John Lydon sleeps with wife’s ashes: What are the five stages of grief?

John Lydon, who has revealed that he copes with his grief by sleeping next to his wife's ashes following her death from Alzheimer's. (Getty Images)
John Lydon has revealed that he copes with his grief by sleeping next to his wife's ashes following her death from Alzheimer's. (Getty Images)

John Lydon has revealed that he sleeps with his late wife Nora Forster’s ashes in a cupboard next to his bed, three months after she died from Alzheimer’s at the age of 80.

The former Sex Pistols front man, 67, discussed grieving his wife of almost five decades, sharing that it “has been much harder than he thought” to deal with the loss.

“I thought I would be able to handle this side of it, but it is, if anything, worse,” he told The Times. “I like to sleep with Nora’s ashes in the cupboard next to the bed because there is no expectancy of meeting her in this life again. And if there is a hereafter…”

Speaking about his relationship with his wife and the gap her passing has left he continued: “Now I don’t have anyone to share my life with. I am sitting in an empty house and all I can think about is Marc Almond singing 'The House Is Haunted by the Echo of Your Last Goodbye'. Might as well go back out on tour.”

Read more: 'Much harder than I thought': Lonely John Lydon sleeps next to wife's ashes, Bang Showbiz, 2-min read

John Lydon pictured with his late wife Nora Forster in 2017. (Getty Images)
John Lydon pictured with his late wife Nora Forster in 2017. (Getty Images)

What are the five stages or grief?

  • Denial

  • Anger

  • Bargaining

  • Depression

  • Acceptance

"The five stages of grief are thought of as a kind of road map that helps us recognise the types of feelings that we have when we're grieving and the purpose of all these feelings," says psychotherapist and author Julia Samuel. "Many people find these five stages very helpful because they recognise themselves in them."

This theory of grief was first developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to describe people with terminal illness facing their own death, but it was soon adapted as a way of thinking about grief in general.

You might experience the stages in a different order, go back and forth from one stage to another, or you may not even go through all of these stages of grief.

Each of the five stages represents our attempt to process change and protect ourselves while we adjust to a new reality. Mourning is, of course, an intimate and unique experience for each of us and how much time you spend in each stage of grief varies from person to person.

Watch: 5 Strategies for Coping With Grief

The five stages of grief are supposed to serve you as a reference, not as a rule though, explains the Cruse Bereavement Support website, as everyone processes loss differently.

1. Denial

Denial helps us cope with new circumstances. Although we can never deny reality, we can choose not to believe it. In the denial stage, you're not living in ‘actual reality,’ but a ‘preferable’ reality.

This first stage of grief is important as it helps us so we don’t become overwhelmed with emotion, states Cruse. Instead, we deny, choose not to accept, and stagger its full impact on us all at once. When the denial and shock starts to fade, the start of the healing process can begin.

Read more on Alzheimer's disease

Woman looking sad and in grief
The first stage of grief: 'denial' can actually be our mind's way of trying to protect ourselves from the harsh reality of our loss. (Getty Images)

2. Anger

Anger is a natural emotion after someone dies. We all know that death is inevitable, but it can – and often does – feel cruel and unfair, particularly if someone has died well before their time.

According to the charity Cruse, in other circumstances, we may feel angry about the thought that someone is gone, or even feel regret and resentment when we think about the things we did or didn’t get to do with them, or the things we said or didn't say.

3. Bargaining

When we're in pain, it’s sometimes hard to come to terms with reality, advises Cruse. We might find it difficult to accept that there’s nothing we can do to change things. This stage of grief often leaves us ‘bargaining’ – trying to make deals with ourselves in order to feel better.

We may ask a lot of ‘what ifs’, and make up different scenarios, wishing we could go back and change things in search of a different outcome. For instance, in some cases, we might start to torment ourselves with the idea of, 'If I hadn't done X, maybe X would still be alive.'

4. Depression

Depression is often the longest stage. During that time we may find it difficult to sleep, have changes in our appetite, avoid engaging in activities, lack energy, have overwhelming feelings of sadness, and at times feel hopeless.

Ironically though, "when we allow ourselves to experience our very deepest sadness, we also allow ourselves to come to terms with reality," explains Samuel, "so sadness is a healthy and normal response to loss."

Young sad man sitting by the window
Depression is the longest stage of grieving but help is out there so it's important that people don't bottle up their feelings or suffer alone. (Getty Images)

5. Acceptance

With time comes acceptance of our changed circumstances. "That doesn’t mean we ‘get over’ it – it just means that we learn to live and love again," says Samuel.

Healing from a major life change is possible, but it does take time and patience. If you've suffered a personal loss, counselling and support groups can help you cope. Visit The Grief Trust to find support near you.