Not long ago, I wrote about the 5 stages of grief, sharing my experience with denial. Experts teach there are five main stages of grief and loss, which are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance… in no defined sequence or timeline.
Immediately after losing Preslee, I began praying for another baby to be sent our way. I missed everything about being a mom. Eleven months later, Ledger entered the world, and I had a child again. I had a child in my arms, and as happy as I was, I can't even describe the joy I felt, I was also extremely upset.
It took me months to understand my feelings, and understand why I felt "stuck." I came to realize I didn't miss the newborn stage, or the 3 month stage, I desperately missed the toddler stage. Even though I had a baby again, I wanted an 18 month old. I wanted Preslee.
I was upset because I felt like we were "starting over." And I was mad at myself for expecting Ledger to fix more than he could. I was angry because I felt angry. I was angry that people assumed our problems were fixed because we had a baby again, but that wasn't the case. In many ways I felt like I had taken five steps backwards.
I didn't dare tell anyone how upset I was, how could I complain? Life was a million times better with Ledger in our lives, but I was still a wreck, in a totally different way. I became a bitter, which only put stress on our marriage. My anger became like an avalanche, it began as a little snow ball of problems, and as it rolled down the mountain, it got bigger, and soon affected everything in it’s path…my entire life.
While discussing grief with my counselor, there was one analogy that stuck with me, and helped me pull out of that place of anger. He told me it was okay and necessary to grieve; in fact, it is healthy. But once you find yourself stuck within the grief, it can become harmful. He would refer to this process as getting stuck in the mud.
(Picture Source: Iowa Pathways)
He explained it's like driving a car. You always want to be driving forward, living in the present and looking out your windshield into the future. It's okay to occasionally look back in the rear view mirror, but if you are constantly focusing on your past, you'll crash. You'll become stuck, possibly stuck in the mud. So while discussing problems, he would often ask me, "Do you feel stuck in the mud?"
I’ve learned to recognize when I’m stuck, and then with a lot of prayer, if I can pinpoint the real problem, I’m able to move out of the mud puddle. I eventually worked my way through that angry stage, but this past November, I felt it creep back into my life. I was looking in my rearview mirror, as Ledger continually reminded me of Preslee. And I was desperately trying to look out my windshield, as Ledger and I created new memories. I was at a standstill.
For those of you who find yourself experiencing anger, be patient with yourself. Remember it’s part of the grieving system. It takes work, but you can work through it.
And for those who are trying to support someone experiencing anger, my advice is to love them, and listen. The people who allowed me to vent, and didn’t cast judgment were often my tow truck. They pulled me out of that large mud puddle, and helped me on my way.