As a counselor, I have helped many people grieve many different events or realities in their lives. In grief counseling, the model for grief comes from Elisabeth Kübler Ross, who studied people dying. She identified the grief stage as: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance.
The very first stage of grief is shock. Shock is kind of visceral feeling throughout one's body. When you genuinely hold tightly to an idea and a truth comes against that idea, you can experience shock. It can feel like disconnection or pain or numbness depending on the intensity of what you are grieving.
The next stage is denial. This is a challenging stage. Some people, even after hearing a truth, can stay in denial about it indefinitely. At the core of you, you are aware that something is true but you keep pushing against it because it might cost you to change, grow or admit you were wrong. Sadly, usually the last person to know they are in denial is the person in denial.
Anger is the next stage of grief. I find that people who are losing something can get angry, be it power, control, money or just their emotional footing as they integrate a new idea. Sometimes these people get angry when I say something at a conference like, "Pornography is biblically unacceptable." As they grieve the loss of this medication in their life and stop using it, they not only agree with the message but the messenger as well.
Bargaining is a challenging stage of grief. It wants you to just make the pain go away. Bargaining basically says, "If this had not happened, then, that would not have happened," or "If this is not true, then, that is not true." Bargaining is another stage that can go on for years. The soul is still trying to process the pain of a significant loss.
Bargaining can look like blame or obsession over a detail of what occurred. For example, a man who has an accident might say that if the roads had not been so wet, he would have avoided the accident, when in fact, he was driving under the influence of alcohol. Some people pick up causes in their bargain stage, which is also a way to process the loss of someone or something.
Sadness is the next to last stage of grief. You just feel down about the reality you are grieving. This stage is less about fighting grief and more about moving you into acknowledging the new reality.
Acceptance is the final stage of grief. Getting to acceptance is sometimes a very long process. Depending on the painfulness of the reality or the resistance of the person to accept the reality, acceptance may be a short or long process.
Years of wrong behaviors or beliefs might well be challenged as you fully accept your role as the servant of your spouse.
I find those with strong entitlement dispositions, and men from cultures which promote men being served. tend to grieve the hardest. The denial that they are to serve can go on indefinitely, keeping them stuck and more self-serving than is healthy. The fact I would even suggest they are called by God to serve someone else can really get some men and women very angry. Some resist service because of abuse or having poor boundaries in the past, so anger can arise there as well.
Bargaining can include, "I'll serve when they start serving me." One could feel sadness that life as one once knew it could be over.
Acceptance is a mixed bag. Some accept their role in marriage as a servant with an attitude of "I have to." This type of acceptance makes every opportunity to serve a building of resentment for their calling. Those who accept their role as a servant with an "I get to" attitude see opportunities to serve their spouse without a whole lot of effort and resentment.
Serving is our spiritual bodybuilding. Marriage is our gym, and our home and family provide the workout. For decades, they build us stronger to become more patient, kind, loving, less able to be offended, more forgiving and I might say, just better believers in Jesus Christ.
Serving is not a chore; it is a lifestyle of freedom. I am not talking about being abused by a tyrant, whether male or female. If that is occurring in your marriage, talk to your pastor or counselor and serve your spouse by getting him or her the help he or she needs!
Every tyrant I have met is like a bully in a schoolyard. They are abuse victims who are afraid of intimacy, have addictions or secrets or just cannot be authentic, so they reject themselves and control others to limit being known or hurt.
I would not want any man or woman to be taken advantage of or abused. This teaching is to serve by choice, not by command or due to control. Our service comes from love, not fear. I volunteer daily to serve Lisa and my family. Honestly, some days I am better at it than others. Just as in any sport, you have awesome days and less-than-awesome days.
When the heart of a servant beats in you and you are led by the Holy Spirit, marriage can be fun and enjoyable.
Imagine a marriage where each person considers the other person's day, their heart and their needs on a consistent basis. That would feel pretty good, would it not?
The servant marriage awaits all of us willing to take the journey step by step, day by day with an awesome person (our spouse). Who knows? You might just have some heavenly moments here on earth.
Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books including, Servant Marriage. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com or on hisFacebook, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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