Stages of Grief
We ended the last discussion by encouraging you to identify, share and acknowledge your pain while you worship. using job's example let's continue highlighting adaptive/healthy coping strategies while also considering maladaptive coping. Job 1:9-10 Enters another character in our story. Job's wife. 'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" She too surely was suffering and grieving all that had been lost. Their sons, daughters, sheep, camels, oxen donkeys and servants, their entire way of life drastically changed. They lost everything!
The process of grief usually includes different phase. Shock/Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance are the general/broad stages of grief. We must hold these stages loosely and expect much individual variation. Generally speaking the anger stage occurs in an explosion of emotion after the initial shock of the news. Why me? replays in an endless loop. Anger can become quite destructive as some people might resort to inappropriate behaviors to cope/deal with their pain. This will need to be challenged with the support of loved ones. (Examples: addictive behaviors, substance abuse, isolation, blaming etc) This is a time to release bottled up emotion but without some limits and purposeful direction it can be a destructive period of time. Perhaps Job's wife is in the anger stage of this grief process.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18 talks about the hope we have as believers. This hope helps us grieve differently than the person who does not know Jesus. For the sake of comparison let's return to our story and explore what this grief without hope looks like.
Job's wife is looking for someone or something to blame. Job even later does some of the same questioning. But his is vastly different. It's somehow easier for us to face our loss when we can attribute it to some rational or explanation. While this is largely a natural human response to pain, we as Christians don't have to fall into its maladaptive trap as Job's wife does. This trap only leads to resentment/bitterness and more emotional pain. That trap is blaming God. This is different than questioning and seeking to understand. Blaming God leads to distance. Running from Him like Adam and Eve did in the Garden. Questioning and seeking to understand leads to a deeper relationship with Him. Blaming yourself or blaming others is also a trap. (Dr..'s family members, past sin in own life) These too are traps and are unhealthy mechanisms to dealing with pain.
As we will later see, Job goes thru the grieving process like the rest of us. He too questions why? This can be indicative of the bargaining stage of grief. It is basically seeking to avoid having this bad thing happen. Or it is hoping that the bad news or the bad situation is reversible. Or that you can do something to fix it. It might look like seeking alternative treatments. Don't be afraid to ask the questions and ponder solutions. This is a natural process but it too can become maladaptive or unhealthy when we get stuck there. The key to effective and healthy grief is to allow yourself to cycle thru the stages and not be stuck in any one particular stage. Ask your questions, wrestle thru them with the Lord and if there are no answers let the questions go and focus on what answers you do have. Job didn't do this. He kind of gets stuck in this phase. It later causes him additional pain. He still did not blame God and he held fast his integrity.
Job's initial response is a good example for us to steady ourselves in the face of trauma, difficulty, loss and sickness etc. Job says in vs 10 "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks, Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" Now let's recall the context of this point in the story. Satan has smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And Job took potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes. Vs 13 says "his pain was very great." There were no pain pills to sooth his agony. But, he quickly speaks to the error in hi wife's words with a humble dependency upon God. Mathew Henry's commentary states, "The consideration of the mercies we receive from God both past and present should make us receive our afflictions with suitable disposition of spirit". This is what you can know. God is Good! God loves you! God wants the best for you. That is who He is!
With every question, angry thought, confused moment, hopeless/helpless state you can grieve differently because you know who God is. And, if you don't know that...I would be thrilled to introduce you to Jesus.
The verses below clarify that we should not be surprised when we suffer, face pain, and heartache. I encourage you to read and study these passages. We will continue to explore the grief stages but for now remember this.
The presence of pain and suffering does not mean the absence of God in your life!
I Peter 4:12, Philippians 1:29, Philippians 4:12-13, II Corinthians 12:7, Hebrews 12:10
Facing Depression In the Midst of Grief
Stages of Grief
Coping in Crisis
Happy New Year - Are your Ready?