Friday, July 15, 2011
The Pinball Machine of Grief
I've been reading up on grief lately. I knew there were five stages, and had always thought that you passed through them sequentially, like a train moving from station to station in a linear fashion. All aboard! Now leaving Anger, next stop: Bargaining. (I'd like a ticket on the express train to Acceptance, please?)
Turns out it's not that simple. Grief isn't like a train, it's more like a pinball machine. You bounce around from one stage to another with very little control over the situation. Sure, you can take your best shot and aim for the targets of stoicism and equanimity, but more often than not you end up getting thrown all over the place, knocked back and forth between rage, despair and denial. You can slam those flippers and nudge the table all you want, that little silver ball has a mind of its own and you're just along for the ride. And grief lasts a lot longer than you expect it to: just when you think your time is up and the game is over and you can walk away from the machine, you score a replay and start all over again.
(Does the fact that I just compared my grief to a pinball game reveal that my infertility issues may be age-related? )
Also, I had always thought that grief's bargaining stage was just about trying to make a deal with God, which never made much sense to me. What, do people really try to negotiate having their loved ones brought back to life? That sort of thing only happens in stories and never ends well. Have they never read The Monkey's Paw?
But no. Bargaining also includes all the what-ifs and if-onlys, the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" thoughts, and the accompanying guilt. Oh, I know all about that. If only I had insisted on having those blood tests done a year ago. What if I hadn't stopped taking progesterone when I did, would the baby still be alive? My body is defective and this is all my fault. Right now my pinball is mostly bouncing off the bumpers of hindsight, guilt, fury and blame, and every so often it slinghots straight down the middle, into the pit of depression and hopelessness.
Oh, and I coulda, woulda, shoulda been exactly 12 weeks pregnant today.