Good Grief: Stages and Cycles

Good grief: Stages and Cycles

Most people have heard at least once in their life about the grief cycle, the one that that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross defined: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Testing, and Acceptance. These stages are typical for anyone who has lost a loved one, been fired, gone through a divorce or experienced a catastrophic trauma such as 9/11.

There is undoubtedly some form of shock. A cancer diagnosis. A downsized position. A spouse who wants out of the marriage. An airplane crash.  Anger, which in common in some cases, is warranted. Bargaining with another person or God to try and negate or minimize the loss, is often followed by a period of darkness or depression and often manifested as PTSD. For some, acceptance, which may take months years or longer to reach, finally arrives.

What if your grief doesn’t fall neatly into one of those categories? Or what happens if you hopscotch around them, skipping a few, or going straight from shock to acceptance? It’s probable that the average person who has faced a loss will make a pit stop at each one of these but not impossible if she opts out of one or two, especially if the loss was completely unexpected. I have three friends who all lost their husbands within a year of each other, and each one visited these stages differently. One, a pastor who dealt with other’s grief all the time, said she was not prepared for her lifelong husband’s ultimate death from cancer. She was numb, as would be expected, but didn’t stay there long. Another seemed to jump straight from denial to acceptance, perhaps suppressing some anger, but never seeking counsel or much help from others. The last one, due to the tragic nature of her husband’s death, got stuck in denial stage and spent a year without moving on from the position of accepting the inevitable future. She spent many days in a dark soul of the night.

One trap is when a grieving person moves onto the next phase, without completing an earlier phase and move backwards in a cycle that repeats earlier emotions and actions. This cycling is really a form of avoidance of the inevitable, and does not serve the person well. We all must spend an appropriate amount of time in each of these stages, although it may look different for each griever, but there is a danger in hopscotching or completely glossing over pain. It’s real. It’s there. It’s okay to face it. Most of all, it’s healthy to seek help.

Are you stuck in one of these stages of grief? Face them, one by one if needed, with the help of a good counselor or grief coach. You are worth it.

Reflections Life Coaching

Good Grief – How Do YOU Grieve? w/Melissa Jansen, BCLC


While people navigate the different cycles of grief with different GPS systems, I’ve recently discovered that there are also three kinds of grievers: the intuitive type, the instrumental type, and the blended. The intuitive grievers focus on their pain and they wear it on their sleeve. They are lethargic, paralyzed, often become sick and have little to no self-care. The instrumental grievers are focused on the cognitive. They are actively doing tasks, have more energy, function better and might even be the “go to” person during funeral arrangements. Finally, there are the blended grievers (like myself) who have characteristics common to both patterns and generally can benefit from a variety of strategies to help them cope. When my mother was dying four years ago, I didn’t have the luxury of time to prepare much. I had two days and two nights to think, be by her side, and wait. My pain was excruciating at times; my broken heart void of any consolation. Yet, there were practical things to do. Planning a funeral. Picking out clothes. Calling family and friends to alert them. Planning a second memorial service. At times, the tears welled up or the sobs unleashed. Most times, however, I carried on, and just “did” the next right thing. Months later, it all came tumbling down and I sought the help of a grief counselor, who for a year helped me sort through my loss and actually unpeel layers of past pain.

How about you? Are you an intuitive griever, paralyzed or stuck and lacking self-care? Or are you an instrumental griever, checking things off the necessary “to do” checklist, but maybe skipping the need to share your loss with someone else? Either way, there is hope. Grief coaches and counselors are here. More importantly, God is near.

Dr. Paul Tripp said, “There are only two things I can do in respect to God in a time of grief: I can moved toward Him or I can move away from Him.”

The prophet Jeremiah said, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” He was speaking about God, the only One who can truly comfort us.

Next Up: Breaking the Cycles of Grief

Good Grief

Good Grief: Reflections From a Life Coach, by Melissa Jansen, BCLC


Good grief! You’re probably asking, “Really?? How can grief be good?”

Well, it can be. While going through grief is not necessarily good, the process of growing through grief is, as I can personally attest to and have seen in coaching and counseling dozens of clients over the years. Sadly, I was introduced to grief after a major loss as a teenager- the sudden and untimely death of my first love- and a pattern of losses in the next ten years following forced me to see grief up close. A good friend, four grandparents, a father, an ex-husband, a mother and a brother in law…although those were just the personal “people” losses.

