The evolution of break-up grieving

Some days I look like this:

Working, kicking butt, taking names. The usual.
Working, kicking butt, taking names. The usual.

I would say most days I’m content, working, doing my job and being a mom. I have friends, I have family, I have support. I can take the hard stuff in stride, I think, most of the time. But sometimes I wonder if I’m just faking it. I wonder if I’m putting on the “I’m getting by” face and it’s really masking the grief stages.

I think a break-up is very much like mourning the death of something. The death of a dream? Losing that love, that support, that unconditional “someone is there, even if it’s not perfect” quality that we all get in a long relationship. That “hi honey, how was your day?” greeting. That “it will be okay” hug. That “I’m there for you even though I’m really mad at your stinky ass” support.

Today I look like this:

This is sadness.
This is sadness.
This is mourning.
This is mourning.
This is grief.
This is grief.

Some days, like today, I look like this:

This is heartbreak.
This is heartbreak.

Some days, like today, it feels like it will never stop, never get better, never be okay.

Will I ever look like that girl at the top again?

Logically, yes, I know I will. I will pull it together. I will get over this heartache. That’s what my head is telling me.

My heart . . . my heart is stupid. My heart can’t be trusted. My heart is grounded until further notice.

The 7 stages of a break-up are very similar to the 5 stages of grief. I’m reproducing some good points from an article here (without permission, I should add):

1. Shock: “What the hell just happened?”

Shock is the body’s natural protection against pain. And when your relationship first ends, you just might not want to deal with what’s coming next. It may be too scary, too lonely, too confusing.

  • Do prescribe yourself calming cures like meditation or long walks.
  • Do not freak out. You will make sense of all of this!

2. Denial: “This is so not happening.”

Denial is rejection of reality and a storage of feelings. The thinking is that, if you don’t accept the heartbreak, then it didn’t really happen, thus leaving hope for reunion.

  • Do open up to a journal or trusted friend to begin unleashing fears, identifying unreasonable thoughts and more.
  • Do not minimize the situation. Pretending your breakup doesn’t have to be dealt with will lead to emotional numbness and leave you stuck.

3. Isolation: “I just want to sit in this all by myself.”

Dealing with the dissolution of the relationship. You may replay the relationship over and over in your mind. Your thoughts may feel very scattered and disorganized. You may draw your blinds and not even want to leave the house. Sitting in darkness feels better than going outside and admitting to the world that, yes, it’s over.

  • Do take regular showers and create reasons to face the day (work, social activities).
  • Do not indulge in self-pity by letting irrational thoughts like “No one will ever love me again” take over.

4. Anger: “I hate you for breaking my heart!”

In this stage, your heart goes from sad to raging mad. It becomes fueled with anger towards your ex for whatever his part in the breakup was, and/or toward yourself for your part. The deeper desire here is often to place blame.

  • Do feel, write or talk about your anger.
  • Do not act on it.

5. Bargaining: “What will it take to get him back?”

Sometimes involving prayers, this stage is often about getting your ex back. Desperate to negotiate with yourself or your ex, you may go to extreme measures to make deals or become something else (thinner, less jealous, etc.) to make amends — when in truth, it is just about making the current pain go away.

  • Do create a self-love list complete with what makes you happy and things you want for your future.
  • Do not include wanting your ex back in the above list!

6. Depression: “I will never get over him.”

You realize the magnitude of your loss in this stage of grief, and it can feel all too overwhelming. You may wind up in a state of deep sadness that can even resemble mild depression. At this point, recalling what your life was like prior to your relationship or what it could be like now can be hard

  • Do surround yourself with positive people and lots of sunshine.
  • Do not fall victim to unhealthy behaviors such as binge eating or drinking.

7. Acceptance: “I understand why I was with him, why I’m not now, and that I will be better than just OK.”

The acceptance stage of a breakup makes all the other really tough ones worth it. The sun begins to shine, and you begin to feel like yourself again, ready to move onward and upward.

  • Do celebrate getting through your breakup.
  • Do not be surprised if you still feel moments of sadness from time to time; it’s normal. Just keep on your positive path!

With love, sadness & pain,

Stef

P.S. I’m trying to remember these things today; maybe you should too:

tumblr_lphh0gm2zj1qm6m56o1_500 responsible for my own happiness beingstrongquotes

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The Mourners

Every day on my way to work I pass a rather large cemetery. Sometimes I can see gravediggers doing their job and I know that somebody will be buried that day. If I drive by during a service and I see the mourners hugging, kissing & crying it breaks my heart a little bit. I feel for them. I feel for their families.

