Friday, May 27, 2011

5 Stages

I've been thinking about the 5 stages of grief. Identified by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross the 5 stages are commonly displayed by people facing their own, imminent death. The concept has become popularly associated with most any type of tragic or devastating occurrence. Not to make light of true tragedy, for I am acutely aware of how often we throw those kinds of words around, rendering their original intent nearly meaningless. In its own way this has been a devastating experience...being unemployed without the means to support myself, to pay my bills, to face retirement without a hope of normalcy. In the beginning I kind of wondered why - having acknowledged its seriousness - the situation was NOT freaking me out. Was it, in fact, denial - the first stage of grief? I think in some ways it was. I am still a little in denial, now hoping more than believing that I - unlike all the people I know in the same situation - I will find a job before the problem becomes serious. But the second half of stage 1 - isolation - WAS prominent. I was choosing not to see anyone or do anything when possible because it all seemed too frivolous. I felt I had to be conservative, workman-like in my day-to-day activity. Stage 1: check!

Stage 2, Anger. I don't know that I was angry. I didn't blame the company or anyone in it, I didn't rail against God and humanity. But then I realized, as time went by, I was beginning to become infuriated at the situation itself. How could I, a person who always played by the rules, who never took anything from anyone, who has done everything necessary to be a responsible self-supporting "good citizen," be in this situation? How unfair is it that the unscrupulous businessmen/bankers/brokers et al are getting handouts from the government to save them from themselves and I'm on my own. Stage 2: check!

Stage 3, Bargaining. I didn't exactly skip stage 3 but my bargaining was a little more subtle. I gave myself a month to be unemotional, proactive and hopeful. Well the month came and went with no change. I gave myself one more week because, after all, there were some hopeful signs. The week came and went. I gave myself another day and the day came and went. Stage 3: check!

Stage 4, Depression? Hmm, stage 4. Suffice it to say for the first time - there were tears. Stage 4: check!

And stage 5, Acceptance? I'm not sure. Yes I've accepted "it" for what it is. And this is really where the analogy falls apart. I can say I have accepted it but, unlike one in the throes of a real tragedy - I will go on. My acceptance is only of a revised way of life - not the end of one. That's what I need to hold onto. I need to get over myself - it's not a tragedy - it's a setback. I have started doing things again. I have days I feel positive about the changes to come. I will likely have to embrace a new way of living,. I will likely have to make some decisions that do not come easily to me. I am already a little taken aback at my lack of a decisive direction. Maybe - since this isn't about a tragedy of that magnitude - maybe the fifth stage in this process - of forced reinvention - is Action.

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