The five stages of grief

26 Nov

I read the email with the subject line “Really bad news” over and over again, pulled over on the side of the road. And even when I was screaming and sobbing and literally gasping for air, I was still sure that it was the worst practical joke of all time. Obviously I knew it was true, because I can’t remember the last time I cried so hard, or if I ever have, but I was equally sure that there had to have been a mistake. That I would get a follow-up email explaining that she was a medical mystery but alive and well. Or that Roxy would call me and tell me that herself.

The more people I called to tell, the harder it was to not believe it. And with every incredulous response, I had to be the one to say, yes, really, it’s awful but it’s true. You say that enough and you can’t deny it any longer. The numbness sort of melts away and the pain sets in. When I called Alex and he told me what happened, I could see it perfectly in my head, even though I didn’t want to, and there was no doubt any longer. Still, there are moments when I wake up from all-too-frequent naps and think, wasn’t that a fucked-up dream I had. I can’t wait to tell Roxy about it.

This, I internalized. And I’m still having a hard time letting go. I’m not angry at Roxy for leaving or at a higher power for taking her — though please, I beg of you, don’t talk to me about God’s plan, because if God has a plan, it’s being an asshole — I’m angry at myself for not being a better friend. And I know that sounds like I’m being too hard on myself, which I maybe am, but you don’t know how bad I could be about keeping in touch. I looked at our last IM conversation: She was just checking in and I said I was too swamped at work to talk. That was true, but I never got back to her. So fuck me, really.

I didn’t know she was suffering, and I should have. I didn’t make the time to see her when she was in town — because yes, we were both bad at making plans and following through, especially over the last couple years, but couldn’t I have tried a little harder. She had a birthday card for me that Alex has now, and I’m still so angry at myself that in my darkest moments, I don’t feel like I deserve it. I’m worried that by admitting all of this, it sounds like I’m seeking reassurance, but the truth is I know I fucked up. As time passes, I will accept that I fucked up because I’m human, not because I’m a bad person. I won’t let myself off the hook, but I’ll at least be less pissed off.

I’m not sure about this stage. Apparently it’s about trying to regain control, but all I feel is helpless. There is a part of me that will sit here and say, I could have been there for Roxy more and helped her through her depression, and then maybe she wouldn’t have needed the medication, but that’s absurd. I know how depression works, and it’s not simply a matter of cheering up. I remember in high school, she would start to feel better and then stop taking her meds, and the dark feelings would come back, and I would say, “It’s not just a mood. It’s your brain chemistry, and you have to treat it like a medical problem.”

But do I wish I could go back in time and stop all of this from happening? Of course. I keep having the fantasy of calling her a week ago and saying I had a premonition and she needs to see a doctor immediately. They would find out what was wrong, and treat her accordingly, and even though she’d still need to find a new regimen to deal with her depression, she would be alive. These are pointless thoughts, and I resent even having them. There’s nothing any of us could have done, realistically. But what if, what if, what if.

I’ve been medicated for years, so I’d almost forgotten how bad I could feel. Since getting on Prozac, I’ve found that in those dark moments, I’ll experience a sharp pang of sadness and then feel it subside. I’ll exhale and wonder if I’m numbing myself too much, but I’ll be grateful to feel OK.

Only know it’s not subsiding. I feel fine when I’m distracted enough to forget, and then it all comes rushing back and I’m crying again. I’m afraid to leave the house, not that I want to, so I just sit here and watch bad TV and eat junk food under a blanket. I know it’s important to feel, but I’d forgotten how wretched these lows are. And while I believe that I’ll be normal again, eventually, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to hear “Cavanaugh Park” without crying or see a photo of us without burying my face in my hands and trying to shut the world away. I’m told this is just how things are from now on.

I’ll let you know.

4 Responses to “The five stages of grief”

  1. green November 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    Yes. You will some day be able to hear of things that remind you of her without crying. The gut-wrenching pain WILL subside and you will smile and laugh again, and will get happy thinking of her. That’s how surviving people you love works.

    I will tell you what helped me most when someone I loved died way too soon: People die twice. Once when their body stops working, but again, a second time, when everyone forgets them. We can’t control the first but we can control the second.

  2. ludovicah November 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Please dont blame yourself…I wrestle with this same stuff every day (and chose to go down the unmedicated route, which today feels like a bad decision for reasons, but this isnt about me), it’s about Roxy and how she probably just got tired of it all and thought Fuck It. Even if you had been there for her 24/7 it is possible it wouldnt have made any difference, because this stuff happens largely independent of outside stimuli. It’s neither brave, nor cowardly, it just IS. It is horribly tough on you and all those left behind, but try to forgive her this choice she made. Depression has such a powerful voice. It drowns out reason and logic and breeds paranoia and hurt. It lies. It always lies, and knowing that is how I am still here myself, but it is hard to focus on the sweet small signs that one is loved, needed, wanted, in the massive and brutal tide of an uncaring world. Sometimes, it just gets all too big and exhausting. Carry on loving her, and try to love yourself more too, we all need to do more of that. I am so sorry ♥

    • Louis Peitzman November 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words. Just feel that I should clarify — Roxy didn’t take her own life. She likely died from complications from her medication. You can read more about it here:

      • ludovicah November 26, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

        Thank you for the clarification, sorry I inferred more than you meant to say. Having read that post, I am struck by how upbeat and ok she was feeling that day and I am glad for it, and at the same time even more heart sick that this wasn’t what she was wanting at all. This is a truly terrible thing that has happened, and I hope something can be learned by the doctors from such a bitter waste.

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