From Grief to Grace.

To the Chapmans, to make much of time

Thinking of tears, I title Wrapped this photo of the Steven Curtis Chapman family made available at the artist’s own website, stevencurtischapman.com. I have Photoshopped Will Franklin, Maria Sue, Steven, Shaohannah, Mary Beth, Stevey Joy, Caleb, Emily: I do not see them wrapped only in themselves; I see them wrapped in Time because of Tragedy. Maria died in a car accident involving Will.

Thinking of laughter, I had published my essay that I titled in good faith ‘Good Grief! Steven Curtis Chapman, please don’t be Sue-sad’ (frankahilario.blogspot.com), and ‘Kingsview’ had written in a comment:

Interesting! (and well written). This concept of the 5 Stages of Good Grief! is helpful in other areas of (life) too. I will share it with another friend who recently lost a very close friend, and often has depressive relapses. Thanks for sharing!

Yes, ‘Kingsview,’ I published the essay to share about what I had stumbled upon, serendipity-wise. I didn’t know I was going to write it. It was simply that when I learned about the Chapmans' misfortune, as I have written in ‘Good Grief!’ I was moved to immediately surf the Internet – we have a fast wireless broadband Manila connection (SmartBro) at home open 24/7 – and got 85,100 English pages with the Safesearch words “Steven Curtis Chapman” tragedy. As I read, I noticed that the many messages of condolence and sympathy were about empathy with the Chapmans and prayers for them – that was all. I thought that prayers were powerful and can bring about miracles, as often enough they do, but I also thought that the Chapmans needed more than just prayers (not to mention donations to their Shaohannah Hope foundation to continue their mission of helping families who wanted children for adoption). If I may mix my metaphors, they needed to compose themselves and face the music on their own. From God comes grace, but it must be first sought. The journey is the reward. To borrow from Frank L Baum's Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, the Yellow Brick Road to Wisdom is from Grief to Grace.

Along my reading of hundreds of those webpages, I was reminded of an essay I wrote where I quoted the 5 Stages of Grief that Swiss psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had developed years ago (see ‘The Children of Maidanek’ frankahilario.blogspot.com). So I discussed the 5 stages in the light of the Chapmans' heartbreak in the essay I was writing. Death, this is your sting. Death, this is your victory.

While I was writing that sad part of my essay, it dawned on me that I couldn’t possibly prescribe the 5 Stages of Grief to the Chapmans because this one concerns not only death (Maria Sue’s) but also life (the rest of the Chapmans). What are the Chapmans to do? Husband and wife Steven Curtis Chapman and Mary Beth; children Emily Elizabeth, Caleb, Will Franklin, Shaohannah, Stevey Joy. One and all: How can they cope? How can they rise above it all? How can Grief end in Grace, not Grief?

That was when I had the inspiration of coming up with my own version of the 5 Stages of Grief, this time ending not with the dying of a loved one but with the living of loved ones. Life must go on. From New Death must come New Life. How do you deal with a quintuple tragedy? (Earlier, in ‘Good Grief!’ I had looked at it as only a triple tragedy, up to #3.)

(1) Youngest daughter killed in a car accident. Bad.
(2) Youngest son accidentally killed someone with a car. Badder.
(3) Son was he who accidentally killed daughter. Baddest.
(4) Son is a biological child, daughter adopted. Terrible.
(5) The accident happened in the driveway of the same family the very afternoon of the same day they were preparing to celebrate the engagement of the eldest daughter and the high school graduation of the elder son. Horrible!

You could go crazy if you were the father, or the mother, or the child who had caused the accidental death, or the eldest sister, or the elder son, or any of the other 2 younger girls (also adopted) of the Steven Curtis Chapman family. That’s why I wrote my essay ‘Good Grief!’ – I wanted to share with them what the others were not sharing: Thoughts on how to cope with tragedy heaped upon tragedy heaped upon tragedy heaped upon tragedy heaped upon tragedy. The Chapmans had to deal with this 100% 5 times, because God would not do it for them.Grieving to grace is a do-it-yourself kit, thrust on you, some assembly required, batteries not included.

I also had one other good reason for writing my essay: While I am a Roman Catholic and Steven is Protestant or other, I liked his Gospel-and-life-based composing and singing enough to have dedicated a big blog to him, Steven Curtis Chapman, Superstar* (aromalight.blogspot.com). When I encountered his kind of music, I was ready to appreciate it fully. I had been an active member of the Manila-based Bukás Loób sa Díyos (Open Hearts to God) Catholic Charismatic Community and had had attended many teachings, prayer meetings and weekly Bible sharings. I saw that Steven wrote of ancient truths out of the pages of the Bible and composed them into the pages of his family’s book of life and then read them aloud for others like me to listen, if not to learn in grace.

I thought that to create that blog was the least I could do for him. He and his sons were in Manila in June 2007 aiming to shower us with musical blessings, which he did, and I asked him to autograph his album titled, of course, Musical Blessings, which he did. Steven’s lyrics bless, his music inspires.

‘Good Grief!’ was especially, though not exclusively, for Steven. If I may summarize the parts of that essay which deal with the 5 stages of 2 entirely different kinds of grief:

This is for The Dying:

5 Stages Of Grief developed and described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969:
Denial. ‘No, this can’t be!’
Anger. ‘God, I hate you!’
Bargaining. ‘God, I beg you ..!’
Depression. ‘There is no God.’
Acceptance. ‘So be it.’

And this is for The Living:

5 Stages of Good Grief! developed and described by Frank A Hilario in May 2008:
Receiving. ‘Lord, I accept.’
Absorbing. ‘Lord, I’m taking it all in.’
Giving in. ‘Lord, I surrender all.’
Rejoicing. ‘Lord, I shout with faith, hope, love, laughter!’
Growing with it. ‘Lord, I am new!’

For practical purposes, the 5 stages from Grief to Grace can be grouped as 5 stages from Goodbye to Hello, as follows:

3 Stages of Goodbye: #1 Receiving, #2 Absorbing, #3 Giving in. You acknowledge, accept, and then forgive totally so that you can bid goodbye to the past.

2 Stages of Hello: #4 Rejoicing, #5 Growing with it. You welcome the present and happily shape the future with a New You.

Indeed, the 5 stages from Grief to Grace can also be seen as the emergence of a New Man. Borrowing from John Donne’s Meditation XVII (isu.indstate.edu), I am the grieving Father and I say:

Any girl’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore, I never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for me.

But not me, because I am a New Me. Because I have gone from Grief to Grace.

The Prodigal Son has grieved gracefully; he is a changed man, a New Man. The Father says, ‘For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ Luke 15: 24, New International Version

Grieving gracefully, the Father grieves, then the Father rejoices.

Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is – what is proper, pleasing, and perfect. Romans 12: 2, International Standard Version (2008)

From tears to laughter, from Grief to Grace. Amen!

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