Losing a loved one is an intensely personal event. Your relationship with the one you have lost is just that – your relationship. Your sadness and hurt are a sign of the love that you gave and bonds that you formed. And no-one else is quite like you – your upbringing, life experiences, past loss and present circumstances are all unique to you. And so no-one can tell you how you will respond. Nor can anyone truly say ‘I know what you’re going through’, though they may well be able to empathise with your experience.
But it is possible to identify some things that occur as we face loss, not in everyone or to the same degree in all people, but common ‘categories’ of feeling some may go through. Kübler-Ross (1969) wrote a key paper which identified these common features and, whilst debated, her explanation has become a commonly adopted framework to help us discuss and understand grief.
These five ‘stages’ (but don’t thing of them as ordered – rather think of them as categories that can summarise how you feel from time to time) are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – see https://tinyurl.com/five-grief for more details.
We were not created for parting, but for eternity, to dwell together and with God for eternity (Gen 1-2). Sin changed all of that.
What is important to realise, no matter what the details, is that loss is a huge shock and change, one that we struggle to get our minds to face. We were not created for parting, but for eternity, to dwell together and with God for eternity (Gen 1-2). Sin changed all of that, and death and separation came (Gen 3). By Genesis 5 we hear the ‘death bell toll’ in the repeated words “and he died”. But, in God’s grace, he enables us to face loss and bring that loss into a new future. To help us to work through all that our minds cannot fully absorb, the reality of loss is revealed a bit at a time. These are seen in the ‘stages’ of grief, as we ‘grow with our loss’.
That’s encouraging! As we travel through our hurt and pain, as we try to understand things and face a new future, God is enabling us in it. There is a ‘rainbow through the rain’ – God has in our deepest, fallen, humanity placed His care for us in our weakness and inability.
Of course, our true hope, the real answers, are found in Jesus. But that isn’t separate from the feelings we go through. Who is the truth in the confusion of ‘denial’? – Jesus who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’, who calls us to trust Him even in our lack of understanding (see John 20:10-16); Who patiently hears us in our anger and pain? – Jesus our redeemer and friend who listens and loves (see Job 10:1-13, John 11:32-33); Who guides us through our questions and hurt? – Jesus our saviour who speaks hope in Him into our confusion (John 11:21-27); Who leads us through the deepest sadness? – Jesus our creator who is always with us and will not leave us (Isaiah 43:1-3); Who guides our path as we learn to live again? – Jesus our patient friend who calls us to find our future in Him (John 20:24-29, Job 40:1-42:6).
Our pathway through loss is dark, difficult, confusing and painful. No-one else quite understands. But we have our Shepherd King – He leads us through the dark valley, He is with us in the midst of the battle (Ps 23), and He will lead us safe through.
Our pathway through loss is dark, difficult, confusing and painful. No-one else quite understands. But we have our Shepherd King – He leads us through the dark valley, He is with us in the midst of the battle (Ps 23), and He will lead us safe through. Praise God that when we feel the most alone, He is with you and will never leave nor forsake you.