A Road Map Out From Grief

Yesterday I read an excellent blog called A Widow’s Might written by Kit Hinkle that I would like to share with you today.  Kit has been widowed 5 years and has 4 sons ages 11-17. 

A Road Map Out From Grief

by Kit on February 18, 2013

by Kit Hinkle

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Do you ever feel like you wish someone would just hand you a roadmap and tell you how long this journey out of sorrow is supposed to take?

The world does, and as usual, the world falls short. After all, hasn’t it fallen short ever since Adam and Eve bit that apple?

Sisters, bear with me here, because I’m going to get a bit analytical here on what the intellectuals of the world have borne out on theories of human behavior response for grieving. Have you ever heard of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief? As a model well-worn by psychologists around the world, it has gained acceptance as the most valid, relevant model for each and every one of us humans. It basically goes like this—when a person is facing loss, they go through stages like so: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance.

I’ve always just shrugged my shoulders and went along with this model, simply because it shows up everywhere—from grief counseling articles to mainstream media. If the world repeats it, then it must be right…. Right?

I suppose it’s easy to think so, until you walk through loss yourself and somehow, these stages of grief don’t quite fit.

Last week, my teenager showed me the following video his AP Psychology teacher had the class watch on the Kubler-Ross model. Please accept my apologies for the “mother-bleep”’s in it. Leave it to public schools to teach with videos that have to bleep out words in order to convey anger. I thought about finding something else, but since it’s the one shown that got my attention, I thought you’d want to see it.


Beyond the bleeping, I simply tried to enjoy the comedic nature of the giraffe caught in quicksand, following its stages from denial to acceptance. Until it dawned on me—this doesn’t really model how I grieved at all!!!

And then something else dawned on me—through this ministry I witness some widows moving past their grief, ready for the next purpose in life, while others get stuck far longer in anger or depression. Why is that? Is it because they loved their husband more or the loss was worse? I don’t think so. I was one in that group of widows who seemed to emerge rather quickly from grief with more hope, more vigor for the future. And it’s not that I didn’t love my husband. If you could have seen the love Tom had for me—the level of romance and adoration in our marriage, you would not doubt that my loss is genuine. In fact, after hearing so many stories from the readers of these blogs, I’m convinced that there is little connection between the level of adoration or bond between a couple and the recovery process when one of them dies.

So by rejecting Kubler-Ross’s model, and going against what so many accept, am I mistaken? After all, wasn’t Ms. Kubler-Ross a highly decorated thinker who won notoriety as one of the initiators of hospice care? I certainly don’t mean disrespect to someone who has accomplished so much!

On the other hand, as soon as we start to assume someone is above reproach—their theories too perfect to be questioned, we’re putting our faith in someone other than God.

And as it turns out, that’s exactly what Ms. Kubler-Ross did in her lifetime. By all accounts I researched (including Wikipedia.com and biography.com), I could not find any indication that she included our Creator, Jesus Christ, in her ideas about death, dying, and loss.

As a matter of fact,  I discovered she

“became increasingly interested in the issues of life after death, spirit guides, and spirit channeling, which was met with skepticism and scorn by her peers in the medical and psychiatric circles.

For one who wrote so extensively on dying and death, Kübler-Ross’s transition from this life was not a smooth one. She retired to Arizona after series of strokes in 1995 left her partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. “I am like a plane that has left the gate and not taken off,” she said, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. “I would rather go back to the gate or fly away.” (biography.com)

I got thinking—that’s not acceptance of the quicksand, is it? There is something that Kubler-Ross was missing in her model. Hope.

According to Rapidnet.com, “when incapacitated by a series of strokes in 1995, she did nothing but sit at home in Arizona “smoking cigarettes, watching TV, and waiting to die” (Dr. Hugh Pyle, 8/22/97, Sword). She said: ‘I don’t give a hoot about the afterlife, reincarnation, or anything. I’m finished, and I’m not coming back.’”

That makes me so sad! Is this all she believed there is? No afterlife? No wonder her stages of grief fall empty.

Truth is, when Kubler-Ross came up with her model, she did so without hope. And the world thinkers, who live without hope, gladly accepted her model as valid.

But how about entering the redeeming power of Christ into the model? Because ladies, that’s what seems to make the difference in whether grief leads to healing and a new life, or whether someone gets stuck in despair.

As I researched further, I learned that Christian counselors are beginning to take note of what’s missing from the Kubler-Ross model and improve on it, for the sake of their clients.

Here is how Bob Kellemen, Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, rewrites the model for grieving based on the redeeming power of Christ (http://www.rpmministries.org/2010/07/a-biblical-model-of-grieving/):


This is so eye opening to me that all I can do is reflect back to what Paul said to the Thessalonians: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Sisters, are you processing your loss in the hope of Christ? Can you see the difference between grieving in the knowledge that Christ offers everlasting life, and that this life, with all it’s failings and sufferings, is not our eternal home? That while you live out this one and only life on earth, suffering or not, you might as well live it out with purpose, because grieving like those with no hope not only makes you miserable, but keeps you from using whatever time you have left on this planet to make an impact that will last an eternity!

My final thoughts on the founder of the Kubler-Ross model. It’s one thing for an intellectual academic like Kubler-Ross to spend her career studying others going through loss. But when she herself finally had to deal with her impending death, she wasn’t looking forward to her eternal life. Rather, the lost soul sat in despair, unable to accept her predicament of neither having died yet nor having her old life back. How tragic and unnecessary! This isn’t a criticism of her personally—more a compassionate observation of someone who suffered because the hope of Christ never reached her heart.

Has it reached yours? Sisters, I offer to you that if you have never understood how it is that Christ redeems through His act on the cross and how that changes everything for your healing process, I invite you to use the contact form at the top and let us know you’d like us to contact you and pray with you.

Blessings on your healing journey.


7 responses

  1. Since my husband died this past December, I have read a bit on grief stages and such like, but since the two-month mark came and went, I have not as yet been angry. Lonely, yes, angry, no. I allow myself to cry when the memories flood back or He comes to mind in a weak moment, but I am not angry nor agitated. Jesus Christ has been my Saviour for so long and there runs an ethereal peace through and around me. Perhaps there are those of us who simply grow quiet and trust God with all the stages. Susan


    • Hello Susan. I am so sincerely sorry for your the very recent loss of your husband. You are very early on in your grieving process. Sometimes anger doesn’t come until later. Sometimes it never comes. Every widow is different and experiences different emotions that are neither right or wrong. I am so glad that you are experiencing that peace that only God can give us. Thank you for sharing your heart and for reading.


  2. Thank you for this profound article! There is no comparison with the grief of a Christian and one who does not know our Lord. I am so glad I know Him as Savior, as I have walked the path of grief.


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