The Stages of Life without you


Ronan. Productive days are good for me. Days where I am busy, have lots of tasks at hand, and it forces me to feel like I have a bit of a purpose in this life without you. I went this a.m. to meet your Mimi so we could have a meeting with our Foundation CPA. I wanted to meet her and go over a few questions I had. It was a good, productive meeting. Afterwords, I headed out to North Scottsdale to see the Good Doctor. I like to check in with him every couple of months. I told him that I had stopped taking my Zoloft. He asked why and I told him that I was tired of being numb. He said that was a good reason and asked all the usual questions to make sure that I am actually doing alright without it. I told him that I wanted to deal with the pain of losing you, and to actually feel it; even as much as it hurts. We talked about a lot of different things. I told him about the sleep issues I’m still having in a major way and how I’ve taken my Ambien the past couple of nights. I don’t want to take that crap, but I also know that sometimes I need a break from all of this pain. Trying to sleep on my own, with only Melatonin, is just not working. I’m still going to continue to try, but I can only take so much. I hope one day I’ll be at peace with sleeping again. I really miss it.

After my visit with the Good Doctor, I came home and was full of way too much energy/anxiety. I threw on my clothes and drove to Camelback Mountain. I met my Frienemy, Inferno Fuckwad Bob there. I hiked up that mountain, as fast as I could today. It was only 102 out. Just as I was tackling the last part of it, I felt the need to stop and take a break. But then the voices in my head, screamed at me otherwise. They told me to keep going, to push myself harder, because you were waiting at the top for me. I could have been suffering from heat stroke, but I didn’t care. In my mind, I had to keep going, to get to you. I ignored the waves of nausea in my stomach, and continued to the top where I think I almost passed out. I sat and took a lot of deep breaths and drank my water. There were a couple of other people as crazy as me, who were there as well. They were there for pure pleasure though. Not because they know anything about Inferno Fuckwad Bob. I sat and listened to the happy conversations around me and almost got lost in the couples world; while they were snapping pictures of each other and were beaming with excitement about making it to the top. I wished to be that girl that I used to be today….. so giddy and proud of hiking Camelback. I remembered that girl today. The one who used to hike Camelback for pure pleasure, not because she feeds off of the pain. That girl seemed so young, so innocent, and so carefree. I missed that girl.  I wished for a rewind button, before you were sick. I wished so many things today at the top of that mountain. None of them came true.

Somebody asked me the other day, where I was in the stages of Grief. I am aware of the stages, but the question caught me off guard. Stages? I have to follow the stages? I didn’t know how to answer. It seemed so strange to me, as if there is a formula to follow after losing you. I am not like everyone else because everyone else did not have YOU, as there son. I guess I’ve never really taken the time to sit down and process the “Stages.”  I took a look at them the other day. They make sense, but I don’t necessarily think there is an order that I am following them in. I have felt these things, since you were diagnosed. I feel these things, 100 times a day. I don’t think the things below should be named the “Stages of Grief.” It should be written as a manual on, “Welcome to your new life, after losing your child.”

It should also have a side note that says, “Good luck with that. Doesn’t it fucking suck?” Here are the “Stages,” below. Just in case any of you are curious.

Denial

This first stage of grieving helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.

As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.

Anger

Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits. It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this?

Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn’t attend the funeral, maybe a person who isn’t around, maybe a person who is different now that your loved one has died. Suddenly you have a structure – – your anger toward them. The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing.We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.

Bargaining

Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?”

We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

Depression

After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of. The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing. The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.

Acceptance

Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves.

Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.

So, there you have it, Ro. The Stages of Grief. I do think it was beautifully written. I think it was written by Dr. J’s friend, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. I’m reading her book now, “On Children and Death.” She was a good friend of Dr. J’s which tells me she is worthy of me reading her book. I’m not too far into it as I am having a hard time staying focused on it as it is one of the many pile of books next to my bed. I want to finish this one first, but I have some homework that I am trying to get done before I meet up with of few of our lovelies next month to go over your Foundation. Homework that requires research and not enough hours in the day.

Ro baby. I spent the rest of the day, playing the good mama role, really well. Except I didn’t cook dinner but one of our dolls dropped off dinner instead. Thanks, Katie. You saved me tonight<3<3<3

Time to try to sleep, Ro. I’m getting up early to run with Samya in the morning. Miss you so much. I love you and hope you are safe. Sweet dreams, Baby Doll.

xoxo

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17 Comments

  1. Katie I.

     /  September 26, 2011

    Hi Maya, I haven’t commented in a while and I just wanted to let you know that I am always waiting for your next post and when I’m not waiting I am often thinking about you, Ro, and your family. I love that picture you posted, well I love what it says, so moving… I think it is quite fitting. I love you even though I don’t know you personally… I feel as though I am called to be a part of whatever it is you have on store for evil neuroblastoma. I also wanted to ask what happened with the foundation and the PF Changs marathon, I’d love to run in Ronan’s honor… Ok, goodnight, let me know if you have a chance and if not that is ok too. :)

    Reply
    • Thanks for the sweet comment. Working on PF Changs. Thinking they may accept Ro’s charity:) In the process of getting them the proper tax forms. I’ll keep u posted!!

