Articles on grief

Pain Doesn’t Ask Permission

Pain doesn’t ask Permission:

But we can lift each other up through it

Counselor Julie Hull is a mental health professional who serves as an advisor and contributor for LifeSupport. At the beginning of the covid pandemic in the Spring of 2020, Julie wrote this article that will always be helpful for those who are struggling with life or wrestling with God.

Compounded Grief

We don’t always experience life the way we think we should, or the way we expect it should be. Each one of us at one time may have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Many of the people and families we sit next to in church are hurting and feeling lonely and quite possibly could be struggling with depression and anxiety.

Especially now, I know I have seen an increase in my counseling practice for extra support around the community grief and loss of the Pandemic that we all are feeling to some extent. We have compounded grief ourselves and many of us are serving those who have trauma or loss and that is on their minds on a daily basis. It can be overwhelming.

All of us are in different places in our lives and different seasons, and if you are currently in a season of pain this may be hard to understand or even see right now, but God has shown me that there can be joy and even purpose in our pain. I became a widow when my youngest son was 12, my husband died from a rare form of lung cancer. That has been a few years now and I am finding my way along in my own story and it takes time and it is teaching me how to stand with others in pain.

The Journey Into Pain

I found myself once again in that hard place, last year when my sister died. Our church and our family had been praying for a miracle and at the same time holding the information that the recent diagnosis was stage 4 cancer. Her medical prognosis was not favorable and she had limited treatment options.

I was the one who had to deliver that news to her when she woke up from surgery, it was gut-­‐wrenching for me and yet I was very calm and she was calm after hearing this very hard news. That can only be explained because of the Hope we both have in Jesus Christ.

I love how one author frames pain without sugar coating it but by inviting hope into the pain, “we must encourage one another in the assurance that, however deep the pain surges, Christ loves us and has overcome (John 16:33).    God didn’t cause the pain we experience but he certainly has a plan for us as we journey through it”.

I believe God hates that we have to experience death and heartache but He is with us. I love the verse in Psalm 34:18 that says, the Lord is near to the heartbroken and he saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Looking back at the past five years apart from doing life without the love of my life, Ken, and watching our son Sam grow up, as he remembers his Dad’s life only through videos and pictures as an 11-­‐ year-­‐old. I am overcome just thinking about where we have been. I am at the same time over joyed at how we have never walked alone. We recently were looking at pictures and we came across one taken a few days before Ken left this world, and we are all laughing and crowding each other out of Ken’s hospital bed in our living room and I look back now and wonder how that was even possible to laugh and smile at such a time. And then God reminds me and I see how it was and how it still is… it’s truly the peace of God that surpasses ALL understanding. I am still in awe of Gods power in such darkness.

Hold Onto The Truth

So I encourage each of you if you are helping someone who is going through something hard right now—or if you yourself are suffering to hold on to Jesus, cling tightly to the word and surround yourself with people that will speak life over you.

Friend, you are so loved. You are enough. You are never alone. God’s word reminds us in Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.”

My prayer for the families we serve in our Churches and for all those who God brings into my path is that God would help us all to see the

Julie Hull holds a Master of Clinical Christian Counseling and is a Licensed Pastoral Counselor.  She is the owner of Renewing Hope Counseling Resources in Burnsville, MN where she specializes in helping clients who are experiencing loss, grief and life transitions. Working with people to create sustainable self-care practices while walking through a new, difficult or unwanted change in life. She believes the integration of emotional, physical and spiritual health must be addressed in order to move toward healing. Learn more about Julie and her practice at Renewing Hope.

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3 Ways To Respond For Loss

Kim's Story

When someone dies, the survivor can feel dead inside. A death can take away someone else’s identity and stop their lives right in their tracks.

For the Christian, this can bring questioning such as, “Where is God?” “Why does he seem so distant?”

A powerful and though-provoking podcast from LifeSupport features a woman who endured extreme pain and loss but was still able to thank and love God even more than before.

Kim knew her mother loved her since she was born, but she also knew that her mother dealt with deep depression. When Kim was 17 years-old, her mother took her own life.

Although it was very difficult for Kim to process her mother’s death to suicide, life kept going and she went to college, where she met her future husband. The two got married and had children.

Kim and her husband, Jim, hit a bump in the road when Jim was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was only given a five percent chance to live, but he received a liver transplant and he would recover. Six months later when things to seemed to be getting better in Kim’s life, the unthinkable happened.

Kim and Jim’s son, Eric took his own life just 45 minutes after a break-up with his girlfriend.

Her world was shattered. She didn’t know how to process it all. Feelings of guilt and shame came flooding into Kim’s mind. For Kim, it felt like she couldn’t breathe for the next two years.

With the help of counseling for her depression, and with the support of people in her church, Kim was able to believe that her son was in Heaven and with God. She knew that she would see him again someday.

Kim was dealt with another blow years later when her husband, Jim, passed away from liver cancer.

Simple Ways To Walk Alongside

In the LifeSupport podcast, Kim gave some important reminders for someone walking along someone who just experienced a loss:

  1. Be Present and Listen: In today’s culture, it seems like we are always trying to fix and resolve issues and quickly as possible. When it comes to a survivor of a loved one’s death, there is no quick fix. The best thing to do is to be present and emotionally available to that person. If they say anything to you, just listen, and don’t worry what to say. Sometimes, a person grieving just wants to get out whatever they have to say at the time.
  2. Remember the Person – In the LifeSupport podcast, Kim said one of her biggest fears was for people to forget about her son’s life. People fear that their loved ones will be forgotten. It is good for those in support to talk about the life of the person and that can comfort the survivor, knowing that their loved one is still on the minds of others.
  3. Look for God’s Plan – As difficult it is to watch someone grieve the loss of a loved one, it is always important to remember that God has a plan for everyone involved. Try to see what your part is in that plan.

Joy In Suffering

Kim’s story is difficult, but through it all she has peace knowing that her God is in control of everything that happens in this world. For her, there is an unexplainable joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. She knows that God has a perfect plan for her life.


We provide the resources of free of charge to help start discussions about mental health and to help remove stigma so people can find hope and healing through God. We pray that LifeSupport helps you grow your church.
If there are other reasons you don’t share your struggles, we’d love to hear them and will treat your communication as confidential. Please email any comments to [email protected]

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A Son Murdered – But God

Trauma is filled with unknowns…but God is always there

Trauma changes people forever.  God finds a way to help us grow through the challenges of life.  He creates opportunities for that growth happens when we walk through the process of healing. When a tragedy happens, only the pain and sadness seem real. Sometimes for years. But our limited perspective of events and life in general is completely opposite of the way God sees them.

This truth came to light during a LifeSupport Podcast in which a pastor shared the story of the death of his son by homicide. It was a complete shock, and the family had a long journey ahead of them, full of unknowns. However, God miraculously created blessings from this tragedy.

Paul Johnson, the host of the LifeSupport Podcast, welcomed his wife, Wendi, onto the show so they could both share their story of their son Taylor, who was the victim of a shooting.

Paul and Wendi Johnson

Paul and Wendi were proud of their son Taylor.

The 21-year-old was just two weeks away from graduating from a school of recording arts. Taylor was talented and gifted and his parents could not wait to see what life had in store for him.

Taylor lived with Paul and Wendi until he into a place with some roommates. They would see him occasionally, sometimes he would just stop by quickly to get his mail that was still being delivered to his parent’s house.

Just one month after Taylor moved out, Paul and Wendi received the worst news they could ever imagine.

Their son had been murdered. He had been shot and that is all they knew for eight months, which seemed like eternity. The process of telling their kids, family and friends was painstaking.

During the podcast, Paul said he and his family had no idea what journey was set before them, or what the ripple effects would be from the tragedy. He described his family as being in a sort of ‘fog’ for months after Taylor’s passing.

After eight grueling months, an arrest was finally made in the case of Taylor’s homicide. Paul had a chance to sit down with his son’s killer. The young man’s name was Jesse, and he was just 23 years old. He told Paul he was sorry for what had happened and the two would end up hugging at the end of the interview.

Paul, Wendi and their three children agreed that they should forgive the man who took Taylor away from them. Although it was not easy, that is what they did. Not only did they forgive him, but they made it public at a press conference regarding the case. The case became a media frenzy and radio stations spread the word that a family was forgiving the murderer of their child.

Finally, the trial for Jesse arrived and that event in itself was a whirlwind of emotions. Paul and Wendi met Jesse’s parents, heard victim-impact letters, and received another apology from Jesse. Wendi saw that Jesse was just a scared 23-year-old kid who needed love and was crying out for something in his life.

Jesse was sentenced to prison, but that would not be the last time they saw him. They would visit Jesse in prison and share the Gospel with him.

