GRIEF: TURNING THE GRIEVING TO THEIR OWN FORM OF SUCCESS

 

Introduction

            Grief is the normal reaction to loss.[1] The natural reaction is to go into a period of mourning, followed by a lesser form of bereavement that lasts a lifetime. It often happens after the grieving loses a loved one. However, there are similar reactions that happen in a period of depression of divorce or depression. Depression is a period of sadness, normally after a major change of life. “Depression is as natural as the common cold.”[2] It is, however, regarded as an illness, and treated with medication or electro-convulsive therapy.[3] The “blues” is often hard to distinguish from mild depression, making self-diagnosis impossible.[4] In divorce, one does not lose the loved one’s life, but has to come away from dependency on that loved one and distance emotions away.  The same grieving process or cycle must be gone through by the divorcee, however. In the end, grief makes us better. It helps us to savor life by providing a time to confront our own mortalities, giving us an opposite by which to judge being alive.[5] Grief can also provide the strength to making major decisions, giving courage and integrity.[6] It allows us to see our achievements as having significance, but it also threatens the things we value.[7]

The Grief Cycle was invented by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 in her book, On Death and Dying.[8] In the book, she outlines the cycle of Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and, finally, Acceptance.[9] There are indications found from research by Ruth Davis Konigsberg that Kubler-Ross’ research is wrong and Kubler-Ross may have only found her stages of the cycle after a book deal and writer’s block.[10] Konigsberg’s research reflects that Kubler-Ross’ stages do not accurately describe the typical experience during grief.[11] The cycle may also make those feel “strange” that do not follow that grief model.[12]

In The Five Ways We Grieve, new ways people grieve are pointed out.[13] While Berger’s book is not demonstrating a cycle, as Kubler-Ross’ grief cycle, it is a model or noncyclical grief. Integration of Kubler-Ross and Berger’s work may be more parts to the complete the puzzle. In The Five Ways We Grieve, the Nomad, the Activist, the Memorialist, the Normalizer, and the Seeker are introduced as ways people grieve, with people being able to change statuses throughout their lives.

Depression

Depression is a prolonged period of sadness, and has a strong link to being caused by chemical imbalances. These chemicals imbalances may occur because of life events, such as loss, or can be caused by illness or medications.[14] There are two major kinds of Clinical Depression: reactive and endogenous. Reactive depression begins by means of reaction to life’s circumstances.[15] Endogenous depression is thought to be caused by chemical imbalance, and is only diagnosed in case of unknown causation.[16]

A person is a human being, not an illness.[17] This means they are not a “psycho” or a “mental case.” There are no cookie-cutter solutions to any illness and the person must be treated as such. The counselor is not just dealing with a problem. Fourteen million Americans annually are affected. There is also stigma involved, especially among African-American males.[18] This stigma makes those suffering the blues less likely to seek any kind of counseling.

Divorce

Divorce allows a person to remove his or herself from an abusive or adulterous situation. It can substantially lower the economic situation of a person, as when one divorces they may have never had a job, or be divorcing the house’s “bread winner.” It knows few boundaries, and Christian teachings adverse to divorce mean little. There is a 48% divorce rate among Evangelical Protestants from 1973 to 2006.[19] The same rate is at 30% for the same time period for Roman Catholics.[20]

The first known divorce in the British Colonies was in 1639 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.[21] Divorce laws included adultery, desertion, and impotence. After the American Revolution, northern states allowed for adultery, impotence, extreme cruelty, desertion for a certain number of years, and failure to provide for the wife.[22]

Methods Grief is expressed

Grief is expressed similarly among Western culture. It is expressed in several different ways, and while Konigsberg seems to disagree with Kubler-Ross’ research, it is important to place those ideas into a model of commonly found grieving methods. This research will discuss Confusion, Action, Bargaining, Normalizing, Memorializing, and finally in the existentialist Seeker. Once again, this is not a new cycle but just observed ways Westerners grieve.

