Do you remember the movie “The Princess Bride”? As I approach the nine-month mark since my Great Loss, I have been seeing images of this movie in my mind. For me, deep grief feels a lot like losing one’s bones. Like suddenly my skeletal system has evaporated and I am all softness—a crumpled pile of tissue and muscles and hair on the ground.
Remember the scene where Westley is captured by Prince Humperdinck and he is taken to that place underground where that weird bald man is torturing him? And one day the princess tells Prince Humperdinck that Westley will come for her and the prince is so angry that he turns the knob allllll the way up on the torture device? Westley’s screams could be heard everywhere. His whole body writhed in agony. I think this is the true “first stage” of the grieving process. The torture. The screaming.
Do you remember what happens next? Westley is found by his friends and hauled off to a healer. He is declared “mostly dead.” He is given medicine but remains limp, lifeless, and unconscious. This is the second stage of grief. The stage where one is cared for by one’s friends but looks dead. Feels dead.
And after that? Westley slows starts to regain consciousness but remains feeble, weak, vulnerable, and mostly incapacitated. His friends still carry him around. He is pushed in a wheelbarrow. Hoisted up a mountain. Slung over a shoulder. Westley is still a crumpled pile of tissue and muscles and hair on the ground. This is the third stage of grief. The stage I’m in now.
Here’s the thing about being sans bones—true, you have no structure. No protection. No mobility. But you also have no hard edges. No resistance. No fight. In the past several months of therapy, I’ve made more “break throughs” than I have in all of the years of therapy in my past combined. Patterns and beliefs that have plagued me for decades are removed as easily as pulling out a big splinter with tweezers. It’s easy to remove the unwanted from the floating pool of tissue that is me. Burdened by an untrue thought that has shaped all of my relationships? I’ll just reach right into my brain and pull it out in one fell swoop. No pesky skull bones to get in the way.
It’s hard, though, to appreciate the radical shifts in thinking and ways of being because you are being dragged through life. Your head gets smacked on every doorway as you’re pulled through. Your toes get bloodied as they are pulled along the ground on lifeless feet. This degree of surrender, this stage of grief, hurts, and not just figuratively.
I don’t know what’s next in my grief journey, but I sincerely hope it involves me jumping out of a window and riding away somewhere on horseback. 😉
If you are somewhere in the grief process, I’d love for you to join me for my grief series starting in January. Please see my “Workshops” page for details.