Trauma changes people forever

As Paul and Wendi shared their story, they each gave some things they learned about themselves and God during that time in their lives:

  1. Don’t expect the same person to return – When a person experiences a serious trauma in their lives, it can change them forever. Before the trauma occurred, they might have been very outgoing or have particular hobbies they enjoyed. After the trauma, they might not be as outgoing or care for the things as they did in the past. This is not uncommon when it comes to trauma, and we cannot expect them to be the people they were before.
  2. Trauma survivors want the world to slow down – When a major trauma happens, a person’s world comes to a crashing stop. Nothing else seems to matter. However, other people around them continue with their lives as nothing happens. This is important to keep in mind when walking along someone who experienced a serious trauma in their lives.
  3. Trauma has ripple effects – It is always easy to see the immediate effects of a major trauma in someone’s life, but there are also a number of long-lasting effects that aren’t as apparent that can show up later in life. It might be a trigger or a memory, or something that is said by someone. Paul said his children are still suffering to this day from Taylor’s death.
  4. Think before you speak – When someone’s in trauma, it is very important to think before you speak to them because even if your intentions are good, what you say could hurt them even more.
  5. God is faithful – God is always faithful to those who are suffering or in trauma. As in Paul and Wendi’s case, He uses bad things that happen and can turn them around for good.

God is in every situation, no matter how good or bad it is

New opportunities arose for Paul after Jesse was sentenced to prison. He was given the chance to speak to different prisons about the Gospel and Wendi was given the chance to speak to different women’s groups. All of this happened because of the interaction they had with Jesse while he served his sentence.

Pastor Paul also now has a bigger heart for people that are walking through a similar journey.


We created to help you start discussions about mental health, to help remove stigma so people can find hope and healing through God. We pray that LifeSupport helps you grow your church.

If there are other reasons you don’t share your struggles, we’d love to hear them and will treat your communication as confidential. Please email any comments to [email protected]

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Suffering Well

Suffering well in ministry isn’t easy. This guest post from Krissie Garland, Ministry Director and Counsellor with Care For Pastors shares life and scriptural wisdom from the wife of a pastor who died by suicide. 

Krissie shares some of their story, as well as the questions she faced and faces in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

Krissie will be joining us in the near future as a guest on the LifeSupport Podcast to share more of her story.  Read more about and link to Care For Pastors and A Right Heart below.

All LifeSupport Resources

Are FREE For Ministry Use

Visit the blogsite for A Right Heart for the article

Care For Pastors

Care For Pastors has a vision to see every pastoral family persevering in ministry, developing a healthy church, and leading in community transformation.  CFP’s bold mission is to uphold pastoral families in ministry by providing the safest place for them to turn, an ongoing relationship of encouragement and counsel, and resources that ignite growth in the pastor’s family, church and community.  For more than a decade Care For Pastors has come alongside thousands of pastors, spouses and pastors’ kids to provide in person and virtual counselling and coaching as well as on-site week-long counseling for pastors and spouses.

A Right Heart

A Right Heart is a ministry that serves the broken hearted and lifts up the name of God so that people know Him, who is true Hope and Healer of all people. ARH equips and empower people wherever they are on their faith journey, providing tools and resources they can use every single day. Through biblical meditation, devotional blogs, personal testimonies, Bible reading plans, classes, and grief support, the hope of ARH is that you will know God and have a greater revelation of who He is and who He’s always been.

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Woman in grief

Grappling With God

Table of Contents

It's Okay To Let Survivors Grapple With God

Grappling with God might not sound like a healthy activity.  But, depending on your perspective, grappling with God may be a necessary exercise.  The death of someone close to us creates a terrible new perspective and can bring all kinds of emotions to the survivor: Sadness, anger, regret and confusion.

Those who are members of a church, or have a strong faith, can begin to question God in relation to their loss.

“Where was God?”

“Why would God allow this to happen?”

When coming into contact with a survivor, it is important to remember that they are in a cloud, a fog, and things that make sense to most, may not make sense to them. They have just experienced a crushing loss and, most likely, they are grappling with God.

In today’s blog, we explore this topic through interviews with survivors from LifeSupport’s series called The Worst Loss.

Anger is a common emotion in grief

Why do people become angry after a tragic loss? It could be for a variety of reasons.

If their child was killed in an accident, they may become angry at the other party involved in the accident. Mentally, they may believe that their loved one was unjustly taken from them too soon.

A survivor’s anger can also be directed at God and those who try to tell them about God’s goodness and love.

In an interview with LifeSupport, Barbara Vernes talked about the loss of her son and the emotions that she felt as people in the church tried to support her, but just made her angry.

“Christians would say, ‘Oh, God is with you, He’s right there.’ I was angry. I would say, ‘I don’t feel Him. I don’t see Him. I don’t hear Him. I don’t know where the heck He is, but He’s not right here.’”

