Title: CASKETS FROM COSTCO
Author: Kelly Wilson
Author: Kelly Wilson
For twenty years, I thought that I had been marching through the stages of grief in a straight line. I had been following the formula, crossing each processed grief experience off my list.
Except that I was totally deluded. And I didn’t discover that until Jim, my beloved father-in-law, died. I found myself drying off from my shower the morning after his death, really hoping he couldn’t see me naked. Or, if he could, that he was averting his eyes.
From that moment, my path through grief resembled a roller coaster, spiraling and twisting and turning, circling back around. Echoes of past trauma, including childhood abuse and cheating death, would no longer be ignored. I somehow needed to get from the beginning to the end of this grief adventure, and I don't have a good sense of direction.
But what is always present during a journey through grief, regardless of the path chosen?
Caskets From Costco is a funny book about grief that demonstrates the certainty of hope and healing in an uncertain and painful world.
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I get lost using a GPS.
Don’t get me wrong, I use a GPS when I’m trying to find my way, but it’s more of a security blanket than anything else. It doesn’t necessarily offer the security of correct directions, but the GPS fits snugly into my palm as I carry it around, just in case.
Why carry a GPS if it’s so useless? Because I have no sense of direction. I understand the compass rose in theory, but my navigational skills consist of, “Head down that one road that goes by the Beaver’s Inn and turn left and then right at the crooked tree. What do you mean, is that north or south? I don’t know, it’s left, just do it.”
I get lost. A lot.
So I carry around the GPS and occasionally feel the need to turn it on and consult a map. But I have found through my many years of getting lost that even though there’s a map in front of me, this doesn’t guarantee that I will get from Point A to Point B without detours or diversions.
Kind of like the grief process.
When I was in college, I learned that there were five stages in order to appropriately process grief. They are locked in my memory as the acronym “DABDA,” which stands for Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, terms coined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
I bought into this concept with my whole being, interpreting the process as set-in-stone directions for grieving – a Grief Positioning System, if you will. I was going to navigate quickly and efficiently through my past trauma, happily leaving it behind me. There was nothing I wanted to do more than “Get Over IT,” whatever IT happened to be.
I wrote out my list of difficult experiences from which I wanted to be free, greatly anticipating the person I would become once my checklist of grief was completed.
That was over twenty years ago. Currently, none of the items are crossed off.
I had missed a fundamental principle: While there may be a Grief Positioning System with directions for navigation, there are often several ways to get from Point A to Point B.
For awhile, I was angry with the stages of grief theory and claimed it was fundamentally flawed as a Grief Positioning System, blaming it and Kubler-Ross for leading me astray. As usual, though, my misunderstanding of her work was the result of what we call in the technological world “Operator Error,” like when the printer isn’t printing and I think something is wrong with it, but it’s actually because I didn’t turn the blasted thing on.
Upon further reflection on the work of Kubler-Ross (after reading it again), I have decided that I may have been a little zealous about this set-in-stone linear map regarding the stages of grief.
But this led to the liberating realization that while stages of grief provide some helpful direction, a Grief Positioning System is not required to navigate this particular kind of journey.
This is my messy, circular, spiraling-up-and-down grief journey navigated with large doses of humor.
And without a map.