Author of Survive-Alive-Thrive, Understanding grief & recovery
CSpotlight: Losing your wife to suicide so suddenly after weathering such difficult times together must have been devastating—how did you come to see light at the end of the grief tunnel?
Negley: How we respond to a loss event is highly personal and each of us react differently based on our unique mix of personality traits, faith, world views and life experiences. In my case, in the 2 weeks following Victoria’s death I spent a lot of time in the early mornings walking in the park and conversing with God. As I can imagine was the case with Job, I asked tough questions. I cried. I prayed and asked for His help just to get through the day.
During this time—what I define as the “Survive” stage, I found comfort in the knowledge that He was greater than anything I was experiencing. I was reassured that my wife was now in His arms and no longer suffering. That perspective provided the emotional elbow room I needed to start processing her loss from a point of view that was larger than my own.
It’s important for me to share that I understand grieving as a process that is ongoing. Substantial loss experiences are always with us as they’re woven into the fabric of our life story. As such, there is not a permanent “end” to the grief journey but a progression of steps through the grieving process. The gift and promise I experienced was that I could once again move forward in life and experience happiness and joy while carrying love in my heart for someone dear that I had lost.
CSpotlight: What led you to believe there was a great need for a better model of grief recovery, and briefly what does that look like?
Negley: Following my wife’s death, I struggled to connect with the concept of the traditional “5-Stages” approach to grief processing, and I learned that it was actually published by psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, based on a study of people who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had 3-6 months to live1. It was clear why it did not make sense to me or the hundreds of people I was interviewing and talking with about their loss experiences—it was never intended for those of us who have survived the loss of a loved one.
The “Survive-Alive-Thrive” 3-Stages of grief model is based on 5 years of research with input and experiential insights provided by those of us who have been through loss. The primary approach is to reframe each stage as containing multiple emotional responses that are unique to each of us due to personalities, faith and life experiences. The goal is to provide a “healing map” to help those grieving identify where they are on their journey. From there, each of the 3-stages include practical steps and perspective to help better understand that you are not alone in your experience and provide hope that you can find happiness and joy again.
CSpotlight: Along with your Survive-Alive-Thrive model, what additional insights into handling grief will readers gain from your book?
Negley: It’s my hope and prayer that you will find that you are not alone, and that God is walking with you every step along the way. I know from personal experience that it’s not an easy path but would encourage you to reach out and share your heart. The healing journey starts with grace, so please be gentle with yourself along the way.