The Sixth Stage of Grief

1. Denial and Isolation

I was too young. That’s what kept running through my head. I had locked myself in my bedroom and was crying into my pillow. He had been my best friend. But… Maybe my parents were wrong. Maybe the doctor had gotten it wrong. Maybe George was just playing a prank. He wasn’t really gone, that’s it, they were all wrong.

What sort of world takes away the best friend of a ten year old boy, my best friend? For that matter, what sort of world takes away a ten year old boy? No, this couldn’t be real. Someone got it wrong, and any minute now I’d hear the phone ring as someone called us to tell us about the mistake.

This wasn’t reality. This wasn’t my reality.

2. Anger

My mom was in the hospital and I had come to realize she likely wasn’t to come back out. I sat at a stop light, behind the wheel of my car on a March morning in Florida. In that moment I was overcome with a blinding rage. A rage I hadn’t ever experienced, and have yet to ever experience again. I unleashed a guttural cry of anguish, the sort you see in movies, and I started slamming my hands into the steering wheel. And then the light turned green.

I took my foot off the brake and rolled forward, forcing myself to take some gulps of air and wiping the tears from my eyes as I pulled into a gas station and let the anger roll over me.

3. Bargaining

I sat in an empty meeting room at work. I stared at the beige walls and I tried to figure out what deal I could make with God.

When my mom was in Houston, undergoing her bone marrow transplant, there were several nights where I talked to God. I begged him to make it work. To cure her. To bring her back to me. And then she did come back, recovering from her bone marrow transplant for several months until a fateful day when we discovered she had a fever, which led us to take her to the hospital.

This week I sat in that office room and tried to understand if I could do anything. If there was anything I could do, I would do it. I asked God if there was anything I could do to extend the time I had my grandmother on this planet.

4. Depression

It had been a few weeks since he died. I didn’t understand what I was going through at the time. Few people do even as they get older, much less a child. A family from my church offered to take me to Disney World with them. Josh was a boy near my age, we weren’t really close but we were friendly.

A trip to Disney still held the essence of Magic that Walt worked so hard to create and cultivate. Looking back, it was a critical chance for me to remember what being a kid was. At the time, it was exciting not only because of going to Disney but also because I would get to miss school and that was a really big deal.

I remember riding the Tower of Terror, watching Indiana Jones, and going on Star Tours. And in that one day, I was reminded what it was to be a kid. Yanked back from the precipice of adulthood through depression to reclaim a few more years of adolescence and joy.

George was gone, and I had struggled to come to terms with it.

5. Acceptance

“Sure dad, one sec.” I stepped away from my desk and closed the door to the empty meeting room. “Alright dad, what’s up.” I knew why he was calling, but I asked hoping for a different answer. Grandma was dead. I knew that was why he was calling.

And despite hearing the words from his mouth, I was calm. This is what grandma wanted, with her strict “Do Not Resuscitate” order. I sat in that room for a few minutes just waiting for something, anything, to wash over me. It was the same room I had negotiated with God just a few days ago. I waited for sadness, tears, anything. All that I found was acceptance.

Eventually I left the room and returned to my desk. Mike, my editor knew what was going on and he asked if I was okay. When I told him that she was gone, he did something which was exactly what I needed: a hand on the shoulder and an offer to talk if I needed.

6. Living

Death is a part of life. Every time I deal with someone passing, I have to remember what it is to live. Friday night Katie and I put out an email to our group of friends seeking plans for the evening. One couple, then two, then three, all confirmed and dinner plans were made.

At dinner we talked and laughed. We told stories and enjoyed conversations with each other. They all knew my grandmother had died, and they each did a fantastic job of reminding me what happiness and life is.

The five stages of grief are the journey through the underworld of sadness, and it is life which we break out to.


What happens when a swimmer stops prioritizing forward motion? He ends up treading water.

