When someone that we love dies we feel an indescribable pain. Some have described it as a "pit" or a "hole" in the stomach. It is as if someone cut off our right arm. And I think it is so severe because we know that once someone dies, they are gone forever and there is nothing we can do about it. Not all the money, talent, or resources in the world can bring them back from death. It is the most "helpless" of feelings.
How the person died, and the age that they died also plays a part in how we grieve. If the death was tragic, or an accident, or because of a terminal illness, or if the person who has died is fairly young, or a child, or had many good years left, it is equally devastating.
We go through feelings of guilt wishing that we could have prevented their death. We ask ourselves the "what ifs" which never really solve anything other than to make us feel worse. The only thing we can do is learn how to think about it in our hearts so that we are not destroyed while we grieve.
1.) What is grief?
Grief is a reaction to loss. While we often think of grief in terms of death, we can also grieve losses from divorce or a terminal illness. We may grieve the loss of a friendship, or a relationship with a family member, or a loved pet. We may even grieve the loss of a place that we lived, or a lifestyle that we used to have. We can grieve the loss of youth, or middle age. We often think of grief in terms of feelings such as anger, guilt, sadness or loneliness. But grief affects us in other ways as well -- spiritually, behaviorally, physically, and mentally.
2.) Are there stages to the grief process?
Well, there are certain emotions that we go through, but they come in waves, rolling in and out of our lives, usually when we least expect it. There are times when we think we are doing better, and then "whamo" out of nowhere we are remembering the loss, and the pit in our stomach returns.
There are five stages to the grief process but while they follow a certain order, many times they come in no particular order at all.
a.) Denial & Isolation: When tragedy strikes, we have a hard time believing it. It can take years to come to grips with the death of a loved one. We may deny that the loss has taken place, refusing to believe the reality of it. This may cause us to withdraw from our usual schedules, such as work, friends, and daily activities. We can stay in this stage for days, weeks, or months pretending that "everything is fine" and will even refuse to talk about the situation.
b.) Anger: After we get past denial then we become very angry. We can get angry at the person for dying and leaving us, we can get angry at God for not keeping them alive, we can get angry at what or whoever killed them, and we can get angry at ourselves for not preventing their death. We even get angry at the entire world.
c.) Bargaining: When our anger gets us no where but more upset, we begin to bargain with God. We make promises and deals with God, "if only he would bring them back to life." We may offer to God to do or not do something if He will only bring them back.
d.) Depression: And then when all of our deals and promises do not bring them back we get depressed. This is where many people give up and do careless things, like not go to work, or talk to others, or eat, or not eat, etc. The individual feels numb, although anger and sadness may remain underneath. An individual may lose interest in pleasurable activities, feel sad for days at a time and truly mourn for their loss.
This is the point that we need to talk to a Pastoral Counselor who can restore our hope and faith not only in God, but help us to believer that we will be reunited with our loved ones once again.
e.) Acceptance: Finally we accept the loss. We realize that we cannot bring the loved one back, and we have to go on with our lives. When we reach the level of acceptance, we have found peace.
3.) Does grief have a timetable?
Since grief is such an individual reaction, it is hard to give a timetable. For most people, the most intense grief is for the first two years. After that, low periods tend to be less frequent and intense. But even years after a loss, especially at the anniversary or birthday of the person's death, or the end of a relationship, or special events such as a family wedding or the birth of a child, we may still experience a sense of grief. Sometimes, just seeing something that reminds us of the other person is a "trigger" that can start the entire process over again.
4.) Do we grieve in different ways?
Each of us grieves in our own way, affected by our inborn temperaments, our faith, or lack of faith, our relationship with the person who died, circumstances surrounding the loss, our present circumstances, our coping skills, and the support systems that we have in place. Every loss has a unique meaning to us. Some may experience grief primarily as waves of feeling; others may manifest grief in the ways they think or physically feel.
5.) How much grief is normal? When is grief not normal?
At any point, a pastoral counselor who does grief work might help in sorting out reactions and ways that we are adapting to grief. In cases where expressions of grief are destructive to self or to others, or we become suicidal, or in situations where the grief is highly disabling (that is, we find it difficult to care for ourselves, others or to function in our daily lives), it is imperative that we consult a Pastoral Counselor. When we experience certain types of losses such as traumatic loss or the loss of a child, we would benefit from intervention and support groups.
In the process of counseling, accountability becomes a very important tool for
the counselor and the recovery and health of the counselee. The following is
an article by Jesse Dillinger that was printed in The Bible for Hope, a tool used
by AACC. I felt that it would be worth reprinting, especially for pastors who are
involved in setting up accountability groups in their churches.
