6 Apr 2022


Stages of Grieving in Lament for a Son

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Death is the deepest form of loss there is for any human being. It wounds all of us to the core and brings us to the realization that life is just a journey to be passed through into another world. Such thinking is what brings hope to those suffering the loss of a loved one. The process is deep, intense and extremely painful but useful (Shelly & Miller, 2009). Grief is the transient emotional and psychological state that allows a human being to adjust to the loss of loved ones or even things. This essay aims at analyzing the stages of grief as explained by Kubler Ross in Death and Dying . It uses the story of the philosophical theology professor Dr. Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son . It takes into account the Christian perspective of the author who depended highly on the comfort and consolation of faith and the Bible in his grief. The analysis goes on to show how he found and joy after his loss. It also seeks to explain the meaning and understanding of death in the Christian faith along with the role of resurrection in comforting Dr. Wolterstorff (Wolterstorff, 1987).

Like many other grievers, Dr. Wolterstorff went through the five stages of grieving to attain his healing. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When he received the news that Eric had fallen in the mountains and lost his life, the author describes his first three seconds as having made him limb. He goes one to say that he could not separate the soul from the body when he saw his son (Shelly & Miller, 2009). He also asked Eric where he was in the hope that the young man would respond to his father’s call and come to him. Denial is the stage where the grieving party chooses to remain oblivious of the loss and assumes that the incident did not happen. The grieving party imagines that their loved one is still around and that death is not possible. After realizing that the person is really gone, the grieving party goes into anger. In this stage, the person blames himself or herself or even an item or God (The Book of Job, King James Version). This stage could lead to alienation and conflict within a family or group of people. In the case of Wolterstorff, he blames himself for the slip of Eric from his arms, “And now he’s gone. That future which I embraced to myself has been destroyed. He slipped out of my arms (Shelly & Miller, 2009). For twenty-five years I guarded and sustained and encouraged him with these hands of mine, helping him to grow and become a man of his own. Then he slipped out and was smashed.” (p4). He also blames God for taking his child and specifically that one comparing it to Hitler’s henchmen making Jews give up their children for redemption (Shelly & Miller, 2009). He then realizes that the Christian God is a Father as well and suffered the loss of His only son and begins a bargain. The bargain is yet another stage which is a form of consolation for the bereaved (John 14:1-3 King James Version).

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The author then goes into depression before he can finally accept the real events and move on without expecting his son to be present in the physical world. He compares the situation of death and life and admits that nothing can replace his son (Shelly & Miller, 2009). That despite there being hope for life afterwards, there is no Eric in the world he lives ever again. He realizes that not even another child can replace his son since that child would not be him. He says that there can never be another Eric (Wolterstorff, 1987). He struggles with the thought that God suffered the same fate as him when He lost His only Son along with Job who lost all his children but lived in the hoped of God’s consolation ( The Book of Job, King James Version). When finally he finds consolation in the relation he has to God and the hope that he will see his son one day, he finally attains acceptance. At this point, he says that death does not make Eric more special than his siblings; he says instead they are special in their unique ways (Wolterstorff, 1987). He accepts that death has taken his son away, but that does not make him less important to him. “ Death has picked him out, not love. Death has made him special.” (Wolterstorff, 1987, p11). He then goes on to say that his other children are special in life while Eric is special to him in lamentation. It is this acceptance that brings his grief to a less intense place allowing him to live with the memory of his son as hope. He finally finds his joy because he goes through the grieving process healthily and holds on to a hope of life after death (Shelly & Miller, 2009).

The meaning of death and its significance in the Christian faith is hope. The Lamb of God died and defeated death by resurrecting into eternal life. Moreover, people can find comfort and consolation in the fact that God Himself suffered the loss of Jesus and found joy again in His resurrection (Romans 8:31-39 King James Version). Since death for Christians means eternal life, then there is hope more than there is grief. It is in the resurrection that Wolstertorff finds hope that he will see Eric one day. He imagines his son saying to him, “ Hey, Dad. I’m back.” ((Wolterstorff, 1987, p 17).

The process of grieving can only be said to be necessary as well as healing. It is important for every person who’s lost a loved one to allow themselves to come to terms with the event so that they are able to move on. Certainly, life does change after a loss, and the adjustments are necessary.


Hendrickson Publishers. (2004). The Holy Bible: King James Version. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers.

Shelly, J. A., and Miller, A. B. (2009). Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing. New York: InterVarsity Press.

Wolterstorff, N. (1987). Lament for a Son. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing,

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