Yes this video is about loss, grief and mourning, but it is also about resilience of the human spirit. For those of you who follow this channel, you probably know that I have had a lot of loss this year. My mother passed away 8 months ago from a uterine tumor after battling Parkinson’s and a stroke for almost 20 years. My dog was suddenly hit by a car the day after my mom passed. Then 2020 arrived with a vengeance. The Covid-19 pandemic put an end to my job where I was directing episodes of House Hunters International, travelling to different parts of the world every month. Then, my father died suddenly in April from Covid-19. I don’t share this to sound depressing or for anyone to feel bad for me. I share this so that we can discuss these moments openly without judgment and perhaps help one another in the healing process. Feelings of grief and mourning means you have people, creatures that you love and care about so so deeply. And that is a gift.
First off, everyone grieves differently. There is no right way or wrong way. There is no ‘being strong’ or ‘being too soft.’ We all experience our emotions in different ways. Sometimes I am completely fine and doing my work and then other times, I will break down crying uncontrollably. For me, there is no ‘getting over it.’ There is no ‘moving on.’ I live a different existence now and that is fine too. There are major life events that happen over the course of time – first love, first break up, a marriage, having kids, getting divorced, someone you love dies – these times shape us and alter our lives as we know it. As we get older, we have more life experiences, thus we tend to experience more grief. Somehow the end of something forces us to reflect or confront. That can be quite cathartic and eye-opening.
When we do experience loss and mourning, there are stages of grief that many of us go through. Knowing and understanding these stages perhaps will bring you some solace in that it is absolutely normal and a part of the process.
Popularly known as the 5 stages of grief, I am going to share the 7 stages because I think it can be a bit more complex. These periods help to explain the complicated emotions many of us encounter. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be in this order. Sometimes you go through multiple stages at the same time or you skip a stage. There are no real rules except to know and have confidence that you will be standing when you come out on the other side.
Stage 1. Shock and denial. It is a state of disbelief and numbness. You feel like you can’t do anything, feel anything, think about anything. As we were all preparing my mother’s funeral at my mom’s house and my dog Eddie got out and no one knew. I got a call from an animal hospital letting me know that someone found Eddie on the side of the road and brought him in. He was still alive but had broken numerous bones and had internal organ damage. I felt uncontrollable panic and utter numbness for days. To be honest, this is something that I am still dealing with in many ways.
Stage 2. Pain and guilt. The loss feels unbearable. You may feel guilty because of unresolved issues or that you could have done more or feeling pain and guilt because you don’t have control over the situation. I felt a lot of guilt as we had to put my father in a nursing home in 2016 after promising myself that I would never do that, but at the time, it was our only safe choice. And then when he died in the nursing home, I kept thinking of all the ‘what ifs’ – but eventually I was able to accept that we did the best that we could.
Stage 3. Anger and bargaining. The loss creates feelings of anger and you lash out. Some try to bargain with God or other higher power in order to get relief from your feelings and the situation. I had a lot of anger and tried to do a lot of bargaining when my mom got initially had her stroke and then was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. But when my mother wasn’t angry or resentful about being sick and she felt that she had a higher purpose, I knew that I had to let my own anger go.
Stage 4. Depression. This period you may feel like you want to be alone or you feel isolated and lonely. You may experience sudden crying and need time to reflect on the loss. I am lucky in that I don’t suffer from chronic depression, but there have been times over the last year that I have suddenly found myself crying uncontrollably, needing to be alone, unable to think clearly. I realized that the more I suppressed these emotions, the worse it got for me. So I just allow myself the room to be fully present in the sadness and know that I won’t always feel this way, but that it is okay to feel this way right now.
Stage 5. The upward turn. A calmness and relaxed state is upon you now. The anger and acute pain has passed. You start to see the light again. I think of my parents and dog every day. Oddly, I didn’t think about them every day when they were alive. But in the calmness and quietness, I feel their presence and I find it comforting. I look at their pictures and don’t feel pain anymore but rather a sense that they are at peace.
Stage 6. Reconstruction. You start to resume life. You feel like your old self again. After my sister got divorced, I don’t think she thought that she would ever be happy again. But as time passed, I noticed her talking less and less about the divorce and more about things she was looking forward to doing. It took a lot of deep reflection, talking it out, and self-realization for her to reach this point, but she did. And she learned a whole hell of a lot about herself which is amazing.
Stage 7. Acceptance and hope. You begin to accept your new reality. You see possibility again in the future and can forge forward. No matter how dark things got, my mother always always lived with hope. She instilled that within us. So even at her deathbed, it was a beautiful moment where we accepted that life would now be different and hope would remain. There’s always a lot of work still to be done and life to be lived. She is the inspiration for Modern Aging even existing so through these videos, I am able to share my experiences and learnings to pass along to you so that we may all live fully for as long as we are here on this planet.
It’s important to note that you may experience all of these stages or none of them. Or some simultaneously. For me, I feel like I have been experiencing all these stages at once. Some days, I am optimistic and diving into my work and feel full of purpose knowing that is how my parents lived their lives, and then other days, I feel immobile and just want to crawl up into a fetal position. Either way, it is all okay. And that’s what I want you to know…that it’s all okay. And it’s okay to reach to a friend or family member with a text saying “I’m thinking about you.” A lot of people avoid the whole conversation afraid of it being awkward or not knowing what to say. There isn’t much to say but you can just let them know that they are loved and supported no matter how much time has passed.
As we all know, life does not come nicely packaged with a bow on top. If you think you need outside help from a therapist or a friend, seek it out. There is no shame. There is no judgment. It is important for us to process and seek help when we feel we need it. Remember, there is great abundance and opportunity that can come from tragedy and sadness, if we choose to see it.
Yes, many of us are mourning but know that this too shall pass. We will stand up again. We will laugh again. We will hug one another again. We are resilient.
Stay safe. Stay healthy everyone.