The Stages of Grief

I’ve talked a lot about grief here on the blog. I’ve talked because it’s my goal to normalize it…and as I’ve said before, the blog is part journal for me and writing helps me deal with things.

The majority of you reading this are over 50. The blog statistics tell me that. If I posed the question, “How many of you had parents that openly talked about sex?”, the answer would be far less than half. If I asked the question, “How many of you heard your parents talk about grief?”, I am guessing that number would be far fewer.

Grief is a taboo topic, so people don’t talk about it…yet, we all go through it. We cannot escape this world without experiencing death…so yes. We should talk about it.

After I wrote about the 5th anniversary of Kramer, my late husband’s passing, I got a little curious. I’ve always known there were five stages of grief. Curiously, being that I came to the milestone of not all of the memories being shadowed by my caregiver role, I wondered where I might be in the five stages of grief.

I ended up stumbling across a website with an updated stages of grief with seven stages, not five. You can find that site HERE.

The 7 stages are:

  • shock and denial
  • pain and guilt
  • anger and bargaining
  • depression
  • the upward turn
  • reconstruction and working through
  • acceptance and hope

This was curious to me. I had looked at the five stages before and had a problem finding where I fit. When I look at the seven stages, I can see where I fit. I can see where I was and I can see where I am going.

I hit the upward turn sometime in January or so. I had some things happen over Christmas time that helped me realize it was time to make a life for myself. I didn’t want to depend on the kids and grandkids for my social interactions. I wanted my own life. About then, my life started changing. It was time…time to make my own life.

For the next three months, my confidence grew and I could see hope in my future…I accepted where I was, but had I gone through the reconstruction?…Not all the way.

I am finding myself at an odd spot right now though…and I’d like to tell you all a bit about it.
Much of the time since Kramer passed away, I put our relationship on a pedestal. I heard things from my kids like, “you and Dad never fought”. We didn’t. We rarely fought or even disagreed. There was very little conflict even between the two of us. When I look at my house, I see things he did…things he made. He was so handy. I look at our early life when naysayers thought we wouldn’t make it. We did and had a fun time too! Twenty minutes before he passed away, he called for me. I always knew he loved me. He rarely said it, but I knew. I knew it in my heart. One time he jokingly told me, “I told you once that I loved you, and if it changes, I’ll let you know.” HA! He never told me it had changed…so I knew.

All of that, in the middle of my grief, made it easy to put the relationship on a pedestal and worship what I had. Miss what I had, long for what I had to return.

While in the depths of grief, I had forgotten some of the things I tolerated. I tolerated that he was married to the farm. I felt cheated that everything we did was contingent on the weather…or the season… I was often frustrated that we could never just make plans without the threat of them being canceled. I was second fiddle to his job…second fiddle to the weather…second fiddle to any whim of the farm.

I didn’t like that I spent so much time alone. Yes, the kids were there…it wasn’t the same.

I often went to serious doctor appointments by myself. His work was too important.

Christmas shopping…and everything related to Christmas…that was me.

Doctor appointments for the kids…that was me except for a couple. With five kids, that was a lot of appointments.

House cleaning…all me.

There was a lot of alone time. I adapted well though. I quilted and crafted. I made myself happy…and for the most part, I was. BUT, what I really wanted more than anything was time with him…a shared relationship…shared time.

Recently I admitted all of that to myself. Now I am at this odd spot trying to reconcile the things I loved (and there were many) and things I tolerated about life with Kramer. Part of me is frustrated that I let myself live such an alone life. Part of me wants to just throw all the thoughts aside and move on. But, I know denying feelings is not good. Deal with it now or it will come back and bite me. That has been my motto in going through the stages of grief…Deal with it now. So, I’m dealing.

All of that realization puts me in a spot. What did I do right in that relationship? What could I have done better? What do I want in future relationships? What do I not want? What is realistic?

So that’s where my brain has been stuck trying to reconcile what happened in my life then and where I want it to go in the future. But notice…I said the word future. I’m not stuck here…just in writing all of this, I feel more at peace with it and ready to take a big step into the future.

27 thoughts on “The Stages of Grief”

  1. Cynthia from Nebraska

    Wow. Thanks again for sharing these important thought. I do remember reading that the stages of grief don’t have to come in a particular order. Your relationship with Jerry (or anyone) will be different than your relationship with Kramer, simply because the circumstances are different. My widower dad married a widow. She told me that in HER experience she and my dad were almost like soulmates; they had the time/energy to spend together that she and her first husband (whom she loved) did not as they were raising kids, working, etc.

  2. Judith Fairchild

    Whoo! This is. A strong post. I know about the stages of grief.
    The world becomes a lost place. You miss your loved one. You get angry and sad because they’re not around to help you.
    Then you begin to feel off cause the things that bothered you about them make it feel like you could do better without them. I know I’ve been in your shoes. I learned to live my life to the best of my ability
    It’s taken awhile. I still miss my husband when something I see is something he would have enjoyed too. Grief takes everyone a bit differently.

