A home of grief and grace

I haven’t written in a long time, and several people have asked me about that. I guess on the practical side of life, I am busy. We’ve had colds, one baby has had pneumonia, and life is just full right now. But there is also a heaviness that weighs on us constantly, the heaviness of grief dancing like an elephant, clumsy yet powerful, above our heads as we straddle life and death with Kara.

It’s a strange position to be in; I don’t feel that it’s appropriate to inform everyone what lives in my heart now. When my hairdresser recently—and kindly—asked how I was doing, I fought the urge to burst into tears and tell him that one of my closest friends is dying. Instead I smiled and we chatted about other things.

Maybe it would have been okay to tell him—or others—about my sadness, but I’m not all that comfortable putting people in the position to have to respond. We spend our lives trying to pretend that friends don’t die, marriages don’t end, predators don’t prey. We like living in ignorance. Or at least, I do. It’s a fairyland of fake happiness rooted in the delusion that my sweet little life will always be sweet. Having been through my own tragedies, I am still caught off guard when others share theirs with me. I am jarred back into the reality that we are always straddling life and death. That one foot is on this earth dealing with pain and loss, and the other foot is inching toward eternity.

Jason recently wrote about the difficulty of dealing with the mundane in the midst of sorrow. It reminded me of when my parents died. My sister had called me at college, and I was driving home but needed to get gas. I am sure my face was swollen and red as I approached the attendant, who ignorantly gave me change and wished me a good night. I stood there staring at him. What a strange thing getting gas seemed to be all of a sudden. How petty and unimportant. I remember thinking, How can you just stand there like all is right in this world? Don’t you know my parents just died? How is the earth still turning?

I skimmed through the comments on Jason’s post. I was struck by how many people shared their stories of loss—spouses, parents, siblings, friends, children. Sad, horrible, gut-wrenching stories. Everybody eventually experiences loss. We all will inevitably know the pain of which Jason writes in some fashion.

So do I remain in my happy fairyland? That is my question every day. Shall I go through the motions and pretend, wish, that everything is okay? Or do I develop some kind of coping mechanism so that I can not only get through my days, but avoid as much pain as possible?

The other night I was talking to Aaron about the woman I hope to become. We all know women who seem disconnected from intimacy and community, unwilling to move toward people who are messy and ugly, women who are afraid of pain. I get that. I totally get that. But I don’t want to be that. I want to move toward the pain because that is moving toward Jesus. I want to engage grief, because that is engaging Christ. I want to accept the reality of a broken heart because that is accepting the reality of a God who loves me and who will ultimately wipe my tears forever.

One of the commenters said that her house is filled with “grief and grace”. I love that. There is a certain tender, deep, intimate grace from Jesus that meets us in the brokenness of grief. I want that grace. I want it to wash over my messy heart, to seep into the scabs of this new pain, to give me a glimpse of the grace that is to come.

I am sorry if this post is disjointed and if my thoughts are scattered. I want to honor those of you who have pursued me and asked me to write and who have asked me how I’m doing. Thank you for caring.

47 thoughts on “A home of grief and grace

    1. Margaret Hamilton

      Hugs to you! I still have “Waves” over my parents deaths, 30 some years ago. Never leaves, eventually you just learn how to live with it. The help is in knowing you’ll see them again and they are suffering no more. Hugs to you! <3

  1. Caitlin L.

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your heart and encouraging us to truly weep with those who weep.

    1. Beth

      Yes Blythe, grief and grace. That IS how Jesus walked. He obviously didn’t avoid the pain and suffering; he faced it by and with the grace of His Father. This is how I want to walk through life as well. Thank you for writing!

  2. Bev

    I love this post, I lost my son 3 years ago after a short illness, just before his 30th birthday. Grief, ugliness, messiness hit me smack dab in the face. But Jesus met me there, he wrapped his arms around me, using the arms of friends and family that jumped right into the yuckiness of grief with me. I can not tell you how much I needed others to meet me in my grief. And 3 years later still understand the waves that still come from time to time. It has changed me, compassion and empathy are real to me. I have experienced first hand what a difference these make . So jump in, be Jesus to others, it is scarier from the outside looking in.

