Everyone goes through the grief process differently. Some experience phases of grief more powerfully than others. What aspects of shock that we have talked about best describe you? What did/does the “shock” phase look like for you?
One aspect of shock is that it encourages you to get over it quickly. Without even dealing with it, you could already be focusing on moving beyond it. In some ways this is a defense mechanism and in other ways denial. Which do you see more of in your process? In what ways do you feel like you’ve dealt with the shock of your loss?
The shock phase causes a person to move back and forth between leaning on God and yelling at God. On one end of the spectrum, we are crying out to God in pain and asking for help, but on the other end we are so angry at God we think we’ll never speak his name or say we believe in him again. It is in those times that we discover regardless of what the pain of loss causes us to do or say, God stays by our side. He will not leave us or abandon us because we are angry. In what ways is/did God supernaturally provide for you and your loved ones during this phase?
Dictionary.com defines “coping” as “to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties, especially successfully or in a calm or adequate manner”. In what ways do you see yourself coping with your loss?
Sometimes people cope in unhealthy ways like using alcohol or drugs, excessive sleeping, overeating, spending, anti-social behavior, isolation, or picking a fight with anyone who will go toe to toe with you. Which of your coping behaviors would you consider unhealthy? Of the coping mechanisms you use, which do you think are most healthy or useful?
Sometimes well-meaning people close to you will “coach” you to process through your grief a certain way or in a certain timeframe. They may try to “educate” you as to what is appropriate and inappropriate. While listening to them, you may experience a difference between how we are “supposed to feel” and how we “really feel”. Do you notice this difference in your grief? Do you feel any pressure to feel a certain way? How do you “really” feel?
When a physical trauma occurs, professionals triage the situation and decide what needs should be addressed first. While you are in the shock phase, you will probably need loving people around you who can help you discern your best next steps. Who are those people for you? Do you trust them to be honest with you, even when you would rather do it differently?
There are people who, for whatever reason find it difficult to get along with others in their life and constantly create drama and feelings of ill will around them. When one of these persons dies, those around them have mixed emotions about the loss. At times friends and family feel relieved the person is gone. Do any of you have this feeling? Are there any feelings of guilt accompanying this sentiment? How are you dealing with the sense of relief in light of others around you who may have a completely different experience?
Which of the following have you experienced with regard to your loss?
Anger, Tears, Emotional Pain, Depression, Yearning
Aches, Physical Pain, Loss of Appetite, Sleeplessness, Fatigue
Fear, Guilt, Regret, Despair
Sexual disinterest or frustration
Which of these do you struggle with the most? Why?
Generalized anger can occur when we are feeling stressed, placed in the position of having to accept painful circumstances, or are forced to make a decision between two uncomfortable options. This type of anger seems to have no specific origin or reason you can identify. Explicit anger happens when someone or something does something specific to create feelings of anger in us. When you feel yourself getting angry, who or what tends to be the object of your anger most often? While the death of your loved one is a generalized cause of your anger, what is the specific loss that is making you angry? (For example… ‘I don’t get to see my brother again. I can’t go to him for advice. His death left his family in a terrible financial position and they are suffering…’)
In what form does your generalized anger usually present itself? (For example… ‘I become impatient and short with people. I lose my temper more quickly. My activity level decreases and I stop caring about details, and I just want to lie on the couch and do nothing.’)
In what form does your explicit anger usually present itself? (For example… ‘I curse, scream, and throw things. I make unreasonable demands. I cry or retreat into depression. I drink alcohol, pick up a bad habit, and become self-destructive.’)
Anger and sadness are two emotions healthy people cannot avoid. When you experience grief & loss, you are tempted to allow anger or sadness to overpower you and take you to unhealthy expressions like denial, bitterness, rage and depression. What about your anger or sadness do you believe is unhealthy? Do you see ways where it might be debilitating and tearing you down? What healthy signs do you see in your anger? If you recognize signs of depression in you, what should you do about it?
Most people protest because they believe something is unfair. Unions strike, employees complain to management, and grieving people sometimes cry out to God because they believe God has caused the death of their loved one, or at least failed to stop it. In your mind, what is God’s role in the cause of your suffering? Is he responsible for your loss? Is there anything you are protesting to God about? What have you been saying to him? What would you like to say to him?
When you replay the circumstances of a death or the status of your relationship with a person you lost, there is a tendency to try to re-write history and suggest that if you had only done this differently or that differently, they might not have died, or you might not feel the way you do. Sometimes regret in small doses can be helpful to cause you to change your life for the better, but in large doses it can destroy you. Do you have regrets of any kind? If so, what do you regret? On a scale of 1-10, how powerful is your feeling of regret? Which of your feelings are healthy and will lead you toward positive change? What feelings of regret do you believe are tearing you down?
