Shock. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Grieving. Acceptance.
They say… someone says… that those six words describe the experience of grieving. The six stages of grief. People talk about them as if they were linear. You check Shock off the list, and proceed in an orderly fashion directly to Denial, as if moving through a security checkpoint at the airport. Remove your Denial, place it on the conveyor belt, and walk right on through to Anger. If only it were that simple, that systematic. Who wishes that something could be as easy as airport security?
Not a day has gone by that I haven’t been shocked. I will never understand why Tony did what he did. Not a day has gone by that I have not denied it, sometimes quietly in my journal or in bed at night. Sometimes with a howl of pain that shakes the windows and scares the dogs.
Anger? Oh anger doesn’t come close to encompassing what I feel. Such a small word, only five letters. RAGE is a bigger word, in spite of being a letter shorter. FURY, too. Yes, I am furious. I am rageful. I am righteously and royally PISSED OFF that my husband, the man I loved, did this TO ME. Because of course that’s what it feels like, that he did it to me. It is so personal, suicide, for the people left behind.
Bargaining is something you do at a flea market or a bazaar. I wouldn’t even know what to offer in trade for Tony’s life. What do I have that’s big enough?
Grieving is different when someone kills himself. Grief is not a pure thing, after suicide. It is a muddy, mixed-up, stormy thing. It’s in a giant stew with anger and guilt and relief – because living with a depressed person, even if you love them with your whole soul, is HARD. I’m not relieved he’s dead. Never, ever that. But I am sometimes relieved that I am not, every second of the day, worrying that he’ll slip over the edge, off the cliff, away. That’s happened. The worst has happened. The guilt is there because I tried so hard, but how can I ever know that I tried hard enough? How can I ever be sure? If I had said something different, done something different, would it have made a difference? It is easy, SO easy, for me to reassure the other people who loved him that there is nothing they could have done. It is so impossibly hard to do myself the same kindness.
Acceptance is unfathomable. People say it will come to me, some day. They say it, I nod and pretend to believe. I can’t feel it. Not yet.
I never knew this is what it would be like to grieve someone so close to me. I never wanted to know. Even now, in the midst of it, knowing is a slippery thing. I think I have a handle on it, and then it evades me again, presents me with some new horror, some new nightmare, some new sadness that hadn’t occurred to me before. Yesterday I changed my profile picture on Facebook and then cried for half an hour because putting up the new picture meant switching it from the old one, the one of Tony and me on our wedding day outside the County Clerk’s office. I want to remember that day with purity, with clarity. I want to focus on the way he smiled at me when he said his vows, the way I smiled back through tears. The brunch we had afterwards, the surprise champagne my family sent. The pictures we took of each other at La Jolla Cove. The truth is, that day no longer feels real to me. It all feels like a lie. I know that’s not accurate. I just need to figure out a way to tell my heart.