Where to Go with Our Grief

Nana squirted the colors out on white paper plates, four small mounds. Fingers dip in, tentative at first. “This is your sad page. Madeline,” mom explains, “draw your feeling.  It doesn’t have to be a picture, just paint how you feel onto the paper.”

“I left my friends,” she whispers low blue mixing with yellow then mixing again with red swirling brown, black, red in round motions.  “I miss Shawn…and my church…and my friends.” Her hands slide round and round and round covering up the interior white.

Yesterday she scrawled the names of each of her classmates on small slips of paper, zipped them in a small pouch as if she was afraid she would lose them. She kept taking them out one at a time to look at them, whisper their names to us, tell us their stories.

Then Madeline explained to little brother in her teacher voice, “You don’t have to make a picture, Xavi, just a feeling. How do you feel?”


On the top we labeled the obvious: SAD. Then we closed our eyes, used the imagination to hand our pictures to Jesus waiting for us, open hands.  Madeline shared that Jesus was holding her close, his arms across her chest while she talked with Him about what her picture meant. We watched her motion with her hands, gave Him her blended lament.

He alone knows what to do when our hearts bleed raw. He holds our tears close to His heart…longs to someday wipe them away for good.

My heart weeps as I watch and tears stream and I turn towards window looking over the backyard to wipe.  And if I feel their pain raw, oh how He must feel as He watches, as He carries our grief, eats the bread of our sorrow, always present, the empathetic witness. Surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows.(Isaiah 53:4)

And He still wants to carry our pain, but do we remember to hand the heavy over?

I carried Xavier, full body like superman to the sink, arms out, fingers shot straight. I pushed up the faucet and he watched the colors run together and swirl in the bottom of the sink.

“Look, clean mama!” We clapped at the empty, clean, pure, then his eyes turn away and with mischievous grin he flicked his fingers into my face, giggled.

Mom deals out a new empty sheet: “Here is your happy paper. What are you thankful for today, Xavier?”

“Nana, nana, nana!” he yells, bouncing up and down on the wooden barstool.

And you friend, are you carrying grief that needs to be lamented and handed over to your Abba?

And these are thanksgivings lifted up because He is so good and always giving:

1. Barnes and Noble Sunday afternoon and inspiration that keeps me from sleep

2. Cupping children’s faces in my hands in the early morning, morning breath stale

3. My parents huge house where we all spread out on three floors,

4. Ikea wanderings with my mom, changing shoes halfway through, sharing the same size,

5. Not being jealous of the mother/daughter shoppers giggling in back of us because we had been having our own giggle feast for hours,

6. Children bursting into the house, throwing off bathing suits and running through the house naked,

7. Good Samaritan, Paoli. Raising our hands to praise after Elijah from Mendelsohn had been sung artfully,

8. The hills, singing green, trees full, pregnant

9. Stone farmhouses, red barns, meandering lanes

10. New friends with depth and eyes that light up when I mention “Alexander Schmemann.”

And I love sharing these with the insightful Ann Voskamp at her site: www.aholyexperience.com and the lovely Laura Boggess at www.lauraboggess.com and of course Jen, always full of humor and raw vulnerability at www.findingheaventoday.com .

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  1. I don’t know you and your family’s story, but it sounds as if you are in a painful transition. I’m so glad that you’re giving your children opportunities to express their grief. And I love, love, love how you’ve taught them to hand over their grief to our Savior. He’s waiting to comfort us, isn’t He? This really stirred me, my friend. I’m praying for you and your sweet family that you’ll feel God’s nearness and comfort throughout this painful transition and loss.

    1. Beth, thank you for your prayers. We feel ourselves on a bumper cars of sorts with joy one moment, a bit directionless and other days with a serious case of whiplash.

  2. Thank you for this! My family is moving as my husband has been appointed to another church and it’s so hard to explain to others who are not in this situation what it is like. Our children are 8 and 3 and our 8 yr old is doing ok but we move this weekend so I may try this activity with her. P.S. We are neighbors and good friends of your cousin Tim in NY. His wife actually sent me the link. I’m so glad she did!

  3. What an amazingly creative ways to help children express their feelings. We are experiencing some major transitions in our life and my 7 y/o is very artistic – this would be a great way to help her show her feelings and then to trust God with them. Thank you for sharing!

  4. We moved a few years ago – God brought us back “home” but we were all broken by the move, the boys missing their friends, their church, their home – but God provides – it’s a process, a trusting – praying for you guys in your transition:) I love your project, that you let them address their feelings like that!

  5. What a blessing you are to your hurting family. I love how you had the children let their sadness flow out upon the page, and then hand it over to Jesus. Just a beautiful image!

  6. What a beautiful moment shared between three generations! So grateful that your transition has allowed us to become friends today and meet in person!

    1. Thanks Annette for easy conversation shared, hospitality and those amazing zucchini muffins! You are an oasis of friendship in the midst of this transition!

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