My Journey with God Through Grief: Denial
“You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler
It seems so simple…
Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression; Acceptance. Five little words that are supposed to sum up the experience of grief.
“Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler
I’ve always been a head-in-the-sand procrastinator type. It’s a personality flaw I try to work on daily. Some days with better results than others. I’m an EXPERT at denial.
- Eating this slab of chocolate as well as that whole pack of cheese curls won’t negatively affect my diet
- I’ll only read a few more pages of this book and put it down at 12am
- I’ll wake up early tomorrow and cycle
- That task won’t take too long, I’ll finish it tomorrow
- The doctor can’t be right, I’m too young not to be able to have kids
- I’ll meet someone and we will have kids
- It’s good that I haven’t met anyone because I can’t have kids anyway
- It’s good that I can’t have kids because I probably won’t be a good mother
- It can’t be Cancer, my dad’s too young
- If it’s Cancer they can cure it
- So even if they can’t cure it my dad can’t die
Denial. Creating our own reality so that we don’t have to deal with the facts and our feelings and we feel better about the situation. And then you get the helpful people during this time of denial that like try to make you feel better with their understanding comments of:
- Have you asked God to heal you / your dad?
- God can’t heal you / your dad if you have sin in your life
- God’s won’t give you more than you can handle
- Family and kids are a blessing / reward from God
- Time heals
- Everything happens for a reason
- You’ll get over it
Only now 4 years later can I look back and put into words (sort of) the feeling experienced during this period during the last days of my dad’s illness and after his death. Numbness.
The well-meaning clichés and platitudes of friends, family, acquaintances only serve to deepen this as you pull the bubble of numbness around you to deaden the noise. It helps you cope, after all you have things to do, to organise.
Often at this point you are surrounded by well-meaning friends offering to help “Let me know if I can do anything” they say. This may seem helpful and the sincerity is appreciated. However I’m too numb to know what I need. Hearing those words “dad died early this morning” on the phone from my mother turned me into a zombie. The first thing I did was let the friends who had walked with me through his illness know. As I got out the shower, not knowing what to do next and preparing to go to work, my phone rang.
“I’ve booked a ticket for you to get home and I’m picking you up at 1pm. Phone work and tell them you’re not coming in and pack”. My friend Jenny had lost her dad to a house fire just a year before and knew exactly what I needed without asking.
I look back at these moments that I will never forget and am convinced of God’s love. It’s in those moments and the act of love from friends, from booking tickets and getting me home, to unsolicited meals when I least expected them but most needed them, to the bunches of flowers and coffees. The silent hugs, holding sleeping babies, the gift of Godchildren, the unplanned shooters around the kitchen table at 2am. These are the things I remember. I don’t remember praying much. I do remember God’s love poured out through my friends.
Fortunately or unfortunately the numbness can’t last. You have to face reality. This loss has happened. I can’t have kids, my dad is gone. The emotions start to surface and the most overwhelming one of all is anger.