Probably one of the most difficult things we as humans deal with is the loss of a loved one. That loved one could be a parent, spouse, sibling, child, or even a pet. Their death brings an immense amount of pain and especially grief. That loss might also be a relationship or marriage. Grieving is a natural response to that loss. The COVID-19 pandemic also has many of us grieving our old life; how we used to live and do things.
Whatever the loss we experience, there is no right or wrong way to grieve or mourn. Everyone reacts differently to death and change. We utilize different mechanisms to cope with those extraordinary changes.
Some experts have said there are several stages of grief a person will go through. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist and author, used five stages to define the cycle of grief a person might experience. Those stages include denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Other experts added guilt and finding meaning to those five stages.
Denial is when we cannot fully acknowledge the pain. We function in disbelief over the loss of the loved one. With denial, the pain is spread over a period of time, Kessler said. Anger is a natural reaction to loss. Anger is often directed at the cause of death, yourself, thinking you could have done something different to keep them from leaving us. That anger is also sometimes directed at God for taking our loved one. Kessler said anger is the pain’s natural bodyguard.
Bargaining stems from guilt, and if only I had, maybe “if” I would have done this or done that, things would be different. Depression can be recognized as intense sadness. When dealing with the loss is affecting your entire life, your ability to get out of bed, eat, maybe even brush your teeth. This is where experts recommend seeking professional help if you have not done so already. Acceptance does not mean you’re ok with your loved one being gone. It basically means you accept the reality of your new life, or you have adjusted to the reality of living in a pandemic.
While these stages seem to offer therapeutic terms professionals use, they don’t describe those emotions that come in waves. For instance, when you walk into a room that you used to share with your loved one and they are no longer there. Or look at a birthday gift your loved one gave you before they passed away. It’s those little reminders that make those emotions feel like tidal waves that will send you to your knees in tears.
In 2020 Joe Biden tweeted Vanessa Bryant some very encouraging words after the loss of her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant. “Grief is a heavy burden, especially when you have the eyes of the world watching. But there will come a day; I promise you when the memory of Kobe and Gianna will bring a smile to your lips before it brings tears to your eyes.”
There is no linear roadmap to healing or grieving. It’s a personal process to move forward. Not everyone will experience all stages of grief. Some people start to heal and feel better in a couple of weeks, others in a few months, and some in a few years. The Bible acknowledges that we as humans will grieve. We can cling to the promise that God heals broken hearts. Psalms 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”