Wednesday, November 23, 2016

About those phases of grief...

My phases have been interwoven and all over the place.  From the get-go my "Shock" was mixed with "Realization" and "Transition." I knew life as I knew it was over. Disbelief that it had actually happened was there; although I had predicted this would happen for years. As I say, it has been the worst "I told you so" of my life. Anguish, alarm, anxiety were all there BUT I knew I had a whole slew of things I had to do to be safe and survive. I never felt like I could sit and let the world just stop.

I felt helpless - so I attacked that with planning, with buying a security system, by getting my new locks done.  I felt separation anxiety so I tried to fill my time so that aloneness wouldn't overwhelm me. I allowed myself to cry and cry and cry some more. I still do. When I'm angry about it, I punch things that won't hurt, I kickbox and I yell. He is not coming back. That is a fact I recognized immediately, and no amount of stagnation in a wallowing stage will change that or actually make me feel any better. Starting a new job in the midst of this took a HUGE toll on my body. Between the stress of the death, of family situations, and the new job, I was emotionally frazzled and my blood pressure was up. I overbooked myself so I retreated. I made sure I drank hibiscus-based tea every day to lower my blood pressure and calm me.

Throughout every single part of this trauma, reality and transition have been a part. Insomnia and exhaustion gripped me hard, so I forced myself to conserve energy. I don't beat myself up if I am too tired to work out. I've learned to adjust so that my workouts are still a priority and that exhaustion doesn't prevent exercise from happening.  I've actively made a point of taking control of my life. There hasn't been a stage where I haven't taken a good hard look at what responsibility I could take to make it better.

I don't see anything "romantic" about remaining single, about wearing my grief like a badge. It better serves me as an undergarment - it is THERE. It is part of my wardrobe. It is important. However, it is not going to be the outfit that I present the world every day. There is a new Keith Urban song called "Blue Is Not Your Color." Blue isn't mine - it just isn't practical to live my life relishing pain. It doesn't mean I loved Pat any less. It doesn't mean I don't love him still. It means that I am alone now. I have a life that must be lived without him. Whether he died one month ago, four months ago or even if it is two years at some point. There is no time frame where I'm suddenly "allowed" to live. I'm alive NOW. I will be busy living in that now.

The following phases are courtesy of a paper by Brooke Brite.

Phase 1 - Shock. Physical symptoms of this phase include weeping, sleep disturbance, loss of
appetite, and weakened muscles. Insomnia may persist.  Characteristics typical in this phase include feelings of unreality, confusion, disbelief, helplessness, and alarm. The confusion in this stage is the result of the inability to conceive life without the deceased.

Phase 2 - Realization. The realization phase brings prolonged stress, separation anxiety, and
disappointments. Crying, feeling angry, guilty, abandoned, and fearful takes a toll on the body. Prolonged stress is unhealthy and may lead to health problems in this phase. As exhausting as grieving may be, it is far worse to suppress emotions as it takes even greater energy to do this. Separation anxiety, another characteristic of this stage and can cause severe pain

Phase 3 - Retreat.  This phase is most commonly characterized by withdrawal, despair, decreased social support, and feeling helpless or hopeless. Physical symptoms consist of an increased need for sleep, fatigue, weakness, and a lowered immune system. The body needs to slow down and
conserve all the energy that was exerted in phase two. By the time phase three is reached
the bereaved is near exhaustion.

Phase 4 - Transition. The characteristics of phase four are accepting responsibility, taking control of
one’s life, transition thinking, regained confidence and role changing. Physical symptoms
of phase four include heightened energy levels, stable sleeping patterns, a stronger
immune system and a sense of physical well-being.

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