A few years ago I was driving past the cemetery and I saw a women laying next to one of the graves on her side with one arm propping up her head. She appeared to be talking to the grave. Talking to the grave as one would to someone laying in bed next to them. It was a very intimate moment. I can just imagine her lover, or a close relative, like her mother, buried there and it struck me as so sad – so touching, but just so, so SAD – that she had to come here, to where the soul’s vessel was laid to rest, to feel close to her loved one. I only saw her there once.

Over the last several weeks I’ve noticed something strange at the cemetery. Well, not strange per se, but it caught my eye and has me intrigued.

First I saw a small group of people, 3 or 4, sitting on a blanket on the grass nearest the road at the cemetery having a picnic. I didn’t think they were mourners. I thought maybe they had stopped there looking for a convenient place to sit under the trees and eat. Something like that.

Then I noticed they were there again. And again. And a grave near them was growing a small shrine of sorts – flowers, flags, the usual thing.

Last week I noticed several people around the grave. Maybe 5-7 people. And balloons. And more trinkets.

And then I noticed a couple of little teddy bears had been placed around the grave.

Now I can’t stop thinking about it. Through the course of my day I will naturally drive past the grave 2-4 times. Sometimes the family is there and sometimes they aren’t, but the little shrine is always there.

I want to know the story. Whose grave is that? Is it a young child? What happened? I see a young woman there the most – is she the child’s mother? AND WHAT HAPPENED?

I’ve wanted to stop and look at that grave but I almost feel like it would be an invasion of their privacy to do so.

It tugs at my heart every day. I even thought about taking a different route to work – but I think seeing that cemetery every day, and the people in it, inspires an appreciation for my life and maybe fills me with a sense of, what? Humanity, maybe? Every day on my way to work.

An acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook the other day that we should all hug our kids more and longer. I found out he and his wife are going through something quite traumatic and personal. Maybe that’s why this grave is haunting me so much this week.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop to look. I don’t know if I really want to know. Maybe I WILL just hug my kids a little tighter and enjoy their company a little more – BECAUSE I STILL CAN.

And so can you.

EDITED TO ADD:

Mystery solved, I’m upset, angered and altogether put-out, to say. I was having a lovely time with my son on Sunday. We had to run some errands. I drove past the cemetery on the way to the shops and saw the mourners there. On the way back they were gone. So I said, “Son, I’m going to take a detour here to look at a grave,” and I pulled into the cemetery. He was very curious so I explained about seeing the shrine and mourners. I warned him that it could be a child’s grave and that he could stay in the car if he wanted. No, he said, he wanted to go with me. So we did. I almost wish I hadn’t. I mean, now I know – but I almost wish I didn’t.

Born Nov 2007 and died May 2011. She was 3 1/2. My son asked me why she died and I didn’t know. He was very curious so I told him I would see if I could find out. I quickly Googled her name on my phone and, boom, a ton of results. I saw the first result and instantly knew who she was from the headlines back in May. She died very tragically.

I lied to my son. I told him she had been sick with a disease and he peppered me with questions the whole way home. He said, “I thought kids couldn’t die. How come she died? Can other kids die?” I tried to explain about accidents and illnesses and how they can affect anybody. Parenting fail – I probably should not have taken my son with me. On the other hand, he needs to know that sometimes people die when we aren’t prepared. I just didn’t have it in me to explain to him that sometimes they are the victims of violence as well.

When we got home I pulled my husband into our bedroom and told him the whole story. Then I sobbed for that little girl while he patted my back.

I’m happy I know where she’s laid to rest. I can drive by and know exactly why her mom sits at her grave every day. Every single day my heart will break when I drive past that grave. Every single day.

If you want the whole story you can get it here, but I’m warning you – don’t read this if you are easily affected. It stays with you.

RIP little Natasha.

I’m traveling

I’m on part one of my travels – hanging out with my BFF in the Boston area. Tomorrow is part two; I’ll head down to Washington DC tomorrow for a few days of work. 

I have lots of blog ideas percolating in my head and hope to post in the next day or two. I bought a book at the airport and, wow, it’s giving me lots of good food for thought. The book is the follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert called Committed: A Love Story.

I don’t want to write today anyway. My heart and thoughts are with my sister-in-law, nephews, and in-laws who are marking the first anniversary of my brother-in-law’s death today. All the love in my heart going out to them today.

February 21

*sigh*

This is a sad post. I’m sorry. It’s where my head is right now.

Almost 2 years ago, on February 22, 2009, I came into work that Monday morning to bad news. I walked in through the back door, into our breakroom, and my co-worker said, “Hi, did you hear about Mike G.? He was killed yesterday.”

I stood there in shock. I still had my sunglasses on, bags in hand, jacket on. I had only just said hello. To be bombarded with that news as I walk in the door is very disconcerting. I don’t think my co-worker knew that Mike and I had become friends, as well as co-workers, or maybe he would have broken the news more gently. I hope he would have. I didn’t say anything and walked to my desk, sat down and opened my email. I had received an email from our VP in Washington DC telling us that Mike, a co-worker and friend in the DC office, had been hit by a car walking home from his girlfriend’s house early Saturday morning. Whoever hit him left him laying in the street to die. Before he died he sent an empty text message to a co-worker. Trying to get help, we assume.

Last year, 2010, February 21 was a Sunday. I had thought about Mike that day. Remembered it was a year from his death. I had wondered how his mom was doing. I wondered what happened to the guy who hit Mike. I had heard it was a delivery truck making morning deliveries to a shopping center and he hit Mike as he came barreling out of the parking lot. He confessed, I think. It was an accident. Of course he didn’t mean to do it and he panicked and drove away. I never heard what he was charged with.

That Sunday night we put the kids to bed and we were thinking about watching a movie. The phone rang and I looked at the caller ID and told the hubby that it was his mom and he answered it. We were in a happy mood. Then I heard him say “WHAT? WHAT?” in that voice. You know, that shock and disbelief voice. I immediately put down what I was doing and sat forward on the couch. I could tell something was wrong. He was listening to his mom. Finally he looked at me and whispered, “The Sheriff’s office is telling Liz that Adam is dead.” He got off the phone when his mother said that Liz was calling back on the other line. Liz is my husband’s sister and Adam was her husband of 15 years.

We waited. We cried. We waited and cried some more. After about an hour we called my husband’s brother and, from him, we got most of the full story. The rest would come out in the following days.

Adam was a Portland Police Officer. For the past several years he was a Criminalist, so he wasn’t on patrol – where he would be in the most danger. What a relief it was when he became a Criminalist.

Adam had worked that Sunday and was on his way home from work. He had spoken with Liz on the phone a few times. He stopped to pick up a pizza on his way home. He also stopped to rent a movie. He was within 1/4 mile of their home when the accident occurred. A garbage truck had stalled in a driveway and was rolling back into the road with no lights on. Adam slammed right into the back of the truck. They think he died instantly.

Liz tried calling him and heard his Bluetooth pick up. She heard two men talking, heard them say Adam’s name and date of birth. Liz, having been married to a cop, immediately knew that Adam was involved in something. She thought maybe he had inadvertently became involved in a crime as an off-duty police officer – a shooting, a burglary, etc. Then the Sheriff’s office came to her door with Adam’s wallet, cell phone, and badge.

Adam and Liz were married for 15 years and had two sons, ages 14 and 11 now. As we are approaching the anniversary of his death it is difficult to look back and remember those days. Though heartbreaking, those days were filled with love. My in-law’s and one brother-in-law flew to Portland early the next day. The rest of us drove over a few days later to be there for the funeral. Their house was filled with family and friends from morning till night. Flowers, food, prayers, etc. The outpouring of support was incredible.

The funeral was an unbelievable affair. Immeasurably touching. Graveside services with an honor guard and then a police escort to the church for a memorial service. The police escort was so impressive and touching. They stopped traffic on the Portland freeways for us to pass. We had about 6 police cars and motorcycle cops in our motorcade and the others were going ahead and stopping cars getting on the on-ramps and stopping cars on the freeway in anticipation of our route. I cried as a drove.

The police chief spoke at the funeral of Adam’s character, strength and dedication. That she knew he would lead the Criminalist department one day and, in practice if not in title, he did already. He was the exemplar for the team.

There’s audio of and pictures of the service here. Specifically the Police Chief’s address.

I’m astounded and in awe of my sister in law. She has been so strong, so smart, so faithful in her grief and support of her children. Her faith in God has given her so much comfort; in her heart, she knows that Adam has gone to Heaven and she will see him there someday. My in-laws were just as devastated; Adam was their other son. They are flying to my sister in law’s house today to be with her and the boys on the first anniversary of his passing.

My grief was and is profound for Liz and the boys. I have two sons; I couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes. How would I feel if this happened? My husband and I talked a lot about that in the days and weeks after Adam’s passing. What would we do if something happened to one of us? We keep Adam’s picture on our fridge as a daily reminder of what we can lose in an instant.

My mother in law & Adam. He loved her and she him.

February 21 sucks.

6 days later, on Feb 27, 2010, my husband’s cousin lost her 27 year old Marine husband as well.

It was a very dark time.