    I have been praying for Kara and her family and friends, that Jesus will be so evident to you all. Bless you while support this sweet family through this journey.

  3. queenie

    “we straddle life and death” . Yes – we do – and most of the time we’re not aware of it. It’s like walking, isn’t it? Walking is one caught-fall after another. . . . and the minute you think about it, you might just fall. But ditto the minute you don’t think about it – or think you’re safe, just standing there.

    It all calls us back to Jesus. Blessings to you and to the community of Kara – so many that you know not of are praying and watching and learning more about our Lord in this process. I don’t understand it, but here we are, all watching and praying.

  4. Bonnie Annis

    Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve been following Kara’s story since I was diagnosed with stage 2 Breast Cancer in July of 2014. It’s amazing how God has used Kara to minister His love to so many through her hard story and it’s also amazing how He continues to use friends like you to convey how deep your love is for her. I am praying continually for Kara and her family as well as her closest friends. Kara is a living testament to the power of love and she is in the process of finishing well. What a blessing she is and continues to be. I am so grateful she has allowed us (the internet friends) to be a part of her journey. It is one that will forever be engrained in my heart. God bless you as you continue to walk this walk with Kara. Blessings, Bonnie Annis

  5. Jeralyn

    The sentence that grabbed my heart was your desire to move toward pain because that is moving toward Jesus. …mostly, I want to run the other way. Thank you for sharing,.

  6. Mary breau

    Thank you and bless you for being so real! I join in your prayer to move towards pain like Our Savior JESUS!

  7. Beth

    Lovely. Thank you for showing us the beauty that accompanies sorrow, and the challenge of suffering to join with those who weep, yet without despair.

  8. Debbie Hamilton

    Thank you for sharing your heart! May the Lord be with you as you walk along side Kara and her family.

  9. Donna Parrack

    Blythe, thank you for sharing your heart with us. With Kara being a close, dear friend, I can’t begin to imagine the sadness and grief you are experiencing right now. My heart is heavy and I only know Kara through her blog and meeting her once at the Nebo conference. When I pray for Kara, I always pray for her family and her friends as well. You are so right when you say, “There is a certain, deep, intimate grace from Jesus that meets us in the brokenness of grief.” Take care of your heart.

  10. marcy

    This just really caught me. Jesus take my hand as I run to the messy!! Praying for your dear heart.

  11. Donna

    Blythe, I get it……That pain that has no words. Watching, hoping, praying.
    Love on Kara as best you can, and be gentle to yourself. Taking those moments to cry and feel your pain. God is right there with you, feeling it too.

  12. lynne Wyatt

    How beautiful. There is such precious closeness with our Savior when we let ourselves embrace pain…and just hurt. Oh, how it hurts. But is there anything sweeter than the comfort given by the One who loves us so much?

  13. Debbie

    One of your comments really hit home – about how could the gas station attendant not know your parents just passed away. My step-mom (real mom to me) passed away last week. I’ve been in a fog-like state since. I wonder how everything/everyone carries on as if nothing happened. Don’t they know? Through Kara I am learning to not fear death like I once did. That’s it’s ok to talk openly about it. To live and die with grace. I still would like the world to stop turning, just for a few minutes, so I can catch my breath. When Kara is called home, I’d like to think I’ll be strong and actually be happy she’s with our lord. But, a part of me still feels like I will again not be able to catch my breath.

  14. Linda Fischer

    What a beautiful string of words with feeling and purpose. I so love to read the eloquent words of those who have the talent to express what many may feel but cannot express as well as those gifted to write. You are using the talent God intended for you to have to share and help others through their bumps in the road of life. I thank you for sharing from your heart for our dearest Kara and all of those who find peace and comfort in your words and Kara’s great writings too. I truly feel blessed to have our paths cross in life and learn from your talents and experiences. The sharing of LOVE is what life is about.
    Blessings and prayers to all in need~~~

    I might add that to some life is the fairy tale~but the end is always,”And they lived happily ever after”~~~but there is more to “The Rest of the Story” not what we envision what life should be with all the sugar coating, but the growing, and learning, and loving, and screaming, and falling down, and getting up to do better, and love more, and learn more and ~~~~~keep on going. Keep living each presious day that is given to its fullest and be thakful for each and every day~~~

  15. Brenda

    I so resonated with your beautiful writing. When my parents both died in the past year, and no one at work (except for one – and I have worked there 25 years) acknowledged my grief and pain, it really struck me that my friends who love the Lord are the only ones who have walked that journey with me. I am blessed by your words and your friendship with Kara.

