Posted by: rhenderson8110 | October 9, 2013

Godly Grieving

Friday is going to be rough. I just know it. Friday marks 5 years since I lost my dad to cancer right there, in our living room.  Some years it passes with nothing but a few tears and memories and other years the loss feels so sharp and fresh that it almost takes my breath away. This year I have felt the wave of sadness building since I got back from Alaska. Each day I glance at the calendar knowing that day is coming and feeling like I just might not be able to keep it together this time. But you know what, that’s okay. God didn’t call us to always ‘keep it together.’ He didn’t call us to not feel grief over loss. He didn’t call us to glaze over it and act like we’re fine. But I do believe He asks us to grieve in a godly way. Godly grieving is a topic I’ve thought about a lot. What is it? How do we do it? And in what ways is it different than grieving without faith? I think these are important questions and I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned to help me sort through and solidify it in my own mind before Friday.

I’m no expert ‘griever’ but I can tell you this- the first thing that comes to mind is that godly grieving involves honesty. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves about what we are feeling. For me, honesty involved allowing myself to cry. A lot. And in public sometimes. It’s glamorous, I know… but I believe in the power of being honest with God, telling Him how you feel and leaving it there with Him.  I was in college when Dad passed, which meant I had a full load of classes, a major office in my sorority and a hurting family to try to help through a difficult time. So you know what, whenever the grief or sadness or anger or confusion came over me- I cried. I let it wash all the way through me. And it was okay. People might look at you weird, maybe even stare but it is the most cleansing thing in the world. There may or may not have been a number of coats and sweaters that were taken to the dry cleaners later to clean the sleeves… and I may have been ‘that girl’ who was always crying in the coffee shop at Hillsdale College… but I also graduated from that college, on time, with a cleansed heart and a soul laid bare to God. No bitterness. No lingering anger. Just real, raw, daily intimacy and honesty with my God. Plus, it’s scriptural (which always helps validate my babbling :)): “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Ps. 126:5).
Godly Grieving
The second part of godly grieving is grieving with the end in mind. I realize I kind of stole that from Stephen Covey’s Habit, ‘Begin with the end in mind.’ But it’s not really plagiarism if you admit it… and change a few words, right? I believe it is completely normal and okay to sob. I mean really sob, like lose it for a minute or two. Sometimes life is hard and painful and cutting. The difference is that after the sting wears off we must remember the hope that we have. Paul says, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14) We are supposed to be sad when we lose someone… what we are not supposed to do is get lost in it. I am allowed to miss my Dad on Friday but it is not okay for me to become bitter because of my loss. God has given me hope! I will see him again someday! It is right to grieve over the things I will not get to share with him in this life. He wasn’t there to see me graduate, get married or buy my first house. He won’t be there when we have our first child and I can’t pick up the phone and ask for his advice or run into his arms for a hug. There is a hole in my life. It is important that I acknowledge the hole… and then continue living the rest of this life that God has given to me. I have hope and I cannot be so focused on what I don’t have that I miss out on everything I do have. As Job said, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)

The last thing I want to share today is that sometimes it is really hard to be joyful in the midst of great loss. But it’s really important to do it anyways. Something I think God is trying to teach me lately is that because joy is a fruit of the Spirit I must learn how to have it. It is not optional. When circumstances in life are difficult, it must come from within. More and more I am learning that joy is a choice. Sometimes it’s so easy I don’t even have to think about it- and other times I need to muster up the strength to put in a Brian Regan  comedy DVD and just laugh… even when I feel like crying. It’s choosing to write someone a card when you feel low yourself. It’s choosing to get up and go for a walk instead of wallowing on the couch.  Take a lesson from the wisest man who ever lived when he says, “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Prov. 17:22) Sometimes it’s a battle but we must choose to be joyful.

Deep breath. Sometimes life is hard… but sometimes it’s really great too. I feel oddly prepared for Friday because I know in my heart that it’s okay to be sad and important to be grateful too. I will go to the cemetery on Friday and shed some tears. And then I will offer a prayer of thanks for the 20 years I had with him, get up and choose joy


“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” Rev. 21:4

Oh, and here is a link to Brian Regan- a clean comedian who has helped me laugh through seasons of sadness:



  1. Rachel, I am sorry that you have to go through that again…. I think your words are right on and something I’ve been learning too. I hope that Friday will bring you close to God, because in the tension that is the most healing thing that can happen. Kingdom come soon, so He can personally wipe away every tear! Love you.

    • Thanks Sarah, glad we are able to learn together 🙂

  2. Excellent post, Rachael. Next Tuesday will be 15 years since I lost my dad and this year’s (probably because I lost my mom a little over a year ago and as it’s sunk in that I’m physically parentless, there’s been a lot of sobbing on my end) tougher for me than some have been.

