Several years ago I survived a devastating divorce. With the help of therapy and a support group I came through some pretty heavy depression. Now, I’m happy to have a new mate in my life and we’re talking about getting married. Here’s what’s weird: suddenly I find myself crying about my old divorce again from time to time. Is this normal?
Some might remember Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote On Death and Dying. The work was good in that it helped to break our taboo about talking about death, and it also helped to normalize and explain grief. She was the first to talk about grief coming in stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some talked about additional stages such as shock and testing, but the common belief back then was that we were supposed to go through each stage in turn. You finish up one, then move to the next.
It was a lie. The fact of the matter is, everyone grieves differently. The idea of stages is a nice one in general, but we don’t all have to hit all stages, and we certainly don’t hit one at a time, nor fully complete each one, never to look back. It’s much messier. No one has to take my word on this. Just look to your own experience or ask someone who has had a catastrophic loss. Many years afterwards, when you think the bereavement is settled, you can be startled by a new wave of depression, anger or whatnot. The best way to make it all worse might be to assume what’s happening is abnormal, since you aren’t following the “rules”. It would be pretty reasonable to assume these aftershocks are likely to come at a time of transition when our new handholds on normalcy get rattled.