The 5 Stage of Grief by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross were engrained into my head during nursing school. These relate perfectly to PPD. Here are my 5 stages of grief Postpartum Depression:
Denial occurs in the stages of postpartum depression first because it helps us to deal with the loss effectively. The loss, in this case, is the loss of your old way of life before baby.
A friend once said to me that after she had her baby she grieved the loss of her old self and life. Now having my own child, I completely understand and agree with what she was saying. You grieve the fact that a baby does change your life and, especially, you as a person.
In this stage you begin to feel overwhelmed and are barely surviving to get from one day to the next. You are in denial because you don’t want to grieve the fact that you had a baby. “This should be a joyous time, not a time when I cry constantly and think scary thoughts about myself and/or my baby. Why don’t I like being a mother?”, you ask yourself.
You eventually become stronger and your denial fades. However, all of the things you were denial about, such as “hating” that you had a baby, come back even stronger and manifest in a different way.
In this stage, you manifest your feelings through anger because it is something that you can actually hold on to, rather than feeling numb from denial. You get angry because you shouldn’t be having this hard of a time at being a new mom.
Anger is actually therapeutic to feel because it helps you channel your feelings into something. DISCLAIMER: If your anger is so strong that it is compelling you to hurt yourself or your baby, it is no longer therapeutic. That is when you need to be honest with yourself and others that you need help.
I once read something along the lines that anger indicates just how much you love your child. That is incredible and completely changes how you can view these feelings. You feel anger because you love your child so much that you don’t understand why it is so difficult for you to be their mother.
In this stage, we want life to return to what it used to be. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t want our baby, more that we don’t’ want to feel the things that have come with having our baby and PPD. We start to bargain with others, and especially with God, in this stage. “If I were only a better mother, then can you take these feelings away?”
For me, bargaining took on the form that I would bargain with God that if I could survive this day while my husband was gone, then I really didn’t need to get help. If I did in fact make it through that day, then I would tell myself that I could do it on my own and continue to act like nothing was wrong.
Bargaining is associated with guilt. Guilt that you are a terrible mother and “hate” your child because you are having such a hard time. Guilt that you are selfish because you wish life was what it used to be without your child.
It seems ironic to have a “depression” stage within the stages of PPD. Let me explain.
In this stage, you begin to feel empty and like things are never going to get better. You are down because the present is starting to set in and you are beginning to recognize that there is a problem. This leads to even more gloom and guilt.
At this point, you start to withdraw from friends and family. You start to wonder if life is even worth going forward if you are going to feel this way.
I would withdraw from my husband. When he would ask what was wrong, I would lash out at him. All of the little things he would do would really irritate me. I really just wanted to be left alone to wallow in my own self-pity.
It is important to recognize that this is an important step to healing. In this stage, you explore the sorrow you feel for having PPD. You begin to understand what it really means to you to have PPD.
In this stage, you fully accept the fact that something is wrong. This is often when women get the help they need by returning to the doctor, starting medication, beginning therapy, or whatever it may be.
Just because you have accepted the fact that you have PPD does not mean that you think it is okay that everything is fine now. It just means that you are willing to recognize that this is greater than yourself. You learn to live with the fact that you have PPD. It becomes the new norm for you and you begin to learn what that means.
Coming to accept PPD could just mean that you have more good days than bad days. It does not mean that it will go away because you have accepted it. It does mean that you have found room in your heart to learn how to cope it.
I have finally made it to the acceptance stage. That does not mean that I don’t revert back to the other stages.
I can honestly say I have more good days than bad days. When the bad days come, they knock me down every single time still. That is when I have to make the decision to keep going and keep being the wife and mama that my family deserves.
Because I am worth it, and so are they.