The unspoken stage of grief: selfishness 224



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I started to think about the nature of grief recently, prompted by the sudden death of a two friends: one a couple of years older than me, the other about 15 years younger. I asked myself – “Why the tears”?

I am a person of faith; I believe in an afterlife, Heaven if you will. I believe dying is going home to God, the oft-used expression “a better place”. So why am I grieving? Why aren’t I holding a party to celebrate friends who are “in a better place”?

I know why. It’s because I won’t share another coffee, joke, confidence or minute with my friends again. I’ll miss them, mourn their loss and say in the one breath, “It’s so sad, but they are in a better place”.

So I am prompted to ask, “Is grief selfish”? Is it all about me instead of the person who died?

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is “a series of emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone”, exactly what I am facing in my life at present. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Looking at these individually:

  • Denial (no it’s not happening) – well it is and if I think it’s bad, what about the person who died?
  • Anger (this is so unfair) – okay but why am I angry, it’s not about me?
  • Bargaining (if this changes, I’ll be a better person) – nice idea, but again what value is this to my friends?
  • Depression (I’m so unhappy) – again so what? You are alive why should you be depressed?
  • Acceptance (I might as well live with it) – what is the alternative?

I’m in stage 4 at present – I’m depressed, not the deep depression requiring medication, but the feeling sorry for myself depression – and yes, it’s about me again.

John was very much at peace with his life and had recently started a new job, which he loved. He was in his early 50s and we used to have “legendary” telephone calls – 60 minutes in, we were just getting started. We knew each other over 30 years, even went to his 21st birthday party. We talked mainly about theatre, movies and the stars thereof. He loved ABBA and was a great gossip, to the point where some nicknamed him Hedda, after the Hollywood gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper. But, when a mutual friend died some years ago, he was a constant visitor, keeping everyone in the hospice smiling through their tears.

Tess was a new friend; we only knew each other about 2 years, but our meeting was serendipitous. Tess was larger than life, a beautiful soul, compassion to spare and a good mind. She loved to talk and she loved her family. Her blog, Life with Tess, spoke about the simple things of life, but also shared the big issues. We had many similar experiences in our lives, many things in common, not least of which, our shared faith and our love of books. At her funeral even the priest spoke of her love for people and her compassion, always finding the time to speak to someone and to lay a comforting hand on an arm or shoulder.

Unselfishly, I wish both Tess and John had seen the fruition of some of their plans; overseas trips both were taking, seeing her grandchildren grow to adulthood for Tess. Selfishly I am going to miss them and that is where my heart and mind are at present. Selfishly I want their “better place” to be here with me! I want to go to book club and have Tess there with her wonderful smile and insightful comments; I want to get on the phone to John and gossip.

I’ll grieve a little longer before I reach stage 5, Acceptance, when:

You can shed tears that they are gone

or you can smile because they lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that they’ll come back

or you can open your eyes and see all they left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them

or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday

or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember them and only that they’ve gone

or you can cherish their memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back

or you can do what they want: smile, open your eyes,

love and go on.

Author Unknown

I doubt there is anyone in our community who hasn’t experienced death and grief, it is a part of life; would you like to share? Have you felt like Karen? Have you felt a bit selfish for your sadness?

Karen OBrien Hall

Karen O'Brien-Hall followed many careers in her life and loved each one! From accountancy to the hospitality industry, from managing an employment agency to Executive Assistant to the Chairman of a multi-national, when she retired Karen was in Public Relations. Whatever her career path at the time, Karen is a lifelong volunteer. Married to "the love of my life", John, her second love is community theatre where she enjoys acting and directing. Karen enjoys time in her garden and can always finds time to read, around 8 – 10 books a month. Her reviews appear on Starts at Sixty, Goodreads,The Reading Room and her own page

  1. The writer is not being selfish at all .. Grief is a very normal reaction to loss. It is not selfish . Anyone who does not understand grief has not truly loss a piece of their heart .. Everyone goes through grief in different ways . Men and women especially deal with grief in differently .. there is no time limit . The Kubler Ross is one model but there are others that have 7 stages or even 10 stages . It is a process that one works though over time .. Grief is a bit like childbirth… you can’t pretend it is not there .. you can’t “just get over it “.. you just have to go through it … Two good books to help with grief and loss are “GOOD GRIEF, By Granger Westberg and , THE REALITY SLAP, by Russ Harris

  2. What you feel is all part of the mourning process, believe me I know…you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel the way you do..You will come through it , it will take time . I found to remember the good times makes it easier, and talk about your friends as if they are still with not talk about them or in a hushed voice can only make it harder ….and if they had family keep things as natural as you can with them, depends how your relationship with them is…..Just remember God is with you & knows what you are going through…good luck

  3. Grief is an individual process. It is confusing and painful! Go with the flow. Be kind to yourself!

  4. I lost dad, 4 days later lost mum then 6 months later lost my husband. Grief! It was something I didn’t understand and deal with well. Grief is something that can take a long time to get over and one day for me I just woke up and said its time to move on and care for me. Life is good now but it took time.

  5. I’m coming up to the first year anniversary of loosing my best friend,I still cry everyday at her passing ,and can’t imagine how her beautiful daughter and husband must be feeling too .

  6. Yes I agree. Never forget the good times had with those friends. If you had a good laugh together, treasure and relive those moments, even if they make you laugh out loud for no reason. The good memories are what will make it easier.

  7. I have always said TIME is a great cure always loved but never forgotten I no I lost two beautiful wives and a special grand daughter

  8. So sad that people suffering such significant losses feel selfish when in the pain of grief. Grief is about learning to live without that important person in ones life, grief is normal, it effects everyone in a different way – not everybody “goes through the stages”, it is so very individual. Grief takes as long as it takes because grief is the price we pay for loving someone.

  9. I have lost parents sister three brothers it felt like a knife into my heart depression is somewhere dark and you feel you can’t get out the door its locked be careful this is the worst stage ….important to get out and be social God left you here because it is not your time live your life you have been given stop the guilt you can’t go backward go and be with others watch sunrises sunsets and plan a holiday get busy

  10. I lost my dear husband of 56 years 6 years ago & my youngest son 3 years ago I am still grieving for them & no matter how many times I have family say mum you have to get on with your life that’s what dad.& Paul would want I try but it’s something that for some it’s easy & for others they never get over it i hope anyone who has lost a love one feels one day I’m not as bad as yesterday God Bless

  11. I do not think Karen isbeing selfish. My darling hubby passed away nearly 6 years ago at 58 and if Karen is being selfish then so am I even still. I cry every day and ask “why did you leave ME?” As far as I am concerned it is a natural thing to do

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