Monday, December 17, 2012

Five Stages

It is unnerving how precisely psychological grief follows Kubler-Ross’s five stage process. Sure there are people that get stuck in some stage or another, but those who successfully move to acceptance usually go through the previous four stages in their prescribed order. Acceptance itself is not a perfect state, but it does provide the appearance of some temporary balance. Only people who have never experienced a great loss in their lives think that acceptance is the end to healing, but if they live long enough they will have the opportunity to learn otherwise.

Most people are not intimately affected by the Sandy Hook massacre; I’m certainly not. The little kids who were gunned down would likely have lived to adulthood without ever interacting with me. I’d likely never meet their parents, and if I did I would probably never know their kids ever went to Sandy Hook Elementary.

The size of the massacre was not enough to cause a great disturbance in the force either. If the averages played out 80 kids in the US under the age of five died on December 14th; an estimated 19,000 died in Africa.

Yet despite the myriad of reasons to minimize, or even ignore, the Sandy Hook Massacre many people –myself included- are reacting to this as if it was a personal tragedy. This is both unworthy and commendable: unworthy because there are actual people suffering very significant loss, and they are not me; commendable because empathy is rarely misplaced.

So I am ambiguous about finding myself force-marched through the stages of grief, but at least I know what’s coming.

The Kubler-Ross stages of grief are:

   1) Denial and Isolation
   2) Anger
   3) Bargaining
   4) Depression
   5) Acceptance

   1)  I personally would prefer to just go through the grieving process alone. It is unseemly and best handled without anyone else’s input. Besides, as I pointed out earlier, there really is no reason why I should be going through a grieving process for those kids. There is really nothing to grieve about for me. In fact, when I really think about it, this is just the same as any news story, and I’m perfectly OK.

 I’ll just listen to some happy music. Nothing really is wrong. I just want to be alone.

   2)  But how could that a**hole even think about doing something like that. This is what is wrong with society these days. Too many a**holes!

 Just look at the way this is being spun. How can people say things like “We take god out of the schools and the Devil strolls in” or “20 kids get an early Christmas present: they get to meet Jesus.” Somehow my atheism is to blame for this massacre.

Just yesterday someone messaged me with a: “People like you make me so f**king angry when things like this happen.

To which I replied snarkily: “Well that’s a lot better than angry with no f**king involved.

Prety much everyone is an a**hole aren’t they. They don’t want the right kind of gun control, or they balk at effective school security, or they are paying too much attention to the shooter, or whatever; they are just paving the way for something like this to happen again.

   3) But can't something substantive come from this loss.

 It is a fact that the ready availability of his mother’s guns allowed this to take place the way it did. On the other hand the firearms were stolen after the owner was killed, and many of the recommended national gun control measures are less stringent than what is in place in Connecticut.

 Maybe a solution lies in providing better treatment for our mentally ill children. Of course the over-prescription of psychiatric drugs is already a serious epidemic in the US.

   4)To be perfectly honest I have no idea what to do. Maybe these things will just happen. I can’t really protect my kids from the many varieties of violence in my society.

 Eventually we all have to die, and we can only hope that the road getting there is not too rocky.

   5) However, before we die there is work to do. Life goes on, and it is genuinely good to be changed by tragedy. Hopefully even people like me will be a little more comfortable at expressing empathy after an exercise like this.

 There are many meaningful conversations that should lead to substantive change.

If we are still talking after stage 2 we can have those conversations.


sushi said...

I feel somehow like I'm in stages one, two, and four.
Like you, I realize this doesn't impact me in an immediately personal way. But just the circumstances- the idea of deliberately seeking out small children to slaughter, and imagining the horror and pain of all involved.

Then the fact that somehow in the face of this horrible event, a large faction of the country seems to believe their individual rights to arm themselves is more important than even attempting to lessen such tragedies is even more angering and depressing.

Like I think if I hear one more person say "well why don't we ban cars and knives, too?", I really might lose it/

adult onset atheist said...

There are people in my life who were a**holes long before this event, and will be so for the foreseeable future. However, they do tend to shine ever so much brighter when I'm in stage 2.