So I started the required reading for Grief 101: On Grief and Grieving by Kubler-Ross and Kessler. I eyed the cover for a few weeks, then read the back. Today I opened it and scanned the table of contents. I tend to cherry-pick before committing to a book, but I can tell I’m avoiding this one (y’think?). Every time I’ve peeked at it, it appears to offer a healthy dose of comfort and confirmation for this strange, strange world I’ve entered. Perhaps it even offers a lifeline out to a better place. But like an intelligent pig revisiting my favorite mudhole, I’m in no hurry to get cleaned up.
I think I’ll just deal with the simple list of the five stages. Who hasn’t heard about these a million times already? Sorry to be snarky, but it all sounds so cliché, like a simple roadmap through a complex minefield. All I have to do is trust the guide (I’m not the trusting kind). It’s probably unfair, and I’ll fall in love with this book later, but right now, I see it this way:
Kubler-Ross & Kessler is to the complexity of grief as Dr. Oz is to the complexity of the human body
We are unique, we are not cardboard characters or cartoons. You can’t just reduce this cosmic swirl of intense emotions, memories, and spiritual transcendence to five easy steps: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
It’s like a horoscope or racial profiling. How I hate stereotypes. “Oh! Of course. You’re a Libra. No wonder!” Or, “Aha! I get you now. You’re an angry black man.” How we all love to reduce everything around us to handy labels and neat little boxes.
I’m sure this book attends with much care and respect to the unique shattering and remolding process that each unique being endures after a loss. Otherwise, how could it be so highly acclaimed, right? Only I don’t want to walk into its syrupy trap. I don’t want to reduce this pain to manageable steps and start walking that simple path. Apparently, I don’t want to heal by anyone else’s blueprint.
Gee, I guess I’m in the anger stage still, huh? It’s been three months now since Dad passed on to the great mystery beyond his mortal coil. How long are these five stages supposed to take? Wise people have said to give it a year, so maybe I’m right on track (365 divided by 5 is 73 days), so I’m progressing, right? I’m definitely angry and I think I’ve let go of the denial game by now. Perhaps I can accelerate the bargaining stage or something. For sure I want to skip the depression stage altogether.
I apologize to all who have been immensely helped by this book. Please forgive my attitude, but right now, at this unnameable stage I’m at, I’ve got to say, “Never mind. I think I’ll stay right here, thank you.”