Spirituality in Health Care


Spiritualityin Health Care

Spiritualityin Health Care

NicholasWolterstorff is a well-known Christian philosopher who is known tohave authored multiple books that have significantly been of benefitto scholarship in some subjects. In his book, Wolterstorff writes notas a scholar. He writes as a parent grieving the loss of his belovedson. In a brief description, Wolterstorff reveals with an utmostmoving truthfulness and intensity, all the pieces of his experiencewith the loss that cannot be reversed. Although he is in grief “notas a person with no hope,” Wolterstorff gets no comfort in thepriestly-sounding writings that would reduce the animus of death. Hisbook can be viewed as an account of narration where he captures inhis writing the experiences he had from receiving the call carryingthe message of his son’s death during the mountain-climbingactivity, to the visit at the graveside one year later. However, thebook contains more than narrations. Each incident is a moment wherehe remembers and meditates. Just like the biblical Job, he strugglesto accept and understand the situation he faces. The book is faithasserting and gives eloquent expression to the unique and universaltype of grief that of losing an individual, an irreplaceableindividual. Wolterstorff publishes this book despite being intenselypersonal he says “with the hope that it will be of some help tothe people who find themselves with us in the group of mourners.”In his writings, he gives narrates of how God helped him overcome thegrief through the faith that he possessed. His aim, as he says, wasto write a book where he will use his tragedy to inspire others whoundergo situations like his, or even worse than his. Throughout hisworks, Wolterstorff plainly brings to the fore the stages of grief asaddressed by Kubler in her book, TheGrief of Grieving. Kublersuggests that during grief, a person undergoes five stages towardsrecovery. The five stages as she puts them include denial at first,then rage, haggling, hopelessness and at eventual acceptance are thesection of the basis that creates our understanding of how to livewith the loss of the people we love.

Wolterstorff’sDenial of his son’s loss

Denialis the first stage of denial. It is normal for every human not toaccept the loss of someone or something they are very fond of. Duringdelivery of the message on Erick’s death, Wolterstorff (2012) onlyreplies with a “Yes” even after being told of the death of theson. This suggests that he thought it was obvious that his son wasalive. “For three seconds, I had the amity of withdrawal: withstretched arms, a drooping son in the arms, harmoniously giving himoff to Someone else. Later, a flesh-tearing pain,” this were thenarrations by the author immediately after getting the news of hisson’s death. He at first didn’t believe that he had left him, hewas in a state of great shock and denial. During moments like these,people feel like the world is meaningless and overwhelming. Peoplealways wonder if they should go on. The stage of denial helps us tocope and make survival much possible. It is also this stage that anindividual’s feelings of grief are paced, and they find grace. Inthis state, a person starts asking themselves questions andunknowingly, they begin the healing process. Wolterstorff (2012)narrates at some point, “I wonder what will happen when God bringhim and us from death? …I don’t see how he will do it. But Iguess if He can create, He can re-create.” With such words, theauthor reveals one of the many questions contained in his mind anddepicts what individuals are undergoing grief encounter. The writer,through his reference to the Bible’s resurrection story, shows thathe has faith that one day we will meet with the people we lost. Hehas faith in the Christian doctrines of resurrection and gives hopeto those who lost their loved ones that they will meet after death.

Angeras the second stage of grief and how the author depicts it

Psychologically,anger is a significant step in the healing process. The more onebecomes enraged because of a loss, the more it begins to dissipate,and the more one heals. It is a brawn that can be anchored, offeringa temporary skeleton to the emptiness of life. In the book Lamentsfor a son,the author undergoes the stage of anger. He asks himself questionslike “why did he (Erick) go climbing the mountain alone?” andsome point, he writes “And I wished to die and never to see theinscapes of this world destroyed again.” With such lines, Mr.Wolterstorff brings out his anger but later, he reflects on the lossthat God encountered when Jesus, His only son, died on the cross(Spong, 2012) and his anger begins to heal. Death is a stage whereevery individual has to encounter even though it might anger one. Ittakes away the people we love that this angers us most, but yes, ithas to happen.

Bargainingas a third stage of grief, and how it is brought out in Lamentingfor a son

“ButI guess if God can create, then He can recreate.” At that moment,the narrator seemed to be bargaining with God, using kind words ofhope that He will be merciful and bring Erick back to life. That is aform of bargaining. After anger, one starts to use statements like“if only…” and “what if…” one tries to trick their mindby creating a possibility that if something is done, then the life oftheir loved one will be restored. He even asks God if he will one dayhear Erick say, “Hey Dad, I’m back.”

Depressionas the fourth stage of grief

Depressioncomes as the fourth phase of grief after bargaining. According toRoss (2011), it is in depression that the loss is felt even muchdeeper. After losing his son, Wolterstorff takes time later starts tofeel the loss, he feels the absence of one of his children. Even withthe presence of the other kids, he still seems that someone specialis missing in his life, death has made his love for Eric greater thanthat for the other children. He writes, “Was he very special? Did Ilove him a little more-more than his sister and his brothers? Whenthey see the tears that I have, do they think that I liked him more?”The statements show that he is depressed, they pain has become toomuch. He feels the absence more and even suspects that Eric’ssiblings will note this and think that he was loved more than them.

Acceptanceas the final stage

Acceptanceis the final stage (Ross, 2011). It is at this point that one finallyaccepts that they`re loved on is physically departed and that this isa reality. From this stage, one learns to live with the fact andcontinue with the normal life even after the loss. This is the stagethat the author writes his book. It is through acceptance thatWolterstorff writes his book to inspire those that are in the griefof losing their loved ones. “And now he’s gone,” by this, heclearly shows that he has accepted the reality and is ready to livewith it, though painfully. He also writes, “Ok. So goodbye, Eric,goodbye, goodbye, until we see.” That statement clearly indicatesthat he has accepted the loss of his son. Also, when he remembers thelife of his son, he finds joy in it, he admired and loved the mannerin which Eric lived, and this is seen with the praises that heshowers him with. He says that Eric was a hard worker and even got ascholarship for his college studies.


Lamentof a sonis a book of great inspiration. Losing a person we love is a painfulinvolvement that drives one into grieving. The author clearly showsthe five stages of grief throughout his writing. At some point he isangered, depressed, denies, bargains but later accepts the truth andlives with it. It was through acceptance that he wrote the book. Hefinds joy as he reflect on the life of his lost son and admires mostbits of his living. Through the resurrection of Jesus, God’sbeloved son (Aitken, 2011), Wolterstorff believes that one day, hewill meet Eric as he says, “…goodbye, goodbye, until we meet.”


Aitken,R. (2011). TheHoly Bible(American Bible Society ed.). New York: Arno Press.

Pakistan,L. (n.d.). Thefive stages of grief.

Ross,E., &amp Kessler, D. (2012). Ongrief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the fivestages of loss.New York: Scribner.

Spong,J. (2012). Jesusfor the non-religious: Recovering the divine at the heart of thehuman.New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Wolterstorff,N. (2011). Lamentfor a son.Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.