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Dealing with Deep Grief

February 27, 2016

Losing someone you love can cut into your heart so viciously it forever redefines who you are and how you think. It’s what I call deep grief.

It strains against everything you’ve ever believed. So much so, you wonder how the promises that seemed so real on those thin Bible pages yesterday could possibly stand up under the weight of this enormous sadness today.

I once stood at the side of a casket too small to accept. Pink roses draped everywhere. And I watched my mom as she lay across the casket refusing to let go. How could she let go? Part of her heart lay within, so quiet and so still.

I stood paralyzed and stunned. Just days ago we were laughing and doing everyday things and assuming that all of our lives stretched before us in spans of many, many years. And then suddenly . . . it all stopped.

If you’re in this hard place of deep grief or know someone who is, I’d love to be the friend who takes you by the hand to walk you through this. You can read more from my post over at (in)courage today by clicking here.

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  1. Stephanie

    This is exactly how I felt this past week. My father in law past away last Wednesday. The services were Monday. Now it’s like I’m numb. Nothing feels right. Trying to get back into a routine is so hard. I’m hurting but not as much as my husband and I think that is where I’m struggling the most. I can’t make his hurt go away. Our three kids are full of questions and there are days I see the two older ones being sad and moody just like me. I’ve felt the Lords presence all week and I’m heard him through emails and devotions and I need to remember He will get us through this. These next few days and weeks are going to be difficult but I must give it all to the Lord to carry for us.

