My Grieving Stones by Deneen Azzolino

Part II of the Stepping Stones Project

See Part I here.

To start, I’m not an expert in grieving. This is my personal journey and how I handled the grief in my life.

You will read there are 7 stages of grieving: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance and Processing that grief. 

Everyone grieves differently. When my son passed away at the age of 29. I noticed it all around me. Each member of my family and anyone close to me, all handled the grieving process differently. 

Some go through them faster than others, some even skip stages and others don’t go in any order. In my opinion, each person handles grief the way they need to just to get by the tragic event. 

When Matthew died, I remember walking out of his hospital room after seeing them try to bring him back after he coded, I remember being in almost a dream state. I guess, you can call it shock. It felt very surreal. Like I was watching a movie, a bad horror movie at that. I remember seeing my family that was there and just crumpling to the ground crying wondering how could this be happening to me and my family? When you look at all the stages of grief, I think I stayed in the shock and denial stage for the longest time. I think as a parent you have so much going on at the time that you don’t have time to be angry. Again it depends on you and your personal path. I’m sure me being a mother that lost her child to cancer has a different journey than a mother who lost her child to a murder or suicide, an accident or even a person that lost a spouse or a family that lost a sibling. They all have a completely different path in grieving than I have.  It’s your stepping stone.

It took me awhile to get to the angry stage. I think after the funeral and after I had time to comprehend what had happened, I did get angry, very angry. My anger was with God.

I got pregnant with Matthew at the age of 16, I had him at 17 and for a brief moment I did think of having an abortion but I believe to this day, early on I felt him moving. I felt God was showing me that I had this little growing baby inside of my tummy. This baby was a part of me! After that moment I couldn’t do it.

So, when I could finally sit and comprehend what had happen I was more than angry,  I was enraged. How could God take my son away from me? The one he  let me feel in my tummy moving around before you are even suppose to feel a baby? Oh, of course you have the so called “good meaning people” “oh, never question God” that’s  blasphemy!  I even had a family member tell me “Matthew did what he needed to do on earth and his time was done!” At that point in time I could of told those people what to do with their well meaning comments! I’m sorry, but as a parent or anyone going through the grieving process you are going to ask why? You are going to get angry. You have every right to be angry. Please don’t listen to people that have the nerve to tell you that your loved ones time on earth was done!  You are going through this point on your journey and it’s ok to be angry,  it’s ok to ask why?! It’s perfectly normal to say why me? Why my family?! It’s your path, it’s your stepping stone.

The bargaining aspect of grieving made me think of all the things that I might have done differently. What if I noticed that he wasn’t himself. What If I said “ Hey Matt why don’t you go check in with your doctor” You always think back now and see signs. At the time they didn’t mean much and you always wish you would of looked at them differently. One thing I’ve learned is you can’t beat yourself up about it. When you have your child and you’re looking a that beautiful face, you never think he only going to live 5 years, 15 years, 29 years, or even 49 years. You just go with life and keep making memories. You never know what life will toss in your way. You don’t see things that might have been the warning sign. You just never know.

 Keep Stepping Forward. 

The depression stone. I never thought of myself as depressed. Of course, I’ve always kept a smile on my face even though inside I was hurting, I just kept up my façade.  I  guess I was wrong.  I guess I wasn’t hiding it as well as I thought I was. It came to the breaking point when I did have the thought of crashing into a tractor trailer truck coming from the opposite direction as I was driving to work. I told a friend and she said to me ” Deneen, go and talk to someone” I guess I was  depressed more than I thought I was. It took me about 3 years to find someone who I felt comfortable enough with . It did help to talk to someone outside of the situation. My true saving grace mostly was my husband and my daughters. If I didn’t have them I don’t know if I would be here today. To this day I let people know around Matthew’s birthday and the anniversary of his death that is always a tough time for me.  

See,  you can always fall back when you are trying to keep it together but you have to get back up brush yourself off and keep stepping forward to another stepping stone. It’s not always easy and you may need help but you can do it. 

The next stepping stone I still don’t think I will ever get to.  Honestly, I personally think it’s the hardest one at least it is for me and after almost 10 years, I still don’t think I’ve come close to it. Acceptance. How can you accept your child, your loved one is gone? I still wait for his phone calls. I still wait for him to knock on my door. How can people expect you to except that your child is gone? I’ve read articles and some books about grieving and they say acceptance is more about you realizing you can’t change what has happened but you can change how you respond to what happened. I still am working on this one. This is my stepping stone. 

Processing all your grief, I feel is a forever stone to process. It’s not a thing that happens over night or a year or even in a century.  It is a personal path that is yours and yours alone. No one can tell you how to process your grief. No one should come up to you and say “ oh the pain will lessen over time!” I have always said “ No the pain will never lessens, you just learn to live with the pain of your loss” I strongly believe this. 

I have not only loss my son but have loss my brother, my dad, my grandparents and even my family pets. You grieve for them all differently but you still grieve. No one can tell you how you should grieve. Your grieving process is yours and your own path, on your stepping stones. 

Like I said before, some of grieving stages go in order and it’s a straight path through the 7 stages. Some can take a detoured path and you may skip some of those stages. If you’re anything like me,  I’m stuck on two stones trying to deal with acceptance and processing. Everyone’s path is going to be different. 

Please give yourself the time you need to heal. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

 Be kind to yourself. 

Deneen Azzolino


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