For When You Feel Guilty About Your Feelings

by | Aug 22, 2012 | Uncategorized

It’s been two days since I received the phone call about the death of my brother. I haven’t cried yet.

I’m wavering between wondering if I’ve arrived at the place of assurance in the mystery, of knowing that life doesn’t come with answers to every question, or if I’m holding pain at a distance so far away I can’t recognize it.

I pull myself up on my elbows, lean into the mattress and reach for my phone. The flashing green dot alerts me to a full inbox of comments from Monday’s blog post. Condolences from the faithful, pleading heaven’s throne on my behalf and instead of consolation, I’m guilt-ridden.

Because when you sit at the card table in the other room for family meals long past your childhood, it feels wrong to be joining the family table in death, bringing friends along.

But the way you’ve offered your bare feet to walk through my grief, filling up the empty seats at the table, it’s an unexpected gift. We’ve gone out to the garage to get more chairs.

And just when I start worrying if I’ll have enough food for everyone, a friend seated around the table that I haven’t seen in years, she scoops a spoonful of casserole on her plate and leans in. She writes, “Shelly, I’m praying for you and your family, but somehow I feel led to pray for you concerning the loss of what could have been.”

Warm tears trickle down my chin and neck, drip pools into my pajama’d lap in the reading. Because when you recognize the truth, the Spirit doesn’t need you to think about it.

My brother and I woke up in separate states during childhood. We leaned into life from different angles trying to build a relationship on shared genes a few days harnessed from years of summers. I left the home of an alcoholic to enjoy a week of harmony. Wishing I could trade his life for mine. I never dreamt he would choose the lifestyle I wanted to escape.

Grief is the loss of what is.

Grief is the loss of what could have been.

Grief is the loss of what should have been.

Grief is the loss of what will never be.

Grief is loss.

I remember how You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. ~Psalm 56:8 NLT

Those tears of brokenness sliding down my face, they represent the way of awful grace. How He carries us through fragments of loss, into the hills of redemption to makes all things new. His love endures forever, even when we take our last breath.

In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. ~Aeschylus

Linking with God Bumps, Walk With Him Wednesday, WLWW, Unwrapping His Promises.

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  1. Annie Danielson

    Prayer. Grace. Tender Loving Care. XO

  2. Fran

    Shelly, I am so very sorry about the tragic, unexpected loss of your brother. May God comfort you and your family during this time.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Fran, it is tragic and we feel the Lord’s presence despite that.

  3. ro elliott

    There is nothing normal about grief…it has it own rules…you just need to let the God of all comfort guide you through…and yes…His redeems all our pain…all the loss of what was…and what wasn’t…continued prayers to you~

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Grief has its own rules . . . I like that Ro. Your prayers mean so much, thank you.

  4. consolationofmirth

    Honest. Humble. Beautiful. And boy, do I understand your thoughts and words. Do I ever, sadly. Keeping you lifted high in prayer, friend.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Nice to know I’m in good company Heather, its nice to link hearts, even in sorrow.

  5. Diana Trautwein

    Such a wise friend. Such good relief to acknowledge all the facets of grief, how tangled the lines get, how varied the hues of pain. May you find (make) time to look at each thread, each angle and to let the tears flow for what could have been, perhaps most especially for what should have been…but was not. The beautiful grace, the awful grace, in this is the truth that you have been redeemed, you are being redeemed, you will be redeemed. Grace and peace in the process.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Diana, your words are coveted wisdom from the Fathers heart. Thank you, I treasure them.

  6. Rachel @ day2dayjoys

    Oh how your words touched my heart, sometimes we (I) can get caught up in the the shouldn’t have been like this.. if x than y, whyt did this happen. We lost 2 pregnancies this year and I am still grieving… praying for you my dear!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, even in the what could have been, we lay burdens before his feet and walk away in faith. So sorry about the life you hoped for being snuffed out. Praying for you and thank you for sharing a bit of your heart here.

  7. Holly Michael

    So sorry. Bless you! Prayers for you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you Holly, appreciate your prayers and support.

  8. Susie

    “The loss of what should have been….”. This struck me as our son and his wife just received a pre-toddler as a foster child who hopefully will become a forever child. No child should have to grieve a parent who cannot care for them, and yet it is a reality. This little one is having a bit of a tough time in the transition as he no doubt realizes that he is not in his familiar home (also foster care) where he has been for many months. My heart grieves as he feels this loss, and yet rejoices for our son and wife as this little one is an answer to many prayers. Yet isn’t that where we often find ourselves…in the tension between joy and grief? Thankful for God’s grace that encompasses it all, and praying for your family in the loss of your brother. By the way, I found you by way of My friend Robin W. in Chico when she recommended a post almost a year ago. So glad she did.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Susie, I think your right about living in the tension between joy and grief. Well said. And I’m so glad to meet you here. Robin told me about you and I’m so honored that you are following along. I pray this little guy that is becoming a new member of your family feels the overwhelming love of out Heavenly Father that fills in the places of loss. Thanks so much for your prayers, that touches me.

