Grief Shared is Grief Diminished

by | Feb 12, 2014 | Encouragement


I traded the soup of my swirling thoughts for a cup of tomato crab with a hint of thyme; a lunch at a new-to-me restaurant with a friend who talks writing. Weary of wearing yoga pants as my outfit and pajamas, I needed fresh perspective after being cooped up, writing for several weeks.

We were grieving the loss of a mutual friend who chose folly over truth as her living epitaph.  Turning a cheek from Light toward darkness, she declared herself fool with a megaphone. That truth, it left us wilting in sadness.

“Grief shared is grief diminished,” said Elizabeth, “I thought I would get this news out of the way first so we can move on to something more cheerful.”

That phrase was a familiar saying her father spoke often as a funeral director for many years before retirement. He knows the way of grief like the lines on his face, I thought. His sentence stuck with me while we pulled spoons to our thoughts, and then quickly faded when my name was called by a trench coat in TJ Maxx.

It wasn’t until hours later, while having coffee at a crowded Starbucks that those words about grief returned to the forefront like a lasso pulling on the horns of a calf.

Meekly interrupting my conversation with another girlfriend, a woman gently places a flyer in front of each one of us on the café table holding our tall and grandé. Disheveled hair, mascara bleeding under bottom eyelashes, she wears the top of a nurses uniform underneath a violet hoodie. A nametag with Manager indented in black.

She asks if we would be willing to sign the petition. “My daughter was killed as a pedestrian, hit by a car last month and I’m trying to do something to change the intersection,” she said quietly, pulling her hand up to her cheek to wipe the tears off.

I look down, glimpse the black and white photograph of her beautiful twenty-something daughter above words on the paper, clamp my hand around her bony arm and ask if she can sit down for a minute. She pulls up a chair, rests the box of fliers on her lap and begins rolling fingers around the shiny necklace she is wearing. Confesses that she is working but mostly running the vacuum and washing the dishes at a doctor’s office.

Death is fresh, the longing in her dark eyes are pleading for answers in the arched eyebrows of a mother’s worst nightmare.

We each share our own stories of grief and redemption. I tell her about how I came within an inch of losing my daughter to an eighteen wheeler a year ago last November.

I ask about faith, if she knows Jesus. She nods, admits she can’t pray yet but she’s reading scripture daily. And that’s when those words come back. Grief shared is grief diminished.

Repeating our incomprehensible stories of horror are sometimes the only prayers we can utter for healing. Perhaps that’s why we recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name . . .  is the emergency number usually remembered in trauma. And the violence of heaven is unleashed.

In community with Jennifer, Holley, Emily, Lyli.

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  1. Lori Tintes Hartmann

    ((((Shelly))))) I am sorry about your friend. I am thankful your path crossed with this grieving woman. I am absolutely sure you made a difference in her grief.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think God was using quite a few people in that coffee bar to be a place of empathy. She probably ministered to me more to be honest.

  2. Sharon@HikingTowardHome

    Such a beautiful post. It reminds me of something one of our pastors said the other day. He spoke of Moses fleeing into the desert, leaving Egypt the first time not knowing he would one day lead a million or so people through the same desert years later. God takes us down trails, some joyful – some hard, so that we can hike those paths later on and lead and walk others through their valleys and over their mountains.

    • Shelly Miller

      This gives me hope Sharon, you are good at that. Thank you.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Your words, and these “coincidences” (talking about grief and then meeting it in person) are clearly broken chips of a mosaic that God pieced together into a beautiful moment of consolation. Im so glad you were there for her, Shelly. I can’t fathom her loss.

    • Shelly Miller

      Love the way you said that Lynn — broken chips of a mosaic that God pieced together into a beautiful moment of consolation. Yes and amen.

      Me either, can’t fathom it.

  4. Christie Purifoy

    Love these glimpses into your days. God so clearly draws broken hearts to cross your path. Your stories remind me to keep my eyes open. God is always at work.

    • Shelly Miller

      I never saw it that way until you said Christie, thanks for pointing that out.

  5. Mel

    I have no doubt that God used you in the life of that woman…perhaps to give her a bit of hope and the reminder that she’s not alone. What a gift that He crossed your paths that day. Thank you for sharing the beautiful and the broken of your moments…and how He’s working. 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      I think we all need people of empathy, no matter the circumstance. Yes? God is gracious to bring them at just the right moments, I’m thankful.

  6. Michele-Lyn

    Redemptions beauty… You live this. Though this story is heartbreaking, you demonstrate to us living love, Christ’s hope, His redemption. I don’t converse as easily with strangers. God is growing me. To give His love should be enough reason to move beyond my own trepidations. Yes, like this.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m not sure I’ve met a stranger yet Michele-Lyn, I guess its how I’m wired. Wanting to know someone’s story is what motivates me to reach out I guess. Thank you for the kindness of your words. It’s lovely to see you here.

