How To Bring Relief To Those Who Grieve

Jan 19, 2016

New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a celebration. A butt-kicking “goodbye” to the old year and raucous “hello” to the new one. After the year our family had, we were ready for both. So I prepared the food, pulled out the games and puzzles, and chilled sparkling cider to the delight of my children.

By dinner, however, I didn’t feel like celebrating. Instead, a powerful wave of mourning. I stared at a table filled with food my family would savor and I couldn’t enjoy, just one of too many losses.

And it hit me: Some losses I couldn’t leave behind this night. I’d carry them with me into 2016.

I tried to snap out of it, tried to put on a brave face. But by 9:30 pm, I’d made an art form out of feeling sorry for myself (trust me—I’ve become quite proficient at it). So with a quick “goodnight” to my loved ones, I climbed the stairs and crawled into my bed to the sounds of my family celebrating. I couldn’t bring myself to join the party.

Not long after, a friend commented on my ability to “shine” in spite of my unexpected losses. A kind word, I knew. One intended to encourage. But I wanted to disagree: If you only knew! 

If you only knew that many days I struggle to see this post-cancer life as a gift!

If you only knew that I still cry more days than I don’t!

If you only knew how often I fight the temptation to crawl in a corner and stop fighting for life!

While so many friends and family celebrate my survival, I watch their joy from a distance. Like New Year’s Eve, I hear the celebration from the dark of my room, unable to reach for it for myself.

But isn’t this what grief is all about? Isn’t this the expected aftermath of losses too big for bandaids and suckers? Like a street-level window display, those who grieve watch the light and life of passers-by from the inside. They see the smiles and laughter and sunshine, but don’t have a clue how to bridge the barrier and get to the other side.

Grief is ugly. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Let’s not attempt to package it into something more acceptable or attractive. Like the amputation of a limb, there’s no way to decorate what’s been lost. The loss must be seen. It must be reckoned with.

And yet, we rarely do. When we see the parents grieving their son, when we watch the woman mourn her marriage, when we get a glimpse of the depression and pain of those who daily fight some impossible battle, our inclination is to make the sadness go away. Grief’s carnage is tough to watch. It makes us uncomfortable, and we’ll go to great lengths to avoid being uncomfortable. So we do one of two things:

(1) We shrink back. We avoid extended conversations and connections, anything that would “bring us down.”

Or…

(2) We attempt to fix it. We quote verses and cliches, all while pointing to the reasons the mourner still has to be happy. We become Pollyanna’s determined to remind the one-armed woman she should be happy she still has another arm.

Let me be plain: We’re often more concerned about securing our own comfort than offering it to the one who needs it most. 

So how do we best walk with those who grieve? How do we overcome our biases and resistances to become deliverers of comfort? Here are some ways you and I can bring relief to those who grieve:

  1. Allow the grief. Yes, ALLOW IT. Take a deep breath and let it be what it is. Let it be ugly and unmanageable and unattractive. The loss is worthy of such.
  2. Anticipate internal resistance. Our survivor nature makes us shrink from suffering. And yet pain is one of life’s most valuable tools. Anticipate your resistance to it. Don’t be surprised. Then reframe how you see it. Pain is a profound teacher.
  3. Move closer. When we don’t know what to do or say, we walk away. Acknowledge this, and then do the opposite. Avoidance reeks of rejection. And rejection only complicates and extends grief.
  4. Ask questions. Then shut up. Yesterday, my brother called. Halfway through our conversation, he started asking me gut-deep, exploratory questions. “How are you coping with everything that’s happened? What’s it like spiritually to walk through the process? How is your faith different? What’s the hardest part?” He didn’t judge, didn’t correct, didn’t preach. Instead, he listened, processed, asked more questions. And his willingness to dive into the dark places with me moved me one step further in my process.
  5. Learn the art of empathy. Allow yourself to feel the loss, just a little bit. Like taking a trip together, allow yourself to travel down the emotional road of their experience, honoring the losses by being willing to feel a small portion of their pain. Yes, it will make you uncomfortable. Yes, you might even feel “blue” the rest of the afternoon. Remind yourself that’s merely the smallest fraction of the hell your friend endures.
  6. Allow ZERO judgment. To the drowning person, judgment acts like a 100-pound weight, pulling him under. I once had an online “supporter” rebuke my grief by telling me I should be thankful I’m not in a wheelchair. I have a friend who lost both her husband (to ALS) and daughter (to cancer) in the span of four months. It’s been two years, and she says people now comment she should be “further along.” A few weeks ago a friend told me she didn’t understand my sadness. “I thought you’d be grateful to be alive.” I am. Every day. But I can be sad, too.
  7. Commit to stick. Affirm your love. Reassure your steadfast presence. It could take years and hundreds of the same questions and conversations. That’s part of the process. Let them know you’re not put off by it. Try something like, “You can grieve as long as you need to. We can talk about this as much as necessary. You’ve earned it. And I’m not going anywhere.”

