Posted by on November 25, 2012

Do you know the five stages of grief?

(There are more stages, but these are predominantly known as the top five.)

  1. Denial and Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

No Expert Here

I’m no expert in the world of grief. I don’t handle sorrow well. There’s usually a lot of crying and a desperate need for a tissue box. And that’s not even me reacting to my stuff. I’m an empathetic griever which makes me not a good person to be around unless you want someone to cry with you or to sit silently by your side and share your pain.

Walking through the stages…

The first stage, “Denial and Isolation,” is the disbelief that makes you shake your head and wonder if you heard correctly. It’s not necessarily short-lived either, but it is temporary, and it gets you through the first wave of shock.

Anger (stage two) comes once the news has sunk in. A lot of blaming goes on during this stage. The third stage, “Bargaining,” is where the “if only’s” come flying. “If only she’d gone to the doctor sooner…” “If only I’d demanded better treatment…” “If only it hadn’t been raining….” Depression (stage 4) can come after the previous three stages or silently creep in among them. It’s a deep sadness that can not only express itself in our emotions, but also in our physicality. You may not feel like doing much at all and sleep more. And as you work through all of that, “Acceptance” (stage 5) comes. That’s when you accept the bad event and are able to see past it. Perhaps your “why” questions aren’t answered, but there’s some understanding of who you are and how you will continue on.

An unclear path

It’s important to note that there’s not necessarily a clear pathway through these steps. They may be jumbled, you may repeat one or two before you find your way through the sadness, and they may take days, months, or years. It’s important to understand that it’s a process, and being honest about it all will help. I tend to internalize things. That really hasn’t worked out well for me. So hiding how you feel from yourself or others could slow working through the stages a little.

What’s allowed?

One last thought here…are there rules about what we’re allowed to grieve? I don’t want to diminish the kind of grief that flows from experiencing sickness or death, but I was wondering about how the stages work for a broken friendship or a lost job or maybe even the loss of a dream. Those seem like things we should grieve over, but might not feel as if we should.

Maybe it would seem silly to grieve a missed opportunity. Perhaps grieving about losing a football game is a misappropriation of grief. But who are we to tell someone how they should or shouldn’t feel? Since I’m big into being real and honest lately, I want to cheer for people to be allowed their grief steps without everyone telling them what they’re allowed to grieve or how they should feel or even that things will get better. Not that things won’t get better, but who can think that far ahead when they’re hurting?

Sometimes all a person needs is to be heard, to have a little validation. That is love, just being there for someone.

Someone to simply love us on the road…

God does that for us. He’s there … with us, letting us be ourselves and be sad, and he’s there loving us completely. But how many people refuse him because he didn’t keep this pain from happening? I won’t even try to offer answers to all of the questions that can flow from the “why do bad things happen” world. But I will say God has kept his promise to us. His love is real. He sees our pain. He understands. And you can let him have all of your questions, your disbelief, anger and bargaining. He listens, and he does offer answers (you may have to pick up your Bible to find them, though.) He will be there for you through your depression, and he will bring you to a new place.

“But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10:14


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11 years ago

I don’t think there should be rules about what we’re allowed to grieve for, but unfortunately, our society probably has some unspoken rules. I know we expect people to be back to normal only a few months after a loss, and that’s simply not realistic. I also know that within Christian circles it’s really popular to say things that aren’t helpful after a loss…things like, “At least they’re in a better place,” or, “Well, God has a plan.” YES, I KNOW all those things are true. But, like you said, after a loss, sometimes the most helpful thing is just… Read more »


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