I have memories of sitting at the dining room table with my mom on my left, my dad on the right, and my younger sister sitting across from me. As a family we would assemble the monthly issues of “The Get Organized! News.” TGON, as we called it, was a monthly newsletter my mom wrote and published out of our home. Usually it was eight pages; two 17×11 sheets folded and nested within each other.

Like a well oiled machine we would assemble hundreds of newsletters, label them, and rubber band them for mailing.

Despite my mom writing a newsletter about organization, I was slow to pick up on it. Organization that is. She did her best to impress upon me the need to make my bed, pick up after myself, put things away when I was done and actually put my laundry actually inside the hamper as opposed to around it. As a kid, I just couldn’t understand why these things were important.

One thing my mom did teach me though, with some help from the author Steven Covey, was to recognize priorities. Covey uses an analogy about having a jar, and all these things you need to fit in the jar. They’re different sizes and shapes, from golf ball sized down to sand, so it is no easy feat. He explains that what you need to do is start with the big things and then once they’re in there do the small stuff like pebbles and sand.

This is, of course, his metaphor for time and how we spend it. And for much of my childhood I took it as just that, but I think the critical second part of this lesson is that while it’s about managing your time it’s also really about setting your priorities.

The above triangle was a commonly quoted aphorism at Georgia Tech (and other colleges I’m sure.) In humor it speaks truth, in reality it speaks about priorities. As it ended up, I prioritized social life and the Internet, much to my academic chagrin. In retrospect I don’t think I consciously deprioritized school, and in fact I believed I was still doing enough even in the face of hard evidence to the contrary (namely grades).

I remember my parents calling me one day while I was at school and my mom tentatively asking, “Honey, we’ve been reading your blog and… well… you never talk about studying or doing homework on there.” I waved their concerns away, saying that I was studying but it didn’t exactly make for riveting blog reading. Which was true, but also the truth was: they were right. My priorities had been steadily shifting away from school.

I clearly remember staying in the computer lab all night to work on a project and after getting stumped, staying up the whole night anyways screwing around on the web rather than working or seeking help. It makes me sick to think about what I wasted because I didn’t set my priorities for school.

Tech Tower by hectorir

Over the past year with my weight loss I attribute the majority of my success to making myself aware of and paying close attention to my priorities. Exercising was bumped to a top priority overriding things like TV, Internet, and social lunches at work.

Eating right became a high enough priority that I began passing on candy, having epic battles of self-control when presented with buffets of poor choices.

To me, priorities are the overlooked part of the goals & resolutions equation. Gurus and self-help experts talk endlessly about the importance of setting goals and striving for them, but they seem to gloss over the part where success for goals comes from making the goal a priority and becoming conscious of how it ranks in your life. You have to decide how they are prioritized amongst your life, and then consciously act on this change.

Changing habits is hard. I can’t tell you how many times I caught myself, change in hand, standing in front of a vending machine. Or found myself rummaging in the kitchen, not because I was hungry, but because I was bored. These were (and still are) actions so deeply ingrained in my mind that it still takes a conscious decision not to do some of these. And I come to these decisions because… I’ve set my priorities!

Over the past month I’ve been treading water and I’m fed up. I held onto most of my good eating habits but I’ve been snacking more, and even indulging in an occasional soda.

So, now I’ve come to terms with my lack of progress and found the stirrings which will drive me forward again. Namely, my 30th birthday is fast approaching. And I badly want to be in the best shape of my life for that birthday.

This week I am prioritizing ‘working out and moving forward’ to be the top of my list.

Where do your priorities lie?

Rain or Shine

The sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. Between those times it sits in the sky and shines down on us. Simple facts of reality.

With that as the guiding principle, I always thought that Florida’s slogan: “The Sunshine State” was just dumb. “We have something everyone else has too!”

Having never lived anywhere outside of Florida as I grew up, I just thought everywhere got the sun. Sure some places were more cloudy than Florida, and other places had snow, but they got the sun too. The sun was simply a constant for me as a child. Sure a rain storm blows through but we got plenty of vitamin D. And I never thought about just how much sun there was, except for the unbearable heat which our blessed air conditioners battled endlessly.