What has helped you in your season(s) of grief? 

 

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55 Comments

  1. Sandy

    There is so much truth here. I think authenticity is the key to moving on. Own that it sucks. Own that you’re sad. Own that your ticked off at God for not saving the day the way you wanted. God isn’t afraid of our anger or our emotions. He’ll meet you there. David spent a lot of time ranting at God for not saving the day and he was a man after God’s own heart.

    Reply
    • Melinda Chambers

      Hi Michele, I heard you this weekend at the Cowgirl gathering and we got to speak briefly Friday night. I shared a little bit with you about my journey too with Breast Cancer, near loss of my youngest son in a car accident; the clinical depression and disappearance of husband for several months; the death of my stepson and husband being their and pulling him from the grill of the drunk driver’s vehicle and just recently my Daddy’s sudden death.

      Journaling has helped me a lot and learning over the years that this life is a journey/pilgrimage and of course my relationship with Christ. Life can be bitter sweet and prepares us for our eternal lives. I know storms will come in life and sometimes it is hard not living life wondering what the next storm will bring. Just knowing we have God on our side is important.

      Thank you for being so transparent. My heart goes out to you and I admire you. I felt an immediate kinship with you and will be praying for you and keeping up with you through media, etc. God Bless you and your Family. I’m about to dive into your book and am looking forward to it.

      Reply
  2. Donna Mckenzie

    Before my son was diagnosed with a long term, terminal illness, I had no idea how much grieve is involved as I watch him slowly loose the ability to do the things he used to. He was diagnosed at age 5 with Duchenne Muscular dystrophy. He is now 18. It took me years to figure out that the emotional roller coaster i have been on is actually grief. I would be hard on myself thinking I wasn’t trusting God enough. Or not understanding why I was still struggling with his diagnosis, after all I had accepted it, right? Once I realized these emotions are actually grieving, then I could allow myself to feel them. and that its okay. I am not a bad person, or bad christian. I have been on the roller coaster for the past 13 years. Sometimes its the big losses that bring it on, sometimes its just a little normal everyday life thing that brings it. I don’t like it. I sucks! I wish i didn’t have to go through it but I know it is normal.
    “For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
    But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?
    How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      A Grief Observed is one of my most treasured books. And that quote? Profound. Painfully honest, refreshingly human. It IS a rollercoaster. Our faith somehow anchors us in the middle of it, keeping us from hopelessness. But it’s a rollercoaster just the same. Thank you, Donna, for bravely sharing a piece of your hard story. With you.

      Reply
  3. Susan Bailey

    Let me begin by saying that while I have experienced losses, they are not as profound as yours (at least to me). I lost both my parents (one quickly, the other over 7 long years) and after losing my mom in 2010, lost my singing voice (I’m a professional singer). Honestly I think I had more trouble with losing my voice than with anything else. I ran away from music as fast as I could and found myself deeply, yes DEEPLY resenting those that wanted to pull me back in, who didn’t take me seriously when I said I could no longer sing. I also resented the kind words and consolation offered by people who had enjoyed hearing me sing. It took a long time to understand what unearthed such an ungracious attitude on my part and I, like you, covered it up in an expert manner. But in private I cried that I no longer sing my favorite songs. Ever.

