The loss of a loved one can feel like one of the darkest seasons of life. After the death of his wife, beloved Christian author C.S. Lewis wrote, “The death of a beloved is an amputation.” In times when grief grips your soul, hope in Christ becomes a crucial anchor.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4 (NIV)
But even with the hope of eternity in your mind’s eye, grief is a process. Rather than dismiss the stages of grief as mere psychology, understanding them in light of scripture may be key to navigating your grief (or a loved one’s).
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The 5 Stages of Grief
Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross popularized the concept of the 5 stages of grief in her book, “On Death and Dying.” Here are the stages in brief:
- Denial & Isolation: In this stage, feelings and thoughts like “this can’t be happening,” are common.
- Anger: After denial, a common emotion to follow is anger. These angry feelings may be directed at doctors, oneself, or even the person that has died.
- Bargaining: This is the stage of “if only's” where we try to strike a deal with God. This is especially common when grief begins before the death of a loved one like at the diagnosis of a terminal illness.
- Depression: Inevitably, grief is characterized by intense and perhaps prolonged feelings of sadness.
- Acceptance: On the part of the dying person or those around them, coming to terms with the loss that has occurred or is imminent is the final stage of grief.
RPM Ministry’s article “A Biblical Model of Grieving,” reminds us of the limitations of this secular model:
We must understand something about research in a fallen world. At best, it describes what typically occurs. It cannot, with assurance and authority, prescribe what should occur. Research attempts to understand the nature of human nature are thwarted by the fallenness of our nature and of our world.
But understanding the stages of grief is still important for Christians. In Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV), King Solomon writes, “There is a time for everything.” Allowing for the ebb and flow of emotion is healthy, so long as the eternal hope we have in Christ remains in view.
Hope and Healing
There is no correct way to grieve or process the emotions that come following the death of a loved one. But the one constant is a reliance on God and His promises.
READ MORE: 10 COMFORTING BIBLE VERSES ABOUT SADNESS
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 (NIV)
While this essential truth from Romans may be difficult to grasp in the midst of grief, it's an important one to meditate on. One way to contemplate this verse (and others like it) could be to watch shows and movies about the grief process.
The new series "Going Home" will be available exclusively on Pure Flix on June 2, 2022. This show is about a team of nurses who are racing against the clock to help patients and family members prepare for the ultimate journey – to heaven. Watch the trailer for this hope-filled original series:
The show follows Charley, an award-winning hospice nurse, as she trains fellow nurse, Janey, at Sunset House. In the sacred halls of the hospice home, Charley and Janey come face-to-face with people on some of the worst days of their lives. But with God's strength and His calling to help those preparing to pass away, Charley and Janey are able to help families on a journey of acceptance, redemption and reconciliation.
Another reality-show series aims to help widows after the loss of a loved one. "Rebuild & Restore" takes James 1:27 to heart as hosts Shannen Fields and Ken Fletcher try to mend their hearts and homes:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27 (NIV)
What makes the show even more powerful is Shannen's personal grief journey that she experienced while filming the series. In the midst of filming, Shannen's husband was diagnosed with ALS. Listen to her story on "The Women in My World" Podcast with Shari Rigby:
Whatever stage of the grief journey you are in – a loved one is facing a terminal diagnosis or it's been years since you lost a loved one – we pray that this list and the shows "Going Home" and "Rebuild & Restore" encourage you and strengthen your faith.