Have you ever grieved?

You probably think you have, but it's more likely you just mourned. Mourning is the expression of sorrow, the expression of grief...but it's not the same thing as to actually grieve. Don't worry, though. I'll teach you how to grieve. I'll teach you the meaning of grief. Did you know that there are five stages of grief?

First there's denial. When the girl I loved was hit by a car, I refused to believe it. I'd go to the places we used to meet, and it actually felt like a surprise when she wasn't there. I genuinely believed she was just going to wake up. There would come a day when I'd just bump into her around town, and she'd brag to me about the amazing people she met in heaven. We'd laugh about it and get back together.

Anger comes next. I know that hospital lied. They lied to her parents when they said she couldn't be saved. They lied and marked her down as D.O.A., even as she was languishing in the Intensive Care Unit. Her mother just ate up their lies. She didn't care about her daughter. They barely even treated each-other like family. Of course...I knew that it was all the hospital's fault. They just wanted to harvest some some undamaged organs, and it made my blood boil.

By the way, did I mention that it doesn't take someone dying to grieve? Grief isn't about death. It's about loss. You have to lose something, something important to you, before you can grieve. It's something that's taken from you.

In any case, the next step is bargaining. When I heard the girl I was in a long-distance relationship with had committed suicide, I was prepared to pay any price. I would have given my own life to be with her again. Through the dark streets of a sleeping city, I wandered looking for something that could make the nightmare go away. When I was invited into a church full of tearful men, I prayed, as hard as I have ever prayed. My prayers were all looking for a deal. For her to be given back to me. To know why it had to be the way it was.

After bargaining comes depression. You never know what matters to you until it's gone. Like a battered and tattered old teddy bear. A much loved childhood toy that had been there since the day it was given to me, his stuffing fluffed up with old drier sheets when he began to look thin. When I came home from High School to find the dogs had torn him apart, it felt every bit like having an old friend die. My life felt empty and meaningless without that bear. How could I go on without my old friend, my companion who'd been with me for years?

The last stage is acceptance. It's the one people often mistake for getting over your loss. You never get over your loss. What's gone is gone. So, you accept it. When my grandmother was wasting away in a nursing home, Alzheimer's Disease eating at her brain, I knew there was nothing I could do. I couldn't make her the strong, confident woman she had been in my childhood again. The church she had ministered to turned it's back on her, and I couldn't make them see how important and worth saving she was. When my uncle went to see her one last time before the end, I knew he'd be too late...and I was right. I just accepted it all.

To grieve is to lose something. Whether you know it or not, it's always accompanied by loss. Your loss. The catalyst doesn't matter. Grieving means sacrificing a piece of yourself, to something or someone else.

After my love was hit by the car, I stopped going out with friends.

The girl in Britain faked the whole thing, and I never trusted again.

When my teddy bear was mauled, I stopped caring what others thought of me.

My grandmother's death marked the last time I ever went to church.

So many things to miss in this many pieces of yourself to lose. I've gotten very good at grieving. I can even teach others to grieve. Each piece is an invaluable part of yourself. They aren't irreplaceable, though. When someone loses a piece of who they are, it has to go somewhere. Just maybe, if you're the one that shows them how to grieve, they give it to you. That's why the world has monsters like me in it. We'll teach you how to, I'll teach you how to grieve. I'll teach the whole damn world to grieve.

...and then, I'll be the only one who's whole...

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