    In time my voice actually came back and I am singing again–that was a surprise! But it only served to remind me how capricious and mysterious and unpredictable grief is. Grief doesn’t care either if you are in front of people when it decides to hit – most difficult.

    So in short, your words really resonate. I got it all out of my system by writing a book (took two years, hard work!) and it was published. Sometimes I feel funny being so public with my grief journey but I hope it helps someone. But the ACT of writing it out, digging deep into the gut and pulling out the truth till it hurt, was the best therapy ever. And I know you know that.

    I hope 2016 will bring relief and I am glad you have your brother.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Writing has been extremely cathartic to me. It organizes the chaos into something a bit more understandable. Thank you for your insight, Susan!

      Reply
  4. Georgia Skiles

    My husband died in April of 2015. He had been disabled for about 20 years and died of “natural causes.” No disease – his body just wore out from pain and struggling with not being able to do anything. My son and daughter-in-law were tremendous support, especially through the last week of vigil. And friends. One thing I have learned over the years of being on the giving as well as the receiving end of grieving is that words really aren’t necessary. One friend/neighbor came over each evening about 9:00 and sat with my non-responsive husband so my son and I could get some rest. She stayed until 1:00 in the morning and went home. We didn’t sit and visit. She wasn’t company. She was just there. Another friend came over each day and just sat with us. Again, not company, just a presence who would do anything that might be needed or wanted, like running to get something for lunch when we were tired of the cold cuts in the refrigerator. The presence of a person who genuinely cares, doesn’t expect anything, just wants to be there to show their support was the biggest help and relief through that difficult time.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Georgia, I don’t think I knew your husband had died less than a year ago. I’m so sorry. Thank you for sharing what helped you in the process. Like you, I had a couple friends who sat with me. We didn’t talk or “do” anything. They just sat there, “keeping watch” in the suffering. To this day, it is one of the most precious gifts I was given during that season.

      Reply
    • Trish

      I lost a niece in June of last year ~ no warning ~ an aneurysm and she was gone. In August my oldest brother was called home and just two weeks later my next oldest brother. I was able to sit with them and their families during their last hours. Although there is never real closure ~ I was eased into their passing unlike my sweet niece. Looking back, it was my dear friends who made time to be with me that made the saddest summer of my life bearable. I am hoping that all of my grief will have made me a better friend and that I will be more attentive to the hurts and needs of those suffering losses. Please, God, let me be your hands and feet as I minister to the hurting.

      Reply
  5. Rayna

    Michele,
    Thank you for these seven things to do for and with those who are suffering! We all experience suffering in our lives but the magnitude of the loss can cause us to misstep when trying to love. I appreciate your vulnerability and willingness to take us along with you on this difficult journey.
    Blessings,
    Rayna

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      We have such good intentions. It’s hard to know what to do or say, isn’t it? Grief and comfort are complicated, to say the least.

      Reply
  6. Joni kreul

    After burying our 5 year old special needs, un-diagnosed child, Stephen, we found ourselves within a year and a half giving birth to our fifth child-with the same un diagnosed condition. We had twin two year olds and a 7 year old, we began again the years of severe disabilities and life threatening medical conditions. Our little Seth lived just shy of five years old. Grief, yes, total heart-wrenching grief that buried me for years. Many times of wanting to crawl under the covers and just escape, yet God reminded me that He was taking care of Stephen and Seth, my children here on earth needed me more. Some years I am not quite sure how I made it through, but I clung to God, His word and His promises. I found an excellent counselor who walked me through some very dark places. My faithful strong husband grieved in his own way, totally separate from me, yet we still clung to each other and our faith in Jesus’ understanding. Have learned I need more alone time than ever before in my life, disciplining myself to not escape to fiction books or numb myself through movies and tv, but to seek Him and His word to soothe the deep, painful ache of my soul. It has been nine years since we buried Seth, but I still walk with a huge limp. Many don’t understand or even want to go there with me. But along the way there have been the few that have shared the grief with me, some who have had deep pain themselves and others who have walked toward my pain. Though at the end it is just me and Jesus, oh, sweet Jesus who goes with me where none can follow.

