The Five Stages of Grief and The Lion King

There are five stages of grief.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

I remember being in middle school health class when I first learned about these stages, only to reiterate them in 10th grade health class by watching “We Are Marshall” and filling in a stupid work book. Grief is what you go through when someone — a friend, a family member, a pet — dies. Grief is worse when the person dies suddenly and unexpectedly. That’s what I learned in health class and wrote down on my assignment sheets.

As I’ve gone through this tumultuous year, I’ve learned first hand how bullshit Missouri public school health classes are.

Everything exploded when my dog died last August. I had spent the whole summer living back at home, taking a community college class, babysitting my sister, and living in denial that my dog Freckles was deteriorating. A week after I returned to school, I got the call from my mom. It was a Wednesday night and I had just returned home from my multimedia class. My mom was crying so hard she couldn’t finish telling me they had to put Freckles down. I hung up on her and texted my friends, asking them to come over for a game night because I couldn’t be alone.

That was the day my depression was realized. I made self-destructive decisions, I drank too much, I did everything I could to keep my friends close to me because I felt like they were drifting away from me. I saw three different therapists, started medications, stopped drinking, went out of my way to try to make new friends.

I’ve spent the last year and a half grieving. Not the loss of my dog, though I haven’t gotten over that, but I’ve been grieving the person I used to be.

I never thought I’d miss high school. And I don’t. Not really, anyway. I do, however, miss the person I used to be and the life I used to have — a solid group of friends who don’t judge me when I mess up, straight A’s in school, nights I’d spend bingeing “America’s Next Top Model” and “Teen Mom” with my mom. I long for the happiness and ease of these years. And I grieve them.

The five stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

If only they had come in that order for me, maybe I would be handling everything better instead of being stuck in the anger phase with denial and bargaining behind me and depression acting as a big umbrella I can’t get out from under. I hate being angry all the time.

I don’t do well with change. I don’t do well with ending friendships and moving on and leaving the past behind me. Sometimes I think I’ve accepted some loses, only to literally hear them through my walls and immediately revert back to stages two or four as I put in my headphones.

Recently, I was watching “The Lion King” with my roommates. I have seen that movie thousands of times since I was a little girl, so many times that I basically have the whole thing memorized. But this time, watching it was different. One scene stood out to me as being incredibly poignant; a scene that I had never really related to that much in previous viewings. It’s the one where Rafiki comes to Simba to help him come to terms with his past.

Rafiki hits Simba with his staff.

Simba: “Ow, geeze, what was that for?”

Rafiki: “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.”

Simba: “Yeah, but it still hurts.”

Rafiki: “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

For the past year and a half, and the past six months especially, I’ve been running. Running from my mistakes and blame and the repercussions and people who are mad at me. And I’m tired of running. I’m tired of bending over backwards in the hopes that other people will like me and forgive me. I’m tired of beating myself up. I’m tired of letting other people judge my self-worth. I’m tired of apologizing to other people for being who I am.

Maybe I’m moving closer to acceptance.