By: Megan Schulte
The following are the stages of grief I have experienced and what I have learned from them. Each of these stages are not experienced for a specific amount of time, and may be experienced out of order. Everyone grieves in their own way. This is my personal experience.
Stage 1: Shock
I remember the day I found out we were selling the cows like it was yesterday. I had just gotten home from College for the weekend, my bags still sitting on the living room floor. My father came into the house and said, “There are going to be some big changes coming to the farm.”
I didn’t think anything of it at first. The thought of robots has been lightly thrown around over the past two years, but at that point it was nothing more than an idea. Expecting something of that matter to come up, my heart sunk into the depths of my chest when the next 5 words came out of his mouth.
“We are selling the cows.”
I couldn’t even bring a single word to the edge of my lips. Trust me, I tried. I wanted to scream. I wanted to lash out. I wanted to cry. Instead I just sat there. It felt as though time was frozen.
When huge changes happen in our lives it is normal to feel some shock. We all experience shock in different ways.
Some people scream or try and shield themselves form the source.
Some people cry or let all of their emotions out in the open.
Some people hide all of their feelings and try and give the illusion of staying strong.
And then there are people like me who freeze up and try figure out what really just happened.
Whatever way you deal with shock, always remember that there are people around you who care about you and are willing to help you deal with that shock.
Stage 2: Denial
The first couple of months after the talk with my Dad that one afternoon, I went on with my life as if it weren’t going to fall apart at any minute. My parents would have meetings with all sorts of people. Bankers. Accountants. Cattle Jockeys. None of those meetings affected me, as I was oblivious to them while away at college.
During those first month’s no one, and I mean not a soul outside of my immediate family, knew about the changes that would be coming to my farm. My extended family was oblivious. My friends were oblivious. My classmates were oblivious.
I held it together fairly well. I just kept telling myself that it wasn’t going to happen. Dad would never really sell the cows. This was just his way of getting me to work harder. And I did. I went home every single weekend. I worked my butt off.
But, none of that seemed to change anything.
While denying the problem may alleviate the heartache for a while, the longer you do, the deeper a hole you are digging for yourself.
Face your fears. Face your problems. Face the real life facts.
You will thank yourself later on.
Stage 3: Anger
I was, and still am very angry about the fact we are selling the cows. I have the right to be. One night in the barn, I was so angry, I looked my Dad in the eyes and yelled at him.
“These cows need to go. I want them gone.”
Did I mean that? Yes and no. After months of being told that next year at this time we wouldn’t have any cows, I guess I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to rip the cows off like a Band-Aid, quick and painless. If the cows were gone I would be able move on faster. When I said those words to my Dad, I didn’t really want the cows gone. I wanted the pain and heartache to be gone.
When it comes to anger the worst thing we can do is keep it bottled up inside. However, taking your anger out on someone, especially someone close to you, can be even more detrimental.
Yell into the wind. Scream into your pillow. Let it out.
Just make sure your anger isn’t the cause of someone else’s sadness.
Stage 4: Bargaining
Within the past month I have been willing to go to very large lengths to save at least some of the cows. Over the years I have found love in each and every one of them. I felt as though the least I could do was show them the love they have given me by trying my hardest to not let go.
I found myself saying things like, “I will get rid of this if we can keep her.”
In the end, all of the cows have to go. It would be a different story if I was going to a school closer to home, but with the lack of help around the farm, keeping some of the cows just isn’t possible.
Making those kinds of promises or bargains when grieving isn’t always a good thing either. When we are going through something traumatic or losing someone or something we love our judgment can get very clouded. Sometimes the bargains we make in those moments just end up making our situation even worse.
Stage 5: Sadness
Sadness is something I have been struggling with since the moment my Dad told me there were big changes coming to our farm.
I felt sadness when others would talk about their cows before I was able to tell anyone about mine. Their eyes would glow with happiness. They didn’t even realize that little by little they were making my heart break even more. I felt sadness when we loaded up the first group of cows for market and I watched as the trailer lights disappeared into the night sky. I felt sadness when my favorite cow, the one I loved with all my heart, didn’t sell as well as I had hoped. You can’t control the buyers at an auction. How were any of them supposed to know that the girl sitting in the front row cared so deeply about that little brown cow.
Dealing with sadness is the longest and hardest thing to do when grieving a loss. Sadness usually doesn’t just come and go. It stays with us even past the stage of acceptance.
The good thing when you are selling the cows is you aren’t the only one going through this. As hard as it is for me to say goodbye to the cows, I can’t even imagine what my Dad is feeling. Dairy farming is all he has ever known.
Through these experiences though, I have found that my support system of friends and family is even stronger than I ever thought it was.
Stage 6: Acceptance
I haven’t quite gotten to this stage yet. I don’t really know what it will feel like to completely accept the fact that another cow will never be milked on our farm and the fields outside my bedroom window will never be run by my family. When I think about the time when I finally do find acceptance, I find myself to be at peace.
I hope someday I will be able to look outside at the barn and not start to cry.
I hope someday I will be able to drive by a field of Holsteins grazing and not feel a pit in my stomach.
I hope someday I will be able to talk to my other dairy farm friends and not feel angry that I am the one going through this.
I hope someday I will be able to say with complete confidence that this was the right decision for my family.