So when we moved to Seattle, I conceptually understood that I would see less of the sun as it rained. But keep in mind all three times I’d been to visit Seattle the weather had been mainly beautiful. Sure there was some rain but it was tempered with gorgeous days, and during my visit the gorgeous days easily outweighed the rain.

When we arrived here, we were gifted with a string of gorgeous clear weather days during which to move into our place. Once that was done, well, Seattle showed her true colors.


Rain rain rain.

In Florida a rain shower would last for an hour, if a large storm system settled over Florida it might last for a few days and it would be miserable downpour for most of it but then it would peter out and the sun would return.

The reason is that these showers form over the ocean, the water evaporates from the ocean and rises into the sky to form clouds. Now due to temperature and pressure differences between ocean and land the rain gets drawn to land and across the state to be pulled back out to sea, or pulled apart in fairly little time. All the sand and the humidity creates the thunderstorms and lightning we’re famous for, but they rarely last more than an evening because of the peninsula of our land allowing for unhindered travel with pressure changes.

Here in Seattle, with the ocean to the west and the Cascade mountains basically boxing us in, well, there is only hindered travel. The rain comes in off the ocean or the sound and crosses over Seattle only to find itself blocked in by the mountains. So where it might be gone in a few hours, it ends up sitting here and churning as more rain comes in off the ocean.

That’s my completely unprofessional, uneducated, unmeteorological explanation for how this all works, I could be wrong.

With this stagnant rain I’ve had to adjust over the past four months. The biggest and quite frankly the easiest learning point was that in Florida, when it rained you only ventured out if you had to because those showers would quickly drench you. In Seattle, rain is simply part of reality. The rain isn’t a soaking rain, it’s more like a fine mist usually such that with a jacket of some sort it’s hardly an issue to venture out and walk your dogs or run to the store.

I’ve begun to really realize how much I miss Florida’s sun. Not to be confused with missing the heat, humidity, mosquitoes and bad drivers – just the sun and its light.

I’m promised that this rainy weather will be done by July, and then we’ll be ready to enjoy three months of the most perfect weather in the world. Seriously. Everyone who hears me bemoan the rain promises me that in three months I will become ready to accept nine months of rain.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and the people I know and work with – it’s just the weather I’m griping about.

That’s Easy

Life is easy. Really.

Stop and think about it. Look how easy it has become to survive in developed countries.

Compared to Haiti or Uganda or some other third world country our lives take monumental effort, idiocy or bad luck to truly screw up beyond repair.

What isn’t easy is excelling. Whether financially or socially or professionally, being above the curve requires either sustained hard work, one time greatness or knocking it out of the park on that one critical time when it mattered most and where so many have failed before.

Earn Your Body

I’m not going to lie. And it’s all stuff I’ve said before, but I’m overweight. I’m fat. This post is going to be a string of consciousness post laden with pop culture references and quotes. Buckle up.

Go home, take a paper bag, cut some eyeholes out of it. Put it over your head, get undressed and look at yourself in the mirror. Really evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are. And be honest. – Joan on Mad Men

The sentiment here is clear, you have to be objective. If you look at yourself, you see you, but when we look at others – people we don’t know, we judge them. We judge them based on how they look. The bag on our head, even the metaphorical bag, enhances your ability to disassociate yourself with your body and look at your flaws, and your strengths.

The key to my exercise program is this one simple truth: I hate my body. You understand that the second you look in the mirror and you’re happy with what you see, baby, you just lost the battle. – Perry Cox on Scrubs

Change only happens when we have become so dissatisfied with the current state of things that we must change. I left the comedy club due to a single staff member who made my working there unbearable. And thanks to him I doubled my salary, then doubled it again the next year. All because I worked with a class-A raging asshole. Now, I must find that equivalent in my body and use it as leverage to cause change.