Personal Growth Through Personal Accountability
by Jesse Dillinger
PEOPLE NEED SOMEONE WITH WHOM THEY CAN BE TOTALLY HONEST,
SOMEONE WITH WHOM THEY CAN SHARE THEIR DEEP FEELINGS AND
THOUGHTS, SOMEONE WITH WHOM THEY CAN DISCUSS THEIR WALK WITH
GOD. PEOPLE WHO HAVE SUCH A FRIEND HAVE LEARNED A POWERFUL SECRET
TO SUCCES IN CHRISTIAN GROWTH – PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY.
Accountability means accounting for personal thoughts and behaviors, which
are held up to a standard and evaluated. Another person or a group will hold
someone accountable and offer encouragement and support as he or she tries
to meet that standard. With voluntary accountability, people choose to place
themselves in a relationship where someone else will ask them to account for
their thoughts and behaviors.
Everyone, Christian and non-Christian, is accountable to one ultimate standard:
the Word of God (Philippians 2:9-11). For Christians, the Bible remains the
standard for daily decisions. Personal accountability builds a bridge between
the Bible and the practice of its principles. While Christians remain on the
earth, their objective is to grow spiritually in Christ’s image (Philippians 3:13-14).
Accountability helps one to progress in the spiritual process of maturing.
PARTNERS IN ACCOUNTABILITY
Accountability requires self-evaluation, pure motives, and the absence of
hypocritical judgment. People must not hold some else accountable to a
standard they are not willing to meet themselves. Accountability partners
should be maturing Christians who have the desire and the time to invest in
relationships with others. They must be able to keep reasonable confidences and
be concerned enough with others’ personal growth that they can be tough when
it is needed.
TYPES OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Virtually any area of life can be placed in an accountability arrangement. A
person may seek accountability to assist in following through with a specific
task, like developing a regular pattern of family time. Someone may ask another
to help in dealing honestly at work or remaining financially sound. A married
couple may wish to meet with another married couple concerning healthy
communication and loving treatment of each other. Changing one’s attitude at
work, developing a pattern of reading the Bible, telling the truth instead of “white
lies”, or maintaining purity in one’s thought life may also represent areas in need
Personal accountability is every Christian’s privilege and responsibility
(2 Corinthians 5:10). People may ask God in prayer to show them what needs to
be addressed in their lives. Not only will God reveal what they can’t see, but He
will also use others to reveal their personal weaknesses. At that point, they may
desire to take advantage of other types of accountability with an individual or a
group. In the individual arrangement, another person enters in to help a person.
In a group setting, two or more individuals hold each other accountable. With a
group devoted to living according to Scripture, there will be more praying, more
encouraging, and more investment among more people.
CATEGORIES OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Restorative accountability can restore others to a relationship or church
membership after they have been involved in sin substantial enough to sever the
original tie (Galatians 6:1). Prior to an agreement to accountability, there must
be genuine repentance on the part of the offender. Thorough forgiveness must
precede accountability (2 Corinthians 2:7).
Preventative accountability is sought to guard against weakness or sin (Mark
14:38. James 5:16). Examples include sexual thoughts and actions (lust and
pornography), sins of indulgence (greed and gluttony), sins of the tongue (lying,
gossip, slander) and sins of omission (failure to show compassion, etc.). The
length of this type of accountability varies depending on the situation. For
example, people traveling on business may set up a system of accountability
specifically for the times they are away from their family to guard against
Constructive accountability aims at encouragement and the development of
believers’ spiritual growth (Hebrews 10:23). These groups may meet for six
months or more and may be guided by a specific Bible study.
Task-oriented accountability includes being held accountable for important
activities such as keeping specific promises or meeting specific goals. This
accountability ends with the completion of the task.
ENEMIES OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Enemies of accountability include denial (2 Samuel 12:1-7) and lies (Colossians
3:19). If a person is not willing to admit mistakes or failures, there can be no
accountability. Although one may be tempted to stretch the truth when meeting
with an accountability partner, lying about one’s success does not help the
Other obstacles to accountability include blame (Genesis 3:11-13) and pride
(Romans 12:16). Humility is a cornerstone of accountability. It is not easy to
make oneself vulnerable to another person’s scrutiny. However, a partner who
reacts with a prideful, haughty attitude towards one’s admission of disobedience
is not a suitable partner for accountability. Encouragement should be used
instead of insult.
However, no accountability relationship can tolerate continued sin on the part
of one or both parties (Matthew 5:29-30). There is no purpose in a group that
makes a continuous litany of excuses for undisciplined behavior.
RESULTS OF ACCOUNTABILITY
When a group meets for accountability, questions are asked that encourage
honesty and revelation. “Have you lied to anyone since we last met?” is an
example of the type of questions that can provided structure for the meeting.
Participants should also request information to monitor the development of
desired thoughts and behaviors. “What specific truths have you told while being
tempted to lie?”
Accountability brings the body of Christ together in a supportive way to
encourage us to grow in Christ. It allows the development and use of our gifts
and promotes unity within the body. We grow by doing what is right. Through
accountability, our faith is strengthened by the example of others’ obedience.