March 3 , 2021 – The Five Stages of Grief

As I sit in a place of acceptance today, I realize that I literally just went through the five stages of grief. In the last 5 days, I have experienced every stage. Denial. Been there. Anger. Done that. Bargaining. Yep. Depression. You better believe it. Acceptance. Uh-huh. You would think a special person or pet in my life just died or I went through a divorce or lost my job or was told by my physician that I had two weeks left to live. Nope, the grief I’m dealing with is not related to any of those things (although I did lose my job a year ago). The source of my grief is due to the ‘loss’ of my therapist. Let me explain. She didn’t die and she isn’t missing, but I have recognized (after a great deal of processing) that I can no longer continue to see her because I have lost confidence in her billing department’s ability to ever get my insurance matters resolved.

Since day one, it has been a continual uphill battle, and I am exhausted. I mentioned yesterday that for every hour I spend in therapy, I spend an additional 3-4 hours playing insurance ‘Stratego’ to see to it that my therapist gets compensated for her time. If I included all of the sleepless nights, it would be far more. Nevertheless, it’s a crappy game and I hate playing it. It seems to go on forever and in the end, there are no winners. I don’t want to play any more. The current ’round’ I’ve been engaged in started on Thursday with a phone call and it’s still not over. However, I am forfeiting because I don’t want to spend one more day in pursuit of something that’s unattainable. I nearly forfeited several rounds ago but I wasn’t quite ready to give up the fight at that time. I wasn’t ready to ‘let go’ and accept the fact that things would never be right, no matter how hard I tried.

I am more than ready now. As Kenny Rogers said many a time throughout his singing career, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” As much as I would love to run as fast and as far as I can possibly go, it hurts my joints too much so I choose instead to walk away. And walking away from something or someone that helped me heal in so many ways isn’t easy. I’ve often said, when the bad outweighs the good, it’s time to move on. That concept applies to all sorts of stuff, including therapists. And it’s time, my friends. This last ’round’ has helped me recognize that. What I find surprising is the gamut of emotions I’ve experienced. I wasn’t even aware I was grieving, despite the fact that I have been crying for no apparent reason and I am not one to cry. Seriously, ask any of my family members.

The majority of the time (99%) I reach for a tissue is in order to blow my nose (and not to dab my eyes or to clean up the rivulets of eye makeup running down my face). I don’t generally cry at weddings or funerals or in situations when most people ‘shed a tear’. I don’t cry when people share their hard luck stories on American Idol or when people get transformed on ‘Queer Eye-More than a Makeover’. So, yes, when I wake up weepy and sad, I tend to take notice. It is drastically different than what I am accustomed to, which is with a belly full of all-consuming anxiety. Where was I going with all of this? Hmm. That’s right, it wasn’t until today, when I was in the middle of painting the trim in the bathroom, that it hit me right between the eyes! I am in the process of grieving!! And how silly it seems to grieve over leaving my trusty, reliable, effective therapist.

It probably would seem silly to most. But if you’re someone that needs therapy (in order to make sense of your life and/or find a way to stop hating yourself) and you’ve been lucky and fortunate enough to find a truly remarkable therapist, that ‘needle in a haystack’, who really helped you make strides in a short amount of time, enough strides that you thought someday you might actually feel ‘normal’ or even ‘cured’ at some point in your life, it doesn’t seem silly at all. For someone with a lifetime of depression and anxiety (that’s me), it’s about as close as I can get to hitting the lottery. Ok, that’s a bit of a reach. My brother giving me his kidney was more like hitting the lottery, so I suppose the next best thing would maybe be winning $100,000 on a scratch ticket? I don’t know. I’m trying to come up with good examples but I am at a loss. I think 5 nights in a row of limited sleep is starting to affect my brain.

Back to ‘grieving’. As I was painting the trim and thinking to myself, “Just accept the situation, pay the balance, and move on,” I noticed a ‘shift’. My shoulders relaxed, I felt a sense of calm, and I stopped caring about ‘the money’. After I thought long and hard about the various rounds of insurance ‘Stratego’ I’ve been playing ever since I started seeing this particular therapist, and all of the stress that has resulted from the continual battles with the insurance provider and the billing department over payment, I asked myself, “What’s the point of ‘staying in the game’ over a matter of $300?” My peace of mind is at stake and it’s worth so much more than that! Sitting on the bathroom floor, while periodically dipping a brush in paint and applying it to the trim, is an odd place to have such a realization, but that’s just where I happened to be when it occurred.

I had heard of the ‘5 stages of grief’ but wasn’t entirely sure what they consisted of (aside from depression). Out of curiosity, I did a Google search and of the choices available, I clicked on the following link: https://www.healthline.com/health/stages-of-grief. It took me to a website that talks all about it. Bingo! It was as if it read my mind. Here are a few of the tidbits off the website. I’ve eliminated quite a bit because I don’t want this to turn into a 2-part topic. 1st Stage = Denial. I remember very clearly thinking to myself, “This cannot be happening!” According to the website, “Grief is an overwhelming emotion. It’s not unusual to respond to the intense and often sudden feelings by pretending the loss or change isn’t happening. Denying it gives you time to more gradually absorb the news and begin to process it. This is a common defense mechanism and helps numb you to the intensity of the situation.”

2nd Stage = Anger. Oh, Honey, I had a lot of that! I was pissed!!! My cheeks flushed crimson several times. “Where denial may be considered a coping mechanism, anger is a masking effect. Anger is hiding many of the emotions and pain that you carry. This anger may be redirected at other people, such as the person who died, your ex, or your old boss. You may even aim your anger at inanimate objects. While your rational brain knows the object of your anger isn’t to blame, your feelings in that moment are too intense to feel that.” 3rd Stage = Bargaining. Yep, I did that, too. I kept thinking to myself, “Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill? What if I were to stay? I am getting some good from all of this. There has got to be a way to make it work somehow.” According to the website, that response more than satisfies their definition of bargaining.

Their words, not mine, “During grief, you may feel vulnerable and helpless. In those moments of intense emotions, it’s not uncommon to look for ways to regain control or to want to feel like you can affect the outcome of an event. In the bargaining stage of grief, you may find yourself creating a lot of “what if” and “if only” statements.” 4th Stage = Depression. No doubt there! I would have been perfectly happy spending the entire day in bed (by myself, thank you very much). “Whereas anger and bargaining can feel very “active,” depression may feel like a “quiet” stage of grief. In the early stages of loss, you may be running from the emotions, trying to stay a step ahead of them. By this point, however, you may be able to embrace and work through them in a more healthful manner. You may also choose to isolate yourself from others in order to fully cope with the loss.”

Last but not least, we have the final stage of this painful process we call ‘grief’. 5th Stage = Acceptance. “Acceptance is not necessarily a happy or uplifting stage of grief. It doesn’t mean you’ve moved past the grief or loss. It does, however, mean that you’ve accepted it and have come to understand what it means in your life now. You may feel very different in this stage. That’s entirely expected. You’ve had a major change in your life, and that upends the way you feel about many things. Look to acceptance as a way to see that there may be more good days than bad, but there may still be bad — and that’s OK.” Yes, I’ve been through all 5 stages and I’m officially ready to ‘move on’. I’ve printed out a new sheet of ‘in network’ mental health specialists and intend to spend the next few days making a lot of calls and asking a lot of questions. Wish me luck! Thanks so much for stopping by. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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