Everyone has heard of the five stages of grief, right? Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
The problem is, many have accepted this as the correct way to grief. But in reality, this model has been misinterpreted. While many people do experience those emotions, grief certainly does not fit neatly into any model, box, or timeline. Everyone will experience it differently and everyone must find their own way through. Sure there are some coping mechanisms that may not be as healthy as others, but as long as you’re safe and not putting yourself or anyone else in danger you have to allow your feelings to just be. It is ridiculous to look back at the past few years and wonder if people think I’ve grieved the wrong way. And I have wondered that. If they see me crying now do they think I’m stuck? When I went back to work so soon after she died did they think I wasn’t really hurting? If they’d found me crumpled on the floor of my closet sobbing months after losing her, would they have picked me up and taken me to a doctor? Some moms quit their jobs. Some go back to work. Some moms can’t get out of bed for days. Some go shopping. Some can’t eat (and some of us eat everything). One way is not right. One is not wrong. Just different.
And I do believe grief will last until my last day. My love for Zoey is deep and vast and it did not die so I will always deeply feel the loss of her as well. The pain of losing someone does not get erased with time. It will change shape, ebb and flow but will always be a part of who I am. There are days I feel stronger. Days I don’t. At any moment I am where I need to be. And I need to allow myself to accept where I am.
I don’t believe grieving for a lifetime means that I will never feel joy. In fact, I think I can feel a deeper level of joy because I also know true heartbreak. And yes, I do think every happy moment will have at least a little bit of sadness attached because Zoey isn’t here to experience it too. That’s different than not having it at all.
I’m learning to live with grief as a part of the new me. I’m learning to channel it and allow it to drive me. I’m experiencing joy, beauty, love and hope on a different level. You can still thrive even in the midst of terrible pain. You don’t have to choose “moving on”. You can choose “moving with”.