My parents died a year or so apart, both of cancer but of different types, I felt the initial stab of sadness but beyond that I felt mostly relief.
When I didn’t enter some sort of mourning, no turbulent despair or grief, I started to wonder if I was actually not normal so I read several books to come away with very few facts but a couple of important understandings.
Everyone is different, the stages are not clearly demarcates and not in some some simple, defined cycle with a beginning and an end. In fact all of these identifiable ‘stages’ are identifiable surface manifestations of each person’s struggle to cope with loss.
So what is the value of identifying the ‘stages’ if there is no specific beginning, no specific end and really no definitive way of dealing with each feeling.
If there is no medicine, no treatment, what good are knowing names?
For me, simply, if I know that others have recognized something, even to the point of naming it, someone I feel less alone. It is like walking up a dark road and seeing a light and hearing a voice proceeding up ahead; I may not have any more knowledge or guidance of the rough spots or holes but I am at least not alone in my journey.
So when I write about my feelings and my behaviors, believe me that I am not trying to represent myself as routinely successful at this journey we are all taking; in fact virtually every other caregiver I’ve met seems to be much more expert than I. I find myself struggling to get out of deep shit so often because my natural, routine crankiness lands me in it more than most.
I write about this struggle because thinking about it helps me understand and clarify my behavior – and, without some record, all this painful but important time will just merge into an inchoate mash.
What I hope is that, when you read anything I and others write here, you can recognize the efforts and feel less lonely in yours. You will understand that no matter how dark the road seems right now for you, there are unseen others going the same way, stumbling and persevering just as you must do.
None of us are models or examples – good or bad, just fellow travelers.