There is at any given time only so much energy available to you to get done what you need to get done to concentrate, focus, prepare meals, pay bills, clean bathrooms and vacuum carpets, talk to people, engage and be productive at work, or to even get out of bed. Grieving is not very energy efficient. It takes a huge amount of your available energy and you really don’t get anything accomplished with the energy you spend – except to grieve. What does the greatest amount of energy in your day go toward? In what ways are you grieving and still trying to do all the things you did before the loss? How is that working for you? What could you allow to go undone so you have time to grieve? Is there anything you need to say to people around you so they will know that less will get done for a while? How will you know when it is ok to go back to the chores of living?
Hold up an object and have group members talk about their progress and journey through the grief process in relation to the object (Groups may select additional objects based on type of loss) a Photograph, Calendar, Fork, Bed pillow, Travel brochure, Phone, Keys.
One of the most painful aspects of loss is when the person who is so valuable to you is suddenly torn from your life, or taken from you before the natural progression and circle of life has a chance to run its course. Things are happening around you that seem completely beyond your ability to control. This lack of control is disconcerting and painful. There is an exercise that can help… Find a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom. Label one side “Things Can Control” and the other side “Things I Cannot Control”.
On the “Things I Can Control” side, list the things in your life right now which you do have the ability to influence and choose, the things you get to decide. For example…
Your attitude, your memories, and how you use your time
The people with which you choose to surround yourself
On the “Things I Cannot Control” side, list the things in your life right now beyond your ability to control, things you would like to be different, but you cannot change. For example…
Your loss, your pain, and what other people say and do
The world continuing to move on
As you look at the two columns and the items you’ve listed in each, mentally choose to make the “Things I Can Control” side your “To Do” list and get started working on them today. Read over your list of “Things I Cannot Control” and decide to make it your “Prayer List,” and in the same way you breathe in and out offer those items to God and make up your mind to let go of the need to be in charge of them. God has good plans for you… trust him.
Often people expect more from themselves than is humanly possible while grieving. There is almost a willingness to make yourself suffer in a way equal to the suffering of the person you lost, or the belief that somehow forcing yourself to suffer more while in great pain will cover up the pain of loss. In the same way you are willing to make allowance for others in pain, it is important to give yourself a break. In what ways are you very hard on yourself? Do you require things of yourself you do not expect of others? Name one area where you could give yourself a break. What keeps you from giving yourself a break?
It is important to allow the disorganization phase to run its course. Through this time it is very helpful to be nice to yourself and grant yourself grace when you don’t get everything done or don’t meet the expectations of those around you who are less understanding of what you are experiencing. When you are ready you will begin to notice life coming back together. Have you experienced any desire for reorganization in your life? In what ways do you find yourself willing to re-engage in the chores and tasks of living? Which chores or tasks are still too hard to even think about going back to?
We have been learning that there are two key truths about God when you are grieving. First, he loves you more than you can imagine, and second, he will never leave you to go through your grief alone. In what ways are you aware and feeling God’s Presence helping you in your grief? Can you describe that awareness or feeling with examples? If not, is there anything that keeps you from going to Him to receive help? What would you like for God to do that is in his job description, but he is not doing? When change happens there is an almost gravitational or magnetic pull to quickly repair what has been broken, to fill the hole created by loss, or to balance the scales of life and relationships. Sometimes those who are grieving feel pressure to make decisions about the future, or because they think it will relieve the pain, jump into or out of something. What big decisions, if any are you feeling pressured to make? Is the pressure real or imagined? Is the pressure a natural consequence of the loss, or is it someone’s way of making themselves feel better? Is it someone’s plan to help you feel better? What danger is there in making decisions that affect your future while you are grieving? What benefit would there be in asking a few people you respect to help you make decisions while you are grieving?
Losing a key person in your life like a partner, parent or child can create incredible feelings of loneliness. Losing someone you love can leave a huge hole not only in your heart, but in your daily routine. Your life may have been scheduled completely around the person you lost and now without them, you are searching for new meaning. To what extent are you feeling lonely? How are you handling the feelings of loneliness? What time of day seems to be the most difficult for you? What specific activity of the day or week is hardest for you? What have you found helpful to combat the feelings of loneliness?
At times even considering moving forward in life without the loved one you lost can create in you feelings of guilt. You might feel to accept their loss is to minimize their importance, or that going on with your life is being disloyal. Can you describe any of these types of feelings you’ve experienced? What does loyalty look like to your loved one? What would disloyalty look like? If your loved one could come back and talk to you about you moving forward, what advice would they offer you? What can you do about your feelings of guilt?
