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imageYour trip is nearing its end. You know that it may be months, or even years, until you return to the Happiest Place on Earth. Suddenly an awful sadness begins forming in the pit of your stomach, you know it is all about to come to an end. Somewhere in the middle of the trips the countdown switches from how many days you’ve been here until how many days until you HAVE to go home.

The Diva family experienced this after our last trip in March of 2011. After four trips, our annual passes expired the last day of our March trip and we knew it would be at least one full year until we returned. I remember getting a little misty as we walked out of the Magic Kingdom gates and looking at the castle for just one more look. It may seem irrational, but Disney is HOME to me and my family. We feel most alive when we are behind those turn-styles and lost in a land of make-believe and moments. And we are not alone, there are many, many, Disney addicts who experience the same feelings of sadness.

For those of us who consider Disney World “HOME” then the loss of home, as in the return to the “real world”, is emotional and many of us actually do transition through the stages of Grief, similar to what is experienced when people die.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler define the 5 stages of grief are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance .

Entering Phase one: Denial

According to Kubler-Ross and Kessler the Denial stage “helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial.”

I find that when I’m I the Post-Disney Depression Denial phase I talk myself into planning another trip. If I can just have something to look forward to again like I did this trip. By the time I’m on the plane I’m already pestering my husband about when we could go back, or if we should spring for Annual Passes again to guarantee ourselves a certain number of trips. I tell myself things like, “it wont be long. I don’t think we will even have to wait a whole year this time”. In this phase I’m usually far more forgetful and ‘spazzy” than usual.  I spend a lot of time asking myself “why did I come into this room?” They whole world is less bright, less colorful. There are NO parades to end my days or fireworks to send me to bed with a smile. Suitcases that were packed a month in advance in anticipation of the trip go unpacked for weeks after return.

Moving into Phase two: Anger

“Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal”, according to Kubler-Ross and Kessler.

In this phase I’m mad that I’m not still at WDW. I’m mad that no high school or college counselor ever encouraged me to do the Disney summer program so I could be working there now. I’m mad that my parents didn’t take me more when I was little. I’m mad that my husbands job and my kid’s schools have stupid schedules that make it impossible for us to just take off to WDW whenever we want. I’m mad that we chose to live so far away and that there are no jobs in my husbands company that could transfer us closer to WDW. Every time I hear or read that someone is about to leave for their trip I am GREEN with envy and furious that I don’t make the kind of money where I could afford to go to WDW whenever I felt like it. I’m good and angry.

Transitioning into Phase three: Bargaining

“We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss.”- Kubler-Ross and Kessler

For some of us the Bargaining phase is long, for others its short. I do get a case of the “if onlys” closely after I finish being mad about not working at Disney early in life. For some of the bargaining goes on a long time, other times it results in us booking a trip that will put us into debt or that our family has not agreed to take.

Drudging into Phase four: Depression

Kubler Ross and Kessler say, “After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever.”

In this phase I avoid all things Disney like the plague. I don’t read blogs or look at pictures because it only reminds me that I’m not there and I’m not going to be there. I turn my attention away from Disney and put it onto something else entirely, until someone brings up my trip, or randomly comments on a photo on Facebook and the emotions shake up all over again. This is the time when I tell myself that Disney is too expensive and that its irrational to put that kind of money into week long vacations when there are house payments to be made. Its when I consider booking a trip somewhere else, but secretly know I wont.

The final Phase: Acceptance

“We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.”

I know I’m not in the acceptance phase until I agree to help someone else with their trip or begin blogging tips for others to read that will make their trip more enjoyable. I realize that O can still be happy and not be at WDW and that sooner or later we will get the money saved up to go an enjoy the parks again.

What about you? Have you ever gone through the phases of grief after a Disney Trip? Share about it here by commenting on this post!