If you’ve lived very long in this world, you have likely experienced the searing pain of loss and the resulting blanket of grief that descends with it. Some losses are minor and come to us through annoying circumstances: losing our keys, misplacing our phone, etc. Other losses are life-altering and strike deep in our hearts: a beloved pet needing to be put down, the end of a love relationship, or the death of a loved one. These types of losses can leave us reeling and wondering if we will ever feel happy again.
While each loss is unique, there are some similar experiences we all go through when we grieve. In her ground-breaking book, On Death and Dying (1969), psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first described her theory on the five main stages of grief: shock, bargaining, anger, depression, and finally integration of the loss.
If you have experienced a significant loss of any kind, you will be able to identify with these stages.
Working with people who have faced tremendous loss, I am continually reminded that as human beings, we were not meant to experience the deep, gut-wrenching pain of loss and grief. God’s original intent was that we would live in a state of eternal life – both spiritually and naturally – and never know or experience the pain of separation from loved ones.
Peter Scazzero writes in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (2014) about the reflections of a man named Gerald, who lost his mother, wife, and young daughter in a horrific car accident. Courageously, Gerald chooses not to run away from his loss but rather to walk directly into the darkness, letting the experience of the overwhelming tragedy transform his life. “I learned that the quickest way to reach the sun and the light of day was not to run west chasing after it, but to head east into the darkness until you finally reach the sunrise”, says Gerald.