Grief and Faith: Stage 1: Shock and Denial

Grief’s first few hours often include both shock and denial. Grief comes out with statements like “this can’t be - I can’t believe this”.


This is especially the case in the sudden passing of a loved one. Shock is the initial response that grapples with the new reality of loss. As a pastor, there have been many times I’ve sat in a hospital side room with a family meeting with a doctor. I remember one time especially as a friend of mine was the doctor and he told a lady from the church I served that her husband probably wouldn’t make it through the night. Unless you’ve heard that grieving cry I can’t start to describe it. It’s like no other cry I’ve ever heard. It’s a deep soul-cry that often expresses itself with questions. 

So once again I come to this term “tension.” The tension here is that I believe a person can have faith and trust in God but at the same time have no idea why the situation they are facing is happening. Faith doesn’t have all the answers but simply trusts God in the midst of everything. 

I’m so glad God’s Word is so practical. In Psalm 13 we read an example of a soul-searching question from a hurting, grieving heart. One pastor said this Psalm was written “full of sighings and groaning of an afflicted soul in an hour of darkness.”

Here’s what the first verse says: Psalm13:1- “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? 

Sometimes we go through seasons of grief where it feels like God is very far away. That’s what we read in this verse. “How long will you hide your face from me ….. Will you forget me forever?” In dark times of suffering and pain it can seem like that season will never end. In dark times of suffering and pain, it can feel like God has forgotten you

But, notice a key application point here: the author turns to God. The author doesn’t turn away but turns to God. That’s a clear example of faith and grief existing together in tension.

Can I encourage you in times of deep trials to go to the Lord? I read this awesome statement this week “In suffering, we have days when we feel we can cope and days when we can’t but when we turn to God we know, He never changes.” 

The season of shock and denial is intense, but it won’t last forever. It’s a part of grieving and can’t be rushed. In order to walk the path of grief, we all need to simply take one step at a time. There will be days you want to question, and days you want to deny. Don’t run from that as though you lack in faith. Embrace the questions - own them, even share them if you are ablLife is a gift, life is precious, and life is brief. Trust Jesus today and hug those you love a little longer before you say good night! And, as always, if I can help, please let me know.