(Image taken from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/273593746082521827/)
There are 5 wonderfully awful stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance; inevitable phases of your life as you mourn the loss of a loved one; deaths, breakups or just the slow drifting away of friends that were once your dearest. The only molecule of hope is that one day you will get through each of the stages, one day you’ll see a movie or a picture and won’t break down into a ball of misery; you’ll feel nothing, perhaps a fleeting smile but not the urge to reach out or hold them once more, and that’s the one day you’ll realise that you have officially and finally gotten through this.
- Denial – The first pathetic stage comes in the form of numbness. You basically don’t even realise what just happened, it’s not that you necessarily reject the actuality of the event; a part of you knows it happened, you know that person is gone or will be gone, but subconsciously you like to believe this is a temporary situation, everything will be okay, you give yourself time, you give the other person space. But on some level you know this isn’t going to change so you shut down emotionally in entirety. For someone with anxiety, this level of indifference is something I suggest you cherish while you have it. You go moment by moment without feeling, there’s no pain, there’s no joy, there is literally nothing your heart and mind can hold on to, but physically you escape the feeling that your soul is shrivelling.
- Anger – Before you know it, your denial turns into hot fiery anger. Some of you may shout and scream, throw your phone against a wall exasperated (yes I’ve known people to do that) or even resort to texting horrendous things to a significant other if a breakup is what you’re going through. Someone like me, I’m sorry it’s not quite as simple, I don’t think I’ve ever shouted at anyone, the fear of someone not liking me if I said something mean to them overpowers all other feelings I may have, so this anger, it unfortunately becomes self-directed. You could go from clenching fists questioning why it was that one thing this other person did to shake everything to the core, to an intense level of self-loathing, hating why you couldn’t be a certain way to have been more liked, more lovable. This need to keep everything to yourself holds back the other stages of grief from unravelling and keeps you from moving on.
- Bargaining – In between bouts of anger, you often wonder if there was some way you could make things right again. You make promises to yourself, to others, to the higher authority you believe in, that you’d do anything and everything if for even one moment life could return to how it used to be. You realise how you took certain aspects in life for granted, the person you lost, you mourn their traits, you bereave their very existence, and you end up begging for some sort of reprieve. You are suddenly willing to accept flaws that you know you don’t deserve, you resort to the unknown such as palmistry or astrology just for some momentary sense of certainty that your future will change. If the individual you lost is still alive, you might even go knocking on their door, pleading for them to come back. Please don’t forget, this doesn’t have to be a significant other, it could be a friend (never underestimate the power of any social relation). Bargaining should be seen as an addiction, it’s one of those things you know is bad for you but sometimes you crave happiness so much that you forego any sense of what you truly want and to avoid uncertainty or the forthcoming depression you just wish you could go back. My suggestion? Enlist a sponsor! Trust one friend, it can even be a pen-pal, someone completely anonymous you found online (be safe, of course); but have that one person you can talk to. This is even more important if you’re going through a relationship breakup, in a relatively conservative society you can’t be wallowing around complaining to your parents that you lost the love of your life, rather than being honest you would most probably say you were fine or disgusise it as something you believe they would find more acceptable, such as problems at work or my favourite ‘I’m just not feeling well’. Whenever you have the urge to say something or question what went down, message that person, and treat them like a soundboard, sometimes all you really want is for someone to not just hear you out, but actually listen. If you don’t want to do that, then write a journal. As lame as it may sound, writing is honestly the most therapeutic mechanism you could come across and should never be discarded lightly.
- Depression – You were probably anxious and depressed throughout so it wouldn’t be too crazy to assume that you thought you’d never actually enter a separate phase of ‘depression’. Unfortunately, you’re wrong. Whether this is an hour, a day, a month or a year later, it’ll happen and that is a time you’ll realise how much easier the first three stages were. Slowly you realise that the person is truly not coming back, you finally realise that empty gap they left in your life, you inadvertently realise this was a loss that has transformed who you are and left you as nothing you were before. Someone with a history of anxiety will break out into panic attacks, your heart will race, and your palpitations will take over to such an extent that you’ll often be left grasping on to anything near you to stop yourself from collapsing. If you thought I was exaggerating, trust me I wish I was, while you gasp for air, you cry your heart out and hope with everything in your soul that the term ‘tears have dried up’ was actually real. Whether you lost a partner, a parent, a friend or even an animal, you will feel that loss more than others, it’s not because you feel sadness more irrationally, you also love more deeply, you get attached too quickly and you expect more because you are one of those people who gives everything you are and more to make another person happy, for their happiness is how you define yourself. Believe you me, this is not how I think a person should be, but this is what the bittersweet truth of the anxious is, we believe that other people are always better than us so we live to please them. You will swing from insomnia to sleeping forever, you’ll forget to eat and then binge eat the very next day, you’ll be so physically exhausted but so emotionally wired that your life will literally pass you by in a blur because you truly believe this is it for you, that there will be no pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow.
- Acceptance – You may truly never be the person you were before or be ‘okay’ with having lost a soul from your life, but with time you learn to accept the situation. In spite of what happened, you find new ways to live life, you may lean on new people or find new hobbies to keep yourself occupied or simply readjust, but at the end of the day you reorganise your life and evolve into a new individual who can enjoy the hustle and bustle around you. It is the hope of this feeling that you need to hold on to, even in the darkest of times you need to remember that nothing in this world is permanent, and just like that you’ll slowly learn to laugh again.
Not everyone goes through these stages in the same way, for most people it’s a game of ping pong, you move back and forth between stages, especially my favourite stage of all time, depression (rolls eyes). For some people you’ll strip yourself so brutally that it’ll take you longer to recuperate not just emotionally but physically as well. Other people may move on within a few days. The important point to note here is that not everyone is the same, you will essentially go through the same feelings, but the intensity of each emotion depends on how you’ve been built and there is absolutely no judgement on that. My personal recommendations on dealing is to a) confide in others, whether that’s a diary or a friend and b) please remember social media is a farce, not everything you see depicts the whole story, if it’s a trigger (which it almost is in all circumstances) then try to stay away from it (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, you name it). If you’ve lost someone you find the mere joy expressed by others stifling, at other times you come across the very person you’re mourning with new friends or new partners completely oblivious to your pain; so while this very staying away sounds difficult just try small things like switching off your notifications. You have no idea how soothing it could be to be unshackled from this artificially hyped up world of expectations, even if just for a little while. But most importantly, never forget that everyone feels differently, your sad may not be my sad, but at the end of the day we’re all going to be okay.