  2. MarjorieElaine Peirce

    Although I was 30 before I heard the Salvation story about Jesus, I had always believed in God. Never doubted He existed… or that He didn’t love us… or that Jesus didn’t love me. The churches I attended were like many of that day… preaching more about doing good things… loving everyone…being kind…etc. But never the truth about accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior. Rarely were sermons given about forgiveness, mercy, grace … for ourselves and others… or about not being judgmental … slanderous.. or to not gossip. And yet, God was with me and I knew He was. So, in 1969, when our second child was born…. 9 pounds 10 ounces….21 !/2 inches long…. Still born… I knew God was there. In fact, the first words out of my mouth when they told me she was gone, were: “She is in the best hands she could ever be. She is with Jesus.” It was the nurses who broke down and the doctor walked into the wall, crying. Although I could not understand ‘why’ I had no doubt that God had a reason and I trusted Him. I did know myself well enough to know that I had just gotten “bucked off a horse” and that if I were to ever have another child, I needed to face my loss. So, the following day I went down to the nursery (this was before babies were born in your room and never left there).. to look at the other 7 babies who had been born that night. I imagined what Sarah had looked like (back then they didn’t encourage you to see your child as they do today (I think it is better if you do see them).. I so wish I had see her) Black hair and blue eyes like my Mom. That is how I see Sarah. Between looking at the babies and knowing that I had an 18 month old son at home who still needed me and my husband Dwayne, I was able to move forward, . Dwayne had 3 brothers, no sisters, so he had a deep desired to have a daughter. But his belief In God, helped him as well. He was a Marine/German/private man who spoke little about his feelings. But I had learned that when he did open up, I stopped everything to sit and listen… just listen. A year after we loss Sarah, he did open up and shared his grief. That helped our relationship more than just about anything else we went through. And we have gone through a lot. Our oldest son is the same as his Father.. Spoke little, but when he did, it was deep and important. Two weeks before our little Sarah joined Jesus, I had had a week where I cried almost 24/7. I could not explain it at the time, but I do feel it was a time when I was in grief….that somewhere within my brain and heart, .. I knew the path ahead. Because of that, I was able to be there for the rest of the family. My sister had not wanted to come up to the hospital to see me even though she knew she should. My Mother told her to come see me…. not because I needed my sister, but because my sister needed me. God has used our loss to help others many times over the years. I know the pain.. the hurt.. the deep sense of loss. God can use my arms and words to express His love to them. I am grateful for being able to be used by the Father to show someone His love.. I have found, that there is almost always someone in a family who is stronger than others .. who helps to keep the family grounded and together when large horrible issues are dealt them. God had chosen me for our family.
    . We have one cemetery where there is a Babyland section…. especially for children under the age of 15. It is up on a hill and over looking our valley. Our Sarah Ruth is there… dressed in a white sleeper… with pink roses on it. Pale pink satin surrounds her with little white roses embedded in the material. Her casket was white .. with embossed roses. She would have been 48 this year (1967). And yes, I still miss her. I still wonder what type of woman she would have become. What her personality would have been like. Knowing that one day I will be spending Eternity with her.. and how joyful that will be. Within the next four years, we had another daughter and another son, for a total of three living children. They are my delight.
    In 1971, four months after our second daughter was born, my Father passed away at the age of 49. I had always had a closer relationship with my Father over my Mother. He and I had more of the Irish personalities…. we might get mad at you in a split second, but give us 10 minutes and we would have forgotten it. My Mother… and husband… were German.. slow to boil… and slow to forget. However, my Father’s death was hard on my husband as well. He spent 30 minutes doing CPR while we waited for the EMT’s (we were up in the hills). He also worked for my Father and they had grown close.. fishing… camping together. My young baby girl and 3 1/2 yr old son helped me to move forward after Dad’s death. They helped to keep me grounded.. But to this day, there are still times when I still want to call him and tell him about what the kids are doing… the 8 Grandkids… and the 3 Great Grandkids (his Great Great). There were so many times that I missed having him there for when the kids got their license (he was an insurance agent)…when they got their jobs… when our youngest son was in baseball (Dad’s favorite sport)…when the boys took to bowling in honor of my Father (who was on a league). And I missed him being there when they all got married. Dad would have been so proud of how dedicated employees, Fathers and Husband they are. How their word is their bond… and their work ethics are top notch.
    We had the sudden loss of a nephew when he was 26 (a year younger than our youngest son)… and the loss of my Mother when she was 84….6 years ago. We had no more grief than any family… but enough to know the pain… the days of wondering if you can go on. Those days when grief seems to wrap around you and wont’ let go. Having a personal relationship with Jesus… having the faith and belief in Almighty God.. believing that in spite of how hard times can be, .. that it is life and we will survive.. In life we have choices. From the minute we open our eyes until we close them again. Some times our choices are not the best and we must deal with the results of our choices. But the knowledge.. the Truth..that God is God… will always be God.. will always love me… will always forgive me.. will always guide and direct me.. should I ask… that is what has kept me going the most.
