The pain of losing another human being, is by far, the most intense. It brings to it feelings of grief and emptiness that words cannot describe. It can only be felt.
A close family recently lost a baby a few days after birth. Several months into the pregnancy, they were informed after routine checkup that only one part of the child’s heart was developed, and she had very little chance of survival. It was such devastating news. They were given the option of terminating the pregnancy on medical grounds, but decided to keep her, believing that no matter what, she was a gift from God.
The death of the baby, though not surprising, was still a source of sorrow to the parents. In the mother’s words ‘’my baby was so beautiful. Although she did not live long, I had the opportunity of holding her in my arms for the few days she was here.’’
Do I say more of the Mother who lost her husband and in a year also lost her only son? What pain.
Losing a loved one is like losing part of your body: Just as there is pain and bleeding when the body is wounded or broken, so the soul bleeds when a loved one dies. Grieving the loss is essential for the soul, as healing is essential for the body. Medically the body goes through different stages towards healing; in the same way, the mind, the will and the emotions also goes through the different stages of the grieving.
Permit me to share with you the identified stages of grief that we go through when we have suffered a loss. These principles apply to any type of loss, but in this context, death.
1. Shock and Denial: No matter how much we know that the person will die, we still go through a phase of shock: A ‘this can’t be happening mode’. Shock is usually a built in protection that jars the mind or emotions from a violent, unexpected blow. This may last from a few minutes to a few weeks, and it is most intense when the death of the loved one is unexpected. Shock is our inbuilt mechanism to protect us from the effect of sudden news. While shock and denial may go on from a few days to a few weeks, anything beyond that is going to dangerous ground. Facing the truth about a permanent loss is extremely hard, but running away from the reality is even harder and more harmful. Though painful, we need to come to terms with the realization that the person is never coming back.
2. Anger: After the shock and denial has worn off and the reality of the loss sets in, the second stage is marked by anger: at God, the Devil, ourselves, the person who caused the pain, the person who died. The devil may also use the opportunity to question God’s goodness and faithfulness. Sometimes we internalize the anger, or unconsciously take it out at the people close to us. It is important that we are able to identify our anger, acknowledge it a part of the grieving process, and talk about it.
3. Uncontrolled Emotions: This is the stage where you think that things will be OK one minute, and the next minute you are crying and weeping, or angry all over again. Or it may just be a song, or someone’s voice that triggers off an emotional experience. You may wonder sometimes what is wrong and ‘I thought I had gotten this.’ This is part of the grieving process. It will pass.
4. Depression: When sadness floods the soul, the feeling of depression accompanies it. To be depressed refers to a state of being under, or an area sunk below normal levels; feelings of overwhelming sadness. Denying the fact that we can get depressed as a result of grief is denying the existence of grief. Depression cripples you and makes you not to want to do much of anything. Understanding this stage and moving out of it is essential, as it has the potential of keeping us stagnant and unable to move on with lives if we stay there. This is also the stage where the Devil can take advantage of our minds. We must remember that God is our glory and the lifter our head, and actively trust Him to do so. This is also when we have to actively rely on the Holy Spirit to minister to us as our Comforter, trusting God for healing, and making active steps to come out of the state of depression. David said in Psalm 42 said: ‘why are you so downcast, o my soul. Put your hope in God, for He will yet save you, the help of your countenance’.
5. Acceptance and moving on with life: Though still painful, acknowledging the loss and moving forward is necessary for healing. It does not happen overnight, and repeat episodes of the previous elements will happen for a while, but you will get to the stage that when you remember the loss, the pain will not be as intense. This is living life on a new normal: Like an amputee learning to function again. Scars from a wound always makes us remember that something bad happened to us, but a scar also shows that the wound has healed and it no longer brings pain. Just like one learns to walk again with the help of family, friends and even professionals, reaching out and accepting the help of others is also very important. It is not a sign of weakness.
While the grieving process is normal, there are some traps that we fall into that affect us for the rest of our lives, if not handled properly:
Not expressing our grief and bottling up our feelings: Some, for the sake of not showing ourselves as being spiritually or emotionally weak, bottle it up our grief and carry on as normal. I remember vividly when I lost my step Dad, and a few relatives came to see my Mom and the family. As I was seeing them off, I broke down and began to cry. One of the relatives at the time told me to ‘stop crying. Am I not a Christian? Christians are not supposed to be sorrowful’. Such is the mindset of many of us. Denying yourself the space to grieve the loss of a loved one is like covering up a wound and hoping it will go away, feeling that you can live with the pain. Covering up a wound and not giving it the right treatment only makes it worse and it takes longer to heal. So, embrace your grieving process. Pent up emotions are powerful and needs to be released. If you do not release your emotions in times of deep stress such as grief, it will eat you up on the inside and cause physical, mental and emotional damage. Find someone to talk to and pray with. I assure you, it helps
Staying Stuck in Grief: There is a vast difference between the grieving process and the spirit of grief. While the process is inevitable, we have to actively trust God to help us out of the different stages of grief. Staying stuck in grief, or one of the stages; Denial, Anger, Depression will limit us and not help us to heal, and limit God’s work in our lives. It will also attract more complications and cause us more pain. We must strive, with the help of the Holy Spirit to recognize when we are staying stuck in grief (keeping the person’s clothes and shoes intact after years, for instance). Bring it in the open by admitting it, and seek help to move out of it. One of the reasons why we stay stuck in grief is the guilt of erasing the person’s memory from our minds, and therefore we open the door to the Devil in bringing the spirit of grief. Some may also wallow in self pity and use our grief as a ‘crutch’ to inhibit our growth.
Not giving ourselves enough time to heal before making life changing decisions. Some, of us think that quickly replacing the person that died will help overcome the grief. If we do not heal properly by giving ourselves time to grieve and mourn, we will complicate our lives through our decisions.
I pray the Lord will comfort you in your tears, help you to understand some of the things you are passing through, and equip you by the power of the Holy Spirit to move on. Peace.
Journeying through the Loss; Grief: Kyria resource www.kyria.com
Straight Talk on Loneliness Straight Talk Series: Joyce Meyer
Jim Davis: Coping with a Job Loss: www.joblossguide.com