While writing her thoughts and feelings about the loss of her son online, some people even questioned her faith when she entitled one of her posts, ‘Where Was God?’

“I wrote, asking where God was and how the church wasn’t helping and this woman online said to me, ‘If your faith was stronger you wouldn’t be feeling this way.’ I thought to myself, ‘Are you kidding me? My beautiful son is dead. He’s never coming back. My faith isn’t a question.’”

There Is No Quick Fix For Grief

Barbara described how she was blinded by grief, anger and confusion.

“You can’t see anything. Nothing makes sense to you at that point.”

Those in the church that want to support a survivor in grief need to realize something important: The survivor may grieve for a very long time and there is no magical phrase, scripture or gesture that suddenly brings them back to who they were before their loss.

Grief if a journey, a unique journey for everyone. The last thing survivors need is for someone to question their faith when they are asking “Where is God?” Questioning a survivor’s faith will only add more anger and confusion to what they are already experiencing.

Grappling with God Creates Opportunities

The word ‘grapple’ means ‘wrestle.’

When you grapple with God, you are wrestling with God, figuratively.

What does that mean? Are we fighting God? Should Christians grapple with God?

“If they are suffering, they are probably grappling with God,” said LifeSupport Pastor Paul Johnson, whose son was murdered. “There is some kind of questioning going on there. There is a real opportunity to reach out in faith and help that person grow. So, from a practical perspective, it is important because there are people that are suffering, and from a spiritual perspective, it helps people develop their relationship with Christ in a new way.”

As with all mental health struggles, grief provides opportunities to connect sufferers with Christ.  The church needs to allow survivors to grapple, or wrestle with God, so their relationship with Christ can survive and thrive.

You can explore these stories of loss and others in the LifeSupport Worst Loss group curriculum. 

You can hear more of Barb’s story on the LifeSupport Podcast 

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A grieving mom

Talking About Grief

Table of Contents

Before You Speak Out

Talking about grief is tricky. When someone loses a loved one, many of us want to help and be supportive.  But, in our desire to act we tend to say to them the first thing that comes to our minds:

“I can’t imagine how you feel.”

“How are you?”

“He/she’s in a better place.”

These are some examples of things that are commonly said to a person in grief that both survivors and mental health professionals have said are the wrong things to say. We may have the best of intentions when we want to say something to someone in grief, but if we are not careful, we can actually do more damage than good.

Here’s what they might be thinking

“I can’t imagine how you feel.”  – “Duh!  Of course you can’t imagine how I feel!”

How are you?” – “How do you think I am?, I’m shattered!  I don’t even know how to feel this and you want me to put it onto words?”

” “He/she’s in a better place.”  “Is he/she?  How do you know?  Also, I don’t want them in a better place.  I want them here where they belong.”

The Person in Grief Will Never be the Same

Before speaking to someone in grief, keep these things in mind:

A traumatic experience or the sudden loss of a loved one will have life-long impact on a survivor. It’s fair to say that most of us expect everyone to grieve over the loss of a loved one, but many are not informed about the importance of long-term after-care.

The friends of a survivor might expect him/her to get on with life as usual after a certain amount of time, believing the adage that time heals all wounds.

In an interview for LifeSupport’s Worst Loss series, Beth Chaya talked about losing her son, John, and the months afterwards.

“A lot of times people would say, ‘It’s been six months, are you over it yet?’ We are still dealing with the ‘why’ question 19 years later.”

Love is an Act, Not a Word

A better approach to someone grieving is a gesture, a gift or act of service…it doesn’t have to be something elaborate, time consuming or expensive.

After the funeral for Beth’s son, some people just went back to their normal lives.

“It was so empty and that is why I was so grateful to the people who said, ‘I’m going to show up for the next couple of months and we’re going to do this.”

Beth said someone would come and mow her yard or take her kids to McDonald’s. Another one would just show up at her house and ask her to go out for coffee. Others would send cards on the anniversary of her son’s death.

The More You Say, the Worse it’s Going to Be

If you don’t know exactly what to say to someone in grief, then it would be best not to say anything at all. The chances are the more words you say to someone in grief, the better chance you might say something hurtful.

Here are the three best things you can do for someone in grief:

  1. Be present – Just sitting with someone in a room, offering your presence or help with anything they might need, is huge for survivors. They want to know people care enough to give their time to be with them, not to talk necessarily, but just to be there for them.
  2. If you haven’t been through it, just listen – Unless you have also experienced the same kind of loss the survivor experienced, you cannot really understand what they are feeling. If that is the case, just listen to them, let them say whatever they need to say. This does not mean you have to provide an answer or response.
  3. Let them grieve – Everyone grieves differently. It is not wrong to grieve and we can never expect anyone to “get over it” at any time.