Losses can certainly take on different forms. For example, I never considered the multiple times we moved in my childhood, due to my father’s military status, as losses and never fully grieved the moves and the lost friendships that occurred. Shattered dreams or unrealized ideals are losses. Prodigal children are losses. Geographic change and retirements are losses, though we don’t recognize them as such. No doubt every one of us has touched on one if not many of these.

So how do we grieve? How do you grieve? Do you wear your pain on your sleeve? Do you hide it while dying inside? Do you self-medicate it to try and numb it? Do you rely on your faith? Or have you lost all faith due to the loss? Can you possibly see yourself on the other side of it, or not even see past today?

Suffering a loss and experiencing grief in a healthy way is excruciating yet very much a normal part of the process. There is no escaping it. As a survivor of multiple, painful losses, I can promise you that it’s possible to grow and learn and perhaps even pay it forward one day to someone who is going through the same type of loss that you have. It is hard to “get out of the casket” (forgive the morbid reference), but once you do and begin to take the next steps, relief and lessons and freedom are all awaiting you. And all of those are part of growing through grief. The good grief stuff. Stay tuned for more.

Focus, Not Fear


I am always learning life lessons and God’s messages to me over the last few weeks lessons have been about fear versus focus. I am going to take these learnings about pushing past unhealthy fears, in the hopes that others won’t waste any unnecessary time on fear. This is also a sample of work I sometimes do with a coaching client, although we go into depth. Here goes!

Fear differs from healthy concern because a healthy concern allows room for growth and movement toward goals despite a difficult circumstance. For example, here are a few healthy concerns; f you didn’t study for a big test and you know you are going to do poorly, if you disobeyed your parents, broke trust with your mate, or more dramatically, there is a big dog chasing you and you need to run (in which case, please stop reading!). Anyways, God gave our bodies a way to detect, correct and move through these healthy concerns, and our response to them grows us up in Him, and thus we learn from it. Unhealthy fear, on the contrary, gets and keeps someone stuck and in a panic. Here are a few more annoying things fear does to us when we give in to it.

Accomplishments of Fear:

  • Brands us with today’s predicament forever (globalizes it to be an everyday occurrence even when your situation will change).
  • Freezes us from accomplishing our day’s tasks (we often distract ourselves from life or check out since we don’t want to feel fear, thereby not feeling anything important like love or duty).
  • Takes our eyes off God and makes us look for “other” aka “sinful” ways of doing things (“God doesn’t seem to be helping, so I think I’ll give in to something I know I shouldn’t do, but since I’m on my own, may as well”-type of thinking).
  • Makes us feel pain emotionally and sometimes physically (Imagining you are sick or sicker than you are, feeling scared and experiencing panic making everything you are really going through even harder).
  • Makes us forget our goals in view of managing the present struggle (This can be good to manage a struggle, but when the fear itself is the focus, you lose sight of the real goal for the day).
  • Makes us less emotionally attractive to those around us, who can’t help but see us giving in to negativity and purposelessness, lack of hope, etc. This is frustrating because it is in these times you need friends and family most, and you may not see how you are pushing them away.

Take a moment to pause and consider what other roles fear plays in your life. It uniquely plays upon each of us a little differently. We know some things that apply to everyone though, such as when the Bible says, in Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”

Since everyone fears, this blog isn’t to demean anyone going through it, but on the contrary, to help someone from becoming wrapped up in it after they have done all they can to help their situation.Focusing on truth, rather than the fear, is so important during these times, because it helps you move through the painful circumstance and back toward the goals you want to accomplish.

Here are some quick suggestions to get you focusing instead of fearing!

