Helping-hands

5 Stages of Grief: The Effects of Tragedy and Loss

5 Stages of GriefIn 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:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

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.

  • Jess Rushing

    Dear Dr Mark, thank you so much for taking the time to write both of these beautiful articles, they have been a blessing to me and all of us still in shock still hurting. This one has really helped me to personally work through the griefing, I am going through. God is helping me like I believe He is helping so many others, as we all start a new reality not without Her but just kind her in our hearts and minds and carry Her amazing spirit with us always. I continue to pray for the Grimmie family if they see this please tell them that Christina was a inspiration not only in Her life, but in her beautiful
    Music she created that God inspired her to make. She loved the Lord and you always saw that in her. My only wish was that I could have met her personally and been able to tell her what inspiration she was to me. But I believe one day in Gods time I will. Thank you for inspiring us all with these articles of healing. And again to the Grimmie family Bud, Tina, Mark I’m always praying for you each day God loves you so much and is with you always and always. Jess

    • Thanks Jess for your heartfelt comments. The Grimmies follow this blog too so they’ll appreciate your comments as well. Keep the faith; we’ll all be together one day.

  • Aly

    Hello Dr. Mark,
    Thank you for sharing this. Such wise words! Your posts have brought a fresh perspective to this terrible situation, making it a little easier to deal with and answering many questions.
    My cousin and I were at the concert that night. We were in line to meet Christina when it happened. Thankfully, we didn’t see anything. When we heard the news, we were both so devastated and couldn’t sleep for a few days. We were in a state of shock, or denial, the first stage of grief.
    Now, I am between bargaining and depression. I keep wishing I could turn back time and somehow prevent the situation from happening (“bargaining”). I am just trusting that God has a greater plan. He knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t. I am confident that Christina is in His presence, singing directly to Him.
    Like you said, we never know when our last day will be, so ever since that day, I have been trying to improve my relationship with God and with others. I am praying and reading the Bible more. Every day, I pray for the Grimmie family and for your family (especially for your boys), for God to give everyone peace and strength. I have also been hugging my family tighter and telling them that I love them.
    Because of Christina, I am now starting to play the piano again, and I make sure I treat everyone with exceptional kindness, like she did.
    Thank you again for writing this post.
    -Aly
    P.S. After the show ended, I saw you and your wife. I approached you, but I was too shy to say anything

    • Aly: You’re comments are much appreciated and also inspiring for the boys and me as it’s obvious that many positive and constructive changes in your life continue to occur-evidence that God brings good from tragic situations. You’re doing the best things for your mental and spiritual recovery. Thanks again.

  • Betsy

    Thanks again, Dr. McDonough. Keeping All in my prayers. 🌷

  • Femke

    These posts are definitely helping me with some of the things I’m going through. Thank you for that! I can’t wait to read the next part.

  • Thanks Femke; I’m glad it’s helpful.

  • Thank you sir for sharing your thoughts snd knowledge with us. All the love 💓

    • Novie: Thank you for following and also for the love!

  • Amy

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this
    article! It is the little changes that produce the largest
    changes. Thanks a lot for sharing! http://www.yahoo.net

  • A little love goes a long way! Thanks for the feedback Amy; very encouraging.

  • Caren

    Everytime I read your blogs Dr. Mark, it refreshes my mind. Thank you for this sir. I’m still grieving for Tina’s death but I know she’s happy now with God, she’s more radiating and more beautiful angel too. I’m always praying Tina, her family esp. the boys and your family too. God bless Dr. Mark! I’ll continue to pray and keep the faith. :)

    • Thanks Caren; her beauty will definitely be enjoyed forever as her legacy reigns on.

  • Mariel

    Hi Dr Mark,
    Thank you for your posts, I find them extremely helpful specially during this hard time. Not going to lie, I end up tearing after I read them but your encouraging words are much needed. Sending all the love and prayers to your family. Looking forward to read part 3!

    • Mariel: Thanks for your positive feedback. It’s so humbling to hear that the blog has helped. I feel honored to share my experiences with readers like you who inspire me too-such a blessing.

  • Ana

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us all and showing everyone that we can get through such a difficult time together. Your posts are helping myself and many others have hope. much love x

    • Thanks Ana for your feedback. “Hope” is what we’re all starving for in times like these.