  3. Wow, what a powerful and honest post! How great that you can articulate your feelings so well and not sugarcoat things. It’s refreshing and important for your mental health and wellbeing. Good job, Jo!

  4. I LOVE your blog posts, open and honest, sharing bits and pieces of your life. I delight in your successes and cry when you have down times. I feel like I know you and we are friends. Thanks!! My husband has Dementia and I feel like I’ve gone through some of the stages of grief already as he isn’t the same person. My life has changed forever, but we still have good moments! On a totally separate note, I wanted to ask if you have ever washed a counted cross piece. I have some that my sister-in-law made for me and she framed them without glass. They are now a bit dirty. One of my friends said that the floss will run and ruin the pieces. I really want to wash them and reframe them with glass, mats and beautiful frames.

  5. I do love that you put yourself out there on your blog posts. It takes courage in a world with so many trolls who feel like they have the right to comment. Just know that you are reaching REAL people too… and sometimes they/we need to hear what others are going through. It helps us to move forward too. Several years ago, my husband and I separated for about 6 months. During that time we both did a little soul searching about what we really NEEDED from each other to bring happiness. Interestingly enough I felt much the same as you. He traveled a lot, so I did life by myself a lot. I filled it with children, friends, quilting, books, and a job but what I really wanted was my best friend back. Upon reconciliation it was something that I brought to the table, a requirement of sorts which we have since done a good job of protecting. Sometimes we all need to re-evaluate where we are, what our life goals are and how we can achieve them. I don’t believe in regrets, just earned-wisdom on what we need to move forward!

    1. Martha W in WY

      Wendy, I like what you stated “I don’t believe in regrets, just earned-wisdom on what we need to move forward.”

  6. A very reflective post, and I appreciate your words. I hadn’t given much thought to what we “tolerate”. And to what we could do better together. Thanks!

  7. I would like to say who can live in the past. Visit briefly to find a few things about yourself and your relationships that that you can learn to improve the path you are embarking on. You are learning and growing. It takes time think algebra in junior high. Time to shape your life is well worth it. Trust yourself and discuss your decisions with those around you if you see the need but the past is only reference material. You are changed good or bad from your past – love the person you are or change her. You look great to me, but I have no right to press my opinions on you. Good luck on your path.

  8. Thanks for a heartfelt and thought provoking post. You’ve given us a lot to think about. I’m happy for you that you are forming your life the way you want it to be. You’re doing a great job of being you. Kramer will always be an important part of your life but now you have another part too. You are doing a good job of making that important also.

  9. I appreciate your honesty, I never thought much about the things I tolerated in my marriage. This made me stop and look back. My reasons for tolerating things were different from yours, but still I put up with them. Your willingness to share is a blessing to others. Thank you for opening these hard to talk about subjects to all of us who never even dared think about them.

  10. Martha W in WY

    Jo, you’re so right. My parents didn’t talk openly about sex or grief. In fact, at one of my grandfather’s funeral, when I was six, I sobbed and sobbed. No one inquired as to why. It wasn’t until 60 years later we’ve talked about it.
    Your thoughtful words hit home for me. I still have time to change my life and my thoughts about myself and what I want and need. Thank you for this post.

  11. I remember being where you are now. My husband also loved to work. We would be watching a series we both loved and he’d say he needed to run into his office for just a minute. I’d beg him to stay until it was over but he wouldn’t. And of course the show was over when he came back. He was very cautious with money and never enjoyed spending money to eat out. When he was dying, he deeply regretted his decision to not get an ice cream once in a while. He was a good man and husband but I decided I wanted more if and when I remarried. Luckily enough I didn’t marry another workaholic and financially frightened man. It takes time to move on and start a new life, I’ve always been impressed with your actions as a widow. You will be OK.

  12. Today is my 53rd wedding anniversary…when I read your post about Kramer, my thoughts are how much times have changed. My husband was in the Air Force for 26 1/2 years…I had our first child by myself and he missed last of things–good and bad. He was a workaholic even after he retired and worked in the civilian world. He grew up believing that hard work made him worthwhile. I’m guessing that Kramer was raised that way, too. You are younger than I am, but women my age weren’t supposed to have a career or do anything other than marry and have children….and the husband was always first (the bread winner). I will say that our relationship was much better than my parents’ relationship as far as equality, but male chauvinism was real! I did work for most of our marriage and we did make all decisions together, but values and traditions were just different. I’m glad that you can look back as an older and wiser woman and know what you would prefer were different. I think that’s very healthy. I hope you have found that relationship with Jerry or that you will meet someone who makes you very happy. You deserve that! You have been a great Mom and are a great grandmother, but it is time to put yourself first once in a while! Thanks for this post, Jo!

  13. My dad passed away in 1980 & my Mom wouldn’t cry in front of us. She thought she had to be strong for us, which she was, but I think she ignored herself in the process & then carried it alone. She eventually married a wonderful man & they had a great life together for almost 40 years. She just passed in April & I make a point to talk & cry with my stepdad so that we can share the grief together…so he doesn’t feel he has to carry it alone like she did.