    And now, those same principles… those same sweet scriptures that helped me through the dark valleys before, … are still helping me. God has been carrying me a great deal these past four years, for in 2012, my sweet Marine joined Jesus. I went from finding out he had Stage 4 cancer (Esophagus/Stomach/Lymph Nods) a week before Christmas, to his joining Jesus on the 31st of January… not from cancer, but from a heart attack. He had gotten Walking/Dry Pneumonia and his lungs were full… denying his heart oxygen. It was sudden and massive… but a blessing. Dwayne had never been sick in his life.. was still working 40 hours a week .. in a clean room, dealing with 40-70 pound pieces of ceramic. I went from trying to hear God’s heart on ways to help him deal with the cancer to suddenly being 68 years old and living on my own for the first time in my life. I had 24 hours to plan for 3 events to accommodate his Mother and Uncle (both in their mid 90’s.. and in wheelchairs), our daughter who lives out of state and had to leave in 3 days, and his co-workers. Christ carried me… guided me… and worked everything out. That first year I realized just how much Christ carried me since I was still in shock.
    God, was so gracious. He knew my needs. He blessed me with two sons and two daughter in laws, a brother and sister in law, plus many friends, who jumped in to help. They never took over … never tried to tell me what to do. They were always just there when I had a need. I gave them permission to tell me if they felt any choice I was making was not the wises. My brother is the best at this.. my sons still didn’t want me to feel like they were telling me what to do. My “daughters (inlaw)” would come over and take me to lunch… clean the house off and on…and check in daily with me. Even today, someone is checking in with me about 3x a week…. if I have not touched base with them. After the first year, I finally had to tell my sons that they had to quite allowing me to use them for every little thing. I needed to get back out into the world. I needed to go get my medicine.. my groceries (my youngest is Assisted Manager for Safeways, so it was real easy to ask him to get me something from the store. tee hee). I have no doubt that they would still be doing those things for me had I not told them they needed to return to their own lives and I needed to fine out God’s purpose for this new season in my life. I am still searching for that… and still learning so many new things about life as a single woman.
    God has been so very gracious to me. Dwayne and I would always go out to look for the North Star almost every night. Since we live in Oregon, there would be many… most … winter nights when the skies were clouded over.. but we would still look. That first year, I went out every night… to see the North Star…to tell Dwayne that I loved him and missed him. And every night… without fail… for that first year… regardless of what the weather was…even pouring down rain. I could go out into our yard and stand where we always stood … and the rain would stop. The snow would stop. The fog would lift. And clouds would part.. and for a minute I would see our Star. It could be raining all around me, but for that brief minute in time, I would be connected to my husband… my Dwayne. It gave me strength to continue on. It also gave me such love for God because I knew how special that small event was. And I knew that it was only because of God’s love and mercy and grace upon me that He gave me that blessing. To this day, I still look. The clouds don’t always part or the rain stop… but that’s OK. I know he is there .. saying Hi to me as well.
    As with today, there are still days… and will always be some days… when grief is overwhelming. When sadness seems to engulf your heart. Where your mind cannot shake back to reality. Where tears seem to flow freely .. for seemingly no reason. I have found it helpful to Thank God for those special ways of remembering Dwayne and our life with its great ups and downs. For the strength and wisdom He poured out upon us through those 46 years. For the protection of our family and the provisions He provided. I thank God for those things I learned from my husband that have helped me move forward. And when the tears feel like flowing… I allow them to. I take the day of grief to remember.. the good and the bad. To remember all that God has done for me. I don’t try to hide my grief or deny it is there. I have found that allowing those feelings to come to the surface, allows me to deal with them so much better. If I try to deny them.. to keep them down… it just seems they build up walls then. Walls around my heart that keep the wound.. the hurt… from being allowed to heal. Wounds always heal better with good air flow… not encased in stone. If you bury/deny the wound, the hurt then you allow an ‘In” for Satan to come in and turn that wound into stone.. into anger… or worse. Will there ever come a day when you will “Be Over” grief. I don’t believe so. But there will come a day when the wound…. the sense of loss… will lessen. Where the thoughts of the one who no longer lives with you… are sweet memories and not painful ones.
    It is again… choice. Choice to allow God to carry you… heal you… guide you… be gracious unto you. Or a choice to bury the hurt, keep the anger going, allow the wound to fester. For all who are suffering with great loss, I pray your choice will be Christ Jesus and His Holy Unconditional Love for You.