Here is the thing though, you cannot take a leap of faith without knowing where you’re aiming to land. Otherwise you end up being one of the characters in Super Smash Brothers where you fall to your death, fall forever and never reach your goal.

A goal is akin to a dream. Separated by a thin veil. Dreams require we admit to what they are, and risk to ourselves that we may not realize this dream. Like asking a woman out on a date, chasing a dream exposes ourselves to danger.

I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
– W. B. Yeats

I first heard this in the movie Equilibrium, and then I looked up the poem. Powerful stuff. It finds another risk in admitting our dreams, that others will crush them. Children dream of Santa, and it falls to parents to one day tread on that dream to educate them about the world. If my dream is to have six pack abs and a body of a god, then there are hundreds of people who will tell me it’s impossible, I’d never get there. And here is where my resolve, determination and bullheadedness come in. To them I say: Fuck off. It’s my damn dream so get off my cloud! This post is what happens when I stay up late watching Fight Club and coding PHP.

Earn your body.

I do not know where I heard this quote, I apologize to whoever said it and came up with this great truth. In so many ways I’ve spent my life taking the “free demo” of my body. Even during high school sports I struggled to push myself and earn it. For a short while after college I was earning my body. Daily workouts. Eating well. And I was earning it, seeing the pounds slip off. Then I didn’t fall of the wagon, the wagon exploded around me and my body slid backwards to the worst shape of my life. Here is a simple truth: Your body wants to be fat. Fat = sustenance and in famine it means you can live longer. But unfortunately for your body, your goal is not to survive famine, it is to survive time. And science shows that time is conquered by not accumulating that fat. And so it’s time I begin earning my body again.

This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time. – Narrator, Fight Club

The time is now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. I need to start earning my body. Tonight. Aside from the desire to look appealing, it has become more and more apparent that my future requires I make these changes. Both of my parents have fought disease, my dad is a cancer survivor and my mom died from her disease (forgive me for not going into more detail, I don’t need to delve deeper than I already am.) My family has history of heart disease, diabetes, alcoholism, and more. A clear sign that I should get moving and stop wasting time. So what stops me? Fear.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Fuck fear. Simply. I’m able to do this if I become dedicated and stop cheating.

I’m going to earn my body.

A Hospital is a Shocking Thing

It shocks you into realizing that something isn’t right. Often this results in fear, uncertainty, anxiousness, and eventually exhaustion. That all hit me yesterday when I took my dad to the Emergency Room. I had been at work for two hours when he called and said, “Son, I need you. I need to go to the hospital.” He had blacked out three separate times at home, resulting in a very large bump on his head, what we learned was a bruised rib, and a handful of scratches and bruises to show for it.

The problem is not the handful of injuries, but that dad blacked out three times. It turned out that his blood pressure is dropping quite dangerously whenever he stands up. So they admitted him to the hospital to see what is going on.
Continue reading A Hospital is a Shocking Thing

A New Life Quote

One of the many things K has done for me, is introduce me to Rev. Run. Not face to face, but before that I only knew of Run DMC, I didn’t know who they were. Rev. Run is a good guy. He’s a father, an entertainer, a preacher, and a pretty stand up guy. He has been sending out a daily email with motivational and supporting messages for years now and just recently joined the Twitter revolution.

Remember this.. Youre not obligated to win… but youre damn sure obligated to keep trying EVERYDAYRev. Run

I love this quote. It’s something I’ve struggled with. I hate losing. Or even I hate not winning. This quote reminds me that we all lose sometimes and it matters more that we keep getting back up after we get thrown down. Good stuff.

Pursuing Happiness

It’s not hard to be happy when life is good. The real task is to be happy when life isn’t good. Like this economy. Stress, frustration, the feelings of helplessness combine to make a formidable opponent to happiness. I’m a happy guy, and so far I’m doing okay in this economy, but I’m lucky. And I know it.

What weapons do we all have to find happiness? Continue reading Pursuing Happiness