Dan Trathen DMin, PhD Clinical Psychologist & Certified Business & Life Coach

Healing the Pain of Loss

By Daniel W. Trathen, D. Min. Ph. D.

There are not many of us who have been personally affected by losing a loved one, who can’t remember exactly where we were when we got the news that a famous person or a loved one had passed away. Grief is a normal, natural and appropriate response to loss. There surely is a time to grieve. The grieving process occurs whenever we lose something that we valued . . . someone or something significant. Certainly our whole community has been deeply affected by the automobile accidents and the loss of both adolescents and a father and grandparent. There is little doubt that these tragedies have deeply affected hundreds directly and thousands indirectly.

The still framed picture is still etched in my mind of where I was when I received the shocking news that each of my parents had died. I have been with many people in the hospital or in their home when loved ones were edging toward the next life, but I was caught off guard by the slow motion “fog” I felt when I got the difficult news. I knew that it was normal, but I am not so sure I was ready for the journey that I began that day. As much of a help as my ministry and psychological training and experience had been, I did not remember focusing on the “Five Stages of Grief” made famous by Kubler-Ross. I found myself examining my own life and calling out to the God I have known and loved as He carried me through that unexpected journey. I could not have always described Him carrying me, however, as I looked back on the intense emotional pain and “fog”, I recall just going through the motions and emotions of life, ministry, and family. It was because of the grace of God that I was lovingly picked up and carried until I was able to walk again. In fact, some days, I recall walking and being carried in the same day. It is difficult to know what to do when we are in such intense pain and loss. God tends to pick us up and carry us in His everlasting arms. If you are struggling with feelings of sadness from a significant loss of a person you loved, I offer these verses from God’s word for you to read, meditate on, and wipe your tears with. (Ps. 23:4,6;116:15; Prov. 3:21-26; 14:32; Is. 25:8; Lam. 3:32,33; Ro.14:8; I Cor. 15:54-58; II Cor. 5:1; Phil. 1:21-23; I Thess. 5:9,10; II Tim. 4:7,8; Heb. 2:14, 15; 9:27; Rev. 21:4).

The work of grieving entails coping not only with the actual loss, but also with the hopes, dreams, wishes, unfulfilled expectations, feelings and needs experienced for the person we have lost. Grieving is an integral part of the process and experience of life. The five stages of grieving made famous by Kubler-Ross act as guidelines for understanding the pain of grief.

Denial
Feelings of shock/numbness/disbelief/resisting belief of reality . . . non-deliberate and even autonomic happenings in the body and mind – this is normal and healthy

Anger
subtle/quiet . . . needs to be expressed! . . . does not have to be logical or justified . . . may be focused in a variety of / different directions

Bargaining/Bartering
Why didn’t I . . . If only I . . . I should have . . . maybe . . . guilt

Depression
Sadness . . . crying . . . hurt . . . emotional pain . . . may involve physical discomforts such as heaviness, fatigue, and/or sleeplessness.

Acceptance
Readjustment . . . resolution . . . forgiveness . . .being at the point of being able to enjoy fond or happy memories without having these memories lead to painful feelings of loss, guilt, regret or remorse. A feeling of freedom, acceptance and new meaning in life.

With all due respect to the family and friends of those men who recently died, I specifically remember where I was when I received the shocking news that each of my parents had passed. I clearly remember the “picture” of where I was and how I felt, but now it is only one picture in an album of our life together. An album that I review from time to time with happy, fun, and sad feelings, however, God is also in my album and the picture I have of Him tenderly carrying me brings great comfort as it strengthens my faith. I look at all the picture when I pick up this family album these days, but I stop to linger and give thanks when I see the “still framed” one where God is carrying the broken hearted. The process of grief is a spiral of feelings, seasons and experiences. It is not a straight line with a beginning and ending. The process of grief is healing the pain of loss and keeping treasured memories and love within our hearts and lives. May the God of all comfort provide us with His presence and healing as we walk this journey together.

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