    • Linda Smith

      Your message really spoke to me. I lost my dad 9 years ago yesterday. He was my rock. I feel like I just can’t let go. I am making a choice to allow God to carry me, heal me and guide me.

    • Debbie

      Marjorie, my heart is filled with sadness, joy, sweet fellowship all mixed up together. We have traveled similiar paths, hearing your journey reminds me of mine, of choosing Jesus, choosing Grace. Thank you, your story means a lot to me. More than you can know. It gives me strength and courage for the rest. Bless you.

  3. Laura

    A dear friend shared this with me today. Through many tears, I want to say thank you for these words. Incredibly difficult and painfully transparent words. I have two sons that I will be sharing this with as well.
    You see, two weeks ago, today, my 7 y/o daughter Janet took her final breath. My heart feels so completely shattered and broken right now, and I could identify with each and every word you spoke.
    One thing I’m finding, though, is that God’s love, in large part through people who surround us and also written words such as these – His love is finding it’s way in and permeating the broken places. Through Him, I AM able to smile. Through Him, I’m just staring to feel like I can breathe again.
    So, for all those reasons and more, it is with a heart full of gratitude and love that I share heartfelt thanks. Know I’m grateful.

    • Lysa TerKeurst

      Laura, there simply are not enough words to say how very sorry we are about the loss of your precious daughter. Please know we are absolutely praying for you and your family today. Much Love – LT Ministry Team

      • Laura

        For that, I sincerely say thank you. Prayers – they mean so so much. Thank you for the gift of love right now.

  4. Savonna

    Thank you for this devotion Lysa! There is a sweet young couple in our community that just lost their 5 month old baby girl to Leukemia. She was diagnosed at 6 weeks old. I shared this devotion. I hope that somebody from their family will read it or perhaps maybe they will see it. Please pray for this sweet young couple. Thank you!

  5. Debbie Mueller

    Lysa, I am in that place of deep grief. I feel like I will never come out of it. My son was 28. I believed God would set him up and he would live righ up to the second he took his last breath. People tell me I am doing great but sometimes I still feel like I am in the same spot as when he died. I miss him so much I can’t put it in words. I love the Lord and I have a relationship with Jesus. I have gained weight and I just feel unfulfilled now. How do you feel a spot that is a hole. You cannot forget. You try to fill that hole and can’t. You tell yourself you have to learn to live without them. There seems to be no answer. It has been 6 years.

  6. Alta Jacobs

    Thank you for sharing this. We can grief about a lot of things. Sometimes we grief over ourselves. Our disability to succeed and to please God. We grief about our failures. But no matter what you are grieving about, God’s love always comfort you. See my blog

  7. Mary

    In December my husband went in for a procedure, not even surgery, 6At 6 o’clock they told me he was in great shape and would be going home in the morning. Two hours later following a massive stroke the doctors were telling me I would have to decide when to take him off the respirator. I called my children in from different places near and far away to say goodbye to their dad. The next day before I had to make the decision to take him off the respirator his heart stopped.
    My husband of more than 40 years was gone but in the next days God showed me that Roy had been a contented man, that he loved me, our family, and our life. God showed me that his health was failing. I knew that my sweetheart would not want to live unable to be as active as he been throughout his life. When you lose a person you love, in the beginning you’re in a bubble and you almost think you’re doing well. As the weeks pass the bubble wears away and the pain becomes real. BUT I know that God did what was best for Roy and for all of us. I know that if I’m here I’m here with a purpose. I know some days will be worse and some days will be better but God will bring me through. I know my life is forever changed but this is no surprise to God. God has taken care of me to this point in time and he will continue to take care of me. My dad died in July and I was not able to mourn his passing because I was busy with my husband and his health challenges. I can still see that God prepared me and has helped me along the way for months ahead of time. I have learned more in days of challenges and grief and I have an easier times. We are born for eternity . I know that I will see my sweetheart again someday.– at the same time I get to see my Lord. Through painful days and lonely evenings I know that God is good and he will bring me through and this is true for each of you, too.

  8. Stephen

    I wrote you Lysa already, to sum it up, its been 34 years, for me, my only brother shot and killed (with his own gun – he loaded it) an accident, I still am lost, I still have the anger, I still am in that deep hard place, other more spiritual concerns have corrupted/tormented me for so long, there seems like nothing will work to set me free. No wife, no kids, just an old man now (49) with nothing going for him, no goals no careers, never had a girl friend in his entire life after my brother died, too wrapped up in grief, anger, hitting things with my fist, until it bleeds just to make the pain to go away, allergic to fresh fruits, allergic to fresh vegetables, allergic to all nuts, can’t drink milk anymore, cheese is hard to eat, ice cream is hard to eat, suffer from MDD – Major Depression Disorder, OAD/S – Oral Allergy Syndrome, IBS, can’t drink coffee, no bacon, no butter, no fried foods, most grilled foods can’t eat. I get gastro-intestinal pains alot, out for days at a time, been going on now over 10 years.

