Denial, numbness, and shock

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In my research on grief, I’ve stumbled across information on five stages. The stages are not sequential, meaning, we don’t experience them in any particular order. Depending on the circumstances, we may experience one or all of the stages in random order. Ultimately, we want to reach the Acceptance stage. The five stages of grief I will share from WebMD are: 1. Denial, numbness, and shock, 2. Bargaining, 3. Depression, 4. Anger, and 5. Acceptance. Today I’ll begin with my default stage, Denial, numbness, and shock.

My dad and I had an extremely close relationship. We talked on the phone multiple times a week and sometimes for hours at a time. Losing him in 2010 was the single greatest loss in my life to date. When I received the call informing me of his passing, I went completely numb. I immediately packed, traveled home to Birmingham, took care of his affairs, and began meditating on his eulogy. Here is what WebMD says about this stage of grief.

“Denial, numbness, and shock: This stage serves to protect the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss. It may be useful when the grieving person must take action (for example, making funeral arrangements). Numbness is a normal reaction to an immediate loss and should not be confused with “lack of caring.” As the individual slowly acknowledges the impact of the loss, denial and disbelief will diminish.” (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief)

Because of my dad’s condition, I wasn’t in denial or shock, but I became numb to protect myself from the blow. After delivering his eulogy, I felt as if I had a huge hole in my body. It was like I had surgery with a lot of anesthesia. But make no mistake, just like anesthesia, it eventually began to fade and felt the pain anyway. 

Over time, I grieved every time I thought about him. I grieved every time I picked up the phone to call him like usual but realized he wasn’t there. I’m grieving now as I write. I bargained with myself. I had moments of depression. I was angry. Each time I went through these stages, I would try to “numb up” again to avoid feeling. 

Let me be clear with you. Being in denial, numbness, or shock only lasts a little while. It may give you the illusion of being strong, but eventually, we must all wrestle with how we feel. We have to face the facts, and pour our hearts out to God. It may hurt but it’ll be okay. God cares enough to listen and he knows what it means to suffer loss. He lost his Son to save us, and he’s willing to give us any comfort we need to make it through the grief we feel in this life.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)

This post is over but I’ve included my father’s eulogy “Three Cords” in hope that it will bless you.

Three Cords
Memorial Eulogy for Dennis Theophilous Curtis
August 21, 2010
Pastor Domecia Manuel, 
Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Tuskegee, Alabama.

Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 (NKJV) 7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun: 8 There is one alone, without companion: He has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, Nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, “For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?” This also is vanity and a grave misfortune. 9 Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

The book of Ecclesiastes is a journey of discovery as the wisest man in the world seeks to find meaning in life. In this book, King Solomon explores various facets of life and declares they are vanity and vexation of spirit. In our passage today, Solomon looks out in the world and beholds a man who is pursuing life’s ambitions alone with no one to share his joyful gains. It is here that Solomon recognizes a truth we must all acknowledge in order to be fulfilled in this life. Our life’s work isn’t about what we gain or achieve, but it is about who we love and celebrate it with. 

The gains, the accolades, the status, the wealth, are all vanity. They are all emptiness. They are all grasping at the wind. Jesus put it this way “what profit is it for a man to gain the world and lose his soul?” When life is boiled down to its most essential ingredients, When it is condensed into its most potent form, When the fires of life have reduced your existence to an urn of ashes, the relationships we cultivate out weigh the frivolous toils we bear.

Solomon the preacher, the wisest man in the world says relationships count. From this passage we will draw three critical relationships for a fulfilling life. It is my prayer that each of us would gain strength to make the most of our lives in this holy moment of memorial.

Family 
Companionship
Solomon says in verse 9…

9 Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.

This life is filled with many dangers toils and snares. There are stumbling blocks in the path of life that seem to have our names engraved on them. Add to those obstacles all of our internal struggles with integrity, and character, and holiness, and you have a prescription for disaster. It’s no wonder that so many of us have fallen over and over again to the weight of sin that so easily besets us. 

Some of us have fallen multiple times at the same place with no strength of our own to overcome. We trip and fall over the bottles of our own drunkenness. We stumble over the thresholds of the houses we creep in and out of. We fall flat on our faces in the presence of those who catch us in our dishonesty. We slip on our lofty ambitions. We get our feet hung on the roots of evil. We get caught in the traps of our self-centeredness.

When we fall, When we stumble, When we trip and slip, We need someone close enough to pick us up and dust us off. We need the close, intimate relationship of a family. You see, there is something special about healthy families. Healthy families will own their own, regardless of the circumstances. In a strong, healthy family relationship, it doesn’t matter that you have fallen. It doesn’t matter because most of the time, family will live through the situation with you. 

Family members always seem to be nearby to give us love and support when we need it the most. They step up for us, not because we are right or worthy, but because they know where we came from and have hopes for where we are going. We can fall out of love and fall out of being friends, but we can’t fall out of being mama’s child. We can’t fall out of being brothers and sisters. We belong to our families and our families belong to us. 

When friends are few and help can’t seem to be found, all of us need families that are close enough to share our accomplishments as well as our pains. We all need families that are close enough to celebrate our high times and lift us in our low times. We all need families that will be close enough to make us smile and wipe away our tears. We all need families that are close enough to live this life along side us and pick us up when we fall.