  16. JJ

    Thank you, Blythe, for encouraging those of us who have avoided getting too close for fear of the pain of loss. You have encouraged us to run to the messy and embrace it. Life is messy . . . life is beautiful . . . in all that comes with it. God bless you.

  17. Tony Nkechi Esther

    My beloved Kara
    I have been following your blog for months now. I have been praying for you. I know God can still do the IMPOSIBLE in your life. But know this weather Life or death,Christ alone for whose sake you suffer this pain will be glorify.
    The impact of your life and testimony in my life can not be forgotten in a hurry.

  18. Jolene

    Your post is so beautiful! In praying for Kara and her family, I neglected to remember her friends that are struggling with this as well. I will keep you in my prayers as you comfort and bless Kara in the hard. Friends mean so much in this life! May God bless you!

  19. Liza

    This is my first time reading anything you have written, and it is beautiful. I love how much Kara has touched the hearts of so many and yet I grieve for the fact that each of you who are truly in her life, walking this walk by her side are experiencing such pain. Kara’s words have touched me so deeply and have changed the way I view others who are in pain and how to look at my own pain and loss. I pray for her and her family and friends daily and I will pray for you as well. Your love for her shines through and I can only pray that I will one day have friends who support me the way you and all of her other friends support her.

    God Bless You!

  20. Anne Peterson

    First of all, I am sorry for the loss you have experienced with your parents. And you are so right. We look up wondering why the world has not stopped as we have. And we wonder when things will return to normal, but they never do. At sixteen, my mom suddenly had a massive stroke and died. Eight years later our dad died of cancer. Six years later our sister disappeared. She was the victim of domestic violence. Her husband said she walked out. We knew she didn’t. She wouldn’t have been going for custody of her three boys and then just leave. No body, but we still said goodbye over her empty grave, following her murder trial. A trial where he was pronounced “not guilty,” and his side of the courtroom erupted in cheers and high fives as our world became slow motion and frozen. A few years ago we said goodbye to our oldest brother, and two years later to our youngest. Death has been my companion for years. And now I stand at the door again as my granddaughter has Trisomy 18, which is called an incompatibility to life.More losses have peppered my life. The one thing I would have to say I have learned is that in pain, I see him the clearest. I’m praying for you as you watch your friend slip over to the other side. Weeping with those who weep is never easy, but the alternative causes those who are grieving more grief. Thank you for sharing your hurting heart.

    1. Beth

      Oh Anne! I am so deeply sorry for the losses you have suffered through! Especially tragic with your sister and grandchild. For many of us, we figure we will outlive parents but not siblings and certainly not grandchildren. You are a remarkable woman to lean into the Savior when this life does not make sense! I will pray for your granddaughter and your family as you walk another difficult path. We truly are aliens on this earth, looking forward to our forever home where every tear will be wiped away; no more sorrow, no more pain. May you be surrounded with His peace and the love of your family and friends. You are like Kara, a beacon of light, showing those in your world that our only hope comes from Jesus. God bless you, Anne!

  21. Betsy Palm

    beautifully expressed. I had that exact same moment when my Mom died – standing in the line at the grocery store thinking ” don’t the know my Mom just died?”

  22. William Krol

    Your post put into words what many of us have or will go through many times in our lives. Kara is ministering to thousands of people as a true Leader of Faithfulness and all of us are so blessed to be a part of her life…no matter how small.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  23. Paulette Knudson

    Thanks for your honesty you expressed so well what has been on my heart but hard for me to put into words.

    Oct. 28th 2006 I had to have my right Lung removed because they had found a large Tumor twisted inside, had lost my voice twice with 4 months, DR. said that is not normal, off to Xray never smoked or my family just a rare type of Cancer, I found God’s Grace, his faithfulness to me these last 7 years even with peaks and valleys one faces when other kinds of cancer invade the body, if you live longer than they tell you 6-8 Mos if you do live longer sometimes it means it’s a different type of Cancer invades the body, large face Tumor ect. or many side effects of the Chemo or radition.