Keeping these things in mind, leaders and congregants will be able to respond to someone grieving the right way without causing more damage or pain.

The LifeSupport Worst Loss Curriculum is an award-winning video and discussion group resource designed to help anyone be better prepared to come alongside a family member, friend, or a church member who has suffered the trauma of sudden loss.  This curriculum includes 6 short films that present real people sharing their stories of loss.

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Bread see the way grief is a tool to survive his loss

Grief As A Helper

Where Does Grief Take Us

God gives us grief as a tool.  As time passes on after the death of a loved one, we will be faced with a choice when it comes to grief: We can try our best to avoid it…or we can take its hand and let it lead us.

Lead us where?

Grief is gut-wrenching. It can lead us through anger or guilt, but where it ultimately takes us is a place that we could never get to without it.

A Unique Perspective on the Grief Journey

Brad Knefelkamp experienced what we call the worst loss, the death of a child. His son committed suicide and it flipped Brad’s life upside-down.

That’s when Brad had to face grief head-on. He had a vision, or a dream, about grief where he had a decision to make…does he take grief’s hand?

In an interview for LifeSupport’s Worst Loss series, Brad recalls the dream:

“It’s a figure of a man who’s coming up to the window and the next thing I know he’s standing at the foot of my couch and his figure is all like 9 feet tall and his head is down, his shoulders are slouched, and I can’t make out any distinct features of him. Everything is kind of fuzzy. And he’s holding out his hand for me to take it and I thought to myself, ‘I’m not taking your hand. I know who you are.’ For some reason I knew this was grief. I’m not going. Because in my mind I was like, ‘I know the company you keep. And they’re not good. And I’m not going to go down that road of all that this depression and all this sort of thing. I’m not going there.’

Brad said that no matter how many times he said ‘No’ to grief’s hand, grief wouldn’t leave, and kept reaching out its hand to him.

“It was just taking forever and so finally I was like, ‘OK, I’ll take your hand,’ and the minute I touched him we were on a street, we were in a town and there are all these streets going around all in different directions and I notice that the streets had different names. One was called ‘Anger.’ One was ‘Depression’ and so on.”

Brad then said grief took him down a dark alley, where he noticed something approaching him from the corner of his eye.

“All the sudden, from behind me, I just felt like I had got hit by a sledgehammer on the back of the head and I got knocked to the ground by a list of questions.”

“Why didn’t you go visit him while he was alone?!” “You knew he had to be alone!” “Why didn’t you?!”

“Every time I tried to get up, I got hammered again and ended down on that pavement and I remember looking up and grief is just stand there waiting for me…”

A Light at the End

As Brad endured the hits and hammering from these questions, and while grief waited for him, he finally saw where grief was taking him.

“Way down the alley, there was light. And as I looked, I could see in that light it was a park and the sun was shining. There were kids laughing and playing. And I realized where grief is leading me and nothing else would have led me there.”

Through this difficult journey with grief, Brad had a revelation: Without taking grief’s hand, he would have never found the light at the end.

Does this mean that grief just leaves or disappears?

No, but it gives the person suffering from loss a needed perspective about grief.

Grief as a Tool

Brad’s dream about his journey with grief showed him something very important.

“Grief is not my enemy, grief is now, in a certain sense, my companion. My life is never going be the way it was before Logan died. It can’t be. Part of me is missing.”

Grief is God-given and He gives us grief as a tool so we can cope with the worst losses in our lives. So in that sense, taking grief’s hand is like taking God’s hand, and trusting him to lead us through the most difficult times in our lives.

Brad’s story is available in the Mental Health Discussion Video Library at  You can listen to an in-depth interview with Brad about grief  on the LifeSupport Podcast here.

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Holding Hope by Julie Hull M.A.

Something to Hold Onto

We are all searching for something to hold onto. An anchor, a solid foundation to steady us when the storms of life threaten our ability to hold on. I have been holding hope.
Sure it’s easier to lessen our grip when we experience long stretches of days overflowing with abundance and nights filled with restorative sleep. Jesus reminds me daily to hold onto Him, the only true hope as I live out his purpose until I am called to my true home.
I am a licensed counselor, in my practice I have been called to stand daily on holy ground as I listen and minister to many broken people. I am humbled and privileged to bear the weight of their pain as each one shares his or her need for Hope. Oh how the storms of life can test our faith and crush our hope.

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