Nothing develops our character like handling loss and the change that it brings. When we lose a marriage, a job, a child, a parent, our reputation, our health, our finances, etc. we’re left with an option of; roll with the punches or get knocked out; flex or flounder. What was is no more. Suddenly we’re left in limbo, lost between the past that we knew and the future that we don’t. Without a road map, we're in strange territory and it’s easy to become over- whelmed. Faith tells us that that God can ultimately transform every ending into a new beginning, but until then we are riveted in pain and confusion. What do we do between the old ending and the new beginning?
When we’re hit by a major life loss like divorce, the death of a family member, a life threatening illness or disability, we must work through them and not suppress them in a an attempt to move on. Moving on prematurely carries the baggage of unresolved issues into future relationships and opportunities, inviting the past to repeat itself indefinitely. What is the process of working through a life-altering loss?
1. Grief is the natural reaction to loss
Grief buried is unfinished business in the guise of depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, etc. which will constantly resurrect itself in search of resolution, even if it takes years.
2. Mourning the work of grief
God’s word says, “There is a time to mourn” That means that He has appointed a season with a definite beginning and ending in which He intends you to do the fruitful work of grappling with your painful feelings. How long does it take? it takes as long as it requires, depending on how great the loss is and how many generating losses it generates, and the spiritual, relational and emotional health of the mourner.
The Grief Cycle
The healing process for working through loss is called the ‘grief cycle’. It includes five stages:
1. Shock, sometimes called denial
Our initial reaction is ‘This can't be happening, I don’t believe it’. We're numb, incredulous, in a kind of stupor or haze.
We cry ‘It's not fair. What did I do to deserve this? How could God let this happen? I have been a Christian all my life.’
‘I'll do anything if you'll change this. Save my loved one and I'll serve you for the rest of my life.’
‘There's nothing left worth living for. I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again.’
‘Somehow life must go on. I've got my family to think of, so I have to try again.’
The intensity, duration and order of these stages, vary from person to person. You may experience any stage until the work of that stage is completed. Once your loss has been worked through and completed, you're ready for the future that God has planned for you. When you complete your grief, you continue to grow.