  7. Christy Willard

    Powerful post (again!). “Grief shared is grief diminished.” There’s such truth to those words. We think we have to carry the burden of grief alone. It feels like such a private struggle and yet, you are right, there is healing when it’s shared. There’s healing when we share, period. Lots to think about here. Thank you!

    Christy @ A Heartening Life

    • Shelly Miller

      I think that sharing our pain is the door that opens healing. Until we surrender vulnerably I think we can be stuck in the cesspool of our circumstance. It scary but always worth it with someone we trust.

  8. Sharon O

    wow… such amazing insight and beauty. Grief is so tangible at times yet so far away and you are right, so often the prayers said as a child, return to us in desperate times. thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      In childhood, I was bored with those rote prayers and now as an adult find them quit meaningful. God has a way of redeeming what we find seemingly small or insignificant, doesn’t he?

  9. Lisa notes...

    “Repeating our incomprehensible stories of horror are sometimes the only prayers we can utter for healing.”

    This need to share our stories is so real. I’m glad you were able to minister to this woman. I pray for her wounds to continue healing….

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m not sure I ministered to her, but perhaps a listening ear of empathy was a place of consolation for her.

  10. Alyssa Santos

    I am a “lucky” to be alive girl myself. And I agree there is holiness and healing found in the sharing and telling our stories. I’ve asked God so many times to keep it fresh, the awe and even the memory of the pain that kept me close to him. I don’t want that to callous over.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know, your story is amazing Alyssa. I’m sure you can relate to her pain on some level. I feel the same way about my daughter’s accident. Though I don’t want to live in the past, I also don’t want to forget the redemption of the way God saved her life. Never.

  11. Power of Modesty

    such a powerful story, thanks for sharing

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for visiting.

  12. Kendra Roehl

    “Repeating our incomprehensible stories of horror are sometimes the only prayers we can utter for healing.”
    Thank you for sharing this today. It is so true. Thanks for being real and seeing the hurt around you. This inspired me today.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thankful that your were inspired here Kendra, that blesses me.

  13. Alecia Simersky

    “Repeating our incomprehensible stories of horror are sometimes the only prayers we can utter for healing.” Yes, this is what I’m hoping for myself.

    • Shelly Miller

      Alecia, I’ve prayed for you several times since you shared this, just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you.

  14. Nancy Ruegg

    Listening to that woman’s story prepared her heart for your question about faith. If she had not known Jesus, no doubt she would have listened to you because you demonstrated empathy and caring. In this case, your empathy and caring ministered encouragement and support. God bless you, Shelley, for being God’s voice, whether you’re at the computer in pajamas or at the coffee shop in a coat.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think my friend and I were both there at the right time, God’s timing is always perfect isn’t it Nancy?

      • Nancy Ruegg

        Oh, yes!

  15. Mindy Whipple

    I love how you asked her to sit, to share, to move just an inch closer to healing. We have had great loss in our family and are so thankful for those who let us share, even helped us bear, our grief.

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s the redemption in the horrible, difficult things we go through isn’t it Mindy? That God would use what we’ve been through to help someone else.

  16. Holly Solomon Barrett

    “Repeating our incomprehensible stories of horror are sometimes the only prayers we can utter for healing.” So so so true. It’s like if we just keep repeating it, we can come to the place where we can believe it has happened and then we can start to heal. Beautiful post!

    • Shelly Miller

      Exactly Holly. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Anita Mathias

    “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name . . . is the emergency number usually remembered in trauma. And the violence of heaven is unleashed.”
    Wow, that’s amazing. Loved this!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Anita, seeing you here always puts a smile on my face. Hope you are staying dry from the recent flooding in England.

  18. Sharon

    You are linked up next to me at Lyli’s blog. Your subject matter grabbed me because I just lost my father a month ago. Oh, how your words washed over me with encouragement! Thank you for bringing a ray of hope into these sad days, and for reminding me that because of Jesus, we are not conquered by our grief.


    • Shelly Miller

      Sharon, I’ve been out of town so I apologize for the delay in responding. I just wanted you to know how much your honesty touched me. I’m thankful you found some empathy here, that God used this story to speak to you. Praying He will continue to comfort your grief.

  19. Emmie

    This is such a beautiful post. Thank you. Your words are beautiful.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for reading Emmie, appreciate your kind words.

  20. Cindi Summerlin

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  21. Emily Wierenga

    oh friend, i didn’t know you nearly lost your daughter… i love this. this is church, this sharing of grief and mourning.

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