A typical funeral mentioned in the Bible lasted for seven days or, in the case of important figures like Moses, for 30 days (Deuteronomy 34:8). They knew the importance of grieving and releasing emotions. After the loved one was buried, they put on sackcloth (think of the coarseness of burlap), covered themselves in ashes, threw dust in the air, wept copiously, and wailed at the top of their lungs. Talk about purging the pain of loss, they knew how to grieve!
We are much less demonstrative in our grieving today. In the traditional funeral service, upon the death of a loved one, instead of sackcloth, we usually dress in black or dark colors. We have a wake or visitation the day before the funeral service, and a funeral the next day. The casket may be open or closed based on the family’s wishes. People talk quietly and express condolences to the departed’s family. Some tears may be shed. Then a funeral procession drives to the cemetery where the burial takes place. Following the burial service there is usually a meal for the family and friends. The family of the deceased is then left on their own to grieve but grieving is hard.
Research on grieving the loss of a loved one, according to Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, follows five stages. Those five stages spell D.A.B.D.A. The first D is for Denial in which we say, “This can’t be happening to me. It must be a mistake, an error. It can’t be true.” The first A stands for Anger. When the truth that they’re gone hits us like a splash of cold water we react with anger. “How could you do this to me? How could you leave me alone? I don’t deserve this.” Often the anger is self-directed, “I should have done something. I caused this.” The B is for Bargaining. We often say things like, “If you’ll only come back, I’ll do anything. Please don’t leave me alone. I’ll change. Whatever you want I’ll do it.” The second D is for Depression when the finality of the death sinks in, we become sad, tearful, and tend to isolate from others. We often blame ourselves which only serves to deepen the depression. Finally, the second A stands for Acceptance in which we are cried out, through beating ourselves up, and have turned the corner and moved on with our lives. With acceptance we learn to live in the world without the person. The past wound is still there but has become a painless scar on our soul.
Grieving varies with each individual and the degree of closeness to the deceased. Before Acceptance occurs it may take from a few weeks to several years. Obviously it will take more time to grieve the loss of a spouse than, for example, grieving the loss of a friend or neighbor. Some will never completely get over the death of a spouse and die from a broken heart.
Finally, the divorce of a spouse follows the same five stages as the death of a spouse. This makes sense since a divorce is the death of a marriage to a loved one. The problem with divorce is the partner is still alive. Often widows and divorcees don’t give themselves sufficient time to grieve before they’re back in the hunt for a new partner. That is a mistake. Grieving is a critical part of gaining closure.
We do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13),