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Faith and Life: Death reminds us to live for a legacy 'that exceeds us'

November 19, 2012

What is the most significant loss you can remember? For some, the answer may come immediately to mind. Others may have to ponder a bit to figure the answer out.

Mine is fresh on my memory…my grandmother. She passed Oct. 21, six days short of her 99th birthday.

I will never forget the last time I saw her, nor will ever fail to remember the last conversation we had.

My grief started 17 days before her passing when my mother phoned to tell me the end was near. I cried the entire night from somewhere deep within my being. The day she passed I cried less. The morning I officiated at her funeral, I again welled up minutes before stepping out to the pulpit.

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Grief is defined as a process, gone through in non-sequential stages. The Kubler-Ross model is a good representation of how the “the five stages of grief” can occur. It uses the acronym DABDA: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

The denial stage is about one basically thinking, “Hey, I am fine, this cannot be happening to me”; the anger stage is more of a, “Why me? Life is not fair” type of perception; the bargaining stage is usually asking God for more time with the idea of changing one’s lifestyle, “I’ll do anything if only…” type of thoughts; the depression stage is kind of a “Why even go on?” type of mentality; while the acceptance stage allows one to finally think, “It’s going to be alright I may as well not fight it.”

These stages are typically what individuals go through during the grieving process. True, deep, “grief” lasts about two months. When the duration exceeds this, it is technically diagnosable as a major depressive episode -- which makes sense when we have lost someone very close to us.

But the truth of the matter is that grief can look different for everyone. And the bottom line is that grief is not only necessary to move on, it is a dreadfully powerful emotion that is pervasive in nature.

The passing of a loved one is one of the most difficult life stressors we can experience. It is permanent. There is finality to it that other stressors and losses do not always include.

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