The Stages of Grief Is Not A List
By Lynda (the author chose to remain anonymous)
My first true love was 31 years old when he died unexpectedly.
I remember sitting in the pew in the chapel at the Funeral Home, next to Kate, one of Jacob’s sisters-in-law, and in spite of being surrounded by family – feeling utterly alone. It took months for Jacob’s mom Allie to finally understand why having my Dad sit with me that day would have done no good. She had her husband Robert, Jacob’s dad. Jacob’s sisters-in-law, Kate and Ellen, had his brothers, Clinton and William. The man I would have had next to me, holding my hand, was the reason we were all there. Never have I felt so alone and isolated.
Over the last several months I have learned that those infamous stages of grief are not like a shopping list… when you’ve crossed off the anger, that doesn’t mean you’re done with it. Grief has a will all its own; it’s fickle and unpredictable. But eventually, if you allow it, acceptance moves in and takes over, sweeping away the dust of grief and polishing the perspective. For me, this happened when I realized that in order to move forward, I didn’t have to stop loving Jacob.
I remember clearly the moment I realized that. I was standing at the back yard gate of one of my best friends when it suddenly hit me – I could love two people at the same time if life took me in that direction. When that happened, the feelings of guilt and betrayal at wanting to move forward vanished like so much fog in the morning sun.
And what a feeling of peace in my lonely heart that was! I realized that loving Jacob didn’t mean still being in love with him. Moving forward is exactly what Jacob would have wanted for me. Jacob was troubled in life but had one of the kindest hearts of anyone I had ever met, and one of the most gentle souls as well. I knew even before he died that he loved me enough to let me go so that I might be happy, if it ever came to that. I knew that to properly honour his memory, my only direction must be forward motion.
It would be dishonest to try to pretend that my faith has had nothing to do with my journey towards healing. Acceptance that God has put His plan in motion has been an integral part of ensuring that the anger and blame did not linger long. I have seen for myself how those particular stages can stall healing, perhaps indefinitely. I don’t necessarily forgive those I feel are responsible, either directly or indirectly, but by the same token, blame or forgiveness changes nothing and will not bring Jacob back.
I know that my story is not necessarily typical. There have been times when I have questioned myself for seeming to have made such rapid progress, and in that, a little bit of guilt has poked its head in the door. Still, feeling happy and being happy are not the same thing. I have felt happy many times these past months, with the friends and family who have been so important to me and my path to healing. Someday I hope to be happy again. I know that Jacob would want that for me, but choosing this path was up to me, and whether or not I stay the course is up to me and always has been. For me, I choose forward motion.
– written by Lynda
*Names have been changed