What Are the 3 Stages of Healthy Grieving?

What Are the 3 Stages of Healthy Grieving?

Emotional complications occur when we block the natural process of grieving. Have you ever told yourself, I need to get my act together. I’ve got to snap out of it. I should be handling this better! These self-incriminating thoughts reveal unrealistic expectations about grieving and a failure to understand the grief process and the slow journey of restoration.

While “stages” of grief do exist, they are not “stair-step” stages that you walk through in a specific order. In truth, people do not go through all the stages in a predictable fashion. People are unique in their individual grieving. Some stages may be experienced with varying degrees of intensity, some may be missed, and some stages may be repeated. Give yourself permission to experience the inconsistent stages of grieving, trusting God to bring new life again.

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” (Psalm 71:20)

1. Crisis Stage

This stage can last from two days to two weeks. In this stage of grief, you are mechanically going through daily activities. You will experience many of the following characteristics:

  • anxiety/fear
  • appetite/sleep loss
  • concentration limited
  • confusion
  • crying uncontrollably
  • denial
  • disturbing dreams
  • exhaustion
  • feeling trapped
  • shock/numbness

“My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief.” (Lamentations 3:49)

2. Crucible Stage

This stage can last up to a year or two or more, perhaps even until death if grief is not resolved. This time of sorrow will be accompanied by many of the following characteristics:

  • anger/resentment
  • anguish
  • appetite/sleep loss
  • bargaining with God
  • depression/sadness
  • guilt/false guilt
  • helplessness/lethargy
  • judgment impaired
  • loneliness/isolation
  • low self-worth
  • self-pity/victim mentality
  • intense yearning

“My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:3)

3. Contentment Stage

This stage accepts the loss, leaving it in the past. This stage not only accepts that the present offers stability, but also accepts that the future offers new and promising hope. As this time approaches, the following characteristics may become more and more apparent.

  • greater compassion toward others
  • greater acceptance of others
  • greater appreciation of others
  • greater humility before others
  • greater dependence on the Lord
  • a new ability to leave the loss behind
  • new patterns for living
  • new purpose in life
  • new hope for the future
  • new contentment in all circumstances

“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. … For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 3:13; 4:11)


Article Used by Permission from Hope for the Heart©

Scripture, unless otherwise indicated, taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

June Hunt

June Hunt

June Hunt, M.A. Criswell College, is a biblical counselor whose award-winning radio program "Hope For The Heart" is heard on 900 radio outlets around the world. For more than 25 years, she has counseled people, offering them hope for today's problems. June has helped many people with emotional, relational, and spiritual problems experience God's love through biblical hope and practical help. Click here to find out more about Hope for the Heart.

Hope For The Heart Board of Reference

Dr. Henry Blackaby (Blackaby Ministries International), Dr. Rick Warren (Saddleback Church), Dr. Tony Evans (The Urban Alternative), Joni Eareckson Tada (Joni and Friends), Kay Arthur (Precept Ministries International), Dr. David Jeremiah (Turning Point), Dr. Tim Clinton (American Association of Christian Counselors), Dr. Bruce Wilkinson (Bruce Wilkinson Ministries), Dr. Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge), Roger Staubach (SRS Real Estate Partners), Steve Arterburn (New Life Ministries), Vonette Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), Dr. Charles Stanley (In Touch Ministries), Zig Ziglar (Ziglar Training Systems)


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