  1. Read the above Bible verse (Proverbs 29:25) and spend a moment praying for God to release you from the fear. Prayer does more than anything else can do for your case against fear.
  2. Add this verse to the former in your reading (or better yet, try to memorize it or write it down and place in your view); “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).
  3. Try to take some time to calmly isolate whatever fear is strongest in your mind. Sometimes random thoughts can overwhelm, so it’s best to know what is truly the biggest stressor. (Ex: The busy day seems too difficult, but when you isolate things it is the dental appointment causing anxiety. Now you can speak to that fear directly with rational truth or speak to someone about it, pray about it, etc. On the contrary, it may be the larger narrative of the busy day that is causing problems for you, such as in the case of setting yourself up for failure with an overly chaotic day – I do this sometimes and it’s nice to pray through solutions and prioritize, leaving room for good rest or play, depending on the need).
  4. Make a decision to address or change the fearful situation you have now identified. You may decide to journal out truths, to remember to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2nd Cor 10:5), to remember Phil 4:8 (to think of things good and lovely), to remember Jeremiah 29:11 (God’s special plans for your life), or you may decide to make a to-do list for the day that will force you to unfreeze from your panic mode, to take deep breaths, to tell the person you need to talk to that you have something to say, to stop looking up health info, to eat better, to exercise, to spend time with a friend or volunteering, to go to church, etc). Be creative – there are many ways to distract yourself from fear.
  5. After you try something, be a student of yourself and especially of God. How did your #4 plans go – did you truly let go? If not, why not? Were there temptations strong that you could use accountability in praying through? Were there unforeseen obstacles? Did it go better than expected? You can study yourself to find out what went well for next time, and leave behind suggestions that simply didn’t work. Study your Bible to see what God says about your life and fears. I know despite the circumstances, God brings His children through each and every hard time with love, purpose, peace, and ultimately the joy of salvation.
  6. Now it’s time to focus. Taking into consideration your overall life goal, what is your ultimate hope for today, that will bring you one step closer to fulfilling your mission? Will you be most blessed by a day of rest? Will you get closer to the goal by calling others to pray with them? To babysit and be with simple and fun kids? To work hard at your office? To pound some pavement on the job search? To study for the classes you know you are supposed to take? To raise endorphin levels by working out? To do a time of sweet fellowship with God? Focus on what God is saying for you to do today, and what the best steps are going to be.
  7. Take some time to write down your plans for today before the day begins or early on in it so you can be sure to side-step any snares that come your way. This includes preparing for what you can do if the day does not go as planned. You can always continue to plan for other days ahead simply because today did not go well, as long as you don’t put all of your hopes on tomorrow and try to get out of today’s roles.
  8. If you are stuck, call us at Reflections Counseling Center and we can walk through your situation with you, step by step, and help you to let go of the fears and to focus on what God’s plans are for your life – plans too wonderful to comprehend! Remember Psalm 139:11 and relax with me that we follow an amazing God, “If I say, “Surely the darkness will hold me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to You.”

Christa Hardin, July 25, 2014

The Supermom Sham

By Guest Blogger, Abigail Wilson, MA Social Services, Reflections Counseling Administratorbusy-mom

Ok ladies and interested gents! It is time to do something courageous and real!! Take 2 minutes and join me in this simple but important exercise.

1. Take a deep breath and admit you are human and not super-human! We don’t have superpowers and we can’t magically have a perfect life with the twitch of our nose! Repeat after me, “I am human and that is okay!”

2. Once you get this down pat, move on to the next statement, “If I ask for help when I need it, I will not be a failure, and I will be a success.” Let’s face it, if you are trying to keep up the appearance of having it all: a meticulous house, spotless perfect children, a perfect marriage, 2.3 kids and a dog that never sheds, all while baking cookies for PTA and volunteering or working, the truth is you likely lack sleep and burn the candle at both ends.

3. It is time to take five and let yourself not be perfect and for once! So, moving on…

4. Leave the dishes in the sink so you can enjoy some down-time! If you can bring yourself to follow these tips, you will be helping yourself in the long run and avoiding burnout…..which is bad.

Note: Burnout can occur at any time and can increase anxiety and depression and increase stress, so in order to avoid this, take care of yourself first so you can take care of others. Instead of fighting the ugly mommy wars some are intent on fighting, rely on each other and help each other out. Swap baby-sitting time, arrange for a play date so you can have a tea and unwind while the kids play together, do something for yourself while the kids are at their practices, splurge on a cleaning person even if it is for one hour per month (I do this and it is amazing to come home after a long day to a lemony fresh house, even though it is destroyed again by the end of the night), and don’t forget to save the end of the night for a wind down with yourself or you and your spouse.

If you need some more tips on not getting burnt out, call us at 941-301-8420 or write to us at


If You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling…Read Up!


Ever feel like “your relationship song” is  more like The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,” than the song you danced to at your wedding? If so, don’t hit the relationship panic button yet (or ever, for that matter). Instead, remember that sometimes the way you show love and affection may not be the way your spouse prefers.