  9. Dolly@Soulstops

    what a wise friend to see the loss of what could have been and never was…praying His grace continues to hold you and your family …hugs, Shellie

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you Dolly. She comes from a place of experience as a funeral director for the past ten years. It’s obvious that God has anointed her to minister to those who grieve.

  10. Susie Smith

    Shelly, thank you for sharing your heart. You are so loved. Susie

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aw, thanks sweet Susie. Appreciate your love and support.

  11. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, to sit at your table is such an unimaginable privilege–to witness your raw transparency, to empathize with your real loss–to hear about your brother and how you both bravely wove together a relationship sturdy enough to span the summers and the miles and the years, to span the brokenness of a family torn apart–and it is a privilege to sit at your table now and hold your hand and bow our heads in prayer, to beseech the One who loves you and your brother with an everlasting love. When my beloved father died (five years ago, though it seems like today), just days after his death, I had no feelings at all. I had shed many tears through months of his illness and at his passing and during the visitation with its steady stream of family and friends–and then so suddenly, not one tear flowed; I was utterly emptied out, and I felt so terribly confused and guilty, wrongly (I realize now) equating my inability to weep with some terrible lack on my part–some awful inability to love my father deeply enough; it seemed obvious to me that if I had really loved Daddy well enough, then my tears couldn’t have possibly ceased so soon. But God, in His graciousness, providentially and immediately put a poem in my path (# 341 by Emily Dickinson), and it explained to me the frozenness I was experiencing–it was normal–perhaps even to be expected. What grace that poem contained, because in reading it, I realized that my lack of tears didn’t mean that I didn’t love my father. What I was experiencing simply meant that my grief was so painful, that God was dulling my anguish with a form of feelingness, which allowed me to bear it. I share the poem here hoping that it will become grace for you, too…….along with the encouragement to know that you bear no guilt and will bear no guilt throughout this grieving process. May God give you the freedom to feel what you feel…..or not to feel. Grief unfolds in its own way, in its own time, and God redeems every heartrending tear or every stiff-hearted frozenness…..He redeems it all for His purposes, and above all, please know that it’s He who sits at your table and never leaves. He promises to dine with you even in your pain, to embrace you in your grief, and to collect every precious tear in His bottle. And I would add to your grief list that grief was never meant to be……..because death was never meant to be. And one day, it will be no more, and that is the truth and “the joy that comes in the *mourning*.”
    After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
    The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
    The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
    And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

    The Feet, mechanical, go round –
    Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
    A Wooden way
    Regardless grown,
    A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

    This is the Hour of Lead –
    Remembered, if outlived,
    As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
    First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go –

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Lynn, this should have been a blog post! Your words are so lovely, healing to my soul. And the poem is really divine. Thank you for sharing compassion, for the encouragement, for your friendship. I’m honored.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        WHat completely amazes me, Shelly, is how it’s *you* who reach out to others in your own grief and pain. You are such a precious, compassionate saint. God bless you. I will keep praying for you and your family…..and I just happened to think (if you’ve not already), you might want to read the “Lists of Lament” chapter, where I talk about grief’s many faces. You are loved, Shelly, and beloved! Never forget that.

  12. Tanya Marlow

    Oh Shelly, I am just catching up on your news. So sorry to hear about your brother.
    Your insight here and your friend’s words are spot on – grief is for the loss, however it comes, the what could have been and what should have been. I can see that you would have grief and disappointment and regret and numbness all mixed up together. I’m praying for you and your family and hoping that God the Holy Spirit will be to you the One who Comes-alongside.
    Much, much love xx

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks friend, appreciate your loving words and supportive prayer.

  13. Anne

    Feeling can take you so many places. So thankful that yours take you to the the mercy of our Father in heaven. What a gracious place to let your feelings and tears rest. Your delicate words bring encouragement and hope to so many others. What a gift to share your heart in such a beautiful way.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It was great to sit with you in real life Anne. Appreciate you.

  14. Eileen Knowles (@cupojoegirl)

    Love that your friend was praying for you concerning “the loss of what could have been.” That is beautiful. I think sometimes that is what we need most.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I was so moved by the way God spoke through her Eileen, her words felt like a divine appointment.

  15. wynnegraceappears

    Shelly, you words reach down deep. May you walk through this grief road, loved by The One Who Made You and by a commmunity that cares for you and loves you so very very much. Blessings in the process, tender mercies, and unharnessable grace. Yours in Christ, Elizabeth

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I do already feel tremendously loved Elizabeth, sensing His presence in the circumstance. Thanks for you all your love.

