" cycle through each of these stages, ending in acceptance. The person experiencing grief is also "supposed to" feel better within 6 months, or they are given the title "complicated grief". I am here to tell you that everyone grieves differently. After the loss of a child, you are not going to be over them in 6 months. There is no textbook case or ideal way of dealing with this kind of grief. I wish I could tell you it was as easy as making smooth transitions through these stages and feeling yourself within 6 months, but I can't. It's a lie. I am over 3 years into my journey with grief, and I still have not reached the final stage of acceptance. I have experienced stages 1 through 6, and I have gone back and forth, up and down the list in that time. This is NORMAL.
Shock - This will be your first response. Your body goes into survival mode in an attempt to cope. I went into shock when I had to place my son's body on the hospital table and walk away while they took him to the morgue. I was in an undeniable state of shock until his funeral, one week after he passed.
Denial - This started for me the day after he passed. I woke up in the morning, and had almost completely forgotten that my son had died. Waking up without him was normal to me. He was in the hospital for close to half of his life, and those days I would wake up and spend the entire day with him. I honestly believed the hospital was going to call me and tell me this was all a big mix up. That Jayden was fine. Of course, that call never came.
Anger - It took me months to get to this stage, and I frequently "back track" to this stage. About once a month, I have a day where I am angry at everything and everyone. I am self destructive and usually have to talk myself out of making stupid decisions. On these days I consider dropping out of school, instigating conflict with my loved ones, I always consider letting myself dive right back down to rock bottom, and worse. Be kind to yourself. These extreme thoughts are temporary and you will snap out of this anger. I promise.
Bargaining - This has been a stage that I have been stuck in for a long time. It is always lingering in the back of my mind. Occasionally I find my thoughts drifting into ways to escape my life. In the beginning, it was a good thing for me. I was in a toxic relationship and I NEEDED to get out. Now, I am happy with my life, but I still have these thoughts. I never put serious consideration to them, but they're there.
Depression - I can't say for sure when the final realization hit me. A lot of angel moms I talk to say it's when their child's headstone is placed, or they receive their ashes. I believe I was first "grazed" by this stage when I was planning his funeral and when first walked into the funeral home the afternoon of his funeral. I believe my true breaking point was when I finally gained the courage to go to the funeral home and make his arrangements. I got about half way through the meeting, until they showed me a picture of the baby caskets. They had white, pink, and blue. Seeing the picture made it all too real for me. I stood up and walked out. After a good cry and a short break, I was able to return and finish up with the arrangements. I don't remember anything between the morning I made the arrangements and the afternoon of his funeral. I greeted all of our family outside of the funeral home and held it together. Once I walked inside, hand in hand with my mom, I was caught off guard by two large pictures of my son and a song that I had first heard when I was pregnant playing in the lobby. My mom and I simultaneously started crying. That was the second time that the truth actually hit me. My son was gone. I visited him at the cemetery countless times without actually comprehending that he was buried below me. I snap in and out of this stage. I think about my son every single day, but some days the only thought I have is that he is dead. Those days are the days I fall back into this stage.
Testing - This seems to be where I am right now. I still frequently "visit" stages 2-5, but for the most part, I am here. I am trying to find ways to continue on my life without the agony of not having my son here with me dragging me down. I am making sure his memory lives on and that he is never forgotten. I try to spread awareness in hopes that one day, no other family will have to experience this.
Remember, there is no way you're supposed to grieve. You need to do what you need to do to get through and to survive. It is normal to go back to previous stages of grief, to skip them, be in more than one at once, or to go out of order. Cry, scream, and take time to yourself. It's okay.