    Thank you for your transparency and willingness to share in your pain. It has been a total blessing to me. Your book Undone really spoke to me. I have learned that though many of us go through great valleys, we can share our hope and our experiences and encourage each other.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Joni, I have no words. Your losses are profound. I want to just sit here and cry with you. Thank you for trusting us with your pain. You’re not alone.

      Reply
  7. Tracie Miles

    Michelle, this is such a beautiful post. So transparent and real and vulnerable and it spoke straight into my heart. Thanks for giving others the freedom to grieve over painful or difficult circumstances, no matter what they may be, and for the tips for helping those who are grieving. Praying for you as you enter this new year that God will restore all joy, peace and hope into your heart in more ways than you can imagine! Sweet blessings to you –

    Reply
  8. Steve

    Thanks, Michelle. These are very sensitive observations, obviously from the heart.

    GriefShare support groups are a helpful way to find comfort and healing after the death of a loved one. They are church-sponsored, and you can locate a group near you by searching at http://www.griefshare.org

    Steve Grissom
    Founder
    GriefShare

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Steve, I have great respect for your work with GriefShare. My mom lost my dad (after 46 years of marriage) quite quickly to pancreatic cancer August 2014. Two months later, she walked with me through cancer for the third time. GriefShare has been a huge part of her healing (The Crossing Church, Las Vegas, NV). I’m forever grateful.

      Reply
  9. Les Clairmont

    I think it would be easy to feel sorry for yourself after all you have been through. I’ve been thought a lot less and feel sorry for my self at times. When I think of you I think what a trooper, you stayed in touch with the world the whole time and nothing is braver than that. I think God knows we are fragile at best and give us permission to sulk a little so hang in there, you are loved by many including Patsy and I.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      We’re in this together, my friend. Different stories, same God, same hope. Love you both!

      Reply
  10. Patricia Walsh

    I lost my husband to cancer on Nov 7th. He was diagnosed and gone in 5 weeks. No chance to fight, just surrender. He was at total peace because of his blessed assurance. I have coped with the love and comfort of many amazing sisters in Christ. The don’t ask “how are you doing”, just love me and remind me I am loved. They invite me to join them for various events and don’t push me. I have days when everything makes me cry, and other days I just talk to the love of my life. After 45 years of loving my Fred, I feel so blessed to have had such an amazing marriage, delightful children and grandchildren, and the deep knowledge that even though I walk this lonesome valley I am never alone; Christ is walking it with me all the way to eternity. Thanks for your article! I love reading TRUTH.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Oh, Patricia. I love that you both experienced such peace. I hate that you have to live without him. Next time you see your incredible girlfriends, hug them for me and tell them “Thank you!” A true gift.

      Reply
  11. Irene Sheppard

    Michele,
    Thank you for your honesty. Your words are providing much healing to many !
    You pour yourself out in such a beautiful and powerful way. We are separated by many miles, however my heart feels so close to yours. You are amazing! I really enjoyed your book…just an FYI.

