Stage 1 – Shock and Denial

We will be looking at the stages of grief using two models. The first is often referred to as the “Kubler-Ross Model,” and it is composed of five basic stages of grief.  The second model is simply called “The Seven Stages of Grief.”  We will look at each stage from both models in detail, followed by a Biblical response to each stage.

Stage 1 – Shock and Denial

Kubler-Ross Model:

Our bodies are extraordinary. So are our minds. This stage will often put us in a stage of numb shock that keeps the intensity of the pain at bay until some processing has occurred. This stage also provides time for the preparations that may be needed for dealing with the immediate needs a loss may bring.

The Seven Stages of Grief:

Again, numbness invades for a period of time. In the case of denials, it may be that we refuse to accept the circumstances have even occurred. While this is a common response for a short period of time, it is a grave concern, if this continues for weeks or stretches into months.

A Biblical Response:

There is no sin or shame in being in an initial place of shock or denial. In fact, this is often the body’s normal response to emotions, which are too great to take in all at once. It becomes sin when we remain here, when we consciously choose to remain in this place, refusing to face the pain.  The line between the two is what each person must determine for themselves.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Here are a few examples of ways “crossing the line” may manifest itself:

~ Getting lost in TV shows and movies to escape reality

~ Getting lost in novels to escape reality

~ Turning to drinking, medications, or drugs to avoid the pain.

~ Living in a fantasy world of our own imaginations

~ Shutting down emotions altogether, causing us to wall-out everyone around us. To love them would also allow us to feel pain, so we just stop letting ourselves feel altogether.

~ Losing ourselves in overeating/bingeing (or other eating addictions).

~ Becoming a shopaholic – trying to feel better by acquiring material possessions.

~ Becoming a workaholic. In order to not think about the pain we lose ourselves in work or household chores.

This behavior is wrong for two major reasons:

# 1.     We are placing idols in our lives that take the place God should have.

 You shall have no other gods before me.  Exodus 20:3

 They served their idols, which became a snare to them.  Psalm 106:36

 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  1 John 5:21

# 2.     We are calling God a liar.  We are saying God’s grace is not sufficient. We are living a life that says we are unable to believe that we can face or get through our pain, even with God’s help.

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. – Proverbs 30:5-6

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  – II Corinthians 12:9

Original material by Melissa J Carswell, MA, BCCC. Holly M Besser. Perfect Joy Ministries ©2012. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bsbp003p08-30-12

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2 thoughts on “Stage 1 – Shock and Denial

  1. Very good responses. I know when the grief started to hit – and it hit hard – I confessed that I now truly knew why folks turned to drinking or drugs. I just wanted it all to go away – to stop hurting.

    I hadn’t realized that I had truly been in the “denial” phase immediately beforehand though until reading this for some reason. Perspective, I suppose. The initial denial for me was simply a matter of business: Getting myself out of hospital and physically on the mend; Getting to go back to my toddler since I missed him while in the hospital; Getting through Christmas (stillbirth was 12/22, checked out 12/23). It wasn’t until after getting back home from family visits on 12/25 that the to-do list evaporated and reality started to sink in. And, I can also see where I need to really think on some other points and tactics that I tap that pushes me back into the denial phase when I think the hurt is rising up again. I know I have to be careful that I’m not selecting denial over turning my sorrow and hurt over to the Lord.

    • Sometimes our grief DOES have to be put off by the to-do’s of life, especially when we have children at home. So there isn’t any fault in perhaps having been in a place of prolonged grieving, which I see your situation as, more than as denial.

      To keep it from becoming denial however, I think it’s crucial to set apart time daily for stillness before the Lord, going to that place of loss and heartache, and meeting with Him in the midst of it. Running into the wave of the grief during specific times set aside to do so, rather than keeping so busy, you keep running parallel to it on the “beach of life”. I

      t’s a hard balance to do life, grieve correctly, but then, not become totally consumed with the grief too. I will pray that you can work through this in a way that heals and brings you closer to God, rather than to either extreme.


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