In my previous post, I shared my candid thoughts about when bad things happen to good people after the senseless shooting of Christina Grimmie on June 10 in Orlando. You can think of this post on the 5 stages of grief as Part 2 of this same topic, as we struggle to make sense of it all.
It’s clear from the comments on that post that many of us experienced our grief in different ways. Understanding the 5 stages of grief may help us to clarify how and why we respond, hopefully allowing us to find healthy coping skills.
Kubler-Ross described these five stages of grief:
They’re usually experienced to some degree and at different times – not necessarily in a linear or chronological order. In fact, people may find themselves in any one or more of the stages, at any given time. Also, while grief may be shared, there is no “correct” response to trauma or loss, and each person is uniquely individual in his/her response.
What to Expect in the Aftermath of a Tragic Loss
Denial and the associated shock is a protective coping mechanism. It’s a graceful way God allows us to handle the loss in bite-sized amounts. It helps us survive when the world feels meaningless or overwhelming. It also allows us to function in the immediate aftermath, although we may feel lost at sea.
Even in shock, some people are able to appear cool as a cucumbers, making phone calls to loved ones or family. In the midst of a tragedy, they’re thinking of others, able to handle any immediate tasks at hand. Their body, at first, may be physically unable to accept the magnitude or reality of the trauma itself or the added shock of losing a dearly loved one.
Anger is another stage of grief and, as a feeling, may be directed at anything or anyone. Ironically it is often thought to be the manageable emotion, such that being “out of control” gives us a sense that we can control what is otherwise chaos. It may also serve to cover other feelings such as fear, and does so frequently. It allows us to feel stronger, acting as a bridge over the open sea. But anger has no limits and may be directed (or deflected) on to any available target.
Many of us felt anger at the senseless and violent loss of Christina. Sometimes it’s used to help us feel connected to something or someone. It can be justified or not, directed toward God, the shooter, or the venue⎯and, unfortunately, toward those we love the most. It may even be directed at the victim, for abandoning us in an untimely fashion.
It’s important to feel the emotions hiding behind anger and avoid turning it inward. Allowing ourselves to feel helps anger to dissipate which, in turn, can help us get to forgiveness. And forgiveness is a huge step away from resentment or re-feeling. Reliving the trauma only hurts ourselves, and forgiveness is the component of healing that Jesus modeled for us. I like to think of it as “forgiftness”⎯it’s the gift we give to ourselves.
Bargaining is a stage of grief that helps us avoid the pain of our loss. It finds us wishing we could go back in time and do something to change the circumstances, altering the course of reality. It can also drown us in a sea of “What if…” or “If only…” statements.
As I performed CPR on Christina, I begged God to bring her back thinking, “Please Lord, let her survive this; I promise to be a better man.” I’m sure Christina’s brother Marcus, at any given time, found himself saying, “If only I could have knocked the gun from the shooter’s hand thirty seconds earlier.” In reality, he likely saved countless other lives having the courage to knock the shooter down, foiling any plans for additional killings.
Depression is a normal and appropriate response to grief or the loss of a loved one. It may be characterized by a deep sadness or emptiness, and may even cause us to wonder if life is worth living.
Life is worth living, and our faith tells us Christina is happier now and singing with heaven’s choir (and likely as a soloist too!). But feeling sad is normal⎯even for those who didn’t know her personally. Her fans continue sharing their feelings with Christina’s family directly, and even indirectly, through social media.
It’s important to note that feelings of intense sadness from mourning the loss of a loved one are not uncommon. Regrettably, such depression can, at times, invoke fantasies of our own death, even leading to thoughts of suicide⎯which would be a preventable and senseless loss of another. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
It’s important to remember sadness doesn’t last, and it’s vital to share our feelings with others.
The paramount importance of reaching out to loved ones can’t be overstated. Patiently and gently listening to others, loving one another, is hardly ever more germane than when recovering from the loss of a loved one. None of us knows when we’re living our last day. All too often, many of us have mourned the loss of someone close to us, only to later say,”I wish I’d told them how much they meant to me.”
Eventually, we begin to accept our new reality and recognize our new world without our loved one present. It does not mean that everything is okay.
Parts of us may always mourn the loss of Christina. Her absence means that life is different now. It is okay to find happiness again without feeling we’re betraying the one we lost.
Christina would’ve wanted us to live our lives to the fullest reflecting her ideals and her love for us. It’s part of adjusting to our new reality. She will live forever (in heaven) but also within the memories we cherish now and tomorrow. Her spirit will live in the hearts of everyone she’s touched and especially her family, Bud, Tina, and Marcus.
Christina’s spirit will also be reflected in her music and by her many adoring fans. God willing, we should all grow to live as she did, loving everyone, judging no one, and cherishing the relationships that define us. Overcoming grief is a natural part of healing our physical, mental, and spiritual states. We will all overcome in our own way sharing some or all of these stages.
It’s important to remember that feelings are not right or wrong; there’s no moral value assigned to them.
As such, we will do well to remain patient with one another, forgiving and remaining compassionate⎯ as we all endure, what often times may be a difficult journey, or time in life.
Stay tuned; Part III will focus on tools for healing of the physical, mental, and spiritual selves.