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Medium teal background has photo at the top with overall theme of large hand representing God's hand reaching down to a human hand trying to reach up to His, with a cross in between making up for the huge gap.Photo on the bottom right refers to this week's theme of learning to grieve. It is a woman with a tissue over her nose. It is not that you are trying all the time you grieve. But that is part of it. Grieving includes tears. It also includes laughter and happy memories of the person. It includes grieving a huge loss that you will no longer see them on this earth.

Photos from Canva

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In my last post, I alluded to the fact that I had learned very little about how to grieve. Was I sad? Yes, of course. The miscarriage loss was mostly resolved with my next pregnancy. But when that baby also died, I was not in good shape. And I had lost a lot of time on the way toward having a child. I had invested nearly a year in being pregnant and still had nothing to show for it. It felt like a total waste of time on top of the human loss and emptiness I felt.

Not long after this child died, we were accepted to go to Jamaica as missionaries, so that meant that we now had something to take up our time as we got ready to move overseas. The months to come became very busy as we packed, raised support, and planned our move. It was easy to get distracted from the business of grieving. This was especially true when I didn’t really want to spend grieving. So I busied myself with moving, adjusting to the move once we got there, and getting ready for the new baby while meeting lots of new people and learning new customs.

June 24, 1971 brought us a healthy daughter. We were beyond grateful.

We returned to the US when the school year ended in May 1971 so I could have the baby in the US. The due date was the first week of July. Dawn Lyn arrived a little early on June 24. She was 8# 3 oz. and was nice and chunky. She was born 3 days before the 1st anniversary of our first daughters birth. It was so comforting to now be holding a new baby in my arms. Our months in the US passed rapidly as we happily introduced Dawn to her grandparents and extended family.

We returned to Jamaica the end of August and settled in well to parenthood. In April 1973, we had a second daughter there in JA. The delivery went smoothly. Life was going along well.. We were adjusting to JA well. I was working with two other women leading a Bible study. It was also going well. Meanwhile, my parents had moved to Ft. Lauderdale, FL where my dad was now serving as an associate pastor in the church where Ron had worked before we moved to JA. It had been years since my dad had been a pastor, but he was enjoying it. They had been been back in that area nearly a year.

November 28, 1973 turned out to be another shocking day.

November 28, 1973 started out like any normal day. We had our Bible study that day. The women left and about the time we were ready to eat lunch, the phone rang. It was my mother in Florida. My father had just died of a sudden heart attack.
My denial was so strong that I corrected her. “You mean granddaddy?” I said. He had been  struggling with dementia for quite a few years.
“No,” She said. “It’s your dad.” “I dropped him off at the church office. He didn’t feel great. I returned about an hour later and he was dead in his chair. 9-11 tried to resuscitate him, but it was no use. Do you think it will be possible for you to come?”

At that point, we got in gear calling to get tickets, do laundry, pack clothing, etc. We were on a plane and on the 1 1/2 hour flight to Miami early that evening. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale later that evening. Needless to say, we were all in a state of shock as our family members arrived from different locations. Sadly, my grandparents had lost their only child.

We were in the US about 10 days for the funeral. It was just after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. Honestly, we were in a bit of a fog during our time in the US as we we went through the funeral and saw many old friends we hadn’t seen in forever. Our family had lived in Ft. Lauderdale back in the 1950’s for about 10 years. My dad started a Christian School. Then in 1959, we moved to Costa Rica where they lived, working with a Christian School there. It was comforting to see so many old friends.

We returned to JA and got through Christmas. Then it all hit. Right after Christmas, the reality of my dad’s loss hit me like a ton of bricks. Grief took over. There was no more denial or distraction. It was facing me head on. It was big and dark.

My bubble of shock was gone.

It wasn’t like I was crying all the time. I had done plenty of that earlier. But that temporary bubble of shock was now gone and I was having to deal with all the questions that had been simmering for a few years. on the back burner of my soul. The suddenness of my dad’s death, the realization that our relationship was a bit different from that of my siblings, the gaping hole of the loss… It was horrible. I had nothing to distract me except caring for my children during the daytime. But when it was quiet in the evening, I was looking for answers everywhere.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

 Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
 In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
 To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Psalm 22:1-5 ESV

I had a friend whose brother died in his 20’s–we talked often, and I read voraciously.

