A strong theme in The Lovely Bones is that of grief. People all react differently when death strikes especially when the death is a gruesome one like murder. Alice Sebold shows us that facing a death like that of Susie’s creates an overwhelming sense of loss and that grief is a long process for most and even longer for others. In the end, Susie and her family experience the final stage of the grieving process: acceptance and a stabilised, new lifestyle.
The process of grief is considered to have five steps and you my like to consider how that is represented in the novel as this may be helpful in understanding the steps each member of the family takes.
The Five Stages of Grief:
1. Shock and denial – the reality of the death hasn’t been accepted yet. People feel stunned and bewildered, everything seems unreal.
2. Anger – at this stage people lash out at family, friends, medical staff, or perhaps the world in general. Many people experience feelings of guilt or fear during this stage.
3. Bargaining – people may ask for a deal or reward from either God or doctors. Comments like “I’ll pray every day, if only my daughter will come back” are common.
4. Depression – Depression occurs as a reaction to the changed way of life created by loss. People feel intensely sad, hopeless, drained and helpless. They miss, and constantly think, about their loved one.
5. Acceptance – Acceptance comes when the changes resulting from loss are stabilised into a new lifestyle.