Douglas Adams died in 2001. Hard to say, but I am uncertain that the grief over losing him twenty years ago has yet ended.
With this in mind, welcome to the twentieth anniversary of International Towel Day (May 25). The day created by Douglas Adams’ fans two weeks after his passing to remember Douglas and his works. The day when all the zarking froods of the world hold their towels high. A day we should all drink Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. A day when all math answers 42. It is also the one day it is acceptable to yell two words at anyone you see:
No one ever panics, of course, regardless of what the good book tells us.
Well, if people didn’t panic, then the Kubler Ross Stages of Grief would be useless. And, full disclosure, grief is a form of panic. If I may, a quick refresher on the stages follows. This is something I’ve found myself waddling through as of late. I did mention some of it in my most recent posts, Dishonesty of Omission and The Art of Making Up Stats.
Dare I say that this virus has turned our lives upside down. It is putting us all through a touch of grief at the moment.
What follows is entirely my take on this. My psychology degree is lost in the mail, just like my medical, science, and auto mechanic papers. I will go through with two additions I only found doing research this morning that I was not aware of:
Shock is a new one for me.
The paralysis of seeing the situation as it happens and not being able to move. It is that moment when you hear the bad news and your feet are riveted to the floor while your brain searches for something to grab and keep you upright.
Shock is an extraordinarily frightening moment being that one simply doesn’t know what to do. It is also when we feel panic sets in. I’m also not entirely sure this is always the first stage. Perhaps, this shock doesn’t set in until later after some delusions of denial, anger, and bargaining have passed.
As for panic, if it didn’t set in, the remaining stages would likely be skipped right back to normality. However, that is very improbable.
Denial is where most have seen this system beginning.
It is that quick thought that no, this cannot be happening. This is some sort of joke, right?
It has to be Candid Camera. There must be a camera here trying to get my reaction. I’ll wake up from a dream soon and Bobby Ewing will step out of the shower. If I wait a little, Doctor Strange will reset the timeline, and we can go back as if nothing happened.
Anger is the swift kick in the nuts that follows.
We lash out at those that we feel caused this, legit or not. It could be family, friends, colleagues, fictional characters, fictional deities, or even ourselves.
Someone has to pay for what I’m now going through.
One trick with anger, I believe, is that it can meld with the stages ahead and behind it. Denial, bargaining, and depression can all have anger along for the ride. This makes for a much more of an enjoyable road trip, don’t you think?
Bargaining steps up to the plate after and/or during anger.
A futile, illogical attempt to stop the full-velocity freight train coming at you. Our megalomaniacal bubble enjoys a glorious return from where we thought we had packed it away. It stands tall, once again, and suggests we are still in control; when we are not.
Bargaining may even be an attempt to offer things we cannot or should not. We’ll give anything to get back to where we felt safe. We’ll do anything to return to that place where we believed ourselves to be the monarch of all we surveyed.
Depression is next in line and might be the beginning of logic taking the reigns back.
When the mind starts to quiet and turns that anger inward rather than flailing at those around us. Realizing that even if there is someone or something we can blame, there is nothing we can do.
This road trip is not going to end until we reach a destination that was determined by previous actions, whether in our control or not. There will be no pee breaks, hold it until we are there. Tie it in a knot, if you have to.
Testing is another new one I’d not seen before.
Once through some of the depression phase, the mind changes the question. It evolves from “why me?” to “what do I do now?” It begins testing waters by returning to logic. What can actually be done now that things are happening or have happened?
There are pieces to be picked up and put back together in some semblance of normality. So how do I do this? What is the new endgame here?
With testing, I see two outcomes. One is that we continue up this ladder by finding a way forward to acceptance and new normality. The other is we get overwhelmed. We might regress to a previous stage, even back to denial, to start this road trip over.
Acceptance is when the logic finally kicks the megalomaniacal bubble back to the basement status it deserves.
It is time to accept your part in what has played out or what will play out—the forgiveness of any blame that you might have heaped on yourself over this situation.
In a twist, though, for those that beat themselves up in blame, it is also the possible acceptance that the responsibility is not solely yours.
When a relationship ship goes south, this last bit can be very important. Each partner in the relationship goes through the same path of grief, but at different paces.
And there is a problem. Perhaps a big one that few ever talk about.
There is no time limit for going through any of these grief stages. There is no siren, like at the end of a hockey period, to announce that anger is now over…move on to bargaining.
And that timeframe is unique to each experiencing it, individually.
With a relationship, one partner may zip through things and move on while the other wallows a long while before moving on through the stage gates. One person sits, still grieving in the memory of why they were together while the other is already wondering why they are still together.
One partner decides to lie down in front of the bulldozer, still in grief, while the other has already said: