Posted by: word4men | July 28, 2010


GOD’S HEALING for LIFE’S LOSSES by Robert W. Kellemen PH.D:  A Book Review by Greg Bailey, Chaplain, Serenity Palliative and Hospice Care, Charleston, SC

Most of you who know me or have read my blog before, or Cindy’s as we are “simu-posting” this review, know that I am a Hospice Chaplain.  Every day I am dealing with those who are grieving, usually in advance of their or their loved ones demise.  I will tell you quite candidly that I feel really confident dealing with folks considering their own death and those anticipating or suffering the initial pain of loss of a loved one…Well the rest of the story is that I am not so smooth or confident that God will guide me in good study, heart prep and that bit of intuition He acts in when dealing with those anticipatory losses and initial losses in the cases where I am dealing with those in real grief after the initial shock.  Honestly, all I know to do is sit there, often very awkwardly. 

Most counseling types, just as I was, are introduced to understanding mourning with a model fashioned by a psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  It was developed originally when she tracked those who had been given a terminal diagnosis by their MD’s.  Eventually, it was applied to mourning and all grief responses.  It goes in 5 stages:

Denial:  It is the shock reaction.  The loss is denied.  When the news of a loss or bad diagnosis is communicated, one might yell “NO” or say “are you joking?”

Anger:  Resentment grows and is frequently aimed at an authority figure…say God.  Angry questions follow and many times people will actually hear professing agnostics and atheists’ rail at God.

Bargaining:  We try to make a deal with Doctors and God.  “I will stop working 60 hours a week and running around if you will just heal/bring back my little daughter.”

Depression:  Reality has set in.  We admit we are dying/suffering a loss and oft times hit times of hopelessness.  This is a very dangerous step.

Acceptance:  We face our loss and try to figure out how to live now that it is happening/has happened and we know it in our hearts and minds.

It is a very helpful model, and though modern practitioners will qualify it; I will tell you from experience, that people will go through them, though they may recycle, go in slightly differing order or, unfortunately, sometimes get stuck in Depression/Hopelessness.  It is a good analysis of what people go through.  But soon during my 1st year of CPE I was caught in awe of the accuracy of the model, but knew it lacked something…it lacked God and real help for the “losses and crosses” one suffers in this world. 

Now, I can also tell you that it is very difficult to aid someone who is mourning.  The Counseling Class always tells us about everyone differences in how they do X… (experience anything) therefore you can’t treat anyone the same or push them through some sort of counseling or program; you must just wait on them.  There is a lot of truth there, but it is also true that in grief, we share so much.  And we all need one thing.  God’s unique ministry.  We need to know that in spite of our losses, God rules, God judges justly, all will turn out OK in the end.  And I believe we all need to know that the Ruler of the Universe and our Savior really cares about His individual people.  But what to do?  C.S Lewis is good, but not always accessible to folks, and well, not always to me.  When I quote him or share his insights, I always sound as if I am preaching.  The Puritans dealt with such, but again, I am not as sharp as to read, digest and apply them in spite of The Banner Of Truth Trusts’ great attempts.

Well, Dr. Kellemen has been given a unique Christian insight into “sufferology” and grieving.  As one who wanted to help but only seemed to have a mish-mash of secular observation about human nature and some meaty Biblical concepts I thoroughly embrace GOD’S HEALING for LIFE’S LOSSES.  It attacks the main problem I had.  By accepting in part Kubler-Ross’s model he has given helpers a framework to begin with that most of us received before we tried to understand how God’s Word was sufficient and efficient to teach and comfort and disciple and shepherd His people through all of life.  But as I said, he accepts it only as an observation of behavior, not as the way things must remain or should be.  One might say he just baptized a secular notion.  This is not so and he shows it.  Below is the heart of the book, a Biblical model of grieving with hope, the hope that comes only with the knowledge of the true God.  The God of the Bible , the God who “after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Biblical Sufferology


Sustaining in Suffering: Stages of Hurt

“It’s Normal to Hurt and Necessary to Grieve”


 Stage                                                    Typical Grief Response                                 Biblical Grief Response

 Stage One                          Denial/Isolation                                                                                Candor: Honesty with Myself

 Stage Two                          Anger/Resentment                                                                        Complaint: Honesty with God

 Stage Three                       Bargaining/Works                                                                            Cry: Asking God for Help

 Stage Four                         Depression/Alienation                                                  Comfort: Receiving God’s Help


Healing in Suffering: Stages of Hope

“It’s Possible to Hope and Supernatural to Grow”


 Stage                                                    Typical Acceptance Response    Biblical Growth Response          


 Stage Five                                          Regrouping                                                                                         Waiting: Trusting with Faith

 Stage Six                                             Deadening                                                                                                          Wailing: Groaning with Hope

 Stage Seven                      Despairing/Doubting                                                      Weaving: Perceiving with Grace

 Stage Eight                         Digging Cisterns                                                                                Worshipping: Engaging with


Each of these 8 stages is developed in a chapter with corresponding devotional exercises.  The stages are developed thoroughly from a Bible first mentality.  If you read through Kellemen’s points, with your Bible open you will end up saying, “Kubler-____who?  She must have raided the Bible but did not want to properly footnote, so she changed her outline a bit and left out the Biblical passages.”  If you just glance over this outline/comparison you will also see that much of what Dr. Kellemen has done has taken the human, unredeemed natural response, shown it as such and then directed the “bereaved” to God and his creation purpose, Worship of that God.  His trajectory is The Biblical ideal and I have yet to find any rabbit trails he has taken.

The second problem I mentioned…the awkward uselessness you feel when trying to aid someone in a deep mourning.  The uniqueness that all feel when going through a dark valley that leads mourners to feel self-pity and shortness with well meaning comforters.  Dr. Kellemen has attacked that also.  The book is made very accessible because he uses case studies to outline his Biblical stages, often of himself as he suffered through a great grief in his life…Oh, and it is largely to be a study or devotion for the bereaved to do on his/her own if needed.  There are many exercises to do at the end of each chapter, but he makes it very clear that they are not to be worked through rigorously as for a school assignment, but pick and choose those that speak to you and USE them to explore your emotions and thinking processes  and expose them to Biblical truth.    Instead of nervously trying to say the right thing, or fearing setting off an angry response, you can give the book to your patient/parishioner/loved one and be available to talk about what they have learned in the workshop of Bible study and prayer.

I doubt this is an inspiring review that will cause you to order dozens of copies and totally change your life with this offering…I don’t have that way with people and written words.  But, I am currently ministering to two recent widows and one spouse who has just hit the reality that her husband is headed to his Creator at an accelerating speed.  I am going to buy more copies of this book for them, and am talking to the local director of a Biblical counseling center and my pastor about ordering a few dozen for myself, another chaplain I know and for their ministries use also.  It is that helpful and that truthful.  My money will be where my mouth is.

Grace Alone,

Greg Bailey



  1. For a better view of the model comparisons, please click here to Dr. Kellemen’s blog summary of his own work. Forgive my Word/Blog ineptitude. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: