When I knew Keith was approaching death I Googled the stages of grief:
1) Denial and Isolation
There were about a million websites devoted to this topic, but what about the stuff no one talks about? I would have found it very helpful to read something about the phenomenon that happens to food during crisis or tragedy. Nobody told me that everything I tried to eat would have no taste. As far as I was concerned, it was crumbs in my mouth and that was about it. Nothing sounded good and it all got stuck in my throat. I knew it was bad when my cupcake friend offered to bring me cupcakes and I couldn't even do that. It just didn't sound good. I was then faced with people saying, "Judy, you need to eat. You need to take care of yourself." What they didn't understand was that I tried, I really did, but it's hard to eat when every type of food sounds about as good as eating your own vomit.
Another thing no one told me was that no matter what I would take to induce drowsiness, sleep would evade me. Sleep was not my friend. I remember thinking, "What do you do when one Ambien just isn't enough." I didn't take two, but I didn't sleep either. If I did nod off then I would wake up shortly after seeing Keith's body after he passed. I couldn't get his image, specifically his hands, out of my thoughts. I would wake up and then be haunted by the same images that caused me to wake in the first place. Nobody told me that my dreams, nightmares, and reality would all blend together forming the perfect funk which eliminated sleep.
How about when your brain becomes mush? What stage of grief does that fall under? I forgot things, couldn't come up with certain words and was generally just less intelligent. I was about as sharp as mud. Probably about as clear as mud too. It's similar to pregnant brain, but WAY worse.
I am happy, however, to report that food regained its taste and that Ambien is now working. I still struggle with the mushy brain syndrome, but I think it's slowly getting better. I guess what I took away from the stages of grief is that everyone grieves in their own way. There is no textbook answer to surviving a crisis and grieving appropriately. I think it's just hard when we get hit with something no one talks about or if our grieving sounds different than the "typical" grieving. I was reminded of this the other day when I received this email from one of our friends:
I’m thinking about Keith a lot these days. It’s strange because before he died I didn’t think about him as much. In fact I really wanted him to be made whole and was relieved when he passed. It’s like that relief is passing and now I just flat out miss the guy. I really didn’t expect to feel this way. I thought about it a lot last night just trying to understand why I’m thinking about him so much more now than when he was in the hospital and I think it has something to do with anxiety about forgetting or losing him completely. I keep seeing the same image over and over of Keith throwing his head straight back laughing at something someone said. I’ve seen it a thousand times over the years and it’s like I’ve grabbed that image and my mind is replaying it over and over to keep from forgetting it.
We are all missing Keith and it doesn't matter if our grieving falls into one of the stages of grief or not. Depending on your relationship with the person, you will grieve differently and it will be done so in different ways. The important part is that we allow ourselves to do it in however long it takes to get through it. I think the real tragedy would be for someone to close off the opportunity to grieve for their loved one because without grieving appropriately it will always remain difficult to access the good times and memories of the person - the times that you're grateful you had and the memories that you'll never forget because they're written on your heart.
If you must grieve, experience good grief. Because the person you loved and have lost would want you to focus on the good times you had, not what could have been.