Although every grief experience is
unique, we can distinguish certain features that are common in
almost all of them. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s seminal work On Death
and Dying identified five stages associated with the grief
process: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, before finally
reaching a place of acceptance. These have been widely accepted in
grief and bereavement counselling, and they hold true for any form
of loss – redundancy, retirement, loss of status, change of physical
or emotional circumstances, and a host of other conditions.
These stages do not follow one
another in an orderly progression, but are rather cyclical, often
overlap with each other. It is quite possible to progress beyond one
of these stages, only to fall back into it again later on. Thus we
find David expressing the highs and lows of his pilgrimage within a
||When I was prosperous, I
said, “Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favour, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then You turned away from me and I was shattered.
Like David, we find ourselves crying
out to God to deliver us from our pressing problems. This is
important psychologically as well as spiritually, for it means that
we are expressing our grief as near as possible to the event that
occasioned it, and are doing the very best thing possible in taking
it to the Lord. There are many things that only He can sort out.
Our first and most important step,
therefore, is to recognise when we need to grieve. This may not be
quite as automatic as it sounds. Apart from anything else, grief is
such an untidy emotion that it is hardly surprising that many of us
– those who are in any form of leadership especially – may be
tempted to put on a mask and pretend that all is well. Perhaps we
are afraid it would indicate some lack of faith on our part were we
to give voice to it. If so, the Psalms of David show us a very
Every one of us needs grace to adjust
our priorities and perspectives when cherished people, positions,
health or possessions are taken from us – especially if the loss
occurs suddenly. Each of us process life’s setbacks in different
ways, however, and although there is no virtue in trying to jump
start anyone into making responses they are not yet ready to
embrace, it is as well to be aware that to sidestep embarking on the
grief journey risks making the long-term cost higher.
I have wandered many worlds unknown to you.
I have watched the tears for life’s sorrows slowly brew.
I have tasted the fruits of joy,
and the bitter seeds of hate.
I have seen the paths of life laid out for me.
The towering mountains of trouble,
to be toiled with and slowly climbed –
battled with step by step until I reach the summit:
the many different forms and turnings.
Which way will I turn?
Which path will I follow?
The smooth or the rough?
The selfish or the selfless?
Which is which?
Will I be forced or tempted and take the wrong path?
Serif photo dvd
Alison Browne (aged 13)1