    Like you, I take all my tears to God and lay them at His feet and ask Him to fill that parenting void for me. Joy is a choice – a hard one – but it is one that we make remembering the promise of Revelation 21:4. May that day come quickly and may we all be there to see it!

    Prayers and hugs for you!


    • Hi Sandra, sorry to hear of your loss but as you said we are never alone! Thank you for your comment!

  3. You are an inspiration for others to keep going. I admire your resilience and your strength. I am sure your dad is very proud.

  4. Love you..and proud of you…and you know that already! You will be in my thoughts and prayers! 🙂

  5. The professor agrees choose Joy it is the only way. The ride of life has many bends and dips. Hang on in faith. Trust and obey for there’s no other
    way. Thank you for your post….

  6. Rachel,

    I’m so sorry that the precious time with your Dad was cut short.

    And I also thank you for being vulnerable enough to share what you are learning through this painful day every year. You are an honor to your physical father, as well as to your heavenly Father because you give Him glory in all things and you’re always pointing us back to Him.

    It’s wonderful that you share the gift of writing that God has blessed you with to encourage others.


    • Thanks Anna, I appreciate your comment. My time with him was short but sweet 🙂

  7. Thanks for the cleansing cry:) Love you! Aunt Sarah

  8. Excuse me while I bawl through your whole article! 😉 I definitely agree with you on the honesty thing with God–even when you are angry, even when you are brokenhearted–He wants to hear your thoughts, wants you to talk with Him, just as if He were your physical Father. He will help you through it and heal you.

    I have reached many very low points in my life due to my health problems and have felt hundreds of times that I will never get better, never make it through, but I always SHARE those feelings with Him–I always let Him know what I need and how much I love Him, and I never allow myself to stay angry or bitter. The greatest trials are the greatest blessings, and they mean that He expects more of us, maybe, than of most people, but that it’s because He knows we are strong.

    I bawl every time I read that scripture in Job too, and I have several others that are slightly more specific to my health problems that I can barely read through the blurring of tears. Many hugs and prayers are with you this week, especially on Friday! Keep on doing this amazing work of yours. I’m sure your Dad would be very proud of your efforts! I never met him, but my Mom knew both of your parents back in the day, and she says your Dad was a real sweetheart. I can remember her telling us about it when he died, and how sad I felt for you, though we hadn’t been formally introduced, because you are even younger than me and I couldn’t imagine losing my Dad back then (or now, for that matter!). Hang in there, lady!

    • Aw, sorry I made you cry Nicole! At,east it’s cleansing, right?! 😉 thanks for your support and you will be in our prayers.

  9. Sweet Rachel….you indeed had a very exceptional dad…..his legacy lives on..every time I see you I am so drawn to your sweetness..I see him and hear him in you…. thank you for your tender words. Your dad would be so proud of you…and I am too. 😀

    • That is so sweet Wanda! I really appreciate that 🙂

  10. Rachel, I can certainly see the spirit of God working through you through this difficult time. I didn’t know your Dad, but I have heard many wonderful things about him. As Wanda has said, I can certainly see the giving and caring aspect of you that is exceptional, just as I’ve heard of your father. I’m sure he would be very proud of your humble attitude and loving ways, and someday he’ll tell you himself. There will be plenty of hugs then. Hang in there Sweetie. We’re all here if you need an ear, a shoulder to cry on or hugs. ❤

    • Thanks so much Mrs. Stewart for your kind words and support. I really enjoy writing and I’m so glad so many others are enjoying what I come up with too 🙂

  11. Rachel, once again I thank you for your Godly wisdom and perspective on grief. Unfortunately, when a loved one dies the death anniversary date is always so difficult. Anticipating the day is sometimes harder than the actual day. With God’s love and hope we are able to get through the day, no matter how we deal with it. It is His promises and His plan that give us the joy, knowing someday we all will see our loved ones again under better circumstances. And the joy you can have in your heart knowing your dad will be working with you! Until that day, may our Heavenly Father continue to bless you. Once again, I thank you for sharing your thoughts and commend your dad (mom too) for raising such a Godly daughter! 🙂

    • Thanks Mrs. Beadle! I know I have a lot of support and I am so thankful for that. Hopefully writing this makes others in a similar boat feel like they are not alone too. Thanks for your support!

  12. I love you and have thought all week about those last few weeks and all the memories and details. In those dark moments, remind yourself how happy and proud he will be of you and your choices. With all my love, Connie

    • Thanks Connie, I’m so glad we went through that together 🙂 Love you too!

  13. Rachel that was wonderful! Your dad was a wonderful person and he raised you to be a wonderful woman! I am thinking about you and you are always in my prayers! I love you sweetie!

    • Thanks Kris, He was pretty great, wasn’t he? 🙂

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