Over the initial twelve months after my husband left me, I went through what I thought was a grief process of five emotional stages. These were shock – anger – bargaining (or guilt) – sadness – acceptance. I have come to realize since, and firmly believe, that those stages are not the stages of grief but rather the ‘five stages of dealing with catastrophic news’. It was only after I accepted (or at least acknowledged) what had happened had actually happened, that I could truly begin the process of mourning my losses and establishing myself in my new world. My true mourning therefore did not begin until at least the second year, well after most people expected me to be ‘over’ it. I had often thought since, that if only I had accepted what had happened sooner, I could have saved myself a great deal of pain.
Nevertheless, that experience has taught me of the need to reach a state of acceptance, before being able to deal with whatever it is that has happened.
When my sister rang and told me the news about my mother, I went through those ‘stages of accepting catastrophic news’ in a day. It was, to put it simply, a terrible day. All by myself feeling utterly alone in my despair I went through shock (it can’t be true), anger (how dare this marital settlement have taken so much of my energy these past three years instead of me spending more time with my mother), bargaining or guilt (if only I had done more, maybe I could have prevented this), and sadness (I wanted so much to spend some time with my mother smelling the roses). Finally, I came to a state of acknowledgement of the truth and felt that to be in that place of acceptance, I could be strong for her.
The next day – having had only one hour’s sleep – I flew north and arrived at the hospital in Sydney. It took me one minute to survey the situation and understand that my three siblings were still coping with shock and anger. Having fast-tracked myself to ‘acceptance’, I saw the advantages it gave me and understood it was therefore up to me to be the one to stay calm. Over the next few days my siblings did find a similar place. We all realized, for our mother’s sake, we had to focus on her needs and her comfort, rather than our own feelings of immense loss.
As a family, we then all grouped as one to weather the storm ahead together.