Loss is never experienced in a vacuum. While affected in different ways, there are always others affected by our loss. Shock, protest and disorganization affect us personally and individually, but the ripple effect touches a lot of people close to us. In what ways are you receiving help from your friends and family as the sense of reorganization in your life increases? How comfortable do you feel with asking for help when you need it? Is it possible that others around you might benefit by being able to help you through your grieving? Does your particular family/friends system encourage or discourage you being willing to allow others to help you? How would your grief process be different if you allowed people to help you more?
When your loss first happened almost all your energy went into grieving. You had very little physical or emotional room for anything else. But as the days and weeks pass and you are doing the hard work of grieving in a healthy way, energy for other things is beginning to return. What elements of reorganization, if any, are you sensing taking place in your life? Describe some new things in your life you’ve given energy to that didn’t get that kind of attention when your grieving was fresher. How do these new steps make you feel?
God can be a helpful source of how to reorganize your life after loss. His help comes in many forms, and one particular way is to reinforce the values upon which you make decisions and build your new life. What makes you think you might, or might not be able to trust God with your future? Why or why not? How does a person find out what God wants them to do? What do you do to put into practice what God would want you to do?
The stages of grief are not sequential mile markers you pass through on your journey to healing. They are more like signposts identifying the territory you happen to be in at the time, and along your journey you may see the same signpost several times and in no particular order. How does it feel to be going back and forth between acceptance and anger, healing and hopelessness, reorganization and regression? What stages of grief have you found you’ve repeated several times? Are there any triggers that cause you to move a certain direction?
There are aspects of grieving that may cause you to feel like a victim. The nature of loss where you have no say in what happens or how it happens can create feelings of helplessness and futility. There is nothing worse for you in the healing process than to mire down and get stuck in the victim role. What have you done this past week to help yourself? What have you done to participate in your own healing, to take charge of some aspect of the process and to choose how you will respond to this loss?
The dictionary defines acceptance as “to agree with or consent to”. What it does not describe is a scenario where you are necessarily happy about, comfortable in, at peace with, or fully understanding of the situation. Acceptance is important because it means we are no longer in denial about the reality of our loved one’s death, and we are accepting the veracity of the situation – that our loved one is gone. What about accepting your loved one’s death is most difficult for you? Have you sensed your mind trying to convince you that as long as you refuse to believe it is real, it will not be real?
There are a few very healthy steps a grieving person can take, and even if you do not understand why or even feel like it at the time, these steps can help you reorganize and rejuvenate. Do as much of the following as you can – regular exercise, eating fresh foods and vegetables, getting outside and breathing fresh air, being around people who make you smile, and interacting with children. Which of these have you done in the past seven days? What are some other examples of healthy steps you have taken? How do you find these steps helpful to you?
A key to healthy grieving is to work through the frustration and pain by talking about it, remembering, writing and drawing, creating and keeping it real. What are you doing to keep it real? Which of these on the list best helps you to get the feelings out and express them? Which ones are the most difficult for you? What happens if you choose not to keep it real?
Hope is a powerful resource we draw on to continue taking one breath after another. Without hope many find very little reason to go on living. Grief and loss erode hope by taking precious lives from you, but with God there is always hope. It may be difficult to see but it is always there. In what ways are you able to see hope blossoming in the midst of your grief? What hopeful sign has given you the strength to go on in the last few weeks?
Hope assumes that God exists, and that he has the power and will to accomplish his will in your life. It also assumes his will is what is best for you. At what point do you struggle in believing that God can use this experience as part of the plans He has for you? What assurance do you have that God does in fact exist? What leads you to believe he has a will and purpose for your life? What is God’s will for your life?
It has been said that grief is never wasted. What does this statement mean to you?
There are many reasons why God wants to heal the pain in your life and restore you. He is intentional and never does anything without a purpose. What do you think God wants you to do with the areas of your life that have been healed?
One truth about God’s plan is that we don’t see the entire picture from any single point in our life. The more we live the more of his plan unfolds, but we don’t see the whole plan right now. Try to describe the parts of God’s plan you can see right now to give you a hope and a future. How is God using your experience of loss to benefit you or those around you?
Healthy relationships are a key component to healthy grieving. Often the people we thought were going to be the greatest help to us in our grieving are not the ones who stay by our sides. Sometimes the pain is too great, the constant grieving too tiresome, and the lack of knowledge in what to do too daunting. God will provide what you need to see you through. Who are the companions who have walked through your pain with you stand ready if you have a need? How have different friends and family responded to your different types of needs? Are there any new acquaintances or friendships you have made since your loved one died? How have they helped you in your pain? How might these people be part of God’s plan?
Early in your pain you held the people and life you lost with a tight grip, a clenched fist, fighting the loss. As now you have learned to relax your grip, turn your hand over and cradle the people and things in your life in the palm of your hand – picture yourself accepting the reality of the changes that have come into your life. What does relinquishing control of your life mean to you? What do you think it would look like if you actually let go?