My Stages of Grief

As an education major, I’ve had to take my fair share of psychology courses.  I’ve learned a lot of great info in these courses, but I’ve also struggled with some of the material.  When learning about psychological theories, I would often find myself wondering “how can there be a one-size-fits-all theory about this?  Isn’t every person different and will experience/respond to things differently?”

That may be true but let me tell you, reading about the Kübler-Ross model of the 5 stages of grief has helped me SO MUCH through the process of recovering from what my ex-fiance did to me.  My experiences and emotions match up pretty much exactly to the stages described in this model. 

1. Denial

As soon as C called me on Christmas morning to tell me he had been using meth and was going into rehab, I was in denial about what that meant for our relationship.  I thought to myself, “Ok, he’ll go to rehab and get better.  We still have 6 months to the wedding.  That’s plenty of time for him to recover.  There’s no reason to think that we still can’t get married on June 21.”  I spent a few days viewing what had happened as just a little hiccup in our relationship.  I refused to acknowledge how deeply everything had changed.  He told me that even postponing the wedding would kill him, because our marriage was what gave him reason to get better.  I saw this as hope that everything would be ok, that I was worth it to him.

I spent about 2 days in this stage.  It took a visit to my hometown parish priest to pull me out of it.  The priest had never even met C, but as he talked about the life of an addict he basically described my fiancee to a T.  As I told him more about things that had happened in our relationship, I could see more and more clearly that this was not the true and happy love and life that I thought.  Denial (and our relationship) was over.

2. Anger

After I ended the relationship, I definitely moved into the anger stage.  This stage was a lot worse after I came home and realized I’d been burglarized by C’s junkie friends.  I was so, so angry pretty much non-stop for weeks.  Things that normally wouldn’t bother me would just set me off, and eventually came back to him.  While car shopping, I got really stressed out and upset and then found myself so angry at C for putting me in a situation where I felt like I needed a new car.  I’ve mentioned that my sisters and I might be going to Puerto Rico over the wedding date…that trip is actually my sister’s graduation present.  My parents are taking her and some of her friends, and my other sister and I were going to crash it.  Well, my sister decided it would make her feel really conflicted between wanting to hang out with friends and family.  I got SO MAD at her.  I was livid for 2 solid days.  Then I got mad at C again, because I shouldn’t have been worrying about that.  I should’ve been planning our honeymoon.

I spent a few weeks thinking about many memories of our relationship.  Instead of appreciating the good times, everything just made me angry.  I would think to myself, “How could he have done/said that really nice thing and then turned around and gotten high behind my back?!?”  I know this is the life of an addict, but I couldn’t keep the anger away.  It was like a 20-pound weight that took a 3-week residence in my chest.  At times I felt like it was going to consume me completely.

3.  Bargaining

I experienced bargaining during the denial phase.  I thought if he went to rehab and stuck with the program, we could still get married and be happy.  Once I decided the relationship was over this bargaining stopped.  I honestly haven’t done much bargaining beyond that.  At some of my lowest points I’ve probably bargained with God that if He takes my pain away I’ll be a better person or something of that nature, but I don’t spend a lot of my time here.

4.  Depression.

I hit the depression stage last week.  This is actually the phase that prompted me to research the stages of grief.  I expected to be angry.  What I didn’t expect was after 7 weeks of seeing red I suddenly found myself crying daily.  I had cried a lot in the first few days after everything happened.  I also cry when I’m angry, so I cried during that stage as well.  However, all of the sudden I just felt so sad all of the time.  I had no energy.  I managed to drag myself into work, but I was not doing a good job.  I also managed to get myself to the gym (thanks in large part to my sister also taking out a membership and forcing me to go) and the only times I would feel really happy were the few hours after working out.  

I saw triggers everywhere.  Every person, song, TV show or commercial, building, whatever, reminded me of C.  There were days at work when I had to excuse myself to the bathroom multiple times because the tears were welling up.  I know I was freaking my family out, but I didn’t know what was going on.  I had no idea why I felt the way I did.

Then I looked up the grief theory.  It made me feel so much better.  It helped me realize that I am not unusual in what I’m experiencing.  Once I read more about it, I decided that I needed to just feel.  I stopped trying to forget about the sorrow and just let it wash over me.  I didn’t completely drowned in it, and that definitely helped.  But I did realize that it was ok to be sad.  I stopped thinking that I was weak because I cried, and that alone made me feel better.

I haven’t gotten to the fifth stage (acceptance) yet, but I think I’m moving closer.  And it’s ok that I’m not there yet.  I lost what I thought was the love of my life.  It’s ok for me to take time to process that.  I just wanted to share my experience in the hopes that if anyone else is going through a similar situation, they read this and realize that it’s ok if they aren’t back to “normal” yet.  We’ll get there.

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