2004-04-19 21:46:27 (UTC)


When someone dies, there are five stages of grief that
mourners must travel through. More and more, people know
and understand this but for some, the cycle must be gone
through a number of times before the process is complete.
Each time through, the stages are less intense, the grief
easier to manage, but it's like being caught in a vortex.
There is no time frame for when someone is finished. It's
very individual; many believe that a year is enough but for
some it can be less and for others, more.

The five stages I'm speaking of are denial, anger,
bargaining, depression and acceptance. Each has its own
nuances as well and each changes as one goes through it a
second, third or fourth time. The denial stage may only
last a few months after a death. I would see a glimpse of a
handwritten envelope when I picked up the mail and my heart
would leap, thinking it was a letter from Steven. I would
catch sight of someone going around a corner who had his
hair or his walk or I'd hear a little snatch of a
conversation in a public place where I was certain I'd heard
his voice. The longing, the wish that someone was still
alive is strong and it can trick one into believing
something that isn't so and can't be real for a short period
of time.

Anger. Now anger can last much, much longer. Last fall I
read "Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America's
Involvement in and Extrication From the Vietnam War" by
Henry Kissinger and I found myself muttering "liar, liar" as
I read it. It was a self-serving book, not at all honest,
to the point it insulted anyone who was alive and aware at
the time this was happening (early 1970s).

No, my anger is little abated for Henry Kissinger or Richard
Nixon. But that doesn't mean I blame just one political
party. It was John F. Kennedy who began it and Johnson who
continued and escalated it. Nixon abandoned men to danger
and their deaths as he hurriedly began ordering stand-downs
timed nicely so he could win the presidential election in a
landslide which just happened to be two days after Steven
died. Those two events, Steven's death and Nixon's
landslide win, are linked forever in my mind. I had no
sympathy for the man when Watergate brought him down. I
thought of it as justice. And don't even get me started on
John F. Kerry and his war hero (?), war protester double
personality. My respect and trust in politicians of any
political ilk is small and gets smaller each year.

The bargaining changes too. It becomes a "what if" game.
What if Steven hadn't died but my daughter had? What if
Steven had died but my daughter hadn't? Would I have moved
to Indiana if she had lived? Would I have married John (or
anyone at all, for that matter) if she had? It's a useless
exercise, a kind of self torment, but it's easy, so easy, to
let oneself get caught in it.

The depression is less, of course. It's more of a general
sadness, an ache, a feeling of a part of my life missing and
gone forever and being unable to do one damn thing about it.

And finally, there is acceptance of what is, is. If I
hadn't found some level of acceptance I would never have
been able to marry John and start another family with him.
But accepting it and only remembering the good is something
different, something much harder and for me, it hasn't
happened yet. Not yet.