“Thank God the bastard’s dead!”, the not-so grieving widow snapped back after I offered my sympathy.
I had assumed she was grieving. I came to her home to arrange the funeral of her deceased 42-year-old husband, the father of her six kids.
“Tell me about him.” I asked.
Her years of pain poured out. He was a violent alcoholic whose drinking resulted in him dying young. To live with him was pure hell. She felt trapped in a marriage, unable to escape.
His death freed her from years of systematic abuse. She did not need my sympathy; the marriage had died years ago. In fact, she felt relieved. Her horror story now ended.
This gave me an insight into how we deal with loss and grief. I expected the not-so grieving widow to grieve according to the recognised five stages of death and dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
While they are tools to help frame and name how we might grieve, not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.
These five stages can sketch grief‘s terrain, better equipping us to cope with loss.
Often grieving people report more stages. Our grief is as unique as we are.
We can never understand grief only as a five-stage process that arranges mixed emotions into well-ordered packages.
These five stages point to the loss many people journey through but there is no normal response to loss as there is no typical loss.