Denial… not ‘de Nile’ as in the river in Egypt… but denial. Denial is one of those stages that can help and hinder at the same time. I’m not saying that’s the case every time, but there are cases where that applies. The denial stage of grief is usually where the person goes numb, they’re in shock, sometimes clinging to false hope, and the list goes on. The thing with denial is that while that can help with the beginning stages of dealing with grief, we can sometimes stay in that stage and that is where things can get a little touchy.
At the beginning of your grief journey, denial is usually the thing that we rely on in order to make it over that initial ‘hump.’ When the shock hits, you don’t know what to think. I don’t remember going through a moment where I thought “this can’t be happening” when dealing with my losses. I do however remember wondering “why my son?” I think that was a key part of the shock factor of the denial phase. The numbness however, was a huge part of the beginning for me with the loss of my son. I almost had to be numb in order to get through everything at the start.
The numbness that so many experience in the beginning… that almost ‘floating’ through your day, maybe even weeks. That is such a tempting feeling to keep, I know this. When you let the numb feeling settle in, you’re able to find ways to handle life. Your day to day activities can be compartmentalized into necessities, wants, and maybe if you have time, feelings.
When you begin to compartmentalize things during that numbness and denial, it can be a rabbit hole that is hard to get back out of. Breaking things down like that, it gets very easy to just focus on the necessities. Wants, feelings, and all those other ‘frivolous’ things all become things you don’t have to worry about. Necessities are things like bills, work, groceries, cooking, hygiene… the standard daily activities of life that you need to maintain your every day standard.
The rest, those things complicate the standard. Looking and thinking of wants brings back the feelings, and feelings can be just too much to handle all at once.
Handling the Denial
Everyone handles grief differently, and that also applies to the different stages. Some stages we’ll visit more than once, and how long a stage lasts varies too. The trick is recognizing the stage we’re in. That doesn’t happen right away, and we also need to realize that we need to work through these things. We need these stages. We are human, with emotions and thoughts, and it is okay to grieve.
Handling denial is one of the ones that can be tricky. Sometimes it is hard to recognize, usually because of the shock. Other times it will be hard to get out of it because we’ve become so numb to certain things. Then there are times where we just need to be there because in order to get through our days, we need that compartmentalization. There is no right way or wrong way to handle denial, as long as we handle it. I’m guilty of letting it go on longer than it should, because that numbness is a definite help at times when feelings are askew. The trick is finding that middle ground of realizing that we need to have this moment for ourselves, but not letting it get to a point that we are doing a disservice to ourselves in the process.
Own the Denial
Just like I said to own the grief as a whole, we need to own each aspect of it. We need to acknowledge it for what it is, and acknowledge that this is part of our journey. None of us ask for the grief, none of us ask for the pain that comes with it all. However, this quote from Queen Elizabeth II makes it clear:
That also means that each stage we go through, is part of that price. This is a very important thing to remember, regardless of where you are at in your journey.
This week, the challenge sounds simple, but requires a lot of inner reflection. How do you handle numbness and denial? Can you recognize it before it reaches a critical point for your well-being? What are some of the things that help you work through those moments?
Remember, you are not alone on this journey, or any journey you take. We’d love to hear from you on this, share with us your anything you’d like to share. Own your journey and we’ll catch you on the flip side.