THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF: How to Cope with the End of the Shirewolves

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On August 13, 2019, Rachel Cushing and Clarke Wolfe announced that their title match against KOrruption as The Shirewolves will be not only their last match as a team, but as their last match in their Schmoedown careers. For Clarke, she says she has done everything there is to do and is content with her accomplishments. For Rachel, she says the pressure of life outside the Schmoedown and inside the Schmoedown were getting overwhelming. For both, the nature of the game has changed so much that they are ready to end it now after one more fight against their common rival.

The wave of emotions that came with the news hit everyone Schmoedown audience member very hard, especially the Shirewolves’ biggest fans.

I too have been a huge fan of Clarke Wolfe and Rachel Cushing. Along with Mark Reilly, they are my favorite competitors to watch and root for in the Schmoedown. So, when I heard the news I was shocked to my bones at their plan. I could not believe that they were willing to hang it up, because they had so much more to prove.

That was my initial thought, and that was just part of what Elisabeth Kübler-Ross calls the five stages of grief. Eventually it was acceptance. These two legendary women were ready to end their competitive careers because of life and of how they’ve done it all.

Here’s an explanation of what I went through in these stages of grief, and how a Shirewolves fan like you can find yourself in and how to go through it. Helping me illustrate this process is our favorite art cat Pusheen.

Denial

When they broke the news, I could not accept it. It had to be a farce. They’re the greatest superteam to date, with a plan to overtake The Patriots’ number of title defenses! They have shown to be resilient and have shown great chemistry together! There’s no way they are ending their careers in the Schmoedown.

I mean, what force of nature could cause them to end it here and now? It doesn’t make sense. There are still so many exciting matchups, even fantasy matchups, to put these two players in, against the top contenders of the league!

Denial is the first stage of grief, like when someone legendary in the Schmoedown is ready to call it done. What denial does is help us survive the shock of bad news on a magnitude of this scale. We go numb and question how to move on. Denial helps us to pace the suddenness of the news and slowly let in much of it as we can handle. With the slow acceptance that this is real, we begin the healing process.

Anger

What came next was emotional pain. Soon I told myself that how dare they decide to stop at the apex of their time as a team. I AM FURIOUS WITH THEM!!! I’M SHATTERED INTO A MILLION PIECES! HOW DARE THEY DESTROY MY HEART!!! AAARRRRRGGGHH!!!!!!!!

This release of emotional pain is anger. It can be directed at someone who caused pain for this team, or directed at the team despite the obvious, rational fact that Rachel and Clarke are not to be blamed. It’s numb, uncontrolled emotion that we vent out from our mind. As soon as most of this anger dissipates, the more we will heal from this emotional wound.

As a word of caution, keep the anger from getting personal or else it could get worse and people, possibly even the Shirewolves, wouldn’t take kindly to it. Just admit that it stems from your love of The Shirewolves.

Bargaining

From here, I felt that I wanted to do anything to keep the team going. Can I send them anything nice, like an inspiring letter or a beautiful gift? Was there something I had said or done to offend them, and can I take it back? Can we just go back to when they began playing so I can relive their moments? Can someone please take me to where I can see them compete in front of my very eyes? Is this just a bad dream?

It seems like you would do anything for the Shirewolves to come back and compete. We become lost in a sea of “If only…” and “What if…”. There are many things we would want to do to get them back, including beg forgiveness for saying negative things about them. This guilt gets us to negotiate our way out of the pain of the news. We do our best to rationalize and think to step back from the realization that Rachel and Clarke are simply wanting to move on in life. We are doing anything to not feel the pain.

Depression

At this point, I was feeling very low and realizing that they are finished with what they have accomplished in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown. There were so many marquee matches left for the Shirewolves to do (from Rocha vs. Wolfe to Cushing vs. Smets). There’s no team that is as brilliant, sassy, and classy as them. They will leave a huge hole in the Schmoedown. A void that will never be filled. Is it worth continuing to watch the Schmoedown after they leave the ring for good?

At this point, grief goes to a deeper level than before, into depression. It’s appropriate given that we have seen, in my opinion, the greatest superteam to grace the Schmoedown stage. We try to cope with this loss with distractions such as food, movies, stories, games, etc. We withdraw from the community, wondering if there is any point in keeping up with what’s remaining in the league? Why continue to watch? It’s very brutal to our heart to know that they will not return to the competitive scene. What you should know is that depression is just a necessary healing step in the grieving process.

Acceptance

Eventually, I had to come to terms with Clarke and Rachel stepping down from competition. We just have to accept the reality that after this Thursday, Rachel Cushing and Clarke Wolfe will no longer be in the competitive scene of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown. They have other aspects of their lives that need to be higher priorities. They have already pushed the envelope for women to compete in the Schmoedown, after taking the baton from the likes of Grae Drake and Alicia Malone.

They have done so much. It is reasonable to want to step down and rest. We may not see them in the epic fantasy matches we had in mind, but we have already experienced many moments of greatness from them.

Some may never feel completely okay with the news of The Shirewolves retiring after their last title match. That’s the part of the process where we slowly accept this change and figure out how to live in this new norm. We need to appreciate that both players are committed to finishing their careers fighting their common rival: Mike Kalinowski. We need to understand that any personal issues they have are absolutely nothing to laugh off. We need to realize that they are okay with stepping away from the competition. Clarke Wolfe will be around to call matches at the announce table, so that is something to help ease the pain away.

Overall, we should be proud that we have seen this superteam go far. To witness the greatness of the Shirewolves is always greater than to imagine the missed potential should they not have come together in the league. Also, there’s still more greatness to come in the future of this league: Kalinowski’s quest to hold all three belts, Brendan Meyer, the arrival of the fan league competitors in Kevin Smets and Paul Oyama, the heavily stacked Schmoedown Teams Division, and the upcoming Ultimate Schmoedown Tournaments where we could see the return of a veteran to the rise of new competitors that possibly could go even higher than The Shirewolves.

In summary, look to the future, for the future of the Schmoedown is bright.

If there is one thing I’ll regret in my time covering the Movie Trivia Schmoedown, it’s that I will never get the chance to see Rachel Cushing and Clarke Wolfe compete live. I would do anything to see them in-person at the height of their competitive success. At the end of this process, I accept that. They have their own lives to live, lives that we absolutely have no say over. Let them do what they need to do and find happiness in their next stages after the Schmoedown.

If I had the chance to meet them in-person at this point, I would say this: Thank you Clarke Wolfe for showing your tenacity and classiness as the first woman to compete successfully since 2016, when the league was full of men, all the way up to competing for championship belts. Through your partnership with my all-time favorite competitor Mark Reilly, I thank you for showing such great team chemistry with him. Whoever is a friend of Reilly is a person I respect.

Thank you, Rachel Cushing, for showing that a normal person can overcome your fears, anxieties, and obstacles to become a true champion and face of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown. Your performances in all three major divisions have been amazing to watch. I am proud to say that it was an honor to see you be an inspiration to many as you become both the Team and Innergeekdom Champion.

To both women, you have inspired me and several others to chase their dreams no matter what the obstacles are. They may say that The Patriots are the greatest team ever, but in my heart and mind, you are the greatest team to have graced the Schmoedown stage. Not just for what you have accomplished in the ring, but for what you two represent. As someone who in my lifetime had half of my role models in real life and on-screen be women, this says something.

I thank you for showing me your perspectives in life, and that has helped me learn much of what our society needs to do and what I must respect when working with women. Overall, in the past two years of covering the Movie Trivia Schmoedown, I have two words to say to you Rachel Cushing and Clarke Wolfe:

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