  16. wolfsrosebud

    guilt travels many paths of death… even those in which peace seem to reside… KNOW our God is a God of comfort… may you know that comfort in abundance

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I do know His comfort, feeling it as we ponder it all. Thank you.

  17. Michele-Lyn (@lifesurrendered)

    You are such a beautiful writer, and writing flows from within. It’s your humble heart that pours out such grace and beauty on the screen. Still praying for you, my friend.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      What a gracious thing to say Michele-Lyn. Honestly, I don’t want anything I write to be in my own strength. Thank you for all your prayers on my behalf. I’m honored.

  18. sayingsomethingbetterthansilence

    This is so beautiful. You encourage me in my faith every day. God is using you in such an awesome way. <3

  19. Sandra Heska King

    Oh dear Shelly. Your friend is so right. Grief is many-faceted, and there’s no way we’re “supposed” to feel through the could-have-beens and never-will-be’s. Maybe we even grieve our own feelings. Maybe we grieve our guilt over a sense of relief. There are deaths and losses of so many kinds–not just physical. We don’t get through grief, either. It’s always part of us. I still try to wrap my mind around the knowing that He knew all from the beginning. Praying as you lean into Him. Love you, friend, and can’t wait to see you in just a few short weeks.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m sitting with what you’ve said here Sandy. It resonates. I’ve read it three times. Thank you. And I cannot wait to hug you too. I get so excited, when I think about my heart starts to pound.

  20. Paula

    Your honesty and transparency are so bravely born through your words. The truth of grieving what could have been is often more painful than the reality. It is the depth of your honesty that makes your writing so powerful to so many. Love you and holding you close as you go through the emotions of this loss of “what might have been” and will now never be. The love that surrounds you is truly encompassing.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Paula, this means so much coming from you, especially because we’ve lived much of it together.

  21. Lisa notes...

    No reason to feel guilty for either crying or not crying. You’re where you’re supposed to be in the process–no rules here. When we see people crying (or not) at funerals or elsewhere, we never know all the reasons behind their tears (or lack).

    Praying for your healing over losses of ‘what could have been’. We all have those and they hurt too.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Lisa, thanks for your encouragement. I’m still so frustrated that I cannot comment on your blog. I hope you know how much your visits mean to me.

  22. Jillie

    Hi Shelly…You are on my heart…and in my prayers. How wonderful your ‘community of readers’ is. So many who love you. So many who care. So many who are praying. They are right…grief has no rules. No right way…no wrong way.

    I too, have family ‘blood’ connections, but little more. Already I grieve my Dad—who is now 80. So many lost years between us, over an affair that broke my family apart over 33 years ago. He left my Mom, and us. Resulted in the premature death of my Mom from a broken heart. She was 44. He then married the other lady. Years of unforgiveness, on my part. Years of stumbling along, trying to do all I could to heal myself through the helps that God sent to me. Now that I’ve FINALLY been able to lay it all down, my Dad treads lightly around me. He doesn’t trust me, and I don’t blame him. But I grieve that we’ll never have again even the little good we had as I was growing up. And time is running out. He isn’t in the best of health. He wants no part in my ‘religion’. I picture myself at his bedside pleading him to surrender in his last moments…but what are the chances of that? He doesn’t even tell us ‘kids’ when he’s in hospital. All this to say…I’ve been grieving my Dad for years now, and I think sometimes, that when he does go, I’ll have no more tears left for him. Only tears of regret.

    And my Mom? YEARS after her death, I was sitting on my kitchen floor one supper hour, digging in cupboards for a certain bowl…suddenly, I saw her doing the same thing. And I just broke. I wondered how such a memory could set me off like that, but, such is the workings of grief. We just never know when it will strike…or how. It just does. No right way. No wrong way.

    Just know Shelly, that we ALL understand. You do not walk alone in this.

    With much Love, Jillie

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Jillie, I’m so touched by your story. Honored that you would share it here. I think it will be healing for many who stop by and read. Thank you for your encouragement and love my dear friend. So glad to have you in my life.

  23. Christina

    A loss, no matter who it is, and why, and how, is always painful. So many questions left unanswered, what if’s, and if only’s. We each walk through the valley of grief in our own timing and our own pace. Praying that you feel His presence with you each step of the way. May He continue to surround you with love and support of family and friends. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings in this place for you faith encourages me and points me to the Man of all sorrows.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I feel so loved and supported here Christina. This little oasis is healing grace. Thank you for praying.

  24. hopefulleigh

    Shelly, I get this. It’s how I felt when my grandma died- crying over what could have been, what will never have another chance to be. I compared it to how heartbroken I was when my other grandma died and felt guilty, just for a moment, that I wasn’t grieving the same way. But grief is as individualized as our relationships. Only time will tell how we will choose to mourn. Blessings to you, friend.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think it may be possible that our grief goes as deep as the love extended if that makes sense. I have grieved most deeply over those for which I’ve spent lots of time and invested over long periods. Like my grandparents, I still miss them.