  14. Oh, Dear Jo. As others have said, your honesty is so helpful to us all, including you. Kramer was your love and life during a wonderful part of your life. Kramer was a human, as we all are. So mistakes will be made and choices that we feel are the very best for that time, will be thought of differently in the future as we GROW. Pedestals are dangerous objects due to their height. Embrace his and your “human-ness” as it allowed you both to raise a beautiful family and provide you with opportunities for growth. And growth can mean you want something different now, can expect more now, and can risk more now. I so admire your ability to express what you are going through. Thank you for the encouragement and guidance. Wishing you a very happy continuation of your growth and love journey.

  15. Such a good post and I enjoyed reading all the comments that others shared. You are not stuck and have grown a lot since Kramer passed. Keep moving forward and remember the past.

  16. The definition of a relationship changes when the kids are grown and independent. Our society has also changed from the days you met and married your husband until now. I learned from my mom about how to be a wife and mother (even though times had really changed from 1945 to 1975), and I now have small regret about how much I gave to my marriage and my relationships versus how much the other guy gave. Looking back, it was probably 75 to 25 with me carrying most of the burden of keeping the relationship grounded and alive. Sounds like you were the same (or even more like 90 to 10 at times). You also tend to give a LOT of your life to your children — you have a lovely, close family as a result, but sometimes . . . My advice is really simple: Think of yourself first, always, and try to figure out what you really want. Don’t make decisions based on other people’s expectations; just take the time to figure out how you really feel and what you really need regardless of whether or not you are hurting someone else’s feelings. Let the other people meet YOUR expectations!

  17. Kathleen McCormick

    Thank you for sharing this. I am a newer follower (since the Villa Rosa blog hop last year) and I admire your courage and honesty. So many women do what you did, play second fiddle and do it all for the other…husbands, lovers, parents, and kids. Finding our own voice is hard, but feels so good when we do. It is hard and it is hard to leave some of it behind, cherish the good, learn from what could have been better, love life and live. I think you are doing a fabulous job. Here’s to the future and the life you continue to make.

  18. Becky Gilliam

    Wow. Thank you, Jo, for expressing what most of us feel but cannot say clearly. Hubby and I have been married for 55 years, and I used to say it lasted because he worked out of town for 40 years (construction travels). Looking back I worked hard to make sure the kids were glad to see Dad when he got home. Over the years, we only took one vacation together because of his schedule. We always took second place to his job. So the kids and I would take vacations without him. Then he and I started ‘dating’ again (at least once a month). Over the years of following your blog, I feel like you could be my kid sister and I that know you and your children. Thank you for being real with your feelings, your goals and your life.

  19. Hello Jo, I don’t always read through the comments today I especially purposely did not read any. That being said I don’t know if anyone has suggested you to sit down with paper and pen or pencil and handwrite what exactly you want from a relationship. In that list or a separate one include what exactly is UNACCEPTABLE to you in any shape or form. Stick to that list, do not waver other than adding things to it when you think of something else. It is important to handwrite these things on actual paper with pen or pencil vs on a computer keyboard. It makes everything solid and you think more about it.

    I think this would be a good Journaling exercise for you to work through all the questions you have which you shared above.

    You can if you wish share some of your thoughts on the blog here after you’ve created the list. If you choose not to that’s fine as well.

  20. SusanfromKentucky

    My dad died when I was 8. My mom remarried when I was 13. They (her and my step-dad) were married for 44 years. It was a TERRIBLE marriage. They fought like cats and dogs and put me in the middle of it a lot. I always swore my marriage would not be like that. My husband ALWAYS put me first and loved me dearly. Sadly, he died suddenly 7 years ago. I miss him so much every day. No other man could stand a chance competing with his memory. I’m glad that you have found someone to fill your void. I’ve been lucky enough to find several women friends to help me through my loneliness along with my son and my dog. Wishing you lots of happiness!

  21. I am a retired RN and I worked as a Hospice Nurse for several years. Your thoughts and sharing about grief have been so insightful and I really appreciate your sharing them. I have not experienced the death of my husband, but I certainly look back at my work as a nurse and my parenting and wish I had done a better job and could go back and do some things over. You are stepping bravely into the future, and the past has made me who you are now. I just read this older post from another crafty lady who I enjoy following, and she said some of the same things you did, in different ways. It’s hard. We are all going to face it eventually, either losing loved ones or being the one who has to leave. I appreciate your honesty and I think your sharing has helped people more than you know. You are a blessing.

  22. Janet in Iowa

    That post struck home in many ways. Tolerance – In my current marriage, hubby was devoted to his mother and the kids and I played second fiddle a lot. He worked a weird work week – nights and sometimes weekends – so our time was limited. He worked alone so he couldn’t just take time off when he wanted. Like you, I did all the doctor’s appointment, school programs, etc. I said I was a single mom who had a husband. There were (and are) good sides, too. We learn to content ourselves with those.

    And things change as time goes on. He’s much more willing to listen, try new things, etc.

    Thank you so much for always sharing your life.

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