I learned Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief in nursing school. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. After all, it would be on the test. But as an eighteen-year-old kid with a blessed life, I had just learned the facts. I had little experience with loss and grief and I certainly didn’t understand that other life events can produce a loss as devastating as death. Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve had many life experiences which has caused me to understand these facts.
When Katrena was three and a half years old, her baby sister Sophia died in her sleep. Although Sophia was only three weeks old, Katrena had already developed a strong bond with her. She hovered around her all day, wanting to share her toys and sing to her. Katrena, like the rest of us, was devastated by Sophia’s death. She was angry with the police and paramedics for taking away her sister and wanted them to bring her back. We explained that Sophia was in heaven but her inability to understand such a concept was apparent one day when she was disciplined for bad behavior.
“That’s it. I’m going to heaven and live with my sister” she decreed. Although we told her that was not something she was allowed to repeat, we understood she was grieving and was looking for a way to cope with her loss.
Now she has sustained another loss. One whose magnitude we were not so quick to recognize. When our grandchildren came to live with us last May, the decision was not made by Katrena. It didn’t seem to affect Isaac, as he had already spent so much time with us, but Katrena lost her seven year “norm” in one day.
Bill and I struggled as well. At first our thoughts and efforts were spent on the logistics of caring for the children. We were concerned about their physical needs and wanted to make them feel loved, wanted and safe. It was difficult to explain to Katrena why she was unable to live with her parents without sharing too much information. At seven, she felt she needed go back home and try to fix their marriage and emotional problems.
As days grew into months, Bill and I realized how much life was going to change for us as well. We had lost our dream of traveling as a couple, being able to sit and have a quiet, uninterrupted conversation, and enjoy the freedoms that comes with having no kids and no pets at home. One day as we stood in the kitchen whispering what we missed of our former life, Katrena came into the room and wrapped her arms around my waist.
“I miss my life,” she sobbed. “I miss my family, my mommy and my daddy. I miss my home and my swing set. I miss my friends from church and my friends from school and the girls across the street. I’ll never sleep in my room again and in my bed.”
We cried with her and felt the first stage of grief return- anger.
We all continue to work through the stages of grief over what we’ve lost. It impacts each one of us differently so we’re all at different stages in the process. It concerns our family and friends at times when they can tell we have not totally reached the acceptance phase.
Katrena still hopes a miracle will happen. It may.
Bill and I worry our minds and/or bodies will give out before the children reach adulthood. They may.
But beneath it all is a firm belief that God is in control. He knows the situation. He knows our hearts. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is with us.
That is our level of acceptance for now.
It is enough.
My prayer: I thank you God for being my constant in this ever-changing world. I take comfort that nothing happens without your permission. Help me stay faithful to this task.