  • Erin

    Hi Dr. McDonough.
    I read your first post and thought it was amazing but I didn’t know how to say thanks because I was still so in shock. I ended up finally writing down all my thoughts about four days later because your blog got me into reading up on how to deal with my grief.
    In writing it, I realized I am definitely in the angry stage of grieving. Angry at the shooter, not only for taking her life, but for taking away all of the mental peace I had worked on for the past few years in a couple of seconds. And also for taking away the light that Christina brought out of everyone around her. Even though I wasn’t her fan before, I know that your boys (who have helped me through A LOT) are hurting, and I can’t do anything to reciprocate the favor.
    But I’m also very very angry at myself and feel not only survivors guilt -ie: why do I deserve to be here if she doesn’t?- but also another bargaining type of guilt.
    I was about five feet from the shooter when he turned the gun on himself and when he went down I knewhe was 1000%dead because of his disfigured face. I looked over at Christina and nobody was helping her yet but I could see she was still hemorrhaging. I’m CPR certified and I could’ve gotten some tshirts off the merch table to help stop the bleeding faster or cleared her airways faster or started chest compressions faster. Even if it was just to get it started so you could take over. I don’t honestly believe I could’ve saved her but I feel I could’ve given her more time, even if it was just enough for her family to say goodbye. I’m consumed by guilt and anger and they just feed off of eachother.
    I’m an agnostic person but I’ve started going to church since the incident. I don’t know if I’m in a place where I’m ready to start praising God yet. In all honestly I’ve been going to church to try to find answers, because I’m angry at God and I want an explanation that isn’t worried about defending God, but is more worried about comforting the hurt of this senseless act.
    Am I a bad person in God’s eyes for beings glad that the shooter is dead? Since he committed this attrocious act, shouldn’t I be glad he’s not around to do it again?
    At this point the only thing really keeping me alive is spite. I know depression and I know suicidal thoughts and he gave me something I could never be. But I’m starting to drown in this. Any comments would be appreciated, and I hope that you the boys and Christina’s family are recovering. I admire your ability to trust God during times like this a lot, but I admire that you’re helping others with it more. Thank you.

    • Erin:
      You are not a bad person for feeling grateful that the shooter was stopped. Feelings are not morally right or wrong they’re just emotional responses to the world around us. We are responsible for our reaction to our feelings and want to be sure our actions are not causing us (or others) harm. Believe it or not, the best way to get to peace from anger is by forgiving the shooter-even if you don’t feel forgiveness, say the words and eventually you will begin to feel peace. Anger and resentment only hurt us when we’re harboring ill feelings. That’s why I like to call it “forgiftness” a gift we give ourselves. It’s also a key that opens two hearts-ours and the one receiving the forgiveness. It takes guts and courage to forgive at first but it will be so worth it! Don’t let the shooter live in your head.
      Also, feelings of guilt, for any reason, help us to repent but are otherwise useless. You did everything you were able to do in that moment and none of it was your fault. Christina would not want you to spend one second mad at yourself for things over which you had no control.
      Finally, as you continue believing, and with faith as small as a mustard seed, you’ll begin to trust that God is the one in charge despite the fact that we live in a fallen world. He grieves with us. We never have the luxury of seeing the whole picture but He does. And He will bring good things from those we experience as bad. Just think, without this ordeal you would have never questioned your own faith. He has brought you out of a dark, Godless place–and that alone is priceless. Keep on keeping on and trust will continue to build…life will get better with many things bringing you joy once again. If you’re still questioning your faith, I really encourage you to read either “Stranger on the Road to Emmaus” or “By This Name” both by John R. Cross and available through Amazon. Either or both will change your life. Hopefully I’ve helped and you’re in the prayers of many. Thanks again Erin.

      • Erin

        Thank you so much, sir. Just you taking your time means a lot to me, as well as others I’m sure. I look forward to reading your future posts :)

  • Katelyn Chilcote

    I want to thank you Mr.McDonough. For taking the time to write articles like this to help every grieving the loss of anyone. I lost my best friend 3 years ago, and I never really knew much about grieving, other then I blamed myself for not being able to help him. I feel like after this article, I can finally stop blaming myself for his death. Thank you again, and you are all in my prayers.

    • You are so welcome Katelyn and thank you for the encouraging words.

  • Mandi

    Thank you Dr. McDonough. Reading both articles has helped me out so much. When I first found out about this tragic event I had denied it the whole day. Till I got home from work and realized the reality of it to the point of not being able to breath. It hit everyone hard in the gut and we are all dealing in our own ways.
    I send out my condolences to your family along with the Grimmie family as everyone heals and deals with this tragic loss.

  • Kenzie

    This is just amazing what you are doing. I can tell you that God is going to bless you and your family very soon for helping so many people around the world who are going through such a hard time whether it’s from Christina or if they lost someone important to them like a family member. Gods grace is always strong with those who need him the most. Thank you for being such a big inspiration to me and to all of those who are looking for answers in this time of grief. May the Lord bless you Mr. McDonough.

  • Taylor

    There are no words. Thank you for this. God bless you. I am sending lots of prayers for comfort your way.

  • Kenzie: Thank you for your kind words. I’m happy for anything helpful as we’re living in difficult times. God Bless.

