We have learned that grief and feelings that occur are normal and healthy.  And we have found through observation that those grieving the loss of a loved one may encounter one or a variety of different feelings. We refer to them as the stages of grief.

DENIAL:  Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the passing of our loved one, death, in and of itself, holds the power to strike at our hearts and cause us to recoil in disbelief.  A common immediate response to news of the death of a loved one is denial.  Denial is a natural human response that helps shield us from the emotional devastation that can come from tragic and/or sorrowful news.  Gradually, with acceptance, these feelings will pass.

ANGER:  It is also quite normal to feel anger over the loss of a loved one.  You may experience feelings of anger toward other family members, medical caregivers or even the loved one.  And getting beyond the anger is essential to the grief process.  Recognition is key, and seeking counseling can help, if these feelings do not pass.

BARGAINING:  Terminally ill patients reach a point where they instinctively begin to bargain.  So too do we enter into the bargain when a loved one is dying or has died.  It is a desperate (but so very human) effort to change what we cannot.  This bargaining stage is part of the grieving process.  We may begin to make demands upon those around us, because we feel we’ve been cheated of our loved one’s presence.  

DEPRESSION:  After the death of a loved one a powerful and real sense of loss can overwhelm us.  We become engulfed in memories of the life we led with our dearly departed.  We find it hard to muster energy or even respond to the many kindnesses shown us.  Our sadness becomes heavier.   Depression is but a normal manifestation of deep mourning, a natural phase of the grieving process that will pass in time, in healthy interaction with our family and friends.

ACCEPTANCE:  If as we experience these phases of grief, we keep from becoming frozen in any one of them. God graciously leads us to accept the death of the one for whom we mourn.  Our acceptance is drenched in pain and covered with sorrow, for we have given our heart and received the heart of another.  Though we feel the agonizing pains of loss; we come to accept it.  We begin to live with the hurt by interpreting it in light of what we can do to ease the suffering of others.  We draw nearer to those who offer their love genuinely.  We remember and we reach out; we pray and we live on.

Perhaps Reinhold Niebuhr’s Prayer for Serenity describes best the process as a whole:

God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference;
living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship
as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I
would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to
your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely
happy with You forever in the next.  Amen