    Blessings and hugs.
    Irene

    Reply
  12. Donna Galli

    Dearest Michele, Thank you for your open, honest and raw emotion. I am always afraid of saying the wrong things and not knowing what to do to help in times of need without being a hindrance. Thank you for your honest response to your situation. It allows me to take a small walk in your shoes and see where a friend or love one can minister without judgement but with total compassion and love. God gave us our emotions, they are a gift to walk through and draw closer. Love you Michele.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Me too, Donna. Me, too. If you only knew how many times I’ve said the wrong thing! Even still. But we keep trying, keep learning. You have such a beautiful, tender heart for others. I know those around you see that and treasure it as well. <3

      Reply
  13. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    To be honest, Michele, you have been the one that has helped me in this season of grief the most. I have been given permission (by your writing) to feel what I feel, and some days that’s not very grateful. The loss of the life I lived before brain surgery was something I fought against. I tried not to grieve, to not feel ungrateful for my life. Then I lost my beloved dog. Loss suddenly caught up with me. Losing Emma reminded me of all the other losses I have had (my brother, my father, my mother, my grandparents, etc.). I suddenly felt like life is lasting too long. I wanted to go “home.” But…because of Jesus, and because of my experience of Him,I know. I know He will heal this grief in time. I know I will once again be grateful for my life. I know you will too…but in the meantime…we grieve. And we need people to give us all the time we need.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      It’s been an honor to walk this journey together.

      Reply
  14. Rcarr

    I lost both my children within a 3-year time frame, one in a fatal MVA and the other to suicide. I know people mean well with their comments. The emotional pain was so great, the worst pain I’ve EVER experienced. I needed a mental break. People giving me their condolences even after a period of time just brought all the pain back. I wanted to see people but from a distance. I didn’t want to interact with them. I didn’t want to be alone either. I didn’t want a ‘pity party’ from anyone. I wanted them to carry on normally but with me in the shadows. I finally made it through the worst part and now have learned to avoid things that trigger my grief. I’ve learned to get back into the public view a step at a time. There is no time frame for grief. Everyone grieves differently, but the pain is just as real.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      My friend, my heart breaks at your hard story. Too much loss. You have every reason to grieve, and I’d imagine a part of you will grieve for your lifetime. As you said, there is no time line. We walk it, one step at a time. With you.

      Reply
  15. Denise Rezsonya

    Beautiful, Michelle! As always, you continue to inspire me with your raw truth. Thank you, my friend!

    Reply
  16. Pat Layton

    I love and adore you!!
    xoxox
    Pat

    Reply
  17. Shelly Faust

    Such a beautiful post. Thank you for opening this conversation and reaching out to others even in the midst of your own suffering. Your words are a blessing.

    Reply
  18. Jackie

    Michele, While your post revolves around helping those who are grieving, I realized that I have not accepted or allowed grieving in my own life regarding an ongoing loss I’ve faced for several years now. When I’m with others I turn the situation around to the positive and refuse to allow it to beat me. In doing so, though, as I read your post, I’m not allowing God to help in a process I must go through. It’s made me realize that I’ve been avoiding it at all costs and refusing to accept that it may be what God has for me for the long term. I guess I have some hard work ahead of me. Thank you for your transparency and allowing others into your life as you journey with God.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Such profound introspection, Jackie! Inspiring. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Reply
  19. Tiffany

    Thank you Michelle for sharing your heart. You and I both did cancer last year. Our situation and circumstance are way different but I feel very connected to you. I listen to the podcasts with Michael Hyatt while I run and as much as I love the content I love listening to you more. Every time I hear your voice it gives me courage and strength.

    I have grieved before, but not like this. I love that God is using you to explain to me what is happening in my heart and that it’s ok. The before cancer me was very gregarious, loud, chatty, full of life and didn’t know a stranger. I am getting more glimpses of that person as time passes but honestly most of the time I just want to hide. I am in the hair grow out phase that makes me look like either a man or a lesbian. Which considering the alternative its fine, but still not fun.

    Grief is very difficult to understand or explain to anyone. I just kept thinking that all my tears were from the lack of estrogen in my system. As I continue on my path I also have two friends that lost their spouses suddenly last year, so your words help me to better help them as well.

    Thank you for being honest and for putting yourself out there for those of us who really need to know that its ok to be right where we’re at.

    Have a beautiful day and prayers for you son as he’s off on his 1st great adventure.

