A friend of mine (who happens to be a widower) shared this on Facebook the other day and I think it's incredible. For a full and wonderfully in-depth explanation by the originator of the post, read this article.
The gist of it is this. Grief is like a box with a pain-inducing "trigger button." Right after the event happens, there's a big ball in that box that smashes against the trigger, keeping the pain level high. As you begin to heal, the ball gets smaller, leaving more room and taking the pressure off the button sometimes. There will still be times when the ball bounces around and hits the button - less frequently as time goes by and the ball continues to shrink.
It's important to note that different things can bounce that ball around for different people, and not everyone has the same sized ball, even if they experienced the same grief event.
I read all this and realized the truth: I've got a bouncing ball of grief inside me. I've spent the last year since my stroke focusing every bit of energy on dealing with my new body and how it relates to the world. It's been a battle, and I finally feel like I can take a breath and evaluate everything that I've been through. And you know what? I've been through a lot. And when I look at it all in terms of grief and grieving, it all falls into place.
7 stages of grief? Oh yeah, I got 'em.
(1) Shock and Denial? Checked that one off in the hospital. (2) Pain and Guilt? Keep checking that one, as the fallout of all this and its impact on my kids continues to manifest itself. (3) Anger and Bargaining? Comes and goes, more on the anger. Not much left to bargain about anymore. (4) Depression? Yep. Loads. Crushing, suffocating, unable-to-get-off-the-couch depression. (5) Upward Turn finally happened when I started back to work at the day job, (6) Reconstruction has been ongoing and (7) Acceptance is pretty much where I'm at now.
But still, there's no denying that ball rattling around inside me, slamming against that trigger sometimes. Like during my son's Christmas Chorus concert when they invited people up to the stage to join them for Handel's Messiah, and I knew the girl who had the voice to sing that is no more. I stood silently, tears tracking my cheeks as I mourned her. Like when my kids talk about the beach this summer, and I know I can't go in the water, not with compromised balance - a moderate wave can wreck me, and with a weakened left side I may not be able to get up. Like when I see the worry cloud my daughter's eyes when I'm fatigued, or when my son asks me if I'm going to have another stroke and maybe die soon.
It's good to stay focused on the now, and where I want to be. It's good to be grateful for all I do have and didn't lose. But it's unrealistic to ignore the grief, because it's there. It's definitely there.
Just unpacking, and pawing through things. Don't plan to roll around and wallow in it, but I need to frame it for reference, and in this case, I've got a box and a ball and a me who used to be. I miss her, and I mourn her sometimes.