Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” and his wife Kay, were devastated when their 27-year old son Matthew, committed suicide in April 2013. Matthew had suffered from depression all of his life. In September the Warrens gave their first public interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan. He called it “one of the most moving interviews he conducted in his life.”
The Warrens identified six stages of grief that they went through.
One: “I think the first stage is shock. For at least the first month, I kept waiting for Matthew to come in the door… I just couldn’t believe that it happened. It was so sudden.”
Two: Then you move from shock to sorrow and this profound sadness that comes into your life. I’ve said almost from the first moment that we learned that, “We’re devastated but we’re not destroyed.” And when people ask that question of, how are you, there’s no good answer. And so, I finally just settled on, “I’m terrible but I’m OK.” In other words, we’re going to survive and someday, we’ll thrive again. It’s the worst thing that could ever happen.
Three: Then you move to what I call struggle and that’s all the “why” questions. Why now? Why this? Why me? Why Matthew? I never questioned my faith in God. I question God’s plan. There’s a big difference. I know God is a good God. Nothing can shake that from my life. I know God is a loving God. Not everything that happens in the world is God’s will. Everything that happens in the world God allows, he permits but because it couldn’t happen without his permission but we live in a world where there are free choices and if I chose to do wrong, I can’t blame God for that. So God isn’t to blame for my son’s death. My son took his life. It was his choice. I can’t blame God for that.
Four: Then you move to a stage I call surrender. I wrote in my journal one day, “I’d rather have all my questions unanswered and walk with God than not walk with God and have all my questions answered.” Then you just have to surrender, so I’m not going to know. I’m not going to know all these answers.
Five: Then you move to what I call sanctification, which is the change that takes place in you. I have cried every single day since Matthew died, but that’s actually a good thing. Grief is a good thing. It’s the way we get to the transitions of life.
Six: Then service. And service means I think God wants us to use our hurt. And one of the reasons we decided to do this interview with you is maybe we could help some other people. Kay has a marble box with the word “HOPE” on it. I filled it with verses that gave me comfort; that gave me encouragement; verses that just kept my faith really strong. The day after Matthew took his life, I opened my Hope box and I went to these verses one more time and then after that I didn’t open it for a month. I couldn’t. Then I started to think, so where do I go from here? What do you do when your hope has been crashed? The only way I know how to rebuild it is to go back to my faith and to God’s word and this time, I started putting verses in that give me Hope for the future. 1 Corinthians 15:43 it says, “Our bodies are buried in brokenness but they will be raised in glory, they are buried in weakness but they will be raised in strength.” And so every time when I go to the cemetery, I quote that verse because, Matthew’s body was broken, that gun broke his body and he was buried in brokenness but he’s going to be raised in glory.
If you are going through loss or grief please call us. At North Pointe, we have a loving, empathetic supportive community called “Grief Share.” The group is led by people who have gone through these six stages of grief with God’s help. Call us at 780-452-5566.