      Reply
  2. Phaedra

     /  September 26, 2011

    I love that photo with this one Maya.
    I agree with you on the stages, fuck them. I think you are doing just fucking fine. One day might be greater than others, one day might be shittier than others. Who cares? You’re still being a great mom and you’re still pushing for Ronan and the cause. Being in your stages however the fuck you want. You don’t follow status quo anyway… Thats no fun. (did I spell quo wrong?)
    :)
    Don’t forget you are awesome. No matter what kind of day it was.

    Reply
  3. Melissa Vendt

     /  September 26, 2011

    Stages? That word just bites…F cancer, and F stages. It makes it seem like grief is just this neat orderly process you go through..like some ride you are on starting at hell and ending in…yep, still hell?! Ughhh! Inca may need to add this to the list of things you should not say to a Mommy who’s baby is no longer on Earth for her to take care of. Bless you Maya. You are always in my heart and on my mind.

    Reply
  4. Rose

     /  September 26, 2011

    I saw a hummingbird this weekend. We were at a child’s bday party and the hummingbird kept coming back and hanging out – I think it was Ronan enjoying the kids’ laughter. Another quick story to share – my girls and I released balloons when Ronan passed and ever since my 5 year old can’t keep ahold of a balloon for more than a minute, she always remembers ‘the little boy in the sky that wants a balloon to play with.’ Ronan will always be a part of my family <3

    Reply
  5. Michelle h.

     /  September 26, 2011

    Maya that quote about no one else knowing what your heart sounds like from the inside brought tears to my eyes. So true. Hugs & prayers always~

    Reply
  6. Lisa W.

     /  September 27, 2011

    Thank you Maya.

    Your posts, especially tonight, really help me in my own grief. I don’t know why our kids die. There is nothing natural about it and we will never ” be okay”, whatever the hell that is. You speak to me and for me. Thanks for being courageous, honest and crazy enough to not be so P.C.

    ~ XOXO

    Reply
  7. I only learned about Ronan about a month ago…I have read your blog from start to finish and cried almost all the way through. You and Ro have changed my perspective on life so much. You both make me want to be a better person, celebrate each day and be thankful for everything I have. Although you might not think it, you are extremely inspirational. Thank you for opening my eyes and my heart. <3

    Reply
  8. Kristn

     /  September 27, 2011

    another beautiful post Maya…that’s a compliment honey. I’m sure it’s hard to see anything as beautiful, but you bring so may of us beauty in your blog…thank you. xoxokh

    Reply
  9. Hilary

     /  September 27, 2011

    Just wanted to say that I love love love your sparkling nails. Wishing you a day of hope and one where Ronan’s sparkles light the way. Big hugs and twinkles from the UK xx

    Reply
  10. Jessica

     /  September 27, 2011

    First let me say that my heart still breaks for you everyday! Thank you for helping our friends Mia and Sandra. I know she’s in a lot of pain too. I was reading your entry about the stages of grief. One of my best friends lost her father in the Pan Am flight over Scotland when she was a child. Although she didn’t lose a child (which she has said would be much worse!) she and her brother has just recently started back to grief counseling. According to their therapist the “stages” are nice but not really followed anymore. She said that they are used but the thinking that you should be in one stage or another and that can make people feel even worse so they aren’t as “strictly” followed. So I guess I’m trying to say be in any and all of the stages because there’s really no order (or start and finish.) Our family continues to pray for you, Woody, Liam, and Quinn.

    Reply
  11. Glenda

     /  September 27, 2011

    Maya,

    Thinking of you and Rockstar Ro! Woody, Liam and Quinn

    Love that quote. As a mother myself, that is soooo true! Love it!

    Stages? you are unique in your own way and you will grieve your own way. There is no right way! It is all YOUR own! so FU to the stages!!!

    Sending you big mama bear hugs!
    Peace and strength!
    xo

    Reply
  12. Maya and Ronan

    Haven’t posted in a few weeks, but continue to seek our your updates every day … and get a little worried when I don’t see them (weird, huh)? Much like Katie posted at the top of this chain, keep us posted on the PF Chang half marathon. In anticipation, and some solidarity, I recently started “Boot Camp” and just joined a “running club” to get serious about getting in shape (or some close approximation).

    Stay strong and stay on your own path, however straight, winding or double backed it might be to anyone else. It’s yours.

    Marian

    Reply
  13. Jaime H.

     /  September 27, 2011

    I love the quote at the end-couldn’t be more true! Beautiful! Love and prayers, always, xoxo

    Reply
  14. Jennifer

     /  September 27, 2011

    For sure update us on PF Changs! I have another half the week before but would love to go out there for another 13.1 in Ro’s honor. <3

    Reply
  15. Stefanie

     /  September 27, 2011

    PF Changs or even another run would be amazing. Your biggest fans could come out and cheer you on/donate/run their asses off. :)

    Reply
  16. Brandee

     /  September 27, 2011

    Where is the 6th stage? …….. This is so mother fucking fucked up! How are you suppose to ever go on? How how how??? Where is this fucking stage of grief??? I will help you breath Maya…BY SCREAMING FUCK YOU CANCER!!

    Reply

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