Mourning is Unpredictable (there are no set stages)
A widowed friend told me that a neighbor asked what stage of mourning she was in. She replied, naughtily, “Well, I guess I’m in 4c.” After a moment, the neighbor realized the ridiculousness of the question, and they shared a laugh.
We live in a culture that worships linear thinking, a society that thinks emotions, like mathematical progressions, run in logical sequence. We talk about “closure,” about moving on.” But those words don’t reflect the reality of mourning. Loss precipitates emotions that run in unpredictable patterns. You might be sitting in a car at a traffic light two years after a loss (when the world tells you should be recovering) and you will start to sob. It may be a song on the radio or a visual memory that triggers the feeling. Or it may be nothing you can name, but the pain is excruciating and you feel as though you have regressed to an early part of mourning.
There are no specific stages of grief, much as our culture would like you to believe that there are. Mourning does not have its general defining characteristics, but for the most part it is unpredictable and idiosyncratic—and certainly does not have a beginning, middle, and end.
Be understanding of yourself, and don't listen to any rules about stages. If you take them seriously, you may never forgive yourself for those moments of despair that arise even years past the death of your spouse. Be compassionate and accepting of yourself when these periods of grief surface unexpectedly. Trust yourself to mourn in your own fashion, and don't pathologize non-linear mourning.
Read on: Replacement vs. Succession