Grieving and Anger

I am going to focus on grieving and growth for the few days.    The most commonly known process of grief is Elisabeth Kubler-Ross five stages of grief. 

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance 

Grief is not a linear process.  What is referred to as “stages” is a framework to understand how grieving works.  The stages don’t necessarily go in order and you can “go back” to other stages.  You can also be in two stages at once, such as depression and bargaining and/or anger.

Grief and loss is not limited to the death of a loved one, coworker, friend, or beloved pet.  You can grieve any loss.  Examples of loss include: divorce, the ending of a relationship, jobs, friendships.  You can grieve changes, even positive ones like graduating college.

Loss is defined as:

1.”The state or feeling of grief when deprived of someone or something of value.

“I feel a terrible sense of loss”

2. A person or thing that is badly missed when lost.

“She will be a great loss to many people.”

(Merriam- Webster)


Anger

I want to focus on anger.  This can be a confusing emotion.  In the past, I was angry at a friend who had died.  He drove intoxicated and wrecked his car.  I was angry at how he died and angry at him for dying.  I also felt guilt and anger at myself. I “should have” picked him up at the bar when he called.  I was tired and heading for bed and just didn’t want to go out.  I “should have” gone with him and his friends to the bar as designated driver.  At times it was a general sense of anger at the Universe and the Deity for not saving him.  These emotional responses are normal.  It took me years to understand and let go of the guilt. 

I grieve the death of myself.  I am angry about the changes that happen due to my brain injury: that I did not recover fully and at all I have lost. At times I get angry at the people trying to help.  I just want to be left alone.  It’s a blind, impotent anger.  There’s nothing I can do to change the situation.  Here, anger is not helpful.  It prevents continued healing and perhaps acceptance by holding me hostage. 

Grieving TBI

Traumatic Brain Injury changes life. It is hard to believe that my injury happened three and half years ago. My symptoms have improved a bit. However, my continuing issues have brought the dreaded change.

Recovery from a significant injury is complicated. Not only is the TBI patient working through the physical injury, there is also a component of emotional challenge as well. Sadly, some changes are long term,perhaps permanent.
There are three major parts of recovery. The first consists of the initial diagnosis and treatment. Here, the healing process starts. For the majority of people with mild brain injury, the brain heals with few, if any, ongoing problems. The next step is rehabilitation of the ongoing issues. The deficits are discovered by testing. Then, a treatment plan is formed. Someone can be working rehabilitation for months or years, depending on the severity of the injury and subsequent damage. Eventually, progress slows to infinitesimal. The third stage begins: acceptance and adaptation. We adapt to what disabilities we still have.

All the way through the process, there is grief. In many ways, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief apply: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The stages are not necessarily done in order and often people repeat parts of the process.

Since my injury, I have experienced every stage. At first, I didn’t understand how badly injured I was. In part, I think this was a physical part of the injury: my judgement was off. Yet, as my thoughts cleared, I continued to reach for goals the just weren’t attainable. My military career ended with the accident. I refused to believe it until my medical retirement happened. There are times I think I can still get back to who I was before.

I spent a long time in anger. At myself, at the Universe, at medical providers, at life. Periodically, I still wonder if the initial diagnosis wasn’t missed, would I still have the level of loss I do now? Letting go of anger is a journey and process.

Bargaining: Just let me heal enough to work and run. Please. I’ll never ask for anything again. This stage didn’t last long.

Depression: I look to the past and feel depressed my life as I planned it is over. At times, I think the accident left me damaged, in a strange half life where I still see who I was but I can never reach that person again. There were times I wish the accident had just killed me. I am sad for all the losses brought by injury. As time passes, the sense of hopelessness receded. I understood where I was and that I still had a purpose to living.

Acceptance does not mean quitting. When one accepts what is, not what they wish it could be, it opens up more energy and focus on improving the situation. When someone is in denial, the energy goes to hiding from themselves, and others, the truth. It prevents any movement forward, because the individual is stuck. With acceptance, one can move forward. Life may be different but it can still be rewarding.

I still slide into the anger and hopelessness of depression periodically. I practice mindfulness meditation to help me through. Mindfulness is seeing and experiencing life, in the moment, without judgement. Staying the in the moment helps me not future trip, seeing the worst possible outcome of my situation. Or to focus so much on the past that I get stuck in the anger and hopelessness of what is no longer. I still see my life as “BI” (Before Injury) and “AI” (After Injury).

Acceptance and healing are both journeys, not destinations.

Keep hope.

Riley’s Fundraiser

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A Sad Day

The infection was too much for Koda Bear. He crossed to Rainbow Bridge tonight. I’ll miss him. He was a special little ferret. That last week has been difficult. I saw his health failing, no matter what the vet and I did. In a sense, I enjoyed the time I spent hand feeding him at night. The house was quite and it was me and a warm, furry, little boy.

Koda was always my greedy little one. He loved food. Koda went to great lengths in order to get treats or steal food he wasn’t supposed to have. He learned how to open zippers. Several times, I found Cliff Bars with ferret teeth markings and a chunk or two missing. I’d backtrack the crumbs to my gym bag. And I had a missing bar. Koda learned how to roll over, stand a beg, and turn a circle. He would do these tricks for anyone who would give him a treat. The only times he argued with Tosca is when he tried to steal her NBone. He’d run off and hide his, then find Tosca and attempt to steal hers.

He loved to play in the tubes and wrestle with his ferret buddies. He enjoyed stealing and stashing things, especially balls. He scooched them across the room.

Koda was affectionate. He gave kisses on command and would sometimes agree to nap on my chest.

He was not in any pain. His body just couldn’t beat the infection and pancreatitis. He gave his all.

Dance on at Rainbow Bridge Koda! Be happy and healthy! We’ll see each other again.