I talked to a fellow missonary and mom of littles almost daily who lost a brother in his 20’s to a logging accident. I read everything I could get my hands on including Elisabeth Elliot who was extremely frank. I struggled with the timing of his death. Why he hadn’t called his secretary in the next room, etc. but rather got up to sit in a chair to get more comfortable. He had to have had bad chest pain. I’m sure he thought it would just go away. He had never been sick. He wasn’t used to it. My mom was the one who always thought she was sick, and she often was.

Elisabeth Elliot was really big on God’s sovereignty. I thought I believed in it too, but not in the ways she talked about. I was not thrilled to hear what she had to say. But the Scripture she mentioned was so helpful and the reminders of who God is that surrounds His sovereignty. It is so comforting really. He loves us. He knows what is best for us. Everything He allows into our lives is for our good. We don’t have to pretend we like it. We can grieve the losses. But in the end, we know it is all for our good and the good purposes He has for us. And we can weep too. We don’t have to pretend we like it. We can grieve it all, knowing He cares for us and isn’t impatient for us to move on with our grieving.

He is not threatened by all my questions as some of my teachers earlier in life were. Yes, He is the God of the universe. But He is also my heavenly Father and my questions are not a threat to His power. He is confident in who He is. My questions don’t move any of the planets an inch out of their orbits nor do they ruin His day, because He is the same whether I question Him or not.

Much of 1972 was spent trying to sort out what God had done in my life and what this new normal would look like.

The early part of 1972 particularly was spent trying to sort out what my life was going to be like now that my dad was gone. He hadn’t been part of my daily life for a long time. But I often wanted to know what he thought about certain things, particularly now that he was gone. There is no question that His loss was excruciating. I realized I was not only grieving his loss, but also the loss of our infant daughter as well.

I’m only scratching the surface of what I worked on as well. I wish I had kept a journal during that time. It would be helpful to look back over it. If you are in the middle of grief, I would advise keeping a journal. It would be very helpful. I do remember writing some poetry–free verse. In fact, I started doing more writing at the time, but there was no place to publish anything unless it was a book and I didn’t have one, not did I think I had anything profound enough to share. I also read a lot of Larry Crabb. I’m not sure Dan Allender was writing much at the time. It didn’t have to be a Christian book, because general books on grief were good information. However, purely secular books were often downers. Where could I go with my grief in a totally secular world?

Grief surprised me. Some of the things I thought would comfort me, didn’t.

The one thing that I thought would be very comforting with my dad’s death, wasn’t as comforting as I had hoped it would be. It was this: that I would see him again in heaven. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m glad to have that hope. But when you really want to have one more conversation with your dad or have one more hug, it is a somewhat empty hope. You miss him. You want to be with him now. You want him to see your kids and watch them grow up. It isn’t going to happen. It tore me up every time I thought about it. I wanted my grandchildren to know their eagle scout, athletic, coffee drinking, grandfather who liked to sit around the house with his shirt off. They would have enjoyed him. He was active and he was a lot of fun! He like to build things and and work in the yard. He was musical and liked to pretend he was leading an orchestra if one was playing on a record or radio. He had a great sense of humor. That all ended when he was 54 and I was 25.

Yes, he is in heaven enjoying an even fuller life than the one he had and it is with Jesus. But meanwhile, I am left here without him. That is no small thing. It is not like he was ill for a long time and his death was a relief for him and his family. The week before he died, he was playing tennis!

I wrote letters to him with final good-byes. They were extremely helpful to me. I also had the blessing of some good dreams where we had some wonderful conversations. There were also some awful dreams as well, many years later so dreams are no great guideline. But when I was doing work on writing letters to him, I was glad to have the good dreams. They were very comforting.

Counseling may be needed for you as you grieve, but for me, it wasn’t an option at the time.

