Lesson 4:

The Roller Coaster Ride

Grief has many stages. In the last lesson, we discussed the various stages of grief and how they progress in a “V” shape. We all do not go through all the stages. We do not go through the stages at the same rate. We do not go through the stages in the exact same order.  And, we do not go through the stages in a linear fashion from bad to good without ever backsliding.  Unlike other diagrams of the grief process, I like to think of the process as a roller coaster ride.

First we have the death of our child. That’s getting on the roller coaster ride. Then, the uphill climb to the biggest drop is slow and doesn’t seem real. We are in shock and denying that this is really happening to us.

Next, the first and biggest plunge. This is when the bottom drops out of our world.  This is when we realize that our loss is real. It really did happen!  It feels very much like the drop from a 7-story roller coaster.  And, much like the V-shape given in the last lesson, this first drop is the worst and we process through all the bad stages fast and plummet to the basement.  We get to the lowest stage of depression and we feel intense mind-numbing sadness, sorrow and pain. I believe we all allow the thought of  “I just want to die with my baby” cross our minds.  However, we do not get stuck there and the thought passes. We do find ourselves in a very dark heavy place though. Then we begin the next climb. We work hard to move through some of the stages on the positive side of the “V.”

Our ride does not stop there though. We continue through various other ups and downs just like on a roller coaster.  The plunges are never as deep as the first drop, but we do have other lows. We’ll feel like we are climbing up the positive side slowly only to drop down the next plunge on the roller coaster. Something triggers that plunge, and we fall but we don’t fall as long or as hard. The climbs up the positive side get easier, and we get farther along.  Just know that we do have times when we drop down another hill. This may continue for a year or more until a new normal has been established.

Eventually, the ups and downs even out and we come to the end of our ride. We are not the same person who started the ride. We have a new knowledge of life and living. We may have developed a new outlook, a new compassion for others, or a new direction for our life. We will never forget our baby, but we will find a way to heal and move forward. We will recognize that our lives will never be the same, but we can start living our “new normal” life.

At the beginning of our grief, this new life does not seem possible.  We feel that we will never reach the end of the ride. But, step-by-step, hill-by-hill, we slowly heal and make our way toward the end of the ride when the car comes into the station and we can get off and start a new life worth living.

Where are you on the roller coaster?