Dear Rabbi Gellman: My husband passed away on our 52nd anniversary. It is now almost one year. Therapy helps me talk (mostly cry), and my good friends check on me constantly. My sons and their families (grandkids are the best medicine) keep me in the loop.

But I cry every day, don’t eat properly and hurt inside. I am angry that he left me on our anniversary. I also blame myself for not staying later on that Sunday visit with him. If only I’d stayed! Why didn’t I? This haunts me. — From M  

MG: My dear M, thank you for your painful, wise and courageous email.

One of the great ironies of the human condition is that we are all different and yet remarkably, we react to the death of loved ones in pretty much the same way. The person who discovered the five universal stages of grief was Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 groundbreaking book, “On Death and Dying.” The five stages may help you understand where you are in your journey through grief and where you still must go:

Denial

This is the first stage. You know they are dead, but you can’t accept the fact. You have already passed through this stage.

Anger

What I most admired about your email was the guts it took for you to admit that you were angry at your husband for dying on your anniversary. It may seem embarrassing to be angry at a dead person, but it is actually quite normal. Anger is a natural reaction to having your life turned upside down. Try to connect to the parts of your soul that are willing and able to accept death and let go of those parts that try to alter what cannot be altered.

Bargaining

This is the next stage for you, dear M. You are upset that you did not stay longer on that last day. Do you think your presence would have prevented your husband from dying? A revealing study showed that most people die in the middle of the night. Apparently, they need to be alone and not surrounded by those they love in order to finally let go of life.

Depression

One of the most unintentionally irritating comments from people trying to comfort mourners is, “Everything will be OK.” This is both irritating and untrue. What is true is that things will be OK in a new and broken way. The hole in my life left by the death of Father Tom will never be filled. I am sad every day, but I accept this sadness as a measure of my love for him.

Acceptance

I believe that a belief in life after death for our soul helps us gain acceptance of death. I urge you to believe that you will not be separated forever from those you love.

God comfort you.

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