A number of years later, I also got counseling for another problem. The counseling was very helpful too. I encourage you to get the help you need when you need it. I didn’t really have a counselor available in JA. But I had a helpful and encouraging community there. They prayed for me and often spoke encouraging words to me as well. Later, when I needed help for some other things, I was able to get it.

If you get counseling and it isn’t helping you, don’t keep going to that counselor. Find someone else who will help you. I had a situation once where that happened. I had a counselor that I felt wasn’t helping me. I gave her a couple of months and we just didn’t seem to click so I discontinued. It got to the point where I was getting more irritated after seeing her. I knew that we just weren’t a match. She seemed to always ask safe questions and never seemed to get to the root of the problem. I was there to get some help and we weren’t getting anywhere. I needed someone who asked me questions that stuck with me during the week and probed my heart. That never happened. I needed uncomfortable and disruptive and she didn’t do that. But back to our main topic.

Pay attention to your grief

Don’t allow your own preferences for denial or distraction to keep you from dealing with your grief. Are you being over-religious in the ways you are dealing with it? Are you covering the pain of your loss with Christian sounding words like “God’s will”, or “He’s in a better place”, or many of the other things we say when talking about a Christian who has gone on to heaven? It’s not that they aren’t true. Many of them are true. But it’s that you may be trying to ignore the pain of your loss and grieve it rather than be honest about it. The religious sounding phrases sound so lofty. We want to feel them instead of the sadness. But until we face up to the truth of our loss and sadness, I don’t think we will be able to enjoy the truth of the joy our loved one is experiencing.

We can’t sidestep the loss or minimize it. We need to realistically grieve it. We can’t ignore it and only focus on where they are now if we don’t face up to the loss we have experienced. What have we lost in the death of our loved one?  Write it out for yourself or write a letter to that person that you lost. You may even want to write a prayer to God with your questions and concerns related to this death. As you put them down, you will find answers to those questions, or realize you have been finding answers. But letting them fester inside you like a nebulous pile of muck that rots away from the inside, will do you no good and will only make you miserable as time goes on. Start working in a concrete way on the things that most come to mind.

If it is questions for God, recognize that not all of them will get answered right away. Don’t allow yourself to become an angry person shaking their fist and requiring God to tell you why this happened. He doesn’t owe you an explanation even though you might want one. You need to remember Who you are talking to. Time will give you partial answers to the “Why?”, but you will rarely receive a full answer. Prepare yourself for that. Pay attention. Who is God?  What has He promised? Answers to these two questions will carry you much further.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

Exodus 34:5-8 ESV

Some ways to manage your grief

  • If it is a final conversation you wanted with your loved one, write a letter. Put everything in it that you wish you had told him during his life. What did he mean to you? How did he hurt you? How did he help you? Put it all out there. Forgive him for the pain. Thank him for the good things. Thank God too. Ask God to help you to forgive the painful things as well.
  • What does the Bible teach about grief? (Look up grief/sorrow/tears/cry–and other synonyms– in your version of the Bible online. It will give you quite a bit to go on. See Bible Gateway) This may be helpful to you. The Psalms can ve especially helpful along with other poetic books.
  • Read or listen to books on the topic. It is a huge one. There are plenty of both books or audio books on the topic.
  • Exercise. Get out in the fresh air. It will clear your brain and minimize depression.
  • Do fun activities. Don’t sit alone in your room. It only serves to make you miserable and more depressed. Activities keep your mind and body active. Grief is hard work, but you can’t do it all the time. You need breaks from it. Take breaks to do things that feed your mind with the beautiful, the positive, the enjoyable (for you), and the lovely. It may be something as simple as going to lunch with a friend or something as complicated as taking an afternoon to go to an art museum.
  • Participate in a grief group. You may not want to do this early on, but at some point, you will find it helpful as well as getting to know others who are going through this process along with you.
  • What other things would you add to this list that you have found helpful?


I know this has gone on long. It was a long process and has been repeated a few times,
but not in as much depth. Blessings as you walk in your grief with Jesus.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23:1-6 ESV