    Tiffany

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      “It’s okay to be right where we are.” Such beautiful words. I exhaled as I read them. I know you KNOW, Tiffany. Like you, I’ve grieved before, but never like this. This is different. I still don’t have it figured out, but I’m learning to trust it, live with it. For now. So honored to share this intersection of our stories together.

      Reply
  20. Lisa

    Lost my son 5 years ago and would not have survived it had I not started celebrating him through cooking and blogging. Grief has a beginning, but no end.

    Reply
  21. Katrina

    I appreciate you including things other than death in your grief post. For the last 3 years I have struggled daily with the fact that very few people understand my grief. I now better understand how much people can grieve when they lose something even when it doesn’t involve death. We lost a child when I was 6 months pregnant. It was a difficult year for us but there were so many people around me who understood that kind of grief. They still would say the well intended cliche phrases that make us cringe but I knew in their hearts they somewhat understood and where just trying to be helpful.

    But losing a child that didn’t die has been the hardest thing in my life. Losing a child that will forever grow up in an orphanage due to stupid politics is something I have struggled to come to terms with. For 2 years we had tried to adopt a little girl from Russia. The little girl was 5 years old when we started the adoption process and she has Down syndrome. It took us over a year to be able to go and meet her and when we did we fell in love. She was our daughter just as much as our biological boys were ours and just as much as our daughter adopted from foster care was ours. Not for one moment did we think “we will only consider her our daughter once she is finally home with us”. Back then Russia required 3 trips to finish the adoption process. We were getting ready for trip two when we woke up on her birthday in December 2012 and were in shock to find out Russia banned all Americans from adopting including those who had already met and bonded with children.

    For 3 long years I have continued to fight to get these children home. I have flown back to Russia to be in documentaries and beg someone in Russia to adopt this little girl so she can home a family instead of growing up in an orphanage. The thought of her never knowing the love of a family breaks my heart. But all my efforts have failed. Yet I still continue to try and have hope. Sometimes it is the fact that there is still a tiny glimmer of hope that she could finally come home that hurts the most. Because with God nothing is impossible. But what is God’s will?

    I have had some of the cruelest comments made to me during this journey. Comments like “Why don’t you just adopt from somewhere else?” “You really should only adopted from the US. We have enough of our OWN orphans.” “Are you Still trying to adopt that little retarded girl?” “You only spent 3 days with her. How could you be that attached?” “You should be grateful you were at least allowed to adopt your daughter from foster care and you have biological children. Some people have none.”

    To me, there is nothing worse than being told you have no right to grieve. One of the things I have learned from this journey is not to judge anyone else as they grieve. People grieve for all sorts of reasons.

    I would love to just get over this. I would love to not feel like there is a huge hole in my heart. But the truth is, for me, the hole will always be there. The child I love will be forced to grow up in an orphanage while very few people will even care.

    As I encounter people who are grieving I will strive to do better to be more empathetic to them. Because I now realize how very painful it is to have someone not understand why you are grieving.

    Thank you again for your suggestions and sharing your story. I hope it will help many others realize how to help someone who is grieving.

    Reply
  22. Bruce

    Thanks for being so very real. You are more than an encouragement to those who read, including me!

    Reply
  23. Anna

    As I have aged I have noticed that the grieving process, what works and what doesn’t, has changed. It takes a little bit longer to become aware of what needs attention, acceptance, and action. Be kind and gentle to yourself is a helpful perspective to have when grieving.

    Reply
  24. Pam

    This is such a wonderful guideline. Like many, I have and continue to grieve for my Dad and especially my Sister. And even though you are familiar with the emotions, it is so hard to know how best to help others. Sometimes the best you can do is just BE THERE!

