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A fact of love

"My wife's father was murdered a year ago and her emotions still erupt like a volcano."

I've heard a lot of surprising things in this ministry, but for some reason this one really caught me off guard. Perhaps it was the apt metaphor of a volcano to describe grief in the wake of a murder. Or the look of utter helplessness on the man's face, with a little exhaustion mixed in. Supporting a loved one through traumatic loss is difficult work, and he'd been at it for a year.

It wasn’t very long ago that a year was the official time period for mourning. Family members of the departed wore all black. They didn’t go to parties or smile very much, and everybody accepted this as normal. Yet here was this husband a year after his father-in-law's death, and he hadn't seen much progress in his wife's grief process. "She's stuck in the anger stage," he said.

He was referring to the stages of grief from death-and-dying expert Elizabeth Kübler-Ross — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. "Stages" is a bit of a misnomer because they aren't exactly linear. As a country pastor explained to me years ago, the stages of grief are like different types of wild animals that can show up on your porch at nighttime. You never know which one is going to appear. Or for how long it will keep coming. The process of grief is very personal, and each person is entitled to their own schedule.