There Are So Many More Than Five Stages of Grief (And They Are Anything But Linear)

The titualar thought occurred to me as I was running through a list of upbeat music videos on YouTube, which made me consider that for me, at least, one of the unpredictable, alinear stages of grief is the Anthemic Stage – where I have nothing left to lose, but no desire to cease to be, and suddenly I get hit by the cheerful “Why the fuck not?” ness of the songs, and something in me shifts.

A stage that, when it holds, tends to lead to a lot more directed actions than I am capable when I am in the Frozen Stage (like the freeze of freeze-flop-friend-flee-fight response too often misleadingly abbreviated as fight-of-flight – like freeze isn’t the most common survival response, and like fight is any living creature’s first choice – not like the “Let It Goooooooooo” Frozen, though I will grant that is in itself a legit af anthem, if you enjoy that style of song). A stage that tends not to last too long, as that kind of engagement tends to yield new, valued entanglements, and having things to lose tends to shift the internal mood again.

My Anthemic Stage of grief isn’t mindless (it didn’t stop me veering over to reaffirm that the Five Stages of Grief creator herself, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, has acknowledged at least some of the flaws in its perception, like the idea grief is predictably linear – https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/supersurvivors/201707/why-the-five-stages-grief-are-wrong – nor reading some of the criticism of Taylor Swift’s tendency toward cultural appropriation), but rather, I would argue, realistic. Because while I absolutely am uncomfortable with some of the choices made in the execution of the visual content of, say, “Shake It Off,” it lyrics still speak a truth (one I wonder if came from one of the industry’s notorious creepy-old-man songwriters) – that there is no safe path.

No matter what you do, there are people who will hurt you, people who will hate you, people who will do their level best to trash you…and so, besides reading assorted psychology and pop culture critcisms, what are you going to do? Are you going to shrink and do your best to disappear and hope that you will get hurt a little less? Or are you going to acknowledge that you can do nothing, say nothing, accomplish nothing – and live a miserable life, and still possibly meet a tragic end. Will I give myself what I have given to other people, people I have loved – the knowledge that what matters is not the end, what matters is what we do while we are still alive, and able to do anything at all? Are we going to be eaten alive by the shit other people do and say, or are we going to focus, instead, on finding our own happiness, and trying to live by what we know to be right?

I don’t know whether I will remain held by the Anthemic Stage of my griefs, but even if I am not, I know that I need only live long enough to reach it again and hang on. And it is worth reminding myself of, while the thought occurs to me. Because I have been on this ride before, and while I do not enjoy many aspects of it, there is the possibility on the horizon of halting the freefall, and flinging myself joyfully in the direction, to borrow a phrase from Thoreau, of my dreams. And that moment – that moment is every upbeat song ever, minus all the sketchiness in and around the music business. Letting go can feel so hard to do – until you remember that it is holding on that requires energy. Letting go is just that – loosening your grip, and not tightening it again.

I am not in a mood for long, contemplative, or even well-edited writing at the moment, but I will add the latter reminded me of the opening allegory in Richard Bach’s Illusions, which is a short, worthwhile read, if you want to get into some Hippie 101 philosophy.