The things that one learns while in the stages of grief are well defined by many grief counselors. There are a ubiquitous number of books that describe these terrible stages. Anger, denial, negotiation, acceptance, depression, ad nauseum. These come in no particular order and simply because you’ve spent time in one stage doesn’t mean that you’re finished with it. Nor is there any time limit to how long you experience a particular stage. The human mind refuses to work like that. You can go through all five in a manner of minutes, or you may find yourself stuck in one for hours and days at a time. There is no rhyme or reason as to how these stages will pick you up, throw you down, wring you like a wet towel, and drop you on the ground with deep dread that it’s about to start all over again.
The anger and depression stages seem to be my major choices. Acceptance is one that eludes me, as it did for twenty years after my father died. I can get stuck and linger for years. It’s not the healthiest way to do it. But, I’ve gotten so good at it, I do hate to give it up.
Years ago, I read a lot of Kubler-Ross – “On Death and Dying.” Perhaps I was preparing myself. Facing a death, Noel’s in my situation, brings out a side of me most people don’t like. It’s my fighting side. I don’t really care what others think when it comes to protecting my family, good southerner that I am. I know that I would have made a pact with the devil to have her emerge healthy and to allow her to live into a vibrant old age. I’d do it in a skinny minute. Gasp all you want.
But, I do know that isn’t an option. There are so many who haven’t earned the breath she so well deserved, the healthy body that by rights should have been hers. Those useless, self-absorbed people who do little or nothing for their neighbors. It defies logic that a woman so giving is the one to get this horrendous disease we call ovarian cancer. It simply isn’t up to me as to who deserves a long life and who doesn’t, and thank god for that.
One thing that I’ve learned in this ordeal is that people say the most inane things. I know its very hard to know what to say. Sometimes, all you can say is, “This totally sucks.” If you aren’t that kind of speaker, try, “this is simply terrible and I’m so sorry.” We really don’t want to hear that she’s in a better place and we’re definitely all happy that she’s no longer in pain but we want her HERE with US.
Also, please don’t ask me what I need (or anyone else struggling through this morass of hellish emotions. Suggest something you can do. I can barely remember to get up, breathe, and bathe. Forget coming up with what I need. Try offering a meal for a certain night, or offer to come over and water the flowers; drop off note cards that the grieving people can use later and include a book of stamps (dying can be expensive). If there are children in the house, bring mac n cheese. Offer to feed and wash the dog, or take him/her out for a walk. Blow off the driveway, mow the lawn. We would really appreciate it, but we can’t remember how to put the lid back on the toothpaste. If you really feel that you need to do something for the person in grief, do it. Gently, but with determination. You’ve no idea how much it will be appreciated. Those who are taking care of their sick loved one are doing all that they can there. You can help, but be creative. All my thoughts are tied up with her. Whatever you do, trust me – it will be deeply appreciated.