ANGER –- When the individual recognizes that denial
cannot continue, they become frustrated. “Why me? It’s
not fair!” “How can this happen to me?” “Who is to
blame?” “Why would this happen?” This is the language
of this stage.
That was me. Every negative unhealthy behavior was
mine as I whined and played the blame game. I couldn’t
fit back into my old life, even as my body became
significantly more “normal.” I just couldn’t fit. I tried,
but I was different and I couldn’t handle it, so I raged.
Stroke is different, I believe. Stroke is a brain attack. My
brain changed. And that is key.
The broken arm heals and returns to use. But a break
in your brain, that change is deep and goes beyond
physical to emotional and spiritual. I thought I was
a standalone pillar, but come to find out I’m really a
three-legged stool supported physically, emotionally and
spiritually. Stroke took all three out from under me. I
got up fighting, because that’s what I do, and the body
healed. I did what I knew. But I couldn’t heal what I
didn’t understand. That made me angrier. The fight
never ended. All I had left was to bargain for peace.
BARGAINING -– In the third stage, the individual hopes to
avoid a cause of grief and negotiates, or seeks compromise.
I really tried to “fake it and act as if” I were the old Rachel
in the hope of returning to “normal.” I bargained with a
God I hated: to remove the slurred speech, stop the spasms,
bring back feeling and take away my
fear. Stroke was a personal attack from
a God I didn’t believe in. Stroke is not
personal. I know that now. But then I
hoped, maybe we could all forget about
this stroke business, and life could go
back to normal.
I tried to “act as if” I wasn’t
terrified every waking second that I’d
have another stroke. I tried to “act
as if” my contorted face and slurred
speech weren’t really humiliating. I
tried to “act as if” I had a clue who I
was and was okay with facing my own
mortality head on. I mean, after all I
was alive and doing great. Right?
Wrong. I was forever changed. Life is
constant change, and I have to be able to
meet change with grace and acceptance
or I have no peace. The only power I
have is over my responses. I can choose
to respond to what happens to me in a
positive, loving way, or react with negativity, self-loathing
and rage. Knowing that is a huge blessing. But back then,
after anger and bargaining failed to make me normal, I
moved into a crippling depression.
DEPRESSION — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”
“The big stroke is coming, so what’s the point?” “I miss
my old life, why go on?” Facing their own mortality, the
individual despairs and then retreats and isolates.
That’s where I lived. I stopped praying for a normal
body and mind. I prayed that I wouldn’t wake up.
Since I couldn’t feel normal, why couldn’t I just die?
That was my unspoken mantra. God forbid I open my
mouth and tell people I felt that way. Not me. I was
utterly unteachable. The irony of that statement for this
now 21-year veteran teacher is not lost on me. I lived
wanting to die for a long time. But I didn’t die. I had
nowhere to go but up. And that “up” was acceptance.
ACCEPTANCE — “It’s going to be okay.” “I can’t fight
it; I can prepare for it.” In this stage, the individual makes
peace with their mortality, the unknown future, their
loss and the tragedy, and becomes calm and emotionally
stable. Kubler-Ross expanded her model to include events
other than death such as the onset of a disease or chronic
illness. That’s me. That’s stroke. That helps.
Identifying with the stages of grief means that I can
learn to live a joyful life with my stroke, accepting
Rachel with son Jason and husband Tim