    Would like to find someone to not have a relationship with, wouldn’t know how to do that anyway, just someone to come over & talk, maybe watch some old movies, but I just have no idea how, or if I even can, I don’t drive much anymore, trying to write a book for the last 16 years, but the depression has ceased that…..I just exist, nothing more…


    • Marcella

      Oh Stephen I know that pain and lonelyness. I have suffered from it to. Do you have a church family? Is there a place you can volunteer at? Hospital, nursing home or school. Getting out and helping others is what has helped me the most. When helping others it takes my focus off me. Go people watch at a local park, or store. Is there a senior care center around you? You could volunteer there. They play games visit with others, watch movies, puzzles etc. In our church we have what are called Life Groups. We meet weekly for about one and half hours. We have become family and friends. It’s really a great community and I can share my feelings and they don’t judge, they offer friendship and support. I would encourage you to try this out. Only you can take this step, no one can do it for you. I had to learn this as well. I’m praying for you Stephen. If not in a church, I would start trying some around you. That has been my biggest help. The church community’s are the heart of Christ, if you find the right one for you. I belong to a Vineyard church. Come as you are. No rules, or religious deeds. Just learning who you are, and who’s you are. I know this will help you.

  9. Beverly Jackson

    I am so sorry to bother you with this question, but I am a “senior citizen”, and proud to be and thank God for the years He has given me but sometimes I get confused with all the high tech symbols or usage you are suppose to do on the computer, I still like doing things for my self and learning different things but stubborn too toward some of the new age stuff,but real simple, may not mean much to nobody else but I do not tweet-pin or much of any of the other new age stuff but I like e-mail and print—-so where is the print page to print some of your readings, I do enjoy reading them and they really touch my heart but if its against your policy to print your readings, I will understand. Thank you for reading my comment. Be Blessed

    • Lysa TerKeurst

      Hi, sweet Beverly! You are not a bother at all! Someone from our team will be e-mailing you a reply today just in case you do not stop back by here. Since you are printing for your own personal reading, that is totally fine. One of the easiest ways to do that since you like email and print is to subscribe to this blog. Then you will get the posts delivered straight to your email address and you can print them from there. The button for subscribing is on the left side of the blog, under Lysa’s photo. 🙂 Hope this helps!

      So thankful you stopped by and commented! Much Love – LT Ministry Team

  10. Danielle

    So I apologize that this comment does not apply to this devotional but I know I need help. I am in need of help. I had read the Made to Crave book and completed the bible study about two years ago and it changed my life. It really helped me so much and changed my life. Now I find myself in a bad place with food again. I picked up the book and bible study again because I know this what I need to hear. But I admit that I am struggling mightily in this area. I feel that I am addiction to sugar and unhealthy food and that it has a hold on me. I have a hard time concentrating and focusing on the other things I am supposed to be doing because I am thinking about eating. I don’t know what else to do. I feel that this has a hold on me and I need help but I don’t know where to go or what to from here.

  11. gayle montiel

    Thank you Lysa, so much for your devotional on deep grief. It touched my heart and soul.You have such compassion, because the Lord has moved in your heart with love and comfort– somehow your words are so carefully penned. You put heart into this, and I could visualize your mother’s grief. A women in our Bible study just lost her daughter to ovarian cancer, and this devotional helped her and encouraged her. Thank you for your transparency and ability to use words so appropriately. Do not stop writing!! This is one of the gifts that the Lord so preciously gave you. The Woman of God in this generation have benefited dearly from you, your staff at Proverbs 31, and the books which have so mentored us. Thank you