Confusion

            Confusion contains two modes of grieving. It contains Kubler-Ross’ Denial and Isolation and Berger’s Nomadism. Kubler-Ross’ said of denial and isolation, “Denial, at least partial denial, is used by almost all patients, not only during the first stages of illness or following confrontation, but also later on from time to time.”[23] Full denial is only temporary; soon, it will be replaced by some acceptance.[24]

Berger’s Nomadism is for those stuck in the grieving process.[25] They can be described as “lost in transition.”[26] Nomads can believe their lost one is still alive and the Nomad is oftentimes created after an unexpected loss due to murder, or never finding the body of the deceased.[27] Nomads are confused because of the “complicated grief” they experience. The Nomad may be seen as “getting on with life,” and resist existential questions like the Seeker.[28] The main problem is that Nomads are not where they want to be, and drift through life trying to find remedy.[29] In the immediate times of grief, when one has recently died, we are all Nomads.[30] Feelings include sadness, anger, anxiety and loneliness.[31]

Action

            Kubler-Ross’ Anger model, refers to being mad at God, the illness, and the hospital employees, whether nurses, doctors, or administrators.[32] While Kubler-Ross’ model relates to the dying, the grieving are more likely to be Berger’s Activist. However, it may never happen, as in the case of a 90 year-old dying. Some elderly are simply grieved differently than those young, because the elderly are expected to die eventually.

America’s Most Wanted’s John Walsh is probably one of the most famous people driven to action after loss, with the kidnapping of his son Adam. The Walshes also began the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.[33] The Activist is driven to social justice, altruism, and compassion.[34] He may go to meetings for his grief. He may also try to help others who are going through the process as a means of handling his own grief.

 

Bargaining, Memorialism, Normalization, and the Seeker

            Bargaining begins a discourse with God. It includes either making a deal with God to get extra time on your life, or a rededication to God trying to “earn” extra time.[35] In one case in Kubler-Ross’ On Death and Dying, a patient who was an opera singer is used as a case study. Her teeth were to be pulled for a radiation treatment. She came out into the hallway before the treatment and sang because she believed she would have to “hide her face forever.”[36] These promises are often private and kept in secret or in the relative safety of a chaplain’s office.[37] Kubler-Ross says it would be most helpful if such bargains made public were not simple ignored.[38]

Memorializers makes a “totem or idol” to the dying, so that something solid can be connected to the deceased. They may also participate in “public rituals,” such as candlelight services.[39] They need “concrete tributes” to bear the name of the lost.[40] Eulogies may be a method of Memorializing, by created a public “picture” of the dead.[41] Another solid method is through LifeGem, which uses a patented process of making a gem from remains of the dead.[42] Memorializers manage to retain a vibrant memory of their loved one, but a potential disadvantage is that people become the memorial. Memorializers find a difficult time breaking ties from these “walking memorials.”[43]

The Normalizer is seen in Kubler-Ross’ acceptance model. They try to recreate normal life outside of the illness, grieving, and illness as much as possible.[44] Kubler-Ross describes this as a stage when “one is neither angry, nor depressed about [their] ‘fate’.”[45] Kubler-Ross says that some will keep up the “hope” and never reach this acceptance, but she is quick to note that this is not a resigned “giving up.”[46] Berger says that the normalizer may seek to remarry, have more children, or find happiness that their loss brings the family closer together.[47] Normalizers know what they want out of life, but may jump from one relationship to the next to subside their loss.[48]

The Seeker is the last of these types. They become existential and philosophical about life after a major change or loss. They pursue wisdom, religion, and philosophy to cope.[49] Seekers live in the present, because they believe it is the only “truth” to be known.[50] Seekers may radically change religion forms (Monotheism to Polytheism or vice versa) in order to answer for a God who could not save their loved one. Seekers see all life as connected and may be “big picture” thinkers, but it may take them a long time to find a single path that satisfies for any length of time.[51]

How to Counsel the Grieving

            There may be some delay before the griever wants help, but one must reach out to the bereaved. Never say “call if you need me.”[52] Bereavement counseling should be offered to all individuals.[53] This is especially when a parent or child is lost. Offer to be with the bereaved while they search for a casket. Try to anticipate the needs they may not see. Being with the griever before they experience complications with everyday living, prevents more complicated grieving, in which one may find help only through medical means. This may be weeks or months after the death.[54]