  • Kristina

    Dear Dr. McDonough, thank you for both of your blogs so far – they have helped me understand and deal with my emotions on the tragic death of Christina. I had been following her for about 5 – 6 years and I saw her last year live in Switzerland along with your boys from Before You Exit. When I met her afterwards, we spoke briefly about our faith and she encouraged me to “keep walking with the Lord”. I had never experienced a loss of a loved one before. When I read about the shooting, I felt completely shocked and overwhelmed with all those emotions and how my body phisically reacted to it. Not only did I feel sad and devestated for Christina, her family and friends, but I also felt ashamed and I was scared that my emotions were exaggerated since I’m only a fan. But the fact that I saw her and we talked (as if she knew me my whole life, just like she did to the other fans) made it personal. Reading your sentence in this blog that feeling sad even for those who didn’t know her personally is normal relieved me for the first time since that evening. Sometimes it’s difficult or impossible to understand, but God sees the bigger picture and He is always good. Also on your point on “forgiftness”: God has helped me just this week through the Holy Spirit to forgive somebody who had treated me wrongfully, and it truly is a gift, because forgiving sets you free. I didn’t think I could do it or understand what it really means, but through God anything is possible! I keep praying for the Grimmie family + their friends, and also yours, the McDonough family. Grace and Love from above!

    • Kristina: Just from your comments I feel I know you in some way and I have no doubt your brief talk with Christina was impactful. She was one who easily made connections with everyone she encountered and I’m sure she did with you as well. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with “forgiftness.” It’s truly the key to freedom from resentments. If everyone understood it as well as you do, the world would be a better place for all of us. Thanks for inspiring me too.

      • Kristina

        Thank you for the kind words, Dr. McDonough! That means a lot to me and I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming blogs. God bless

  • Erin

    Okay so I sat down, and I made a list of all the people I need to forgive, the shooter myself and God at the top.
    How do I do the thing though? How do I forgive someone when I’m angry and it still hurts. At a concept level I understand what you mean. I have to forgive others not necessarily even for them but for myself. But I don’t know where to start with that because I’m not a forgiving person. I always just start out open with everyone and if you betray my trust you lose it, and I move on. I never really worked on forgiving toxic people just cutting them out of my life.

    • Erin: Here is a measure that never fails. Every day you verbalize the words out loud, “Lord, please help me forgive (fill in the person’s name) and I wish them health, happiness, and prosperity.” Even if you don’t mean it, just say the words once a day, every day for 2 weeks. At some point during the 2 weeks you’ll begin to feel very differently about the person and you’ll begin to get a real sense of peace, feeling better about you life too. It really works and will change your life for the better bringing good things into your path. God Bless.

  • shubham dhadel

    thank you sir

  • shubham dhadel

    hello sir i already read your first one article about god’s plan. Honestly speaking i may not a big fan of christina but when i read in fb about her death i become so devastated I just lost my ability to think. Just like you said I covered my sadness with family happiness but deep down i was still struggling over her death. Then i tried bargaining as well as anger. I imagined if i was there i would sacrifice myself to save her. After reading your first article i started to believe in god and feel nice that christina is now happy in heaven and nobody will hurt her again. You will never believe that i too experiences of depression before reading your article. But now i gain much sense of life. Suicide is not only a crime but a senseless act. Every day i pray for her as well as her family. When i looked into sky i imagined that she’s watching toward us smiling. Once again thank you sir. I’m eagerly waiting for part three.

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    • Delhi: Thanks so much for your feedback; it’s much appreciated. Keep the faith!

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  • Thank you for this post. Really appreciate it.

    • Richard White

      This is a beautiful article. I just want to point out at the start that this was NOT GOD’s Plan for Christina, I have read that so many times online and that is 100% untrue. God’s plan is not murder. It happened because of evil in America. But, let me say Christina is alive and well in heaven because we go to heaven to live, not die, my Pastor always said. Her family, friends and fans are mourning her loss. I personally was never so heartbroken about a celebrity passing. In my opinion Christina was absolutely incredible in every way and I loved everything about her. Her unbelievable voice, One of the greatest voices ever, her piano playing, personality, sense of humor, goofiness. But, most of all it was her LOVE, for her family friends and fans, and Jesus, and behind all the talent we all found out the person behind the talent was just as Incredible!! She had a Phenomenal talent, she did it all and made it look easy. One of the few comforts in this tragedy is that part of Christina’s dream did come true, She did make some albums, she did tour the world, and she made some incredible music that I will treasure forever. Loved her so much and Christina will always hold a place in my heart. There was and never will be anyone else like Christina. I will do my part to keep her legacy alive. She loved her fans so much, She was and will always be a inspiration to me always throughout my life until the day that I read heaven and then I will see God first, my family members, and I know I will meet Christina in heaven one day face to face. That will be a glorious moment indeed!!! Christina, you are so loved and so missed!! RIP beautiful Angel!! “With Love”

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