From Depression to Acceptance: My journey through the stages of grief

From Depression to Acceptance: My journey through the stages of grief

The author at age 3 and her father, Jeremia Alder. Photo courtesy of Kylee Johnson

The author at age 3 and her father, Jeremia Alder. Photo courtesy of Kylee Johnson

By Kylee Johnson

Depression. I should have gone over there. Anger. Why did you leave me!? Denial. He’s not really dead; he’s at home making dinner. Bargaining. If I promise to get straight As, can I have my dad back? Acceptance. My dad is gone, but I still can make him proud.

Anyone who has learned about grief knows that there are five stages of grief: Anger, Depression, Denial, Bargaining, and Acceptance. Sometimes, but not all of the time, people learn that anyone can go through these stages in any order, although acceptance usually comes last. Counselors and teachers  also might mention something about how it can last for a few months or up to a few years. The facts that many learn are just scratching the cold, hard surface, though. Grieving is basically going through hell and coming back.

There are many things that they don’t show you that people go through when they’re grieving. There are the easy parts, and they are the rough parts. Ballet Dancer Robert La Fosse was right when he said, “Death is harder on those who are left behind.”

Please keep in mind that grief is different for every single person. This is my experience through grief. My dad died in a very sudden and unexpected way last summer.

Denial. My dad isn’t dead; he’s at home making dinner.

The first few moments of when I found out that my dad was gone, I didn’t believe it. Who would? The denial still comes and goes but not as bad as it was the very first day. Some days I forget he’s gone, and I think about what he’s going to be making for dinner. There are some days I reach for the phone and try to call him to find out when we get to come over. It usually doesn’t last too long, but it’s there. Denial is a nightmare, to put it kindly. When you’re in denial and then reality hits you, it’s that feeling when you can literally feel your heart drop, and it feels like you can’t breathe. And honestly, in that moment all you want to do is scream or cry. Sometimes it’s like hearing that he’s dead for the first time. Other times, you feel like the biggest idiot alive to think that way.

Depression. I should have gone over there.

The depression was one of the most difficult processes for me. I was constantly struggling with my thoughts and the guilt. To be completely honest, I still struggle with it. Guilt can really eat someone up inside, especially when there is nothing one can do to fix it. There are no second chances. Everyone tells you that it wasn’t your fault and blah, blah, blah. It still changes you, and it brings you down. It’s your thoughts, and they aren’t you. Thoughts have a way of bringing you down. However, this does get easier. You can control your thoughts. You can make them bring you down or pull you back up. The choice is yours.

I still have to find the motivation to pull myself out of bed every morning and go to school, to go to work. I have to push myself, and some days it’s incredibly hard. Some days I don’t get out of bed. Those days are mostly me realizing how much I miss him, how much I need him around, how much I wish he was going to be at my graduation.

Anger. Why did you leave me!?

This is probably the stage I get stuck in most of the time. I fight with everyone. I can’t get along with anyone in my family for the life of me. It’s horrible, but it’s so hard. The pain I feel inside isn’t anything anyone can measure, it isn’t easy at all, and quite frankly it’s hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through.

Bargaining. If I promise to get straight As, can I have my dad back?

At the funeral, I was sitting there and then I realized that I couldn’t let them bury my dad. I couldn’t let them put him into the ground and have him gone for rest of his life. I prayed and prayed, promising that I would be better, that I’d get my act together, I’d do literally anything if I could just have my dad back into my life; our lives.

Acceptance. My dad is gone, but I still can make him proud.

This stage is the most beautiful one. For so long, I was focused on the bad, that he was gone and I wasn’t going to see him. Recently, I’ve been more interested in doing all the things that would have made him happy. The other day, I was driving home and this song came on that reminded me of him. Instead of changing the station or crying, I turned up the volume and sang it at the top of my lungs like we used to do. And it felt as if he was with me at the moment. And it was okay that he wasn’t with me physically. It’s the little things like that you have to focus on, but it didn’t hit me until I started to accept it.

Grieving is hard on everyone. My family isn’t what it used to be, at all. There is a lot of damage and a lot of rubbish to sort through, but I know that once we all hit that final stage we will be closer. I know there will never be a day that we don’t think of my dad, that we don’t miss him or wish he was here, but I do know how much we love each other. And with that in mind, I know that, together, we can get through anything, no matter how hard it might be now, we will conquer it.

If you are going through this, talk to a trusted adult about your feelings. Grieving is completely normal, but not talking about it will make it worse. A great place to go is Mourning Hope. Their website is http://www.mourninghope.org/ or you could give them a call them at (402) 488-8989.

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6 Comments

  • Shelley Swartz
    February 24, 2015, 10:49 am

    Kylee,
    What a beautifully written article. I am so proud of you for writing this and feel so encouraged by your words as well as admire you for the courage it took to share your personal thoughts and experiences. You are shedding much needed light on a very hard circumstance for so many. Well done.

    REPLY
  • Susan Avery
    February 24, 2015, 12:45 pm

    Your statements–“Grieving is hard on everyone. My family isn’t what it used to be”–very true whenever a close family member dies. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    REPLY
  • Precious Loving
    February 24, 2015, 12:53 pm

    Thank you for writing such a honest and well-thought out piece! I admire your courage to visibly share your own emotional process of grieving! Please keep up the good work!

    REPLY
  • Susan Hertzler
    February 26, 2015, 10:29 am

    Dearest Kylee,

    First of all, I really miss seeing all of my Advisory students every week because I got to meet so many wonderful students that I would’ve never had in any of my classes. 🙂

    You have so eloquently put into words your thoughts and feelings. My heart aches for you and your family. You’ve had many things to overcome in your life and this is just one more opportunity to have a life lesson that will continue to mold you into the wonderful person that you are becoming.

    Can’t wait to see you on graduation day!

    Mrs. H.

    REPLY
  • Virginia Saporta
    March 3, 2015, 2:29 pm

    God bless you, Kylee. Your dad would be proud of you!

    REPLY

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