The Stages of Grief

The grief process is one that is unique to each person and circumstance. Most people are familiar with the “Five Stages of Grief”: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The process is not, however, usually a linear process where one goes smoothly, or directly from one stage to the next. More often grief can better be described as a jumbled ball of rubber bands that has to be unwound in random ways and at different paces. One can start with depression and then go straight to acceptance. Another person can stay stuck in denial and bargaining. It is so important to keep in mind that there is no formula for grieving. Your process may involve all the stages in the order they are usually presented. Another person’s process may look very different. There is no “wrong way” to grieve.

Keep in mind that the level of grief someone displays after a death does not equate to the amount of love we had for the person. Some people will grieve much longer and deeper than others.

Unhelpful Things That Christians Sometimes Say

In an attempt to be kind, sometimes Christians say things to those who have lost a loved one that are simply not true. We always want to make sure that what we say aligns with scripture. A lie told to comfort is not ultimately helpful. The truth told in love will be far more healing than a well-intentioned lie. Some things (there are many others) that Christians say that are not theologically sound and that can end up causing harm in the long run are:

“Heaven got another angel.”
“He was too good for this world and God needed him in Heaven.”
“She is watching over you from Heaven.”
“When you see a cardinal (or any other object/animal) that’s your loved one visiting you.”

None of those things are scripturally true and we need to steer clear of saying them to people, or believing them ourselves. What people most often need during the time immediately after a death of a loved one is someone to just be present with them. A hug, or letting them know that you don’t know what to say, but you are there for them is more helpful than saying things that are not true.

Pastoral vs. Theological Counsel

While it is accurate to say that all scripture is always true, our timing of sharing certain truths is very important. For example, we know that God is good and He is sovereign, but a mother who has just lost a child instead needs to know about God’s comfort and His closeness to the brokenhearted. There will be a time to share that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, but that time is not in the deep depths of pain and loss. While things are theologically true, we have to know the time to be pastoral instead of theological, a loving shepherd instead of a teacher. Sharing the truth in love is also about the timing of sharing.


Never forget that Christ is our hope. In a dark time, even after a death, we have an assurance of Christ’s love. We grieve differently than the world; we grieve with hope. God is with us in our pain and grieves alongside us. Time does not heal all wounds. Time partnered with the love of Christ and His truth ultimately is what heals our broken heartedness.


GriefShare is a 13-week video and workbook study done in a group with others who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The GriefShare website has resources and lists of local churches that offer GriefShare groups.

“Hope When Your Heart is Breaking” by Ron Hutchcraft

“Journey through Grief” by Stephen Ministry

Counseling is available at HNW by calling 281.720.0032.