In 1969, When Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlined the stages of grief in her book Death and Dying, she greatly contributed to our understanding of the process of emotional healing. The stages of grief can be applied to recovery from many kinds of losses. She named the stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In watching myself and others grieve over a variety of losses, I often see that there is not a neat and tidy order to these stages. One often jumps from one stage to the other and back again.
A friend of mine died recently after a struggle with cancer. She was a confidant and prayer partner, and I will miss her deeply. Since I heard the news of her death, I have watched myself travel through shock and denial and then into a mix of sadness and joyful imaginings of her in heaven. I have stopped having the crazy reactive thought that she could be calling when the phone rings. I am starting to grasp the fact that she is not here on earth any longer. I can always tell that I may be holding in emotion when I start to feel unusually fatigued and tired or strangely agitated. These symptoms are my cues to check in with the Lord, express my recent thoughts about the loss, and release feelings.
I am giving myself permission to grieve at my own pace. I want to encourage anyone else struggling with grief to do the same. Be gentle with yourself.
The good news is that especially in the context of community support along with trust in the relational compassion and sovereignty of God, acceptance and peace do come, even if the sense of loss still remains. We have the hope of eternal life with our loved ones and we know that even on earth we will never be alone. God is ever-present and near to the broken-hearted. He gives peace that passes understanding and restores our joy. We can’t muster it up ourselves. We just ask, surrender and receive. He is with us in the journey.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18 NKJV).
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1 NKJV).
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27 NKJV).
God sees you. He knows you. He loves you!