    Yes I can say God’s Grace, his perfect Peace deep down in my soul has carried me on to fight the good fight I’m a child of the KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS his GRACE or someone who cares about me stops by when I’m not able to do certain things I sometimes call them God’s Butterfly’s who just seem to know when to fly in and be on my shoulder letting me know the bond of Friendship.

    The special touch and words from caregivers is truely a refection of God shinning through them as they serve the hurting and their family.

    Thank you all of you who have walked this walk with me rhese last 7 years I know you gave up things you would have liked to do but instead reached out and touched me and my family’s life my life with acts of kindness and love I see JESUS in you when you brighten my day and minister to my needs.

    Cancer has been a gift because it has opened many doors so that I can give the reason for the hope that is within me. Paulette Knudson – Mesquite,TX

  24. Carolyn Hawkins

    Thank you…
    Is not life, death, and Grace disjointed? Which comes first. We know what comes last. When do we learn Grace?
    Did I learn Grace when my son died? The words didn’t become disjointed. I did.
    Thank you for this post!

  25. Daniel

    As I write this comment I hold back the tears of love for you, a woman of faith, and for your loved ones. I can think of no other way to start this can to say Blessed is the name of the Lord. Pain is a curious thing. Both physical and and mental pain can stop us dead in our tracks, if it is ours. When we see others pain and if we are an empathetic sort of person, it spurs us to action and turns on the empathetic pain receptors.
    Like the man who wrote you, Jason, my parents died when I was 9. This made me an orphan at a very young age and while friends of the family took me in it was a serious adjustment process. I don’t say that to complain but to relate to you, Jason and Blythe. The world and the enemy that lives in it would have us segregate ourselves and run from anything that is pain or “ugly”. Blythe you hit such a cord with me when you said that you would run towards the “ugly” and the hurting because Christ is there! I cry as I think of it and I rejoice as I read it!
    I’ve only just started to read your blogs since I saw a new article on Glenn Beck’s, “The Blaze”. I’ve been inspired and see even more what is missing in this world, namely a sense of being together and being diligent to suffer with and rejoice with each other.
    I’ve attached my website and it is just starting so not much is written. It would be an honor for me if you would read the blog I wrote. I know that you are so busy with life and other things so if you don’t get to it I will never know lol. I just want to start using this thing called the internet for a reason I think God would want, namely uniting us in painful rejoicing.
    God Bless you and your family
    Daniel Marton

  26. Tricia Smith

    Dear Blythe,
    Thank you for your post . . . it is beautiful and genuine and heartfelt! You mentioned the issue of pain, deferring it, or ignoring it, living in it, or pretending it isn’t there.

    I believe the healthiest, most biblical way of dealing with pain is ‘scheduling the pain’. Pain is real, death, trauma, crisis, sickness, abuse, challenges are all real and part of life. We know this. We also don’t want to experience it . . . ever!! :) But since it is part of life, we must experience it, and if we do it well, we honor God. So, in essence, scheduling pain means not to borrow the pain that belongs to another time. As Jesus said, Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.

    Each day has the pain of that day. We are saddened by Kara’s pain and nausea of today, or whatever struggle she is experiencing – we share her burden in Christian love. But we don’t need to feel today what belongs to tomorrow . . . so we schedule the pain, experiencing and dealing with each day’s allotment with the Lord Who does indeed heal every pain and carry every burden, who comforts by His Spirit and guides us into all Truth.

    Blessings to you and thanksgiving for your love for Kara and your willingness to walk with her in her pain, taking it as your own . . .


