I recently read a book for school called "The boy who was raised as a dog." by Bruce Perry (my hero). He is a child psychiatrist who specializes in children's trauma and works on high profile cases. One thing that he mentions multiple times in the book is that the worst part of trauma is the feeling of loss of control. The only way to restore a normal stress response to events after a trauma is to restore that feeling of control. You'd rather know what is going to happen (be that awful or not) than not know. Oftentimes children of abuse will prefer to be in homes with their abuser than without them because they don't like the unknown. They have never experienced anything else. Children of sexual abuse oftentimes will initiate the sexual activity and then drift off into dissositive thoughts during the abuse so as to safeguard their control over the situation. It's better to know misery is coming than to be miserable not knowing if its coming.
During my research this past semester on Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in NICU parents the same principle was applied. They found in several studies that parents that were involved in their babies care fared much better than parents that didn't. It's that loss of control over basic human desires. Being a mom. And when something that drastic is taken from a woman disaster strikes. To the soul.
No matter what it is, most of us have traveled round and round the circle. I know for me I have moved through these stages many times just in the past year or two. First with my micropreemie then onto infertility. Within a matter of days I may be on one stage and then revert right back to a previous stage. It's a very confusing process for many around me (sometimes even me) and I have lost friends during some of these stages of grief. But it's my life and the strongest of friendships will prevail through it. And I'm ok with that.
These are some of the things I have said to myself or on this very blog in each stage. Some of these mostly talk about death but I think its interchangable with any kind of traumatic event(s).
Denial. "This can't be happening, not to me."; "I don't have true infertility since I've already had a child."
- Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, reality, etc., relating to the situation concerned. It's a defence mechanism and perfectly natural. Some people can become locked in this stage when dealing with a traumatic change that can be ignored.
Anger. "Why me? After all I've been through. It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; '"Who is to blame?"
- Anger can manifest in different ways. People dealing with emotional upset can be angry with themselves, and/or with others, especially those close to them. Knowing this helps keep detached and non-judgemental when experiencing the anger of someone who is very upset.
- Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing death can involve attempting to bargain with whatever God the person believes in. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example "Can we still be friends?.." when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it's a matter of life or death.
- During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
Acceptance. "It's going to be okay."; "There's nothing I can do to change it so why stay bitter?"; "It will happen eventually."
- In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event.
Not everyone even that has gone through infertility, loss of a loved one, or a preemie may experience these stages. Some are strong enough to be in acceptance for most of the time...oh gosh how I wish I could be that strong. Some will deny it until those two lines appear or until their baby comes home. But I can guarantee that I have felt each stage and most do. Some days its easy to accept and other days I just refuse to accept this. Either way I will be real about those feelings be that good, bad or ugly. And I refuse to apologize for that.