The Sixth Stage of Grief
There are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
I learned that in a psych class once, but what they didn’t teach is that it doesn’t just end at acceptance: there is a sixth stage. The stage after acceptance is true love and absolute victory. But you don’t get to the sixth stage until you’ve made your way through the first five stages, which most of the time feels like drowning in an ocean.
I was born into a Christian home, accepted the Lord when I was 6, and was baptized at 14, but I was living off my parents’ faith. To me, Christianity was a religion, Jesus was a man who did cool things for others and the Holy Spirit was a foreign concept. Viewing God as one who loved me with everything in Him was not something I could easily grasp.
During college I decided it was time for me to discover the true meaning of what it meant to be a believer. I took a step away from believing everything I was told to believe and began seeing the Lord as my Father. But I struggled with the idea of having a personal relationship with someone I couldn’t physically see.
How does one learn love from someone not visible to the eye or audible to the ears?
I decided that if I couldn’t feel love from God, I would find it elsewhere. I held love on a pedestal; it was sacred and pure and perfect. Therefore, I was determined to wait until the right guy came along before I even considered dating. I had my life all planned, all I needed was a man to take his position in my life.
Much to my surprise, a little over a year later, he came sprinting in at full force. This tatted-up, Jesus-loving bad boy was just my type. We both fell head over heels for each other, but together we were a perfect storm. Our relationship was not rooted in God’s perfect love, so a solid foundation was never formed.
I knew this was not the relationship God had created me for. I had found love in a man who did not know how to love, but it was the only love I had known outside of family, so letting go of it was too risky. He was on a downward spiral, returning to the hurts of his past, and he was determined to take me down with him. And so, he did. My idea of love become one of hurtful words, physical aggression, manipulation, infidelity, and total loss of self-control.
This internal battle between my heart and mind was too strong to tackle on my own. Though the relationship pained me, I wasn’t willing to walk away in defeat; I was willing to fight for “love”, even though I was just fighting for the concept I had held so highly for years.
The relationship came to end in a dramatic finale when he walked away from me. He stopped fighting for me. Someone else became his everything. I was left alone, in pain, and with a whole lot of new baggage to lug around.
Perfect God, cool. You won. You took love away from me. Good for you.
I was no longer myself. I was a complete mess, clutching the remains of a concept. Confusion and pain filled my soul. Denial, bargaining, anger and depression all took up root. My prayers became angry rants, ending in “but I loved him!” and it was in that prayer one night, after screaming my lungs out that I heard Him respond, “but I loved you first”.
You what? You did? You do?
In that moment of clarity I knew my mindset had to change.
Okay God show me. Show me real love. Show me your love. I’m ready.
Pain was a pit I often found myself in during this time, but love was the constant that pulled me out. I had set my course and devoted years to discovering what true love looks like.
Love looks a lot less like control, manipulation, and words of daggers.
It looks more like absolute peace, trust, and a whole lot of comfort.
This journey meant years of ups and downs, lots of forgiveness, giving up control, and letting go of my perfect idea of earthly love.
I know what love looks like now. I’ve never known a love like His.
A love that gives everything it has to offer.
A love that is persistent.
A love that never walks away.
A love that breaks down walls and fights for you.
A love that moves mountains for you.
A love that makes you want to give up all control.
A love that never fails.
A love I am worthy of, because He said so.
My story is not finished. Battles come and go but His love remains through it all. I know that one day someone will love me again, He has promised me so. But I also know that no one ever again will replace the love that changed my life.
Has your life changed because of the love of God?