Be with them physically and help them to realize what they have lost.[55] This may be money, as in the case of an employed person being lost. This may also manifest after a divorce where one is losing a “bread winner” in the home. Give the survivor permission to grieve.[56] Some believe grief to contain unacceptable thoughts and feelings.[57] This stigma should be ignored as one counsels the grieving. Such thoughts do little service for the grieving. Do not allow a griever to remain isolated, where one can hurt themselves or not take care of themselves. Help the survivor to express their feelings. While it may be great to see them coping after a loss, they may be putting on a facade. They may not recognize their own feelings, so it is best to talk with them about their loss at any opportunity. A counselor can help a person get in touch with their feelings, and that may be the best course of action for one in denial.[58] Finally, assist in living without the deceased.[59] While doing this, help to maintain a sense of detachment. They will need to separate from their feelings of grief, while remembering the lost to truly win over their feelings. There are those who jump into new relationships as a way of coping. Others, such as counselors, can interpret if this is appropriate.[60]

Typical feelings to cope with are anger, guilt, anxiety, and sadness. Anger, if it is not projected outwards, may go toward themselves. Most will not admit to anger when asked direct questions, such as “Are you angry?”[61] Guilt may come because one did not spend more time with the deceased, didn’t provide better hospital care, or allowed an operation.[62] While this may be wrongly experienced, real culpability and wrong doing is much more difficult. The anxious may experience “real death awareness,” that oneself will die. Most have low personal death awareness, and it is normally best to let it fade by itself,[63] rather than counseling through it. They may also experience helplessness. In sadness, crying is experienced. One will not cry in public or when someone seems to be “intimidating.” One will cry where one is comfortable, and it is best to be there when they are comfortable, rather than letting them cope for themselves.

As a member of the ministry, one should be there when the grieving process begins. While refraining from cliché, one can use God’s Word to help the survivor. It is not necessary to preach a sermon, as one can easily just point out a word of Scripture that the grieving may find helpful.[64] Share the hope of Heaven. Give them words that show that their loss may be gain for the deceased.[65] As Paul, said in , “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is Gain.” Prayer is always a good thing for the grieving, and one can also encourage the bereaved to share their testimony, both in public and private.[66]

At a funeral, do not use cookie-cutter methods of preparing service. Tailor it to the family’s needs. More than anything, the funeral will be determined by how the dead met their end.[67] Mention the way the person died. Peterson and Miller describe a situation where a person had committed suicide to illustrate a point:

As I began the second service, I said something like this:

“Ten days ago, we gathered here to receive God’s strength and comfort as we acknowledged the loss of Betty Wilson. Her death in an accident left us shocked and hurting. No one felt the pain and shock more than her devoted husband, Hank, and so, tragically, three days ago, Hank ended his own life near his home.”

With that opening statement, I immediately established the unusual circumstances that brought us together. It frustrates a family when a pastor talks all around the cause of death without addressing it directly. In some cases, the circumstances will be obvious, as in the death of a child. In other cases, however, part of our effectiveness lies in enabling the survivors to admit “John was killed in a car wreck” or “John was murdered,” or even “John killed himself.” Mentioning the cause of death gives everyone present the chance to start recovering from grief from a more-or-less common starting point.[68]

Acknowledging that this is an abnormal time, even in the case of a “normal death,” is important.[69] While doing this, allowing ventilation of emotions and keeping the grieving person’s eye on the Lord is the most important thing the minister can do.

 Conclusion

            Death in the Bible is usually mentioned with the perspective of the bereaved.[70] The bereaved almost always project their grief outwardly.[71] Jacob mourned for Joseph, believing him to be dead. indicate that Joseph refused to be consoled, saying, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” Sheol was the general abode of the dead during Old Testament times, and Jacob believed he would mourn until he was reunited with Joseph. Leaders were mourned thirty days, as in the case of Moses.[72] Food was brought by friends, for it could not be prepared in a house made unclean by the dead.[73]Mary and Martha wept over Lazarus, and from there we receive the indication that our Lord grieved: “Jesus wept.”[74]

says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” This is a great verse to comfort those in need. God grieved and so do we. God finds strength in weakness[75], seeing the paradoxical connections between those who call on his mercy and those who grieve. God loves those who call on His name with no reservations, and who is better to do that than those who have lost?

God promises good things to those who suffer. “All discipline seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the perfect fruit of righteousness.”[76] Paul calls life a “race.”[77] Winning is done by those who are not held back from their destination. As a minister, one should help the winner to keep his eye on God, the only prize that matters. Falling back may happen, but one must cope with setback in order to finish the race.

