“Andnow he is gone. The future that I embraced to myself has beendestroyed,” these are the statements of a great Americanphilosopher and a great Christian writer, whose works have beencelebrated by many. In his book Lamentfor a Son,Nicholas Wolterstorff writes not just as a scholar, but as a fatherwho grieves for the loss of his beloved son. Wolterstorff uses thisbook to express his emotions and all the planes of his experience forthe irreversible loss of his son. The book clearly outlines theoccurrence of events from when Wolterstorff received the phone callbearing the message of Erick’s demise in a mountain-climbingaccident to the moment when he had visited his son’s grave. Theevents in the book are a perfect instance of remembering, meditating,for biblical Job-like agony in the struggle to comprehend and accept.
Wolterstorff’saccounts on grief.
Thestatements of the book are also important as the author uses thewritings to narrate about grief. The type of grief that is not easyto deal with, the grief of losing not just something that you hadheld so close and dearly but the loss of a son. As it is known evenin the present times, loss of a family member or a friend is anoccurrence that comes with a period of extended emotional torment,and one has to struggle to go through and overcome it. Wolterstorff(2011) suggests that his accounts during the loss encouraged him towrite Lamentfor a Son, notjust as a personal encounter, but also to support any individual wholoses a person he or she loves.
Themeaning and significance of death in the Christian life.
Lamentfor a Sonis a book that gives the account of what any individual might gothrough in case of death of their loved one. Death in the Christianlife is the transition to another life with God as Wolterstorff(2011) puts it. For the deceased, it is a moment to reflect on God’sgreatness though the past of the dead, “For in history we findGod.” It is also a tempting moment because as Wolterstorff andbiblical Job, one is tempted to deny God but it through their adamantfaith that they dismiss the temptations.
Beinga Christian author, Wolterstorff does not fail to account for God’shelp in overcoming the grief caused by the loss. He even believesthat one day he will be reunited with Eric, his deceasedtwenty-five-year-old son, just as promised in the Bible. In theentire book, the author openly displays the five stages of grief assuggested by Kubler-Ross in the book, TheGrief of Grieving. Thereare five stages of grief as proposed in the book, and all the fiveare experienced as one finds their way to normalcy. The five stagesas suggested by Kubler are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression andlater Acceptance. All these stages are experienced as one recoverfrom the irreversible loss of their loved one just as depicted byWolterstorff in Lamentfor a Son.
Denial,the first phase of grief as illustrated in Lamentfor a Son.
Onreception of a message on the loss of a loved one, denial andnumbness arecustomarily the first reactions as proposed by Kubler (2012). Mostindividuals deny the news and try to convince themselves that themessage cannot be right. In Lamentfor a Son, Wolterstorffreceived a call on a sunny afternoon containing the message of hisson’s death but he only replies with a “Yes” and even remainssilent as the caller calls for his attention. He denied the loss. Hedoes not believe that the son he has loved and cared for twenty-fiveyears has died and that he will never see him again. It is at thismoment that one feels that everything in the universe is worthlessand that life is futile.
Thisstage as described in TheGrief of Grieving isimportant as it enables the victims to mitigate the shock andprepares one towards the steps of recovery. During this stage ofgrieving, one becomes numb, fails to accept the reality and laterstarts asking themselves questions. In the book, the author askshimself on the nineteenth page, “Why did he do it? Why did he climbthat mountain?” These questions help one move towards acceptancethey help us gain grace (Konigsberg, 2011). The questions depict whatis going on in Wolterstorff’s mind during this grief period.
Angeras the second stage of Grief.
Angeris the state of being furious about an occurrence. This phase comesimmediately after denial, and it is crucial in the healing process.After the death of a loved one, one becomes angered by severalfactors including the cause of death (Ross, 2012). In the book Lamentfor a Son, theauthor is outraged by the demise of his son Eric and even starts toquestion why he went to the mountains and why he did it alone.Wolterstorff is angered by the decisions that Erick made and whichlater caused his death. It is psychologically right for an individualto be angry during grief as this becomes the avenue through which thepain is drained and the truth sinks. Wolterstorff later finds solacein the Bible when he recalls that God lost His only son through theevil action of men. This realization helps to bring down his anger.Loss of someone we love will always bring about anger, but one has tolearn how to manage it.
Bargainas the third stage of Grief and how Wolterstorff illustrates it.
Duringthis phase, one tries to give themselves hope. They ask themselvesquestions in an attempt to console themselves. It is at this stagethat an individual starts negotiating with God with the hope thattheir dead could be resurrected. Bargaining offers a weak defenseline that shields against the reality. It is at this point that theauthor reveals his faith in the resurrection. He says that given thatGod can create, then He can recreate. His words are kind to convinceGod to bring his beloved son back to life just as He did to His own,Jesus (Canne, 2009).
Thefourth stage of Grief – Depression.
Assuggested by Beckleman (2013), depression is the state of being ingreat emotional pain. This stage takes time and comes after one hasdiscovered the reality after undergoing all the other stages. Itcomes after bargaining has failed and it is during this that the painof the loss is deeply felt. After the loss of his child, Wolterstorff(2011) displays how depressed he is after time. The fact that he hadother children was not sufficient to comfort him as he writes, “ButI have been assaulted, and in the assault, wounded, grievouslywounded.” Throughout the entire Lamentfor a Son,the author’s depression is clearly outlined.
Acceptanceas the fifth and ultimate stage of grief.
Ofthe five stages, acceptance comes last (Ross, 2012). This is thestage where reality sinks and one lastly admits that death of theirloved one is real and that nothing can be done. It is this stage thatallows one to go back to normal life. It is at this stage thatWolterstorff finally consents to the death of his son and evenpublishes a book to encourage those who have lost their loved ones.His words, “Now it’s gone. All the future that he held is nowgone in those tumbling seconds,” clearly shows that he has finallyaccepted the loss. The fact that he writes a book with the aim ofinspiring and comforting those undergoing the grief of loss alsopoints to his acceptance, and he even says, “But the pain of the nomore outweighs that of once was.”
Wolterstorff’sJoy and Hope.
Wolterstorffis a renowned Christian author and finds joy in the fact that theBible promises of life after death. He is happy that one day he willreunite with his son who departed to another life. Wolterstorff seesthe God’s glory in the world around him and would not dare rejectHim. He is very certain that just as God did to His Son Jesus in Luke24, He will also raise Erick and that he will be able to talk toErick during God’s reign on Earth He agrees that death is just atransition to another, more comfortable life and that God canrecreate.
Wolterstorffwrote Lamentfor a Son asa book of great encouragement and inspiration to the people who havelost their loved ones. He gives hope on a Christian basis as hestates that now that Erick is gone, he should accept the loss just ashe would accept his presence. He finds great joy in the fact that oneday, reunion with the people we lose through death will occur just aspromised in the Bible (Canne, 2009). He is happy with the life thathis son lived and the things he loved doing and even admires hisbehavior and efforts. Wolterstorff also undergoes the five stages ofgrief and finally accepts the loss and learns to live with thereality.
Ross,E., & Kessler, D. (2012). Ongrief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the fivestages of loss.New York: Scribner.
Beckelman,L. (2013). Grief.Parsippany, N.J.: Crestwood House.
Canne,J. (2009). TheHoly Bible containing the Old and New Testaments.Amsterdam [publisher not identified].
Konigsberg,R. (2011). Thetruth about grief: The allegory of its five stages and the newscience of loss.New York: Simon & Schuster.
Wolterstorff,N. (2011). Lamentfor a son.Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.