  27. Delores Little

    Sorry I been going to Dr.’s and had surgery last week. so been reading the updates but not writting anything.
    Was at church and one of the men there shared how his friends wife was put into hospice like you Tara and give her very little time. When he saw someone, ask about her and they said God had touch her and healed her all the way from cancer and she was doing great. Well Tara that is what I have been praying for you, because God can do this right now. I just will not give up.
    I didn’t with my husband until God said He was taken Willie home, 5 days before he died. I was praying for his healing on earth.
    The scripture which comes to me for you is Ps. 118: 17 ” I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” I can see you so doing it as you have through this walk you are in now and all these months. Never met you but love in in the Lord and praying.
    Love & Prayers,

  28. Lisa

    Your comment was not disjointed AT ALL! It doesn’t matter if it is your best friend or mother (hopefully that would be one in the same…right :-), grief is such a personal emotion, as we all grieve differently. I think if your hair stylist is someone feel safe with, it is someone you can spill your guts to :-) I pray that when I ask someone how they are doing, they will be honest with me. As Christians, I feel it gives me the opportunity to pray with that person, or just let them know, they have my ear. I appreciate your honesty, and please know that I am praying for everyone involved in Kara’s life. I don’t know her personally, but I know she has a lot of people that are going to hurt deeper than they ever thought imaginable, while at the same time, peace and joy that she is in the arms of our Savior, no more pain, no more tears. Just know, all of you are being prayed for. You are all such an inspiration to everyone that reads this blog, a reminder that there is still so much good in this world. Blessings to you and yours.

  29. Ann-Marie Johnson

    Fabulous post, love these lines:

    “I want that grace. I want it to wash over my messy heart, to seep into the scabs of this new pain, to give me a glimpse of the grace that is to come.”

  30. Katelin

    I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel to be losing a close friend. I pray continually for Kara and her loves and will continue to pray. I pray also for those dear to her heart and walking daily with her in this battle. Thank you for sharing and being so honest with in your hard.

    Lord I ask that you bless Blythe with your peace strength and comfort. In Jesus name amen.

  31. Lori

    Thank you, Blythe, for your honesty. There is no disjointedness in your post – just love and grace through the filter of grief. When my precious brother died at the young age of 34, I remember the same feeling you had at the gas station. Walking through the airport, I thought, “how can you people look so happy; seem so carefree?! ” Now you’re going through it again with Kara and her precious family. Everyday our family prays for Kara and all of you who are close to her, dealing with the pendulum of life here and life eternal. May there be some comfort in knowing the impact for Christ that each of you have on those of us who can just read about Kara and pray. May you feel Jesus’ love and grace.

  32. Julie

    When I was 32 yrs of age, my mom died of cancer. She was brave and an amazing mom. At the cemetery, I noticed my 5 other siblings were crying. But, my eyes were dry. I wondered why because mom was my hero. Two years later, my pastor said in the Sunday service, to come back that night and watch a film called the “Mourning Song”. I thought it was the “Morning Song.” I love to learn but that night, I realized that grief was a process that God designed in each of us to survive loss and pain. That was the beginning of my journey of realizing that grief will always be your friend. I begin to write letters to “Dear God”, because I was more honest with Him than if I wrote to myself. I found support groups and friends who would walk me through my journey of grief. I have learned that there are many-many types of grief and losses: some are big, little, dreams, friendships, things, marriages, jobs, homes, finances, etc. Be encouraged that when you walk directly through grief, no matter how long it may take, it is a beautiful gift from God. As you process your grief, God begins to love others through you…because you have been there. There is no correct way to go through grief, it takes as long as it takes for each person. Read your Bible, read book and articles about grief. Blythe, thank you for writing your thoughts this morning. You are a great writer as our precious Kara.

  33. tinuviel

    To keep loving your friend and her family in the midst of the grief and expectation of still more to come is Christ-honoring courage. I see Jesus in that determination. So many pull away from friends and family out of self-protection, which is so very understandable, but I respect you for making a harder choice. May the Lord pour grace beyond your expectations into you even as you grieve and love Kara.

    Also, I’m so sorry for the loss of both your parents at once. May the Lord continue to comfort you in that absence.

  34. Adrienne

    I am also loosing a dear, long-time friend to cancer. Her battle has been shorter than Kara’s, but I am so thankful for every moment we have been blessed to share. She is having surgery tomorrow to try to extend her a bit more quality time, but it may also signal that the end is imminent. We won’t know until the surgery begins. I have cried and prayed, and asked for healing, and I have peace – but I am still sad. You are so correct when you said that we must embrace the grief because it allows us to embrace Jesus. I needed to read your post tonight, and I am glad that I didn’t see it until now. God’s plan is so much greater, and I long for the time when all tears are gone. Bless you for sharing your grief and pain with us. A grief shared is halved, after all.

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