Sometimes It Takes Five Years to Pass Through All Five Stages of Grief

Six years ago today I received the worst phone call of my life.  I listened in disbelief as I was told that my home was burning down.  I very quickly entered the stage of denial and stayed there even as I stood in front of the burned remains of my life.  This isn’t happening.  This can’t be real.  I don’t deserve this.  I slept with denial each night as I thought if I just prayed hard enough it would all be just a bad dream.  I was suffocated by denial each morning when I woke up and was confused by the cold and impersonal surroundings of a rented hotel room.  I clung tightly to my denial even as I begged the veterinarian to do everything she could to save my precious cat, Peter Pan.

I didn’t move past the denial stage until the vet told me that Peter Pan’s burns were too sever and that I had to put him to sleep.  That is when the anger began.  It didn’t creep in quietly like a robber in the night trying to steal whatever happiness I had left.  The anger came rushing in like a Tsunami drowning my soul.  I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe, and I pushed away all of the people who were trying to help me.  I felt like my insides had become a vacuum where no light could possibly enter.  I had never before, or since, felt a darkness such as that.  Anger is not a place to live, and I knew that I could never survive if I stayed there.

Bargaining, for me, came with the denial.  Even though I couldn’t believe that it was all really happening, I still kept bargaining to change it.  In those moments, I felt like I would agree to whatever dogma could reverse my fate.

The depression lasted the longest and, in many ways, was the stage that only I saw.  A month after the fire I moved to Cleveland where I was completely isolated.  I wanted to be anonymous, I wanted to start over, I wanted to decide who and how someone would learn of my past.  I wanted to wallow in my sadness, and I did, for two months.  For two long months I cried myself to sleep every single night.  Each day I would come home from work with the intention of working on my insurance paperwork to receive the additional replacement funds allowed to me.  Yet, each night, I would pull out the itemized list of everything that I had lost and I would break down and vow to work on it the next day.  Day after day passed, until I finally just gave up all together.  The money would sit there until I was ready to claim it.

Days turned into weeks.  I made new friends. Weeks turned into months.  I shared my story with those whom I trusted.  Months turned into years.  Six months ago I was cleaning out my closet when I got sidetracked looking at pictures.  While I was sitting there a feeling of peace washed over me.  I looked around at my “new” life and I knew… I had finally reached acceptance.  As I took in my surroundings I was overcome with the thought, “I want for nothing”.  This had nothing to do with the physical things I had replaced and everything to do with the life I had created.  My life is full.

The next day I pulled out my insurance paperwork, gathered a few receipts, and contacted my agent.  He cut me a check for what I had turned in and I asked him to close my claim.  I walked away from $10,000 in replacement costs.  That money means nothing to mean.  Anything that could be replaced has been replaced.  Those things that could never be replaced, well…. $10,000 is not nearly enough.  After I entered this place of acceptance, I randomly decided to read a book that had been on my shelf for quite some time.  Once I finished the book, I knew that I didn’t simply randomly pick it, it picked me.  In the last chapter the author writes,

“That’s the thing about losing it all. You realize you’re fine without it. When you give it all away – the stuff – you learn that it is impossible to lose whatever it is that you cannot live without.  Love was right.  The thing you need is unshakable, untakable.  What you need is not in things, it’s in you.  It’s Love.”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On , Warrior

So today I write to you, not as a victim, but as a warrior.  I have overcome!  Not just once in my life, but time and time again.  I am a warrior because I never once gave up.  I am a warrior because my family loves me, supports me, and let me take out my anger on them when it was destroying me to keep it in.  I am a warrior because I was strong enough and smart enough to let new people into my life who helped change my life for the better.  I am a warrior because you believed that I was and because I believed you.  I will never be glad for my experience, but I know that losing “everything” is what allowed me to have this amazing and beautiful life here in Cleveland, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  So thank you to everyone who waited patiently by my side for me to get here.  I am finally, truly, home!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Karen Jo Crouse
    Aug 03, 2015 @ 16:20:34

    I love you! Mom


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