I was taught “The Five Stages of Grief ” in a philosophy class I took back in high school. Apparently, in the intervening years, some clinicians added two more stages. As if those five weren’t daunting enough, we must now swim through ever murkier waters between crisis and resolution. Swell.
Before the old first stage of Denial, we must first confront Shock or Disbelief. This makes sense. Before one can vigorously deny the issue, there has to be an action which precipitates the crisis. Minding the third slot from the old model is Bargaining. This is followed by Guilt, and number five, formerly Acceptance is now in the spleen-venting position of Anger. Number six is Depression. Finally holding forth at number seven is Acceptance & Hope. Such an enormous journey outward from Dante’s misery.
In my experience, each one of these seven stages is interrupted by Anger and Depression at expected intervals. And that adds roughly six more stages which I must slog through. Perhaps my orientation towards processing versus solution is a bit too thorough. At the least, it is inefficient because I fall into the discouraging pattern of one-step-forward-two-steps-back, an adage I find terribly annoying just now.
But this is hard stuff, and I am motivated to slow down the stages to mitigate damages to innocent parties. Mindful, of course, that I need to move forward slowly for my own mental and spiritual health. Just trying to keep moving.
The problem is that my Stages are not really following any predictable path. Five, seven or thirteen- all is a jumble. All is untidy. I can see that any course down this road contains a bit of a bi-polar element. Not pathology really, just a certain unpredictability from day to day of where I’ll find myself. It seems there is a general correspondence to the Stages. Still, something is not working here.
We are given to believe that these stages unfold in a forward path, when in truth, they are traversed over pebbles and gravel, with the occasional unpleasant water feature. On this journey lie confounding trails with intricate mazes, not unlike those found on grand old estates in Britain and elsewhere. Very pretty, but within are dozens of chances to make wrong turns and hit scratchy walls of thorns, or of falling into ditches.
The thorn in my side comes from the person from whom I am trying to unyoke. We are both experiencing these stages, but not at the same rate or time, or place. In addition to being fucking inconvenient, it is damn aggravating. Just when I think I’ve stumbled past Anger, I find myself back in Denial, be it produced by my partner or of my own making. Add to that my experience of observing the other person’s experience. Whoa! Here I’ve managed to navigate past a couple stages down the lane, but my partner is still stuck in wherever I am not…this is a problem.
In any case, I am Bargaining like crazy these days. And bargaining is consumed by Depression, which is motivated by Anger. And round we go in this endless dance.
It is hideous.
Since I tend to view my world through musical language, I’ve noticed that there are corresponding keys to the phases. If you pay any attention in music school, you pick up on the color of keys and harmonics using an incongruous blend of physics and psychology. Were I to rename the “Stages of Grief”, I would subtitle them “A Symphony of Lamentation and Heroic Struggle in C# minor.”
Some other time I might just examine the Circle of Fifths for a comparative study. Presently, it seems, I must attend to Bargaining before I get pissed off again.
One thought on “More Keys. More Stages.”
Pedantry is encouraged here.
I should have cited the author of the Five Stages. Thank you. My point, which I know you know, is about how this process is applied to any loss experienced as the result of major transitions. Birth as well as death, and of course dissolution of a relationship between life partners.
EKR was speaking specifically to an issue of great import which had not really been part of a greater cultural discussion prior to her work. She offered us a vocabulary, and the means to bring feelings into an understandable order.
That EKR’s work has been co-opted into a broader lexicon speaks well for her legacy.
So, Bob, you are right.