Back in the 1960’s, a scientist named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., produced what is commonly held as the five stages of grief. While these stages are mostly accepted by the general public, Kübler-Ross noted later in life that the stages are not a linear and predictable progression and that she regretted writing them in a way that was misunderstood. Rather, they are a collation of five common experiences for the bereaved that can occur in any order, if at all. (I got this from Wikipedia, so take it, or don’t, but I think it’s relevant and can be helpful!)
Kübler-Ross produced the stages based on what a person goes through just before death, but I think that we go through the stages of grief during multiple different types of grief. Loss, at the end of the day, is still a loss, no matter how great or small.
These are the stages as presented here (again, Wikipedia, so you know, whatever):
- Denial – The first reaction is denial. In this stage individuals believe the diagnosis is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.
- Anger – When the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue, they become frustrated, especially at proximate individuals. Certain psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase would be: “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”; “Why would this happen?”.
- Bargaining – The third stage involves the hope that the individual can avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek compromise. For instance: “I’d give anything to have him back.” Or: “If only he’d come back to life, I’d promise to be a better person!”
- Depression – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon, so what’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?” During the fourth stage, the individual despairs at the recognition of their mortality. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen.
- Acceptance– “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it; I may as well prepare for it.”
In this last stage, individuals embrace mortality or inevitable future, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. People dying may precede the survivors in this state, which typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individual, and a stable condition of emotions.
I put these here because I think it’s a healthy approach to moving through grief. While the above explanations of the stages deal specifically with death, many people move through the stages in various ways when they experience grief through a divorce or break up, through the loss of a friendship, when you have a child who is born with disabilities, or any change in life situation. Whatever order you go through the stages, even if you loop through several of them a few times, the main goal is to eventually reach acceptance.
Acceptance almost never happens overnight. People can take years to reach acceptance, and that’s okay. Everyone’s process is their own. But when dealing with grief, it is important to remember that you have people that you can lean on. You have a God who you can put your faith in. And though you are hurting deeply, there is still joy and beauty to behold in this world.
Before we can celebrate Easter, we have to remember our loss and grieve. Before we can lean into the empty tomb, we must lean into our fasts and our suffering. Leaning into our grief is an active approach to dealing with heartbreak. You cannot stand by and watch the suffering of yourself and others. You have to lean into it. We experience the destitute of the desert along side Jesus. We wander in the wilderness with the Israelites. When we do these things, we can experience the empty tomb with clear eyes and open hearts.
We’ll be talking more about the five stages as we go through this week, but I wanted to introduce them a bit before discussing them through a Christian lens. I want you to keep the sages in mind as we go through this week together and as we meditate on the Psalms.
Today’s reading comes from Psalm 4.
1 Answer me when I cry out, my righteous God!
Set me free from my troubles!
Have mercy on me!
Listen to my prayer!
2 How long, you people,
will my reputation be insulted?
How long will you continue
to love what is worthless
and go after lies? Selah
3 Know this: the Lord takes
personal care of the faithful.
The Lord will hear me
when I cry out to him.
4 So be afraid, and don’t sin!
Think hard about it in your bed
and weep over it! Selah
5 Bring righteous offerings,
and trust the Lord!
6 Many people say,
“We can’t find goodness anywhere.
The light of your face has left us, Lord!”
7 But you have filled my heart with more joy
than when their wheat and wine are everywhere!
8 I will lie down and fall asleep in peace
because you alone, Lord, let me live in safety.
I hope that you all have a beautiful day! See you all tomorrow.