The Grief Process

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

  • Psalm 88:6-9

As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

  • 1 Samuel 1:12-16

The five general stages of grief, as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:
Denial: This can’t be happening.
Anger: Why did this happen? Who is to blame?
Bargaining: Make this not happen and I will…
Depression: I can’t bear this; I’m too sad to do anything.
Acceptance: I acknowledge that this has happened, and I cannot change it.
While the five stages of grief may appear to be steps in a process,
they are not. Even Kübler-Ross said that the stages are not meant to package up grief neatly — there is no typical loss and no typical grief. Grieving is as individual as we are and is not a linear process.


I like the last paragraph of the quote from the website.  I heard a pastor complain that “whoever” dreamed up the five stages of grief was not grieving at the time.  You do not go from one step to the next.  It is non-linear.  Once you get to acceptance, you might be back at denial the next day.

My wife and I talked about it often in the last three months.  She had shingles and they never seemed to go away.  So, when she complained about being exhausted and in pain, everyone, at least the doctors, nurses, and me, focused on the short-term illnesses: shingles, pneumonia, and a mysterious GI bleed that could not be found.  It wasn’t until the last 3-4 days when they suspected a heart problem.  By then, it was too late.  The doctors seemed to not be in a hurry even then.  I wrote a few months ago about how doctors lie to you, but they could have called for emergency valve surgery and they thought that unnecessary.

Okay, that last paragraph is the total extent of the “anger” phase and I am not really angry.

As for denial, that river in Egypt, I had two instances of that.  Okay, two things that I perceived a few times.  If you have gone for nearly 24 hours without any sleep, you can sit in front of the body of a loved one and see their chest move up and down.  I had never been told that happens.  You blink a few times, and there it goes again.  The nurses said that is what you simply wanted to see, but I think it may be from the fatigue.  Instead of seeing the chest move up and down, I was probably seeing my eyelids drift down and then pop back up.  The mind plays tricks.

Then the other bit of denial was that as her care giver, I would hear a noise and go running to her aid.  But after she was gone, I kept reacting to noises or even the lack of noises.  After the first three days, when my son went back to Tennessee, I kept the bedroom door open, so that as I passed to go upstairs, I would know things have changed.  My habit of sticking my head into the room to check on her has finally been reprogrammed.

But as for the denial, she had multiple long-term illnesses.  We were intellectually prepared.  We were spiritually prepared, just not emotionally.

Due to that intellectual preparedness and spiritual preparedness, I went into the acceptance stage first.  Then I saw the chest move up and down.  I started wondering how she could be so vibrant less than a week ago and joking with the nurses twelve hours ago and then be gone (anger, I guess).

I never did any bargaining.  I do not see how bargaining can be part of the grief process when you knew what would eventually happen.

And depression?  I have had so many people suggest grief counseling that I want to scream.  Other than having a sounding board, a grief counselor can do me no good.  Yes, before you suggest what good they can do, I have never been diagnosed with any problem in that arena.  I have thrown out all my wife’s medicines for anxiety, depression, etc. etc.  She had PTSD, brought on by her time in the Air Force, but denied benefits.  My wife told me that she did not wish to make a second appeal.  Forgetting about it was her best medicine.

I will never forget her, but at some point, I will move on.

As I write this, the Masters golf tournament is in a rain delay.  We lived in the Augusta, GA area for nearly ten years (at least ten tournaments), going to church across the highway from the par-three course where they play on the Wednesday before the tournament starts.  We had a sunrise service on Masters Sunday even when it was not Easter – so that we could beat the crowd to the parking lot and avoid the traffic gridlock.  As I saw replays from earlier that day, my eyes started to moisten.  We were living there when Jack Nicklaus won his last green jacket.  The entire city erupted in celebration.  They loved Jack that much.

I love my wife that much and more.  I love her enough to let her rest in the arms of Jesus.  I will see her again someday.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. April 16, 2023 — 4:19 pm

    I know I’ve shared this with you before. I have hopes and have even prayed that Paul and I die on the same day so that we can both be in heaven together again. I know that seems selfish, but we love each other so much, I think the loss of either one is going to be so hard on us. Its OK to grieve. Just do it in your own way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have read your words many times Mark since the time I found your blog post. All the times you shared moments of your beloved wife’s health issues. How strong she was, having to endure all of this. I also enjoyed the post when you did put a photo or two of her on the page. She is a beautiful woman and always had a smile. We never know for sure why we all have to go through troubled times. But we do have to trust in our Father, that which I know you and your family do as I do. It is never easy trying to find the words to share with someone during the time of loss. We all must deal with it and lean on our Father for strength and peace, as I pray to our Father to give you and your family both during these difficult times.
    Blessings to you Mark and your family. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And it will be a wonderful reunion when the 2 of you do meet again, for eternity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark, I failed at marriage the first time, after twenty-four years together. My husband was a brilliant theologian who taught seminary students. I am thankful to him for much, including our remarkable daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. Eventually, I married again, and my dear husband wanted me to see his beloved Arizona where he had lived most of his life since the age of five. One day, out of the blue, he said I think it is time to get you home to Ohio. I grew up there, have brothers and cousins and many friends in the state. That was in the fall of 2018. We were blessed with eleven wonderful years together. In March of 2020 he died. Thankfully the illness was short. But after all the days that have passed since then I miss him more than words can say, I still cry thinking of him, but I know that he is in the best hands now. I praise God for His hands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this comment. I have two widows in my Sunday school class. They say the same things you did, The leader of our prayer warrior team at church, where I act as secretary, is the leader because her husband died in 2020, either in March or April. It may not be as bad, but it never gets “easy”. I will have a piece of her with me until I pass away. thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

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