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Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Melanie Thompson

The Death of a son

Five Stages of Grief

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross is the genius who came up with the five stages of grief. She did this not by experiencing grief, but by studying grieving people. My son died of brain cancer twenty-eight years ago. Because I have experienced grief, I feel entitled to send Dr. Ross a giant raspberry. What does she know?
According to her, the first stage of grief is denial. I hung around here from the time my son was diagnosed right up to the last weeks before he died. It’s almost impossible to accept your child is terminally ill. I know I couldn’t.
 The second stage of grieving is anger. I vaulted straight from denial into this stage. Even after all these years, I’m still there. Sometimes I drift into stage five, which is acceptance, but without a moment’s notice, I dive back into really pissed off.
They called me early in the morning to tell me he died. He’d been in a coma, slowly drifting into death for about two weeks. According to statistics, more people die at dusk and dawn than at any other time of the day. The Hindus explain this simply. They say the veil between the world of the living and heaven is thinner at these two times of day.
When the nurse called me, I rushed to the hospital and found my son’s bed empty. They’d already sent him to a funeral home.
I couldn’t stand the thought of anyone touching him. When I met with the mortuary representative, they discovered I was in stage two. I’m sure they’d seen it before. I don’t think anger accurately describes stage two.  I’m thinking berserk, crazy, insanely sensitive, completely irrational, and prone to venomous outbursts would be a more accurate description.
The dumb bastards tried to sell me expensive coffins, embalming, and when they discovered I planned to cremate, the complete cremation package. They did this while attempting to comfort me.  I can be very succinct. In a few choice words, I told them to F off. I wanted no embalming, no coffin, just the basic cremation. And then I dropped the bomb. No one was to touch him but me.
As I said, they’d seen this stage of grief before. Hoping to prevent me from going postal in their office, they acceded to my demands.
At the funeral home, they led me to a room where my dead ten-year-old son lay on a stainless steel table in his hospital gown. I washed him, tears running into my mouth, dressed him in clean underwear, his favorite shirt and pants, and clean socks. I combed his hair, and cried some more. I didn’t want to leave him in that strange place.
Then I went to the mall to buy a maternity dress for his funeral. I was six months pregnant. I walked around the mall looking at the happy people shopping with their families, and I hated them.
Dr. Ross doesn’t understand anything about the stages of grief. She completely missed the agony part, the pain so bad you think you’ll die stage. She never covered the murderous rage you feel toward doctors, nurses, and well-meaning social workers. She never touched on the feeling that you’re going insane.
Her stages are listed as denial, anger, bargaining (what’s with this one?), depression (now this one I get), and acceptance, theoretically in that order. Listen up, Dr. Ross, it’s possible to be in all five plus a hundred other stages at once, and you never get over losing a child, never.

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