Uncovering the Blessing in the Shock of Grief

Year-End Transition Delivers the Shock of Grief

The shock of grief was here again: another Christmastime with a higher frequency of deaths. Sometimes, they hit in sets.

In transitioning from 2023 to 2024, I lost three men who touched my life in different ways.

It began just before Thanksgiving. A gifted man from the church we attend passed away unexpectedly. Despite being in his 80s, we were shocked because Charles Britt was so vibrant. He stood for truth and modeled well what it means to know Christ and influence others for God’s kingdom. I will never forget him.

“Though sadness strikes first amid the shock of grief, gratitude is a healing balm.”

-Tim Bishop

On December 14, another 87-year-old, Bill Peach, passed away. As a writer himself and as one who valued education, Bill coordinated events for authors in Middle Tennessee. I came to know him well as we shared booth space at local events and worked together on logistics. I admired his drive and passion despite his limitations due to declining health.

Bill and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but I came to love and appreciate him. We Middle Tennessee authors owe him for his advocacy of the written word. His departure leaves a void others will need to fill.

The Unpredictable and Fleeting Nature of Life

On the day of Bill’s funeral, I received an email from Dan Miller, who coached me through my transition out of corporate business.

He’d discovered in early December that he had advanced-stage pancreatic cancer with no treatment options and less than six months to live. He posted this profound video on December 29, 2023. By January 21, 2024, he was gone. Shocking.

My, oh my. Life is so fleeting. Reminders like these bring reflection about what matters and motivation to fulfill our calling before any remaining health and time sift through our clutches.

Dan Miller brought a unique combination of creative thinking, common sense, and wisdom. He specialized in career transitions and hosted a popular podcast on the subject. He was also a New York Times bestselling author for his book 48 Days to the Work You Love.

Last summer, shortly after releasing The Persistent Road, I sent Dan Miller a copy of it. Publishers provide promotional copies to influential people like Dan all the time.

But this wasn’t that. Fiction wasn’t Dan Miller’s niche.

Instead, I just sent him the book, unsure why other than I wanted him to see where his investment in me – and mine in him – had led me. It was an open-ended gift.

I was surprised to receive an email from Dan only a week later. I won’t share the specifics, but his praise for the book and my journey floored me. (You can read his review of The Persistent Road on the Barnes & Noble website. Look for Dan5747 from Osprey, Florida.)

The next day, I returned his email and told him I would treasure it. Little did I know then just how much. But God did.

Dan Miller’s death sheds light on the impact we can have on other people. His tribute board brims with testimonials, some from total strangers. I find it overwhelming. Dan Miller was 76 years old.

The Blessing in Grief

When significant people in your life pass, it’s time to consider not only what they meant to you but also how to pay forward the debt you owe them. Those are therapeutic steps as the shock of grief fades.

Reorienting to life without people who have touched you takes time. Becoming proactive can move the process forward.

Expressing what is inside helps. For some people, this may mean talking to others about what the person meant to them. Others may benefit from journaling. We all can invite God to share in the pain of our loss. He knows about it already anyway, so why not express it to Him? He’s the loving Father waiting and wanting to hear from us.

I feel better having celebrated Charles in a blog post and writing now about these recent losses. I think about these three men frequently. For now, that’s healthy.

Incurring a loss means you had a blessing. Otherwise, it wouldn’t hurt. The deeper the pain, the greater the blessing – and vice versa.

Losses jar us. Here one day; gone the next. Or as Job from the Bible said, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.” The landscape of life has taken a seismic shift.

Though sadness strikes first amid the shock of grief, gratitude is a healing balm.

Rather than only obsessing over the loss, it’s constructive to recognize the blessing, too. It will take time to get over the pain. We process grief at a pace commensurate with the loss and our ability to cope with it. We bandage our fragile emotions and learn to adapt to a new normal. We recognize we need others, and we realize we need God.

Still, we can be grateful God allowed us to experience the lives of people who go before us. As Job of the Bible concludes, “Blessed be the name of the LORD!”

“And he said: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”

-Job 1:21-22 NKJV

A Grief Prayer

Lord, Thank you for the lives of _______, _______, and _______ (e.g., Charles Britt, Bill Peach, and Dan Miller). What would my life be like now if I had never met them? Help me to use the feelings of loss inside to motivate me to touch the lives of other people, to multiply the legacy of these loved ones – and to create one of my own – so that Your name may be glorified here on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

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