I never grieved after my stroke. The reason being that for the first few months I was convinced that my life would soon return to normal. People close to me that thought otherwise: my wife, my physical therapist, didn’t voice their doubts during that period. At least not to me. Later, when I realized how stacked against me the odds were of resuming where I had left off before the stroke, I had begun to make such rapid mental and physical recovery that a complete return to normalcy seemed not only possible, but likely. That was before spasticity reared its ugly, cursed head, and because of it, I may yet grieve over the life I once had, and the life I had planned to have after my wife and I retired and our kids were grown.
If I do grieve, I plan on following the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross model of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It seems to be fashionable these days to criticize this theory of grieving, sometimes in the harshest terms. I’ve even seen it called a lie. I have no respect for most of its critics. Here is a truth of my own, arrived at through 63 years of living: the hardest thing in life is to create something; the easiest thing in life is to criticize what someone else has created. Those who call her insight into the grieving process a lie don’t have proper respect for the damage lies do to our society, and they show their ignorance of the way ideas are created, improved, and advanced and how the world can be made better by them.
The Kubler-Ross model passes the common-sense test for me. It is basically how I have responded to tragedies in my life. It’s true, I suppose, that the stages may not always come in the same order, and some people may skip one stage or add another, but it feels to me like it provides an insight into how human beings deal with loss that might otherwise be impossible to be dealt with. And no amount of criticism around the edges can diminish a theory that reveals such a basic truth.