  12. Marcella

    Wow Lysa you described my feelings to a T. When our son passed at the age of 4 we were beyond devastation. Guilt of everything I felt a
    I had done wrong as a Mother. God took him back because I was not a good Mom. I couldn’t allow myself to grieve, I had a 10 month old to care for. So my baby became my reason for living. When he left home, married and had children, I still had the need for him to make me ok. It didn’t work. I lost me in 1985 and I’m still trying to figure out who I am. We didn’t have the food coming in or the support of anyone else. We at 26 had to figure out how to live and function as parents, spouses, employees and friends. Family even didn’t speak of him. And the biggest problem I faced is that after losing our son, my family still weren’t valuing their children. I couldn’t stand to be around anyone who took their children for granitic. I now share about our son and losing him but it took 29 years. His birthday is in a few weeks and I’m feeling the deep loss right now. I know my God, and I hear his voice. But still the sorrow comes. I have the desire to help others going down this same path as well as families with sick children. Thanks for your timely post.

  13. Rob Cook

    I love listening to your blog on our local Christian radio station in Boise, ID. Today I finally came in and remembered to jump on the website. I came across this blog and fully intend to look at it in more detail shortly.
    I feel the need to just briefly share our story…
    Dec 5, 2013 approximately 15 minutes after my wife had put our youngest son, Daniel, on the bus (which was running 15-20 minutes late) to school we received a phone call from a family friend inquiring about a crash between a school bus and dump truck on the corner near our home. I opened the door and saw emergency lights extending from all four directions at the intersection. We quickly drove down to the scene…after what seemed like forever, we were informed that Daniel had indeed died in the crash….yes, we know grief that redefines a person and forever changes them. I still cry quite a bit and I’m a 50 yr. old former Marine, ex-biker and trouble-maker….but I am Daniel’s dad…that boy and I did a lot of things together. One of my most cherished photos of him I took on our very last fishing trip 🙁
    I know that Heavenly Father has a plan! I know that Daniel lives even as we speak. I just can’t hug him right now…I know that I have the opportunity to be with him again to never be separated. And I know….I KNOW WITH ALL MY BEING that because of the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I will see my “Boy” in the flesh again!!!
    That being said, there are still times it gets very hard to do anything through the tears . I lost my job of almost 12 yrs because the rough and tumble guys that I worked with thought that a year should have been sufficient time to “get over it’…we won’t even go there.
    I have a renewed desire to reach out and bless the lives of others. Particularly families who lose children. We have met so many. It is truly one of the most impenetrable bonds that can form between human beings…the pain, the anger, the confusion, the fog, the emptiness that swirls in alternating fashion not knowing which is going to beg and demand time and energy at any given point day or night.
    Thank you Lysa…thank you and much love, hugs and prayers to ALL who pass through this pain…
    I miss my “Boy’ so much
    Rob. 4DC (or new family brand, it means “For Daniel Cook”.
    I will be praying for your full recovery my dear un-met friend 🙂

  14. Patricia

    My husband passed away 13 months ago while we were are vacation visiting family. It was hard to be away from home. It was hard to make that oh so difficult decision to removed the life support machines. I waited until the doctors said there was nothing more they could do, but it didn’t make it any easier. I came to the one year anniversary and thought things would get better. But after talking to a counselor on the phone, I came to realize it takes a much longer time….this grieving process. Right now, I write with tears streaming down my face, thinking I don’t know how I am going to get through this. It is by the Grace of God that I have made it this far. We were married for 46 years and oh so close. I try to be grateful for those years (knowing there are many who don’t have that much time together), but the pain is still there. I think I could sum it up by saying I feel stuck in the “shadow of death.” Lysa, thank you for sharing those heartfelt words about deep grief. I do have hope … I am just tired of such overwhelming sadness.

  15. Leisa

    Lydia, I have a friend going through such deep grief now. She and her daughter saw her husband and young son killed in an accident and now she has PTSD flashbacks several times a day. What can I pray? What can I do?

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