In The Grieving Cycle, Part A, we learned that grief is a process with many stages. These include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and finally, acceptance. It is the natural chain of emotion that we all go through when dealing with grief. The only problems arise when we get stuck in one of these phases.
What can we do to keep ourselves from getting stuck? Let’s take a look at each of the individual stages:
The Shock Stage: After receiving the call in the middle of the night that my dad had passed away, I was too much in shock to do anything. I began to cry out to God in prayer. It wasn’t a fancy prayer. It consisted more of: “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” But it wasn’t long before the initial shock had passed enough for me to be able to think.
The Denial Stage: Once the shock had passed however, I began to beg God to bring dad back to life. I was in denial! But that all-important avenue of communication was open. God was able to help me understand that dad was really gone, but despite this, He would hold me together, He would help me through.
The Anger Stage: About 5 years later, when I received the phone call that my brother had died, I was at work. I had so many arrangements to make that there just wasn’t time for prayer! I proceeded to become very angry at my brother. When I was given the opportunity at the funeral home to have time alone with him, I cried and I screamed. In the end however, I heard God’s voice whispering to me: You need to forgive him! Only then did I realized that unforgiveness had caused me to get stuck in anger! But I couldn’t forgive. It wasn’t in me. So I asked God to help me forgive. He did! I was released from anger!
The Bargaining Stage: When told that I was going to lose the other Speech Pathologist on my team at work, I spent days pleading and reasoning with my manager. I was stuck in the bargaining stage. When I finally began to pray about it, I begged God to change the circumstances, even promising Him what I would do if He did. Instead of changing the circumstances, He gently began to reassure me that things would be okay, that He would give me the wisdom, time and strength to do what needed to be done on my own. Only then was I able to get out of the bargaining stage and begin to find viable solutions.
The Depression Stage: I became very depressed on the plane, while flying down to be with my mom after my dad’s death. Fortunately for me, I was alone, and I began to pray. God began to help me see things differently. He began to show me that He would help bring me through, that somehow, it would all turn out to be something beautiful. I decided to put my trust in this promise, and the depression was lifted.
The Testing Stage: After my dad died we had to make some plans for caring for my mom. I remember a hundred different scenarios that my family put forward. Which one was the “right” one? Only God knew, and that’s who we asked. And God clearly told us every detail of the new “picture”. We followed His plan, and it led us to the final stage:
The Acceptance Stage. And praise be to God, by relying on Him, we can become firmly “stuck” in acceptance!
Do you notice the common thread, here, friends? It all leads back to taking it to God in prayer in every stage!
Remember, God understands grief better than any of us, because He’s been there! He was forced to watch His beloved son hang from a cruel cross! His Spirit brooded around an empty throne for three days!
And God is there for us when we grieve. He guides us through our shock and denial. He helps us to forgive, to get through our anger. He comforts and reassures us in our depression. He provides us with wisdom, with solutions. He helps us through to acceptance.
Our job is to submit the loss, whatever it is, completely into His hands. Only when we have the faith to say, “Lord, I trust you with this, no matter what the outcome!”; only when we come to realize that God’s love is in the middle of everything that happens and that somehow He will make something beautiful out of the pieces, can He move us through the cycle of grief. Only then can He set us free from whatever stage we’ve become stuck in.
Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples when they were grieving? “Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away … You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy … Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:6-8, 20-22 NIV)
Are you in the middle of grieving, friends? Are you perhaps “stuck” in one of the stages? Take it to the Lord! Put the problems 100% in His hands! Trust Him in every stage! Seek His help to forgive! Spend time with Him, basking in His glory! Open your ears to His reassurance, to His comfort! Trust Him in every stage to get you through! And in so doing, He will carry you through, and He will put together the broken pieces into something beautiful! But only when we give it to Him!
But it all seems much simpler on paper than in real life, doesn’t it? The upcoming devotionals in this series will provide you with examples of how God has carried His children through the grieving cycle. Our prayer is that through the personal, specific experiences of Nugget writers, you, too, will be able to come through the grief of your loss. Join us for Dealing with Grief, Part 3: In The Valley
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.or , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .
(To access the entire “Dealing With Grief” mini-series, please click here.)