    Reply
  25. Kayleen

    Sometimes there’s grief from loss of a dream. It has become evident over the past several years that I will never be a grandmother. That has been the hardest realization I’ve ever had to handle. It’s not a death of a ‘real’ person but all of the little ones I had always imagined I would cuddle and be so thrilled to spoil and bring to Jesus. It helped to read Carol Kent’s book, When I Lay My Isaac Down. It’s hard to see what good this will ever accomplish, but I’m pressing on with a sacrifice of praise.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Kayleen, you’re absolutely right. Your grief is just as real and valid as any other loss. It’s huge, and my heart aches with yours. Thank you for shedding light out the losses that so many don’t see.

      Reply
  26. skipprichard1

    Great tips, Michele. I agree and see people try to fix things. When I ask you to describe someone who did it “right” I bet you can picture their facial expressions versus someone who didn’t. It’s in that moment you really see the person’s intention – and often saying nothing is best. When true and pure empathy is expressed, it’s amazing what healing it brings.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Well said, Skip. And you’re correct … you can see intention so clearly on the face. The face of true empathy often mirrors your own emotions.

      Reply
  27. Leigh Ellen Rodriguez

    When my 17 year old son, Mark, was shot in May 2014, the thing that helped me most was the consistent presence of a few friends. In the big events and the mundane they were there. They weren’t afraid to sit with me when I pulled out his Christmas stocking that first year. They also just walked through Target with me while I ran errands to buffer me from curious acquaintances. They even organized my food containers! They would simply ask, “What do you most need today?” and then were wise enough to offer a few suggestions. I was and am blessed with a community that has taught me how to love better.

    Reply
  28. Mary Gilzean

    Michele, I lead a book club and was so grateful to have stumbled acrossed your book in November. What a gift! It’s so packed with insight that we actually divided our discussion into TWO monthly gatherings. After reading Undone, following your blog, and listening to a few podcasts, I feel as if I’ve made a new friend. Thank you for sharing your story with such honesty and transparency. In light of all the previous comments, it’s clear that we can grieve many things at various times in our lives. The loss of loved ones, health, unfulfilled dreams, etc. Because we live in a fallen world, the list of things that can bring heartache is endless. God is our only constant. I take such comfort in his name, I AM. Today, my “undone” life involves a 25-year-old son who just moved back home last August after graduating college, working a few months doing computer programming and then suddenly quitting his job and retreating from life. After years and raising four kids, I was an empty nester for about 5 minutes! It appears that our son has a severe mental illness that is causing profound anxiety/depression/paranoia/agoraphobia. Despite medication, it’s been months of watching him crawl deeper and deeper into a hole that no one can seem to pull him out of. I realized today that I’m grieving, too. His condition is certainly a very unexpected turn of events. I have no idea how God is going to finish his story. Meanwhile, I pray. I wait. I let go. And I’m grateful for books and blogs and other brothers and sisters in Christ who dialogue about real things with real truth. Bless you!

    Reply
  29. Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet

    Dear sister, I also know these feelings all too well. I wish I could reach through the computer screen and give you a big hug right now and tell you, “I understand. I know what you are going through!!” I think one of the hardest things about grieving is feeling like we are all alone in the process. SO many times people will also say to me, “you’re so brave and courageous,” and I can only think (just like you) “IF YOU ONLY KNEW!!!” I love your tips and I know they are going to help so many people. Looking forward to connecting over the phone soon. Take care, friend.

    Reply
  30. Lorraine Gohr

    Michelle , u were wonderful in Tyler …. Almost done w ‘Undone ‘ – u r as great a writer as speaker . Just read today’s devotion in ‘ Our Daily Bread ‘ ( 1-26-16 ) and thought of you…may you feel His presence strongly .

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you, Lorraine! Loved being with you in Tyler.

      Reply
  31. Rita Manzella

    Thank you for an outstanding article and a great reference point for both the grieving and the supporters of people we love.

