a mini cycle of grief over pain

everyone’s heard of the stages of grief as described by kubler-ross:


they seem so self-evident when you see someone go through the pain of the death of a loved one.

but i noticed last night that i was cycling through a mini version of these stages, faced with the pain associated with the rape of the teenage daughter of a friend of mine (which happened yesterday, in full daylight, in the parking lot of a target store).

after a blindingly quick “no, please tell me that didn’t really happen” hope that the initial report wasn’t accurate (denial), anger was clearly the initial response. i suppose that’s also somewhat tied to my choleric personality. i suppose, to some extent, anything that’s clearly out of my control can bring a response of anger. that sounds pretty crappy, i realize; but it’s probably true to one extent or another. i’ve been learning to notice that initial response in me and address it quickly — not stuff it, but address it for what it is, just a reaction, and not reality, and not usually worthy of acting on.

normally the ‘bargaining’ stage is described in personal terms (“i’ll try to be better…”), i found this showed up in my a more legal way: i spent a bit of thought time trying to wrestle with why god allows crap like this to happen. back to my ‘problem of evil’ problem. a little job-like cross-examination of god on the witness stand. of course, that doesn’t get me anywhere. and, ultimately, i do believe that god was and is grieving over this pain alongside me and my friends. but there’s that lingering tension between my belief that god could have intervened, but god rarely does intervene. the ‘helpful counsel’ that we’re just not aware of how often god does intervene isn’t very helpful in a situation like this.

unresolved on bargaining, knowing there’s not likely to be a deeply satisfactory resolve to those questions during my life on earth, i quickly slid into the depression stage. again, i can see how this is tied to my personality. the awareness of my complete lack of ability to exert control over a situation often leads to a modified state of depression. i’m not talking ‘clinical depression’ here: more like deep frustration, or exasperation.

and that’s where i sit this morning. the cycle was pretty quick up to this point, but no acceptance yet.

on the way home from the hospital, the girl asked her parents if they could stop by our house to have me pray for her. i was blown away that she asked for this. i believe, in fact i know, that god was present with us in that time. our hugging and tears and prayers and love for one another is what the body of christ is supposed to do in the face of pain. and a little sliver of hope kicked in: hope for healing, hope for protection (that one’s difficult, i admit, but i hold onto it), hope for justice.

10 thoughts on “a mini cycle of grief over pain”

  1. in my short internship as a hospital chaplain, they stress SARAH with us –


    Our CPE coordinator grew up in Cabrini Green in Chicago – is a an AME bishop. He always noted that most people want life skip from shock to hope. He jokingly noted – those folks are halfway to SHIT.

    Thanks be to God for time & presence – paryers ascending for the victim, the rapists, the families involved and affected.

  2. NO, NO, NO.
    I get very angry when I hear about stuff like that. (What happened to your friends daughter)
    I get angry because I have 2 very young daughters. I am scared to think that they might have to deal with threats and actions like this.

    I am also angry that somewhere in his life the man that did this has gotten a perverted view of sex, power, and manhood. I see students everday in the school that I teach in that could end up viewing things in life the same way if someone (Me, You, Someone) does not make a real effort to connect with them and stop the downward cycle.

    Rant done.


  3. I am so sorry this happened. There isn’t anything to say except to be there with her, even without words.
    We are struggling through these kinds of questions at church right now, too. We are challenging our beliefs on God’s character, trying to ascertain whether he allows these things to happen, if he causes them to happen, or both. I think we need to know God’s character and His hope during times like these. I will keep your friend’s daughter in prayer.

  4. Pefect description of exactly how I felt when I heard this news. Thank you for so succintctly expressing my mixed-up feelings. I am sharing tomorrow am with a MOPS group on “How to have faith when it is Hard”. Do you mind if I share part of your post? (Zach’s mom, Rebecca)

  5. marko- when i heard this from eric this afternoon, it grieved me and affected me profoundly. i was stuck in flashbacks both of past and recent abuse, and i once again found myself calling god a “b*stard”. which made me think of our conversation a few weeks ago, which I thought of frequently in the hospital and as I continue to wrestle through my pain.

    and i guess my choice– for choosing god is a jerk over god is all powerful is two-fold. first, my father was very clear how “powerful” god is. it is the one thing that is drilled and beaten and raped into my head.

    and secondly- what good is love if you don’t have power? All you can do is feel helpless as those you care about suffer and hurt. I can imagine as difficult as that is for us as humans, who grieve with our friends through their difficulties, a powerless but loving God would be a very frustrated, and probably ineffective one.

    anyway, so so so so sad to hear this news. so mad. struggling (for me) with “was it the same guy?” and “This happened to me because i’m a bad person” but i can objectively say that she isn’t a bad person, so what do i do with the fact that it happened to her? and of course the anger that I can feel that it happened to her, but the anger I can’t feel about it happening to me.

    anyway. ys is an amazing example of “god’s love” – in human form, and i am honored to be have given so much love and support through my own (very small) recovery.

    my new phrase is “small moves, ellie.”

    did you ever see contact? it’s the scene where she’s talking with her father/the alien and the conversation goes like this:

    Ellie: What happens now?

    Ted: Now you go home.

    Ellie: Home? But… I have so many questions. Do we get to come back?

    Ted: This was just a first step. In time, you’ll take another.

    Ellie: But other people need to see what I’ve seen, they need to see…

    Ted: This is the way it’s been done for billions of years. Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.

    may we all know the hope in the midst of the despair and may we recognize the small moves–the smallest of moves–as they open up before us.

    my heart hurts for all who have been victimized. so very, very much. and, in a selfish way, for me, too.

  6. (small moves) ellie,
    My heart breaks for you! As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a rape at the age of 17, I know your kind of hurt. I am so thrilled to say that I also know the healing power of God. I have questioned Him, screamed at Him, cursed Him, said I was through with Him (need I go on?), yet He was always there. Even during the pain, He was there. I don’t know how to explain it; I just know that His love is restorative and I am healed. The shame that victims feel is not ours to carry.That shame comes from being disgraced. The Hebrew for disgrace means to uncover, particularly of the genitalia. Any sexual crime is certainly a disgrace! But the opposite of disgrace is GRACE, and I have found a new meaning now to that: to cover, to shelter, to protect. His grace not only saves me, but it keeps me from being vulnerable to my memories, anger, hurt, frustrations, hatred, bitterness, etc etc. That’s the only way I can get through this journey.
    I have the privilege of leading a support group for survivors of sexual abuse and assault in my church. It’s amazing to be able to use for good what was intended for evil.

    Mark, I will commit to pray for this girl. I pray for physical healing right now, and for ultimate emotional and spiritual healing for her and her family. And I will pray for you and your family as you minister to them all. I understand where you are all too well. And I know that healing is indeed a possibility. I can also say that I wouldn’t trade the things I have learned through my journey for anything. Blessings on you all!

  7. MarkO, Read this post a few minutes before learning a good friend (and fellow/former StudentLife-er) just found out his two year old has leukemia. Combined, both these tragic stories have kind of knocked the wind out of my sails. I have two girls under the age of three. I will hug them a lot tonight.

  8. Marko, will be praying for everyone involved here. Praise God for having you in a place where you could help this girl begin healing!

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