Most people know about the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. What most people don’t know is that this wasn’t modeled after the typical grief experience of someone who has just lost a loved one – it was born out of questionnaires given to people with terminal illness. Even with chronic illness, this model fits very well.
Grieving the death of a friend or family member? Not so much. I’ve been around death since before I was old enough to tie my shoes. My favorite person in the world died when I was 6. We’ve been averaging one funeral a year for family members, plus extras for acquaintances and friends of the family since then. That’s a lot of embalmed hands I’ve touched.
My stages of grief are as follows:
“Inappropriate” comments and laughter
Yep, I’m the asshole who cracks jokes at a funeral while attempting to lighten the mood. Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person and I don’t think celebrating a person’s life needs to be a somber event. Sure, it’s sad. Sure, I miss people who have passed. But I no longer judge myself on the way I cope with death because it seems abnormal. How do we know what’s abnormal when people don’t usually talk about their grief? It makes others uncomfortable so the topic is avoided.
My good friend Jayson found his father had pulled an Elvis (died on the toilet) early this morning. Jayson’s Dad was a nasty son of a bitch and also had several health problems so he knew it was only a matter of time. The relationship he had with his Dad is very similar to the one I have with my own and was often a topic of conversation.
I’m terrible at consoling people who have just experienced loss. I’m there and I listen, but I don’t have anything comforting to say. Maybe that’s what people need, rather than platitudes. I told him whatever he’s feeling is fine. Anger, sadness, relief… it’s all valid. To try not to judge what he’s feeling.
And then I told him the story of how I accidentally called an alpaca farm at 1:49am while doing a Google search for alpaca yarn. I hope I didn’t give the proprietor a heart attack. Why? It came to mind, so out it went.