    Reply
  32. Effie Darlene Barba

    Grief, sorrow, trial after trial pulling and stretching at my heart. All the scars, both physical and inside–Maybe the aloneness of my life has been a good thing after all. Alone with God. There was I timed I yearned for someone special to love me or be there–then I realized that someone has always been there. He holds me in the darkest of nights. Then, I am able to awaken once more with joy–give and receive the love of my children and grandchildren–share in their joy. Really share in that Joy. Through all the years of pain, sorrow and grief–there remained the smoldering embers of God’s Joy surrounded by the ashes of my foolish desires. One day, I awoke and realized my greatest love, my greatest treasure, and my greatest Joy is found Only In Christ. Those smoldering embers burst into flames of great joy. That is why I write so much. I want to let every hurting soul know–just a little while, one more day–one foot in front of the other: those embers will burst once more into flames of joy–maybe that day will be today. In Christ, we have everything we need. Until that Joy returns full force–I would gladly sit quietly by your side and feel your sorrow with you so you are not alone.

    Reply
  33. Effie Darlene Barba

    Out of the Darkness, I hear Your Love Song

    By Effie Darlene Barba

    I gazed at the world, such sorrows abound

    The tragedies, trials which seem to surround

    I looked deep in my heart where sadness I found

    From foolish desires and dreams so profound

    Like smoldering flames upon desert ground

    That burned into ashes and scattered around

    I whispered then softly a cry with a prayer

    A plea sent resounding throughout the night air

    “Forgive me, I know this foolish heart of mine

    Sometimes does tend to moan and to whine

    I truly do wish my heart could be free

    To Love you, My Lord as You have loved me.”

    I did not then wait to hear your reply

    As off to my bed I did go with a sigh

    Then Out of the darkness I hear your love song

    Erasing my sorrows from all I’ve done wrong

    Enwrapped by your presence I know I belong

    My frail, broken heart began beating so strong

    For You are the Joy for which I so long

    “Oh love of my life, stay here by my side

    My Savior, My Lord in your grace I abide

    Lying here in my bed, tightly tucked in your arms

    I drift back to sleep safe from all of life’s harms”

    And then I awake, to face a brand new day

    Restored by your love, I bow down to pray

    “Oh let my life song be a tribute to you

    A light in the darkness the world now to view

    How your Mercy and Grace did my heart now renew

    From the ashes of sorrow, a garden you grew

    Like Rivers and fountains of Joy in my heart

    Bringing life to this desert-a fresh brand new start

    Oh, Thank You dear Lord for all that you’ve done

    But mostly I thank you for Your Precious Son.

    The perfect reflection of all that you are

    My Savior, My King, My Bright Morning Star”

    Reply
  34. Jana Bresenden

    Thank you Michelle, for not only sharing your story but for the helpful instructions to those who love those who are grieving. I lost my husband to brain cancer several years ago. We were both 37, with three small kids at home 7 and under. Though I wouldn’t wish that suffering on anyone, we (who were already crazy in love and wild adventurers) grew even closer and felt more ALIVE during that time than we ever thought possible. So much beautiful grace. I made a casual comment to a friend at that time that most of my Christian friends said they would pray for me. My non-religious friends would come over. They brought food. Toys for the kids. Bottles of wine. =)

    The point is, when someone is hurting that deeply there are no words. There’s no magic formula. Really. The only thing to do and the best gift you can give is your presence. Just BE there. That’s what a hurting heart really needs. Company. Thank you for reminding us. <3

    Reply
  35. Linda

    I lost my husband on June 21, 2016. He suffered a sudden cardiac event and died within minutes. He was home alone while I was at work and was not found for hours. We were looking forward to the summer, had just returned from a camping trip, and were expecting a new grandchild in just a few months. I have been seeing a grief counselor, and have lots of friends – some who will engage in talking with me, asking how I am doing, and others who avoid the topic. I feel very fortunate to have these supports but no one, no one, knows the depth of my loss and what it means to me to be without my lifemate and partner of 35 years. Even I don’t know the full depth of it. I’ve learned this journey is full of unknowns and that is scary. I talk to him all the time – silently, and in writing – because I cannot fathom a world without him in it.

    Reply

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