Today, a brief review of the invaluable book called “Good Grief.” Originally written in 1961 by Granger Westburg, faculty member of University of Chicago Medical and Divinity Schools, Good Grief has found its way in over 3 million homes.


Given today’s strain on us all with coronavirus, “Good Grief” is an excellent form of treatment everyone can use to manage through this unprecedented time.


Various forms of loss need not be entirely damaging; they can, to some degree at least, also be life-enhancing. Suffering is not good, but you need not be devastated by it. Ultimately, we can be healed of our bitterness and move ahead. So, you might say, “What can I get out of reading this book on good grieving?”


We come out of our grief experience at a slightly higher level of maturity than before.


We come out of our grief as deeper persons because we have been down in the depths of despair and know what it is like.


We come out of it stronger, for we have had to learn how to use our spiritual muscles to climb the rugged mountain trails.


We come out of it better able to help others. We have walked through the valley of the shadow of grief. We can understand.


We must remember that the 10 stages of grief below are not in order of how you may process your personal grief. You also may not experience all 10. Moreover, it is impossible to differentiate clearly between each of these stages, for a person never moves neatly from one stage to the other.


Shock


God has so made us that we somehow bear pain and sorrow and even tragedy. However, when the sorrow is overwhelming, we are sometimes temporarily anesthetized in response to a tragic experience. This temporary anesthesia can keep us from having to face grim reality all at once.


Emotion


Emotional release comes at about the time it begins to dawn upon us how dreadful this loss is. Sometimes without warning there wells up within us an uncontrollable urge to express our grief. And this is exactly what we ought to do: Allow ourselves to express the emotions we actually feel.


Depression and loneliness


Eventually there comes a feeling of utter depression and isolation. It is as if God is no longer in his heaven, as if God does not care. It is during these days we are sure no one else has ever grieved as we are grieving.


Physical symptoms of distress


There exists a strong relationship between physical illness and the way in which a person handles a great loss. Some people who have physical symptoms of distress stop at one of the stages in the 10-stage grief process. Unless someone can help them to work through the emotional problems involved in the stage in which they seem to be fixed, they will remain ill.


We may become panicky


We find ourselves becoming panicky because we can think of nothing but the loss. It is the panic of thinking we are going through something wholly abnormal that throws us deeper into despair. But it is not abnormal; it is normal!


A sense of guilt about the loss


It's important to make the distinction between “normal” guilt and neurotic guilt. Generally speaking, normal guilt is what we feel when we have done something, or neglected to do something, for which we ought, by the standards of our society, to feel guilty. Neurotic guilt is feeling guilty out of proportion to our own real involvement in a problem.


Anger and resentment


Gradually, we move up out of our depression, and in so doing we may be more able to express some of the strong feelings of anger and resentment of which we may not even have been aware.


We resist returning


Although we may be quite well along in our grief work and really want to get back to our usual activities, something inside us resists returning.


Gradually hope comes through


We get glimpses of hope. The great majority of us need to express our emotions. When we do, it allows others to help us discover the meaningful living again.


We struggle to affirm reality


We finally begin to affirm reality. We do not become our old selves again, but we come out of our grief as different people. Depending upon the way we respond to the event, we are either stronger people than we were before, or weaker; either healthier in spirit, or sicker.


Meanwhile, please accept my gift of “Good Grief.” Email me for your free copy. Supplies are limited.


— Jeff Elhart is Playground Director II of the Elhart Automotive Campus in Holland. For more information, contact benice@elhart.com.