I have experienced the death of a loved one before. Of course, I have. Losing my grandparents comes to mind. Also, I have grieved the loss of aunts and uncles. And family friends. I have even grappled with having to deal with the unexpected deaths of younger people, whether through accident, sickness, or even suicide. But I have not known the struggle of grieving the loss of a loved one due to addiction. Until now.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had taught me, in my formative collegiate years, that grieving a death was experienced in stages. Her well-known book On Death and Dying offered a theory that death is dealt with in five stages: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although based upon interviews and patient conversations, rather than true scientific studies, her book was practically the bible in psychology classes when it came to learning how we humans deal with death and the grieving process. Her theory worked for me. I liked it. Why? Because is was nice and neat, seemed linear (one stage followed the other), and best of all, there was an end. Once I made it to acceptance, I would be home free. At peace.
Edit: True, Dr. Kubler-Ross’ theory was originally meant for those dealing with their own death from terminal illness. But her theory was very widely applied as a way to handle the grieving process. They were the go-to words for handling grief all-around, adopted by counselors, and by my 20-something year old self.
Not so much.
I, Donna Kupetz, might pen my own theory on how humans deal with the death of a loved one who has succumbed to addiction. It would go something like this: indescribable sadness, anger, vomit. Repeat. There are no linear stages, no progression toward acceptance and peace. Dr. Kubler-Ross you lied. I would describe the feelings and experiences of losing my sweet step-brother as being in a hurricane of emotions. Nothing gentle here. Oh, there are times when I find myself numbly existing in the hurricane’s eye for a time. Then whoosh — right back in the slamming, unpredictable storm of ugly emotions.
These feelings grip me. They wash over me whether I am ready or not. They change me.
I find, too, that I am not just trying to make sense of this grief process regarding Robbie’s death. I am aching terribly for my dad and Bridget. Dad and Bridget are two of the most loving, generous, committed parents I know. How do they go on? How. I keep telling Bridget to take my strength from me. And I know well that my dad will give her every ounce of his strength, too. But my dad. He is a funny, strong, positive man. He is my rock in so many ways. But things are different now. I am his rock.
I cannot say at this time that Dr. Kubler-Ross’ grief theory is serving me well in struggling with these awful circumstances. Nope. It’s not. I must reach deep into my own reserves and pull out what works for me. Ugh … I wonder what might be? Two things that come to mind are faith and time. Faith is very powerful; it is also very personal. To me it is also very healing. And secondly, I do believe that time is a healer. Not an eraser, a healer.
So, I will start there. As I am writing this post, and as I reflect upon these sad circumstances in my life, I am crying, and I am angry, and I am nauseous to a degree. Yep, it’s all there. And I am drawing on my faith and strength reserves, and I am sending them all to Dad and Bridget. And I hope that you, my readers, can rely on your faith and find the eventual peace you seek if ever you find yourself in the unbelievable happenstance of losing a loved one to addiction. ❤