Grieving Process, Stages, and Wolterstorff’s Reflections

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According to Kübler-Ross & Kessler (2005), the grieving process takes five stages to be complete. These stages are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The person grieving undergoes different experiences in each of the stages, but eventually sees the need to accept the reality. During the denial stage, people tend to refute reality. They always try to console themselves that whatever has happened is not the reality. In the case of Wolterstorff, he asks himself whether it was Eric they had laid to rest. He also finds it hard to find joy in his oneness as is required of him.


During the anger stage of grieving, people start seeing the reality in the situations at hand (Kübler-Ross & Kessler, 2005). As a result, they start pointing fingers at the deceased, doctors, or even inanimate things. They may direct their anger towards these things for their actions or inaction. In the case of Wolterstorff, he directs his anger at death. He even personifies it. Specifically, he accuses death of “stabbing” Eric out of their lives. At some point, he appears to be blaming the mountain for causing Eric’s death despite his love for the mountains.

In the bargaining stage, the grieving individual tries to consider other options the deceased or other people could have taken to save the situation. This stage mainly entails suppositions. For example, an individual may ask himself what could have happened if they had sought medical attention earlier than they did. In the case of Woltetorff, he asks himself what could have happened if Eric had climbed the mountain with his friends, or if he had completely not climbed the mountain. He also asks himself why Eric did not stay on a flat surface and why he could not have roped up safely (Woltersotorff, 1987, p. 19).

The depression stage mostly involves regrets and sadness. Many people are usually troubled that they spent less time with the deceased (Jenkins, Jenkins, & Merry, 2005). People going through this stage of the grieving process are saddened by the realization that their loved ones are gone and will never come back to them. Their faces change every time they remember their deceased loved ones. In Wolterstorff’s lament, he is very saddened that his son dies before him: “It’s so wrong, so profoundly wrong, for a child to die before its parents. It’s hard enough to bury our parents. But that we expect. Our parents belong to our past, our children belong to our future” (Woltersotorff, 1987, p.15).

The last stage of the grieving process entails withdrawal and calmness (Fitzgerald, 1992). The grieving individual, finally, accepts things as they are. They realize that they cannot change the way things are and must live with them as they are. However, it is not a stage of happiness. Wolterstorff demonstrates this situation through various reactions. One of the reactions he shows includes quoting the bible. For example, he quotes from the book of job a verse that says: “man born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure” (18).


How does Wolterstorff find joy after his loss?

He finds joy by quoting the bible and looking back at the accomplishments Eric made while still alive (Woltersotorff, 1987). He recounts all the experiences Eric had gone through since birth up to the time he dies. For example, he feels good when he remembers how Eric loved friends and mountains. He feels even happier that Eric died while doing one of the things he loved most. The bible also encourages him to embrace reality. The book of job reminds him that human beings must die.

What is the meaning and significance of death in light of the Christian narrative?

In light of the Christian narrative, death is only a stage towards the entrance into eternal life. Christians believe that human beings have the ability to conquer death through resurrection just as Jesus did. Therefore, death is only rest as they wait for a trumpet that will tell them when their time for resurrection and to ascend to eternal life is ripe. However, not everybody is entitled to eternal life. Only those that lived their lives righteously will have the ticket to heaven.

How does the hope of the resurrection play a role in comforting Wolterstorff?

Initially, he does not get consoled by the hope for resurrection. However, as time passes, he starts seeing the need to believe in it (Woltersotorff, 1987). For example, he quotes from the book of revelation to show his belief in the resurrection: “When the writer of the book of Revelation spoke of the day of shalom…” (Woltersotorff, 1987, p. 63). Furthermore, part five of his requiem speaks of hope. Hence it demonstrates his belief in the resurrection. This belief helps him accept the fact that his son is gone from the world. At the end of his lament, he says: “I made all this, and raised my son from the dead…goodbye Eric, goodbye, goodbye, until we see (Woltersotorff, 1987, p. 103). He is fully comforted by the belief that they will see each other one day.


Fitzgerald, H. (1992). The grieving child. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Jenkins, C., Jenkins, C., & Merry, J. (2005). Relative grief. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Kübler-Ross, E., & Kessler, D. (2005). On grief and grieving. New York: Scribner.

Woltersotorff, N. (1987). Lament for a Son. Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Grieving Process, Stages, and Wolterstorff's Reflections'. 8 April.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Grieving Process, Stages, and Wolterstorff's Reflections." April 8, 2022.

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PsychologyWriting. "Grieving Process, Stages, and Wolterstorff's Reflections." April 8, 2022.