By Teren Christensen, CSW
On November 13, 2013, my father passed away. He had been suffering from a liver malady called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). He was 57. He passed away during the liver transplant procedure because his body couldn’t handle the stress. It was a surreal event for my family and I. Even now it’s weird for me to acknowledge that he is gone. I don’t want it to be real.
Dealing with grief and loss is hard. As I have dealt with the grief of my father’s passing, I’ve come to understand Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief more fully and have identified each as I have encountered them. I said that my dad dying was surreal for our family. This is evidence of the ‘denial’ stage of grief. Since his passing, denial has been kind of a coping strategy for me. I tend to dissociate and try to avoid talking about his death. Denial has proved to be only a temporary fix, however, as I am frequently reminded that he is gone.
Being unable to maintain the denial leads me to Kübler-Ross’ second stage of grief, anger. At times I have been frustrated or annoyed when I try to avoid thinking about the loss of my dad and something comes up that forces me to think about it.
The third stage in the grief cycle is bargaining. This is when a person tries to offer things in exchange for more time or to bring someone back. When my father passed away, I prayed that he would come back. I asked that I be taken instead, because I didn’t want to lose my dad.
Since my dad passed I’ve been less happy than ever before. I have lacked motivation. I haven’t had as much fun as I used to. At times it’s been difficult to be interested in anything besides being with my family. This is evidence of the depression stage in Kübler-Ross’ model. This stage and denial have been the stages I have experienced the most trying to deal with the loss of my dad.
Grief and loss are difficult experiences to go through. It is common to encounter any and all of the stages I have described. Going through my own grief I have discovered that the stages may not go in order. Some last longer than others, and some repeat. As time goes on, the pain may lessen, and then return as anniversaries or other reminders of the loss arise.
An important factor in healing from grief and loss is to get support. Family and faith are two common sources. My family has helped me deal with the loss of my dad. It’s helpful to go through the grieving process together so as to not feel so alone. Sharing the experience can also strengthen family attachment. My religious belief has also been a comfort. Having faith allows me to believe that there is a life after death and I will have the opportunity to see my dad again. Professional help may also be a beneficial resource to help navigate the stages of grief. At the Green House, I and the other therapists utilize EMDR as one tool to assist clients to work through the grief cycle.