To my family, I want to say thank you for saving my father’s life more times than you know. Thank you for being there when he needed you most. You were close enough to pick him up as often as he would allow you. Don’t torment yourselves with thoughts of what you could have done. Don’t burden yourselves with sad ideas of how you could have called him more. Release yourselves from fault and be at peace in your hearts. May God bless each of you with comfort concerning his life and legacy.

Friends 
Camaraderie

As we venture beyond the safety of our families, we must all contend with the challenges this world has to offer. For many, this challenge begins in earnest when we enter college or when we enter the workforce. Our families may give us a strong foundation to stand on and build our lives but often times, family can’t be found on the job, or in our social lives. There are some places where the influences of our families are not strong enough to sustain us in our adversity. That’s where the relationships we have with friends are so important.

Solomon says…
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.     

As we compete for survival in our daily lives we will all have to deal with circumstances and people who don’t mean us any good. It’s not always because they are malicious toward us. It may be because they are striving to survive just as we are.

When co-workers seem to overpower us, When supervisors seem to overpower us, When groups in our communities seem to overpower us, If we have done the good work of making true friends, our friends will help us to withstand the adversities. We all know that there are times when we become so discouraged that we seem to buckle under the pressures of life. There are times when are own hearts seem to melt away because of the harsh words of others. There are days when the pressures of life seem to bring us to the brink of losing our minds.

But a good friend will pray for us. A good friend will stand by our sides. A good friend will comfort us and encourage us. A good friend will fight for us even when we can’t fight for ourselves. Good friends are hard to find. They are hard to find, not because they are missing, but because being a good friend is so hard to become. You see, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 18:24 that “a man who has friends must show himself friendly.”

If you want a faithful friend, you must become faithful. If you want a prayerful friend, you must become prayerful. If you want a caring friend, you must become caring. If you want a friend who will go to battle for you, you must be willing to go to battle for them. If you want a friend that gives unconditionally expecting nothing in return, you must do likewise. Become worthy of good friends and good friends will follow you. 

All it takes is one good friend to stand by your side and replace the 10 half hearted acquaintances who are never around when you need them. One good friend is better than 10 fair weather friends. One godly friend is better than 20 false friends who keep a running tally on what you’ve done for them lately. A godly friend has staying power. A godly friend has praying power. A godly friend will love the Jesus within you. They will uphold your faith. They will carry you when you don’t have the strength to carry yourself.

To all of you who were friends to my father, thank you. There were many times when he told me of the acts of kindness and caring you showed to him through the years. You helped him when he was helpless and you fought for him when he didn’t have the strength to fight for himself.

Proverbs 27:10(NKJV) 10 Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity;     Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.

I pray that the Lord gives me the wisdom to be sure and not forsake you. I count it an honor to call you friend in his stead. And for all of this, there is still one more relationship that gives us strength. Solomon says a threefold cord is not easily broken.

Faith 
Completion

Alone, we are all at the mercy of the cruel world in which we live. With family and friends, we may be able to cope and prevail as the winds of change blow in our lives. But this life is only a vapor. It is here today and gone tomorrow. Your reality with your jobs, careers, relationships, and aspirations are only a speck on the time-line of eternity. There is a generation that has gone before us and there is another generation waiting in the wings to seize our place in the world. 

Everything we see, everything we do, every place we go, and every experience we have in this life is temporary. No matter how hard we try to capture the moments and relive the past, we can’t stop our march from the cradle to the grave. Each one of us has an appointment with the maker that cannot be postponed or rescheduled. When that time comes, neither family nor friends will be able to deliver you safely through to the other side.

Eternity is a place we can only travel with a special kind of friend. He is a friend that cared enough for us that he stripped off his glory and took upon himself the form of a servant just to redeem us all. He is a friend that transcended time and space as he traveled through 42 generations to save mankind in his darkest hour. He is a friend who can heal the sick and raise the dead. He is a friend who can speak peace to our strongest storms. He is a friend who’s love is so great that he was willing to lay down his life for his friends.

I’m talking about a friend who endured the shame and the pain of the cross to ransom us from eternal damnation. A friend who’s love could not be contained by death, hell, or the grave. A friend who has gone to prepare a place for us. And a friend who is coming back again.

He is Jesus. Bread when I’m hungry. Water when I’m thirsty. Visits me in my midnight hour. My burden bearer and my heavy load sharer. My rock in a weary land. The author and finisher of my faith. He stands before God on my behalf. He is Jesus.

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2 thoughts on “Denial, numbness, and shock

  1. Awesome!!! I know the pain. Losing my brother I feel the same way. We were very close and I miss his so much. There are times when I just want to scream. What get me through is how he lived full of life and always happy and knowing how much he loved us all. When I get down I just go to the cemetery and have a little talk with him. It is so hard I have tried to erase his phone number from my cell and I can’t do it. I know in time I will be able to remove it. Your father was a good man and he loved you very much. I love you for truly being here for your family. I am so proud of you son. We love you. Mother

  2. Hello Nephew, this is such a great read and you have mastered so much by expressing your heart felt thoughts of your Dad and my big Brother. You were a blessing to all of us even as a baby; I am so very proud to acknowledge you as my nephew. I have cried and laughed whenever my thoughts of Dennis and Donald occur. We had so much fun and laughter even during some hard times and God continued to hold us up. Everything you have expressed here I have experienced since 2010. Thanks so much for sharing this with me, I love you and know that Dennis is smiling right now. You are the BEST 😃Aunt Joyce

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