Christian Living,  Life Stories/Lessons,  Wrestling Through Series

Living in the Reality of Grief and the Promise of Hope

With arthritic hands, my mom sewed this for me on my last birthday we shared together.

I can lose track of the days easily at times. It seems like I constantly find myself wondering how a new month has already begun. Most days simply run together through the rhythm of monotony and routine.

Except days like May 5th.

No, certain seasons of grief don’t sneak up on me. Whether I am aware or not, something in me senses the arrival of memories gone by. It’s a visceral knowing that shifts my mood and behaviors.

This May 5th marks four years since my mother took her last breath entering the presence of her Savior.

I find myself shocked that I have lived without her this long. There were times before she passed that I thought losing her would be impossible to bear. I wrestled with God weekly back then to heal her after spending so much time watching her struggle to breathe and deal with pain.

And here I am. Being held. Experiencing joy. Still grieving her absence in our family’s growing life.

“I understand what the Apostle Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (ESV): “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

The past few nights I have felt afflicted yet not crushed.

I have felt struck down, but not destroyed.

Because as strong as I would like to think I am – or have everyone think I am – I am awakened in the night with traumatic images of those last days. I have cried in my dreams as the memories barge into my shallow sleep. They come uninvited, and I have to fight in prayer for them to flee.

This last week, I have cried in the card aisle at Walgreens upon seeing rows and rows of sentimental, sappy, and funny Mother’s Day cards.

I have cried at the sight of a bag of Twizzlers on the Hy-Vee endcap picturing my mom nibbling on one of her favorite snacks.

I have found myself berating my inability to control my grief and apologizing to others for exposing the waves of grief that continue to ebb and flow deep within.

Why? Because grief makes me uncomfortable. Diverted eyes and soft pats on the shoulder show equal discomfort in others. It’s awkward, foreign territory for humans. We were never designed to experience this kind of pain. God tried to protect us from it through the boundaries set for those He created, loved, and called good.

Grief was never God’s intention for us. Death wasn’t supposed to be our story.

And I wrestle through the best I can, feeling God expand my capacity to hold both truths of earthly sorrow and saving faith and joy in Christ.

I know the truth and the promise, and I cling to it for my life and peace. I know the truth, but I don’t always like the truth. That is my frustration.

Jesus never scolds me for my tears. Instead, He offers comfort through the Spirit. He captures them, sharing in the pain that caused each one. I never have to fear Him adverting His eyes.

I am known and seen and deeply loved as one of His own. I thank Him for this on repeat.

I don’t know if my mom realized how one word, hope, written in fabric marker on a handsewn pillow would allow me to wrestle from a place of rest, but I am glad she made the effort to leave a legacy of faith and love. It’s a reminder that small acts of love really do have eternal rewards. They matter so very much.

A rare appearance from mom on a Thanksgiving at my house years ago.

I don’t share my journey through loss for any reason other than to help someone else move out of the shadows into the light. Whether we see it now or not, there is always light. Christ, THE LIGHT, is never swallowed in darkness. Reach out to Him. And then try reaching out to someone who looks like Him with skin on – we are meant to enter into each other’s grief and joy – to walk together towards our eternal home – persevering until “one day” comes. I don’t have all the answers and only God can heal our deepest wounds, but I also know that we must partner with the Spirit to live this out in practical ways. These are some of my habits for dealing with the roughest of seasons of grief. Yours may look different, but if we aren’t finding rest in our wrestling through the presence of Christ, we need to reassess the health of our grieving process.

5 Ways I Rest in Christ Through the Wrestling of Grief:

  1. I don’t hide my honest feelings, but offer them to God in whatever way they come out.
  2. I pray for the Spirit to renew and refresh my spirit with truth that may be clouded by life’s disappointments.
  3. I pray through Scripture as I read it, looking for actionable steps to walk in truth.
  4. I share my pain with trusted family and friends ( and today all who read here ). As I do, I feel their love given through their own pain, and I am strengthened in the unity of our suffering.
  5. I remember the faithfulness and goodness of God as defined in Scripture. What has He promised to be faithful in? He has promised to save, confirm, establish, keep…justification…salvation…inheritance…Spirit…fruits…rewards for persevering to the end…to never leave nor forsake…to forgive when we humbly ask…to be found in our seeking…to these ends He is always good to keep His promises.

5 Ways I Practically Rest and Hold Tight to Hope:

  1. I privately journal the gritty details and write generally to encourage other hurting believers.
  2. I look for ways to “mother” myself, practicing gentleness to my body, mind, and soul. This includes keeping this day as open as possible to allow my emotions to ebb and flow. I buy myself flowers, eat my mom’s favorite snacks, and spend time with family.
  3. I make a plan to get out of bed by setting an appointment with someone I love. I open the windows and let the light in. I have a playlist that ministers to me in my lament, leading me back to joy.
  4. I visit my mom’s favorite vintage shop and buy something small she would have loved. I think of her smiling that big mischievous grin.
  5. I tell God what I wish I had said to her that I forgot to say. Then I release it and listen to old phone messages where she repeatedly says, “It’s mom. Just checking in on you guys. I’ll talk to you later. Love you. Bye.” And I rest in the knowledge that everything that mattered was said, and again I find peace.

Be well, friends. Be honest with God and others about any pain you bear. Ask God to expand your capacity for living in the tension of sorrow and joy. He will be faithful because He desires each of us to grow closer to His likeness and find rest in Him. It’s not a one time drawing near but a lifetime of turning to face the Son.

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14 Comments

  • Stacey Pardoe

    Terri, this touched my heart in the deepest place. Thank you for your openness and your willingness to use your grief to minister to others. This is thoughtful, practical, and points us back to the hope we have in Christ. I pray blessings over you and over your journey and for God’s comfort to surround you this week and through the weekend…

    • terriprahl

      My hope is always to point us to the hope of Christ. Glad that was evident. Thank you for your kind reply. πŸ’›

      • Patti Burkett

        What a beautiful pillow and picture of you and your mom. Yet I know all to well that those certainly aren’t enough. As you say, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. My parents have both been gone for way too many years and I don’t think you ever really get over it. It does get easier. Thank you for the practical tips that point us straight to the heart of Jesus. If it weren’t for him…May God bless you with an abundance of his peace and comfort this weekend!

        • terriprahl

          Thank you. Heavy grief grows more infrequent as the years go by. I’m thankful for that. I appreciate your comment.πŸ’›

  • Elizabeth A Berget

    This was really beautiful. I’m so sorry for your loss! Your mom sounds lovely. The idea that we can mother ourselves during hard seasons really stood out to me, and isn’t it something how our bodies keep track of these significant dates, how big feelings can sneak up on us around these hard anniversaries! Grace to you as you navigate this season!

  • Lisa Blair

    It’s the little things that are the big things, Terri, “I am glad she made the effort to leave a legacy of faith and love. It’s a reminder that small acts of love really do have eternal rewards. They matter so very much.” I pray you continue to know His comforting arms about you as you grieve the loss of your mother’s presence here on earth.

    • terriprahl

      Yes, it’s a rhythm of feeling, expressing our frustrations to God, slowly wrestling through the thoughts and memories, and then resting in the promises of God and finding joy in the good memories we hold. Thank you for reading!

  • Ufuoma

    “I don’t know if my mom realized how one word, hope, written in fabric marker on a handsewn pillow would allow me to wrestle from a place of rest, but I am glad she made the effort to leave a legacy of faith and love. It’s a reminder that small acts of love really do have eternal rewards.” Those words are so touching. Thank you for being vulnerable and open and for the tips to walk through. Sending you hugs.

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