Jesus also promised blessings upon those who mourn.[78] It may be that one who mourns is more focused on God than those who are in provision and wealth. God often used in the Bible, those who had some deficiency. Moses had a stutter, David was “too young” the day he killed Goliath, and Peter was “just a fisherman.” God used these men in powerful ways.

Mourning seems to be a part of all human lives. Death comes to everyone and in one’s life someone will die. Evangelism is important because of this fact. No person can be truly happy while another suffers. Though, God in His love must be Just. He has provided a method for all of us to live outside of suffering. He provided it in the way of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to “therefore, go and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”[79]

There will come a day when there is no longer any mourning. “And he will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”[80] God will return and wipe all the tears away. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.[81] Along with Satan will go any person whose name is not written in the Book of Life.[82] Evil will no longer touch those who have been faithful to the Lord. Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”[83] May he come soon. Maranatha!


[1] John W. James, Russell Friedman, The Grief Recovery Handbook (New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2009), 3.

[2]  Myra Chave-Jones, quoted in Climbing out of Depression, Sue Atkinson (New York: Penguin Group (USA), 2009), 12.

[3] Sue Atkinson, Climbing Out of Depression (New York: Penguin Group (USA), 2009), 19.

[4] Ibid., 13.

[5] Therese A. Rando, Grief, Dying, and Death: Clinical Interventions for Caregivers (Champaign: Research Press, 1984), 1.

[6] Ibid., 1.

[7] Ibid., 1, 2.

[8] Nicholas Kohler, “We’ve been misled about how to grieve,” Maclean’s Volume 124, Issue 6 (February 2011).

[9] Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1969), Table of Contents.

[10] Kohler.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13]  Susan A. Berger, The Five Ways We Grieve (Massachusetts: Trumpeter Books, 2009), xxi.

[14] Ibid., 24.

[15] Atkinson, 22.

[16] Ibid., 21.

[17] Ibid., 23.

[18] Derrick Adkins, “My Greatest Hurdle: Depression,” Essence (August 2002), 102.

[19] Mark A. Smith, “Religion, Divorce, and the Missing Culture War in America,” Political Science Quarterly Volume 125 Number 1 (2010), 80.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., 60.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Kubler-Ross, 35.

[24] Ibid., 36.

[25] Berger, 31.

[26] Ibid., 26.

[27] Ibid., 31.

[28] Ibid., 47.

[29] Ibid.., 49.

[30] Ibid., 25.

[31] Ibid., 26.

[32] Kubler-Ross, 49.

[33] Berger, 113.

[34] Ibid., 112.

[35] Kubler-Ross, 72-3.

[36] Ibid., 73.

[37] Ibid., 74.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Berger, 59.

[40] Ibid., 56.

[41] Ibid., 57.

[42] Ibid., 58.

[43] Ibid., 78.

[44] Ibid., 83.

[45] Kubler-Ross, 99.

[46] Ibid., 99,101.

[47] Berger, 83.

[48] Ibid., 105-7.

[49] Ibid., 135.

[50] Ibid., 136.

[51] Ibid., 156.

[52] Rando, 80.

[53] J. William Worden, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner (New York: Springer Publishing, 1982), 37.

[54] Rando, 81.

[55] Worden, 39.

[56] Rando, 81.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Woden, 40.

[59] Ibid., 44.

[60] Ibid., 45.

[61] Ibid., 41.

[62] Ibid., 42.

[63] Ibid., 43.

[64] John MacArthur. Safe in the Arms of God : Truth from Heaven About the Death of a Child (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), 167.

[65] Ibid., 168.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Eugene H. Peterson  and Calvin Miller. Vol. 10, Weddings, Funerals, & Special Events. Leadership library (Carol Stream, Ill.; Waco, Tex.: CTI; Word Books; Distributed by Word Books, 1987), 129.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003),.

[71] Sometimes with professional mourners.

[72] The Holy Bible. New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.. All Scripture references taken from this translation unless otherwise stated.

[73] .

[74] .

[75] .

[76] .

[77] 1 Corinthains

[78] .

[79] .

[80] .

[81] .

[82] .

[83] .

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