Is there anything ever easy about a death in the family?
After years of being a nursing home invalid, and weeks following a stroke from which she could not survive, you would think we would all be prepared for the inevitable, but some hold hope beyond reason, and can never be prepared.
I am in the middle of a family undergoing grief, sniping at one another, fighting over insignificant things.
It doesn’t seem to matter how much psychology, experience as a grief counselor, or any other background of dealing with the grief of others, the family members have, they all are experiencing grief differently.
As an in-law I am somewhat an observer, but not an impartial one.
Kübler-Ross postulated five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
To put them in the vernacular they are:
“This can’t be true.”
“I hate you for even suggesting it.”
“Dear God, I’ll walk on hot coals to keep this from being true.”
“OMG, it’s true and I don’t know how I can bear it.”
“It’s true and I will find a way to go on.”
To be sure, the vernacular is too specific. Anger may be directed outward or inward, for example, and the five stages may come in any order, repeat stages, and come to resolution sooner in some case, and later in others.
It is sometimes startling. I once went into the “quiet room” to tell a woman that her husband who had had a cardiac arrest in the emergency waiting room had not survived. Her reaction?
“That miserable son-of-a-bitch! How could he leave us at a time like this?”
She went straight to anger, and it was directed not at me or at herself, but at the victim.
So, it isn’t surprising that one of the survivors of my mother-in-law is angry at my wife. For someone who has a minor in psychology, was a psychiatric nurse, and once worked as a rape counselor, L is handling this very poorly. That would be surprising except for the fact that she is grieving, too.
Everyone grieves in their own way. It is a mistake to think that others grieve like you do. I’ve been involved in a lot of family grief and it is the rule rather than the exception that there is anger and squabbling over everything from what time the memorial services are held, to which clothes the deceased is going to wear, to where people stand at the graveside.
I’m hoping acceptance comes quickly here.
To answer the initial question about the expression, “Good Grief”, it is probably a softened oath, which might be considered blasphemy: “Good G_d” It’s strange, but no stranger than “Dag nab it!”