Today, take a moment to think about or better yet, to ask your spouse the ways they enjoy being loved by you and tell them how you desire to be loved. Maybe you don’t think Cinderella or other fairy tale characters had to spell it out, but you know what, we never heard the rest of that happily ever after story, and she probably worked really hard to keep that Prince on his toes after such a flourishing beginning!

Give your relationship the time and attention it deserves if you also expect it to flourish, and by doing so, you treat your relationship royally. Read below excerpts from our book for a few quick tips to relationship health, and for more, buy RELATE: A Guide to Marital & Relationship Repair here for more help!

“This chapter targets ways that you feel most loved most by your spouse. You may not even know your favorite ways to feel loved by your spouse, and if you don’t know, how can they know? Consider the question of when you feel most loved for a moment. Is it when he or she scratches your back, reads aloud to you, cleans the house, is considerate of your sexual desires, listens to you, plays your favorite sport or video game with you, works out with you, enjoys the same music or art as you, takes you on fun dates, plays with the kids, works hard for you, or something else?  List the top five specific ways you enjoy feeling loved by your spouse here.

What are my favorite ways of being loved?


  1. ______________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________

Now try to get your significant other to share his or her favorite ways to feel loved by you. If he or she is unwilling, write down the ways you think you can love your mate the best here.


What are my mate’s favorite ways to be loved?


  1. ______________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________

Now, for both practical and romantic reasons, try loving your significant other in their favorite ways! If he or she is doing this book with you, ask them to try to do the same for you. If you feel overwhelmed by their list, try to love them in just one of these ways each day. Now review the main points of this chapter, and begin the wonderful recharging of your relationship!”

Esther’s Awakening – Preparing for God’s Royal Call on Your Life

true beauty

Do you need a reminder of your true beauty in Christ? If so, spend time with an RCC therapist preparing for God’s royal call on your life. In six sessions, you can get an awful lot of good insight and training for the journey! Please call us if you’d like to participate, or if you’d like to invite an RCC therapist to lead your small group or luncheon into a deeper and fuller relationship with the King! Here are the simple steps to this transforming time.

1st Session: ¨ Realize.  In your first session, you will be reminded of the biblical journey of Queen Esther, a strong, wise and yet humble and feminine leader of the Bible.  You and your therapist will draw a parallel to Queen Esther’s experiences, as you begin to realize your own journey as God’s royal daughter (1st Peter 2:9).  In addition to a traditional evaluation by a licensed therapist, you will get a treatment plan and an assignment related to your presenting issues.

2nd Session: ¨ Reflect.  In this critical step, you and your counselor will together unravel and reflect on secret threads of isolation, fear, and grief in your life, in light of the future hope you have in Christ.  Like Esther, there may be something keeping you from your true royal calling in Christ.  Your assignment will involve journaling, interviewing, or another reflective measure for awakening any past resentments, hurts, or hindrances.

3rd Session: ¨ Reveal.  In your third meeting, your therapist will gently guide you through difficult memories, truths, and any painful history you have revealed. Your therapist will offer inspiration, wisdom, hope, and light for your future, despite the difficult issues of the past.  Together, you will uncover the things still in darkness, and speak truth to the lies of the past and present.  Your assignment will involve pairing healthy ways of coping in present difficulties, instead of hanging on familiar but unhealthy habits.

4th Session: ¨ Restore.  Having decided to turn from unhealthy ways of dealing with your life’s issues, your new goal, like Queen Esther, is to devote yourself to purifying, restoring and prayer.  Your therapist and you will join together to stop the cycle of shame and sin in your life or family system.  Your assignment will involve permanently incorporating healthy and pleasing elements of spiritual, emotional, and physical self-care, and both inner and outer beauty.

5th Session: ¨  Reclaim.  In this session, you will revisit the story of Queen Esther, and tell your own story as well, including all of the parts of the journey towards healing.  In this meeting, you will prayerfully plant good seeds for future harvests in your life, and set new standards for godly and royal living as a beautiful daughter of the King, Most of all, you will reclaim a celebration of the present and good things to come!  Your therapist will also give you a special gift or memoir to commemorate your healing journey! *

Please call today at 941-301-8420 or write to me at if you need more details!