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Monday, October 8, 2012

Dr. Ross, I Presume?

When I was in Tech School, one of our resources was a book titled On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD.  The blurb for the book reads:  “One of the most important psychological studies of the late twentieth century, On Death and Dying grew out of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's famous interdisciplinary seminar on death, life, and transition. In this remarkable book, Dr. Kübler-Ross first explored the now-famous five stages of death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Through sample interviews and conversations, she gives the reader a better understanding of how imminent death affects the patient, the professionals who serve that patient, and the patient's family, bringing hope to all who are involved.

This book was written, and has for years been required reading for nursing students. Everyone experiences loss.  Every day, somewhere, people are saying goodbye to someone they love.  As healthcare providers, we not only have to go through our own personal losses, but we must deal with patients who are dying, and their families.  Granted – my career path has removed me from direct patient care, and thankfully, from the aspect of caring for the dying or bereaved.  I have always admired hospice workers, and Hem/Onc physicians and nurses.  I know my strengths – and they definitely do not lie there.

There are other losses that we suffer in life as well.  The loss of dreams, the loss of friends or family because of disagreements, the loss of jobs, homes, and tangible things.  These can be equally as devastating. 

And then there’s divorce.  Often the loss through divorce ranks with death. Sometimes maybe even worse.  Folks don’t usually choose to die, but in divorce, someone makes a choice. 

If my husband had died, there would have been flowers, fried chicken and chocolate cake, friends surrounding me for two or three days, a casket and a funeral.  And I would be without my husband.

As it is, there is no funeral food, no flowers, no BeBomb, and no preacher to read the 23rd Psalm.  Yet I am without my husband. Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want my husband to be dead.  It’s just hard, because with a divorce, there is no closure.  No grave. The person is still “out there”.   Instead of a eulogy and reading of the 23rd Psalm, the final sound of my marriage will be that of a gavel echoing from the cold walls of a courtroom. 

When someone dies, the spouse is given a wide berth for grief, with no expectations of how long is “proper” to embrace the grief.  We tell them “time heals all pain”… even though it really doesn’t.  It just lessens it a little bit, and the person simply learns to live without the person they loved.  Weeks, months, and years will pass, and at times grief will fall on them like a ton of bricks, and the pain is as raw as it ever was.  And that’s okay.  We allow them that.

When someone is divorced, it is at times awkward to know the right words to say.  I have been blessed with the most awesome friends and family – and I do feel the love.  Yet, when someone is divorced, the hurting spouse isn’t necessarily granted the same “privileges” to grieve.  People expect you to get over it right away.  Especially if the offending party “did you wrong”, or behaved in a despicable manner.  “You’re better off without him.”  That’s something I hear often. And while I don’t disagree with the statement, it makes it no less painful to deal with the loss.  

Even so - I don’t want him back - regardless of how often he would tell me it was a mistake, and that he still loved me. Even a child understands that actions speak louder than words.  I’m better off alone than with someone who has such little regard for me and the heart that I so freely entrusted to him.  So, no, I don’t want him back.  I won't be a side dish for him, either.  He chose a different path, and regardless of how badly he wanted it to, it doesn't include me.  I think he finally understands that. 

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss the good times.  And there were good times.  I read something once that said “Just because the flower has died, doesn’t mean it didn’t smell sweet while it bloomed.”  Yes – that sums it up nicely.

And now that I’m feeling better emotionally, I find that I miss the physical presence – the companionship.  I had been single for 19 years, and was perfectly fine being the odd man out at couples parties, going to the movies or out to eat alone, etc.  I like my company (ha) and I was good with that.  Then along came my prince charming, and rocked my world – and I LOVED IT!  I loved the feeling of belonging with someone (note- not TO someone, but WITH someone) - the feeling of shared hopes, dreams, and secrets – someone to scratch my back at night and tell me funny stories and sing silly songs-  I LOVED IT!!  And I realized what I had been missing for 19 years. 

I had to kiss a lot of frogs over the years to find my prince.  I just didn’t know the spell worked in reverse, and that my prince could turn into a toad. 

Yet still I grieve.  And I need for people to allow me to grieve.  The moments of deep despair are mostly gone.  But my heart still bleeds.  Not for the loss of the toad.  I don't want that man. I’m done with frogs.  But the loss of my prince along with the hopes and dreams for our future, the tattered shreds of my heart, and the loss of my best friend, still cuts deep, and the wounds are slow to heal. 

Dr. Ross got it right in her book.  There are stages of grief.  I do feel like I have reached the final stage – acceptance – but just because you make it to that stage, it doesn’t mean you close the door on it and the pain goes away.  Ask anyone who has lost someone they love. 

For those closest to me, I know it is difficult to watch.  I try to be strong.  And I truly am getting stronger.  Death is part of life.  Unfortunately, in our society, divorce becomes a reality in many marriages.  And you grieve when it’s over.  There’s nothing anyone can do to take the pain away from me. You can walk the road with me, but you can’t walk it for me.  Walking it with me makes it easier, but don’t try to rush me.  I do see the light, and all is not dark like it was at first.  That is progress. Times will be better.  Of this, I am absolutely certain.  

Just remember – when your friend or family member goes through the painful breakup of a marriage, give them room.. and plenty of time to grieve.  Sometimes it’s okay to say “you’re better off without them”, but that doesn’t bring much comfort to the one suffering. Even if he/she knows it to be the truth.  The absolute best thing you can do for your hurting friend is listen.  Even if they say the same thing over and over again.  A thousand times.  Just listen.  If they don’t want to talk about it, then talk about something else.  Lots of times, that’s the last thing they want to discuss.  But then again, sometimes it’s all they can talk about.  DJ has listened to me so much I can’t believe her ears don't start bleeding at the sight of me. 

Writing about it is huge.  Matter of fact, by the time you read this, I’ll be feeling much better.  So don’t be freaking out thinking I’m about to jump off a cliff or something.  No. I’m just venting. The past few days have left me feeling a little shaky, and I just needed to work it out in my mind and my heart - and putting it on *paper* is how I do that.  Lucky you - if you choose to read, then I'm the patient, you’re the psychologist.  The only difference is, I’m not lying on a couch talking to you, and you’re not charging me $125.00 per session.  Are you?

If you made it this far, just say a little prayer for me and try to remember some of the things I’ve said that might help you when someone you care about goes through it.  Because chances are, either someone already is, or will be soon.
Death sucks.  Divorce sucks.  Bleh.  

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