Stages of Grief
By Deonna Crabtree
When people reference the stages of grief, they typically refer to Kubler-Ross’s five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial is normally the first reaction, which can be experienced as numbness or avoidance. No matter how prepared an individual believes she is, the realization that a loved one has died can be a shock. Denial allows a person to function as funeral arrangements and other decisions are made. The dangers of remaining in denial can lead to viewing life unrealistically, avoiding responsibilities, or isolation.
Anger frequently follows denial as a response to the awareness of no longer sharing your life with your loved one. Questioning or blaming is common: “Why did God allow this to happen?” or “This isn’t fair!” Anger is a normal emotion, but it can lead to bitterness or separation from God and others.
Bargaining is seeking to make a deal with yourself or God in order to stop the pain. “Lord, if You will ease my pain, I’ll …” or “Maybe if I find love again, I won’t miss …” Dangers of bargaining can be replacing your pain with a temporary and/or superficial fix, or pushing yourself back into denial.
Depression comes with the realization that death is final and triggers feelings like loneliness, guilt, and negativity. Similar to anger, depression is a normal emotion, but it can lead to isolation, hopelessness, and even suicide.
Acceptance, the final stage, is learning how to navigate life without your loved one. It’s being able to appreciate the time you had with him while embracing the next chapter in your life.
Some common myths are: Individuals need to complete a stage before moving to the next; they will move through the stages in order; everyone grieves alike; and there is a time limit for grieving. In actuality maneuvering through the stages looks different for each person. Some may revisit a stage especially with holidays and special events, some may never experience a particular stage, and others may spend a little longer in one or more stages.
God made people similar, yet uniquely individual; therefore, it’s not surprising that grief can be similar but individually unique.
Deonna Crabtree, counselor
Health is a Choice
By Julie Markese
When my doctor announced that my cholesterol levels were dangerously elevated, I was surprised and a little dismayed. There goes the ice cream and potato chips, I thought. These were my two comfort foods and diet staples during the months following my husband’s death.
Grief can wreak havoc on a physical body. Mine was responding to heightened emotions with a cholesterol jump to 280. I knew I had to make some lifestyle changes.
With the loss of a much-loved spouse, sadness and anxiety can threaten our ability to face life’s challenges. Yet crisis and conflict are a part of life. It was alright for me to be ill. I would grow stronger and become healthier when I met the challenge and made the necessary changes. Health is about 10 percent of what happens to me and 90 percent how I respond. I must take responsibility for my health and make good choices.
Good health is not the absence of disease. Rather, health is the ability of a living system to respond to something that challenges its integrity. Disease provokes the healing capacities of the body to restore balance. A high temperature is not so much a symptom of disease as much as an indication that the body is trying to heal itself.
Researchers in Connecticut divided nursing home residents into two groups that had the same health problems. Each resident was given special meals, entertainment, and a plant to care for . One group was given choices about certain things; the other had choices made for them.
Group A could choose between omelets and scrambled eggs; Group B ate omelets and scrambled eggs on a schedule set for them by their caregivers. Group A could choose when to go to the movies. Group B was told when to go.
Group A could choose about the plants’ care; Group B was told how to care for them. After only three weeks, residents in Group A showed significant improvement in their overall health. After 18 months only half as many patients in Group A had died as in Group B. Clearly, the opportunity to make choices in how to live, and making good ones, contributes to overall health and balance.
Health experts tell us that the attitude that most nourishes a person’s health is gratitude. Ten years after my husband’s death, I take time every day to thank God for the choices I am able to make, and for the health and wholeness He has helped me regain and sustain.
Julie Markese is director of Thrive Church Network and Life Leadership coach in Carlinville, Illinois.
Give Yourself Permission to Grieve
By Ruth Kaunley
“There is a time for everything … a time to be born and a time to die … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,4, NIV). The Scripture gives equal priority to the stages in life, including the death of a loved one and permission to mourn that loss. Unfortunately, healthy grieving takes times, energy, and focus.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, defines five stages of the grieving experience in resolving loss. Each stage is unique to the one who grieves, depending on his or her relationship with the deceased, family structure, social networks, personality, current life issues and experiences, and faith.
- Denial. A dazed numbness. While a person may go through the motions, there is unbelief or refusal to accept such loss. It is too overwhelming to absorb the reality of this loss in a short span of time.
- Anger. Normal and unavoidable reality of the loss sets in. Such anger may be directed at self, the deceased (how could you leave me?), others, and God. If this anger is internalized, it will impeded the grieving process and result in guilt, depression, and physical problems such as sleeplessness, immune system depletion, eating issues, etc.
- Bargaining. In an attempt to recover a loved one, a person may bargain with God trying to bring some meaning to what seems senseless. The “why” and “if only” questions are prevalent.
- Depression. The grieving person feels deeply the pain and realty of the loss. Overwhelming sadness leads to shutting down, to “depress.” Loss of energy, loss of interest in issues, tasks, or others, and the inability to focus are common. Isolation often results.
- Acceptance. Accepting the death and its effects helps the griever move on with focus toward the new normal. The result of this stage is the return of spirit, energy, and a future.
It is reassuring that the God of all comfort will enable you to navigate life’s losses.
Ruth Kaunley is retired executive director of counseling at Central Bible College, Springfield, Missouri.