God Direction










Mourning is a messy process that no one wants to go thru, but when you emerge on the other side you will realize what a miraculous and divine process it is. As you look back on this journey you will see the perfect design of the grief cycle and you will know that each step or stage of the grief process has a purpose.

I have used the terms stage, step and process in describing the journey of grief, but in reality there isn't a neat progression of stages or cycles or steps. These terms are used to help explain grief. It is easier to wrap our brains around a set of stages or steps in order to understand grief. Grief is a journey that is very messy, very complicated and very personal. You can expect a lot of regression, or backtracking so to speak, to earlier "stages" or "tasks". Do not be discouraged by this, it is perfectly normal and just means your journey is not yet complete and you are working through it in your own personal way.

This is not a complete study of the journey of grief but an overview to help you understand what you are experiencing and what you can expect. There are many working models and you can view four of the most commonly utilized models at recover-from-grief.com/stages-of-grief.html. The model that the following is loosely based on is the "7 stages of grief". In the summary that follows each stage there are some understandings from other models.

Stage 1: Shock & Denial. Most likely you will react to the news of the loss with shock or numbed disbelief. This initial reaction provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. You may deny the reality of the loss, in order to protect yourself from the pain.

During this stage you may be unable to function or perform even in simple tasks or making decisions. You may feel disconnected, like you are sleepwalking or living in a dream or nightmare. This is the time to allow your friends and family to help you do the everyday tasks including planning the funeral.

You may have physical symptoms such as agitation, weakness, crying and aimless activity. This stage may last hours or even weeks.

Stage 2: Pain & Guilt. Shock and denial will fade and be replaced with unbelievable pain and suffering. This emotional pain can be so great as to feel physical as well. Physical symptoms may include loss of appetite and weight, chest pain, insomnia, and extreme fatigue. Though this pain may feel unbearable it is important that you experience it fully. Don't try to avoid it, hide from it, or escape it through drugs or alcohol.

During this stage you may feel guilty or have remorse over things you said or did, or things you didn't say or do with your loved one. At this time life seems chaotic and scary.

Stage 3: Anger & Bargaining. Guilt gives way to anger. You may lash out and lay unjustified blame for the death on someone else. This is an important time to release bottled up emotion, but be aware that permanent damage to your relationships may result in this anger. When you become aware, apologize sooner than later to repair that relationship. (If you are a loved one reading this, please understand that often the person doesn't realize what they are saying or doing at this time.)This is also the time that you may question “why me? Where is God? Why did God do this?” and other questions that is asked in anger and bitterness. You may also try to bargain with God for a way out of your pain and despair (“I will never drink again, or I will go to church every Sunday if you just bring him/her back.”)

During stages 1, 2, and 3 you will experience rapid mood swings and you may go back and forth between the three. You may even question your sanity. This is also the time that you will need the most emotional support from friends and family. But often is the case that this is the time that friends and family may go back home and even pressure you to "get over it" or "move on with your life." If you are left alone, seek out support. Find a support group or someone who will listen and let you vent. It is important that you don't grieve alone.

Stage 4: Depression, Reflection, Loneliness. At about the time that your family and friends think you should be getting on with your life, you will likely experience a long period of sad reflection. This is normal and part of the grief journey. Don't allow others, who think they are helping, to talk you out of this stage. You will find that encouragement isn't helpful during this stage.

This is a time that you will experience intense sadness, depression (you will realize the magnitude of the loss) and you may isolate yourself on purpose in order to reflect on the things you did with the one you lost. You may even focus on the past at this time. Feelings of emptiness and despair will likely occur.

(The previous 3 stages are often linked together in various ways in other models of grief. They will last months and even intermittently for years. You will experience the "roller coaster ride" of grief, alternating waves of intense mourning (grief). This is normal. The progression through these three stages will have your emotions moving and changing. Your emotions will be very unpredictable. Don't fight it, just flow with it. Surrender to the grief process. It is important that you experience it in its fullest. If you avoid the process or try to suppress it you could become stuck. If you feel that the grief is unbearable and you can't allow it to run its course, then you should seek professional help.)

Stage 5: The Upward Turn. Many but not everyone start to turn the corner after a year. In this stage you start to adjust to life without your loved one. Life becomes a little more stable, more organized. The physical symptoms will lesson and depression begins to lift.

Stage 6: Reconstruction & Working Through. In this stage of the journey your thought process becomes clearer. You will be able to start working through the problems in life with realistic and practical solutions. You will be able to work on financial issues and start reconstructing your life without your loved one.

Stage 7: Acceptance & Hope. The last stage of the seven is when you are able to accept and deal with your situation. This doesn't mean instant happiness. You will continue to feel sadness when you think about your loved one but the extreme pain will be gone. You will be able to look forward and even plan things for your future, and you will start anticipating some good times ahead, even finding some joy again in life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
        a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
        a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
        a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
        a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
        a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
        a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
        a time for war and a time for peace.1

There is purpose in the journey of grief. You will never be the same after suffering the loss of a loved one but you can still live and live with purpose. Your life can still be full and joyful. You shouldn't try to forget your loved one. Remember the good times and embrace those times. Use this experience to help others. Faith can play a very important role in your recovery and in your life afterward. You may want to go through the Contemplative Style Prayer Study. Through this style of prayer you can develop a deep relationship with God and live a new life with Him.

Let's pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I don't know what your purpose is. I don't understand why I must suffer this terrible loss. But I will trust you. Help me to cope and move on through the grieving process. In Christ's Name, Amen
1The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ec 3:1-8). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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