  25. Judy

    Here via Ann Voskamp’s blog.

    Shelly – I am praying for you in your sorrow.

    Our response to the death of a close one trapped in addictions is a particularly hard mix. It is as though there have been a thousand small deaths already mourned, hills of crushed hopes – and then this seemingly final defeat, mixed with the silent hope of God’s presence with him/her in and through death – the not knowing. The blend of gratitude for the release from tortured mind and suffering body, and the sadness that the longed for conversations of his/her experience of God’s grace and renewal will not happen…not this side of glory.

    This is a very hard place to be and there is no right responding beyond letting the Lord, His Word, and His people hold you up. And in those, you are responding perfectly.

    May the peace of Christ be upon you today.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Judy, I am thankful you stopped by because you expressed what I am feeling in a way that I couldn’t. So thank you, I’m overwhelmed, really.

  26. Beth

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Shelly. I didn’t know but will definitely pray for you and these lingering regrets. I was talking with a friend just last week who’d lost her brother at a young age recently. He, too, had chosen to rebel against God and she regrets the lack of connection they had. I will let her know about your blog and the “awful grace” journey you are on. I’m sure it will bring comfort to her, and in that, I pray it brings comfort to you as well.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Beth, thanks for your support. I pray that whoever is led here will be reminded of His love and grace, no matter the circumstance.

  27. altarofheaven

    “Grace, to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abudnant through Christ” 2 Corinthians 1:2-5

    Already there is beauty in the ashes and we that read what’s in your heart can see–praise God He is allowing you by His grace to share…He wastes nothing. I am praying for you and your family {your Dad is heavy on my heart, I’m weeping with and for him}.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh wow, your comment touches my heart. I feel heavy for my Dad too, praying for him quite a lot. I’m so touched by your compassion and conviction to pray. Honored really. Thank you. If you sense anything specific as you pray, you have an open door to share with me as you feel led. My email is

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you precious Stefanie. You have such a big heart my friend.

  28. Jennifer@GDWJ

    Oh friend…. Arms reaching out to hug you, Shelly. I am so.very.sorry about this. No words, just a lot of love. xo

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ll take it. Thanks for the love. I’m hugging you back Jennifer.

  29. simplystriving

    what a gift your friend has to see deeper than the sting…so thankful.
    I’d squeeze your neck if I could, Shelly. Praying for you as He lays you heavy on my heart…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I know you would. Thanks for praying Nikki.

  30. tara pohlkotte

    Oh, Shelly. Yes, grieve all of it, and allow the fragments to find you as they may. Another reason I feel us connected: I am not an instantaneous griever. Grief lays dormant in me quiet for long times, spilling over unexpected places and at unexpected times. I have felt this self guilt for how my heart may break slowly, or, in my standards not enough. You are woven together beautifully and with purpose. So maybe your heart only weeps in small warm streams. Maybe next month it will break. Do it in your time and with him. He knows your heart and walks with you always.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love what you said here Tara. I’ve missed reading your words, was thinking about you yesterday. My heart does weep in small streams, not often in water spouts. Sending my love to you.

  31. Michelle DeRusha

    With you, Shelly. And still praying.

  32. Theresa

    Shelly, I am so very so sorry for your loss, and as you stated above, the loss of what could have been. Praying for healing through this time of grief.

  33. Jennifer Richardson

    i have no words to speak or wisdom to offer.
    just wanted you to know that I’m here
    with a tender hug.
    with you,

  34. fiona lynne

    I’m so so sorry for your loss. The loss of the hopes and dreams of what could have been. This verse has been a comfort to me this week from Psalm 31: “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” He SEES and he KNOWS. May you find rest in that knowledge now.

  35. lolita

    Hello, Shelly!

    I appreciate how you have been thinking of me. I am alright except that when we have a long weekend (2 holidays Monday and Tuesday), I can’t be online. Then work in the office piles high too.

    I will be coming over and read thoroughly. I don’t want to be in a hurry to drink in from the stream of Joy and rejoicing flowing here. To soak in is best

    I was a bit shaken too about your loss, Shelly. But in anything, we find joy even in loss because there is always a deeper and greater meaning and purpose to it…. most especially when we acknowledge God in everything. I pray for comfort for your Pa and his family and for your too. I know you would have wished for him to have a better and longer life. I know deeply too that you and your brother should have shared more than genes, you should have shared Jesus together. But some things aren’t ours to control.

    I love this line: “How He carries us through fragments of loss, into the hills of redemption to makes all things new.”

    Thank you for your visit to my little voice out there.

    • lolita

      BTW, I love that song, “Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning!”
      So comforting.

  36. narrowpathstohigherplaces

    No words. Just know God’s body surrounds you in prayer and love.

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