What Five Stages of Grief?

I think I’ve skipped straight to angry acceptance.

Tue, 11 May 2021

As I mentioned before, my father is dying.

I had spent this past Sunday taking my mother to the hospital to see him. I barely got to speak to my father; my mother did most of the talking. It’s hard not to begrudge her, but she’s his wife and was part of his life years before my birth. Afterward, my wife and I spent listening to my mother fall apart while we tried to help her get a handle on finances my father previously handled on his own.

And here I am, back at home, trying to give a flying fuck about building a web application for clients who don’t know who I am or give a fuck about me because if I lose my job my wife and I are fucked. I’ve got people relying on me, but I can’t rely on anybody. I’m a man, and I don’t get to fall apart.

So I’m in part-time mourning. While I had always suspected that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s “five stages of grief” model was bullshit, now I know for sure.

There’s nothing to deny.

I’m angry, not because my my father is dying, but because of the way he’s going about it—even though it’s mostly NOT his fault. Nobody deserves to go through what he’s going through.

I’m not bargaining, because with whom would I bargain? I might talk big about God needing a guardian angel when I face him, but I don’t actually believe in God. At least, not the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. That god is too small for reality as I understand it, where our sun is an unremarkable star on the fringe of an unremarkable galaxy in a universe that’s billions of years old and so immeasurably vast that we cannot yet observe it in its entirety. To a god capable of creating this universe, the very existence of humanity is probably an unintended consequence, and the price we pay for getting to live is death—and sometimes a painful, lingering, miserable one at that.

Yeah, I’m depressed. I had been estranged from my parents for months because I had the effrontery to get angry with my mother after she lied to me and tried to manipulate me, and they were happy to leave me alone until my father was dying and suddenly he needed me to be there for my mother. And, like a schmuck, I fell for it and let them back into my life and gave them another chance to hurt me.

Then there’s acceptance, because what other choice is there? I’ve seen my father. He isn’t even 65, but he looks like he’s 85 and spent his retirement in a concentration camp. Even if he recovers from his head injury, even if his cancer goes into remission, he’s never going to be the man he used to be.

And I’m going to be stuck helping my mother pick up the pieces when he dies because who else is there? I’m the closest my mother has to a reliable son. As much as I resent my brother for not being here to help, he’s got a daughter who isn’t even a year old. He’s got his own responsibilities, so if I don’t step up who will?

I hate feeling like this. I knew I’d have to go through it eventually, even if I remained steadfast in my resolve to excise my parents from my life, because I might outlive my wife. The difference is that I chose Catherine and knew what I was getting into. I didn’t choose my parents, and I resent having to deal with my mother’s feelings when I have enough trouble dealing with my own.