- ·Denial: This is the shock reaction. “It can’t be true.” “No, not me.” We then refuse to believe what happened.
- Anger: Resentment grows. “Why me?” “Why my child?” “This isn’t fair!” And we direct blame toward God, others, and ourselves. We feel agitated, irritated, moody, and on edge.
- Bargaining: We try to make a deal, insisting that things be the way they used to be. “God, if You heal ..., then I’ll never drink again or I'll go to church..” We call a temporary truce with God.
- Depression: Now we say, “Yes, me.” The courage to admit our loss brings sadness (which can be healthy grieving) and/or hopelessness (which is unhealthy mourning).
- Acceptance: Now we face our loss calmly. It is a time of silent reflection and regrouping. “Life has to go on. How? What do I do now?”
These proposed stages in the grief process seek to track typical grief responses. However, they do not attempt to assess if this is what is best to occur. Nor could they assess, simply through scientific research, whether these responses correspond to God’s process for hurting (grieving) and hoping (growing).
We must understand something about research in a fallen world. At best, it describes what typically occurs. It cannot, with assurance and authority, prescribe what should occur. Research attempts to understand the nature of human nature are thwarted by the fallenness of our nature and of our world.
The Word’s Way: All You Need for Your Healing Journey
Understanding these research limitations, and believing in the sufficiency of Scripture, we can focus on a revelation-based model. We can address and assess the typical five stages of grieving, however, we can move beyond them.
The biblical approach to grieving and growing identifies eight scriptural “stages” in our responses to life’s losses. God’s way equips us to move through hurt to hope in Christ—from grieving to growing. We call it “Biblical Sufferology”—a scripturally wise and practically relevant understanding of suffering.
Sustaining in Suffering: Stages of Hurt
First of all, know “It’s Normal to Hurt and Necessary to Grieve”
Stage Typical Grief Response Biblical Grief Response
Stage One Denial/Isolation Candor: Honesty with Myself
Stage Two Anger/Resentment Complaint: Honesty with God
Stage Three Bargaining/Works Cry: Asking God for Help
Stage Four Depression/Alienation Comfort: Receiving God’s Help
Healing in Suffering: Stages of Hope
“It’s Possible to Hope and Supernatural to Grow”
Stage Typical Acceptance Response Biblical Growth Response
Stage Five Regrouping Waiting: Trusting with Faith
Stage Six Deadening Wailing: Groaning with Hope
Stage Seven Despairing/Doubting Weaving: Perceiving with Grace
Stage Eight Digging Cisterns Worshiping: Engaging with Love
The first four stages are sustaining in suffering. The second four relate to healing in suffering. Grieving and growing is not a neat little package. It is a journey wherein we experience the biblical reality: it’s normal to hurt and necessary to grieve.
Stay on the path. Experience the biblical reality that it’s possible to hope and supernatural to grow. Learn how to move from regrouping to trusting with faith (waiting on God), from deadening to groaning with hope (wailing to God), from despair to perceiving with grace (weaving in God’s truth), and from digging cisterns to engaging with love (worshipping God and ministering to others).
God truly does provide you with everything you need. Through the Word, the Spirit of God, and Gods people, you have all you need for your healing journey.
Join the Journey
1. What is your initial response to this eight-stage biblical approach compared to the typical five-stage approach of the world?
2. What do you think it would be like to apply the stages of grieving (candor, complaint, crying out, and comfort) and the stages of growth (waiting, wailing, weaving, and worshipping) to your grief and growth journey?