{thoughts on GRIEF}

thistle 2000

You may or may not know about my Dad’s passing.

This is a letter about that day & about my grief process this past year.

A letter of HOPE to those who are grieving,

This is my story of grief and how I am working through it. Last year, on October 15th it was a normal Monday when I woke up. It started off with normal things like breakfast and lunch and by dropping Paige off at school and running some errands. By the end of the day our lives would be changed forever. My Dad was golfing in the morning with his regular golf group {something he loved doing} and had just finished the last hole of 18 that morning. We were told that after picking up his ball and putting the flag in place he took a few steps and collapsed. His friends worked to do CPR and attempt to resuscitate him.  The fire department raced to find the golf hole he was on {Castlewood’s golf course is place beautifully up in the hills above Pleasanton and not an easy place to try to find someone in an emergency}. Even the doctors & nurses at the hospital tried to revive his heart…but he had experienced a massive heart attack and there was nothing that could be done. In my gut I believe that he was supposed to die that day. He was in a place that was very difficult to reach and I just believe that this was his time. I’m so thankful to the men who were there and attempted to save his life…but I felt then and even now that it was just his time. Three nights before he died we celebrated our “Fun Fall Dinner” {a tradition that I have done with just Aaron and the kids every fall but had decided at the last-minute to include my parents and sister in on that year} and we all sat around the table talking for hours. My parents had just gotten back from their amazing trip to the East Coast. It had been their first trip to New York City & D.C. together and we wanted to hear all about it. Six weeks before this night my dad had retired and turned 60. Big changes were going on in my parent’s lives and we asked him a lot of questions about how his new retirement felt. He mostly just mentioned how great it was to golf 4 days a week at the club and said he had a long list of things to take care of but was enjoying the free time more than he expected. We also talked a lot about a memorial service that they had attended that week. A woman at our church had died while scuba diving {something she had loved doing}. She had heart failure right there in the water and went to be with the Lord all too soon. My parents talked about how lovely her memorial service was & strong her husband was. He was faithful to trust in the Lord as his strength. The gospel of Jesus was proclaimed and they left feeling encouraged, having celebrated her life. We all commented on the fact that at least she died while she was doing what she loved.  My parents had known someone who died while golfing years back and my dad even said something to the effect of “If you are going to go…you might as well be doing what you love…I wouldn’t mind dying on the golf course if it was my time…” {now remember this was only 3 days before he died}. Every time I start to feel sad about his death I remembered that at least he got his wish…and I’m confident that he is with our Savior in Heaven and better off. You see, I just had that peace that it was his time. I could dwell on the fact that I didn’t hug him goodbye that night {oh what I would have told him if I had known that was the last time I would see him on this side of Heaven}…but at least I had a great night with him. In God’s kindness he allowed my dad to say those words of reassurance that only made sense on Monday evening…it helped us to know that in hind-sight it was going to be okay and he was better off and he got his wish in a sense. It was my dad’s time and that it was going to be okay.  My story of how I found out he had died and my first set of emotions can be found HERE.

At the beginning of this experience I felt that grief was like a thief…it robbed me of who I once was and made me feel as if things may never be normal again. The only glimmer of hope I had in the months that followed were a few of God’s promises and the strength/support of my family, but even those seemed very dim at moments {I will share more on that later}. Make no mistake, however, that even with God’s loving hope…grief is raw, painful, sad & simply devastating. It cut me wide open in ways I had never been cut open before.

I cannot really describe how I have felt in the months following my Dad’s very sudden death. Words will never suffice. For the first time in my whole life I didn’t know how to describe something that I was feeling. And that was strange for me.

I had never had this problem.

Typically, I’m an open book. People can look at me and know how I am feeling: happy, sad, silly or whatever. Most of the time if someone asks me how my day is going I tell them {even if it’s bad}. I just cannot hide my emotions. But this grief thing threw all that out the window.

I have tried to type these thoughts for months because I just cannot seem to come up with the right words. I feel emotionally exhausted every time I come back to these notes, these words, these emotions to try to put them into words that other people might be able to understand.

In the first several months I wrote these thoughts:

Sometimes I say I’m “fine” because I simply don’t know what else to say. I cannot tell a grocery store clerk “Well, I’m terrible and painfully sad today.” I mean…I guess I could…but who wants to ruin someone’s day like that? I cannot tell my husband that the reason I cannot get out of bed is because I just don’t want to face the day today…I don’t want to deal with the fact that everything is different now…my whole family dynamic…my sense of self that was wrapped up in being Walt’s daughter is now different…it’s all different. The kids keep asking questions about him and wondering why he had to die so soon. I don’t have answers for them and I’m weary to find peace with those questions myself.

I don’t have words to describe how painful it feels to know that almost everyone in my Dad’s very small family is gone and I feel really sad that the keeper of their stories is now gone. Who are those people in the box of black & white pictures that I have from my grandpa? What were they celebrating that day? Where exactly were they from? I have some of those details but I always thought he would be around so that I could ask more family questions as they came up.

Who do I go to for music or old movie trivia? He was the one in our family who knew all those useless facts. I liked that I could say “Hey Dad, who sings this song?” and I would not only get the answer but some other random tidbit about the band and where the song came from. I loved that about him. Now I hear a song that he would have known about and I cry. It’s these small little daily triggers that could seem insignificant to someone else…but to me they were the way I bonded with my dad. He wasn’t a real chatty guy…so I was always looking for ways to connect with him.

And tears fill my eyes every…single…time that I pass by the hospital where I got the sad news that he was gone from this life on earth. How do I explain that to the kids when they see me cry? Sometimes I tell them but who wants to ruin their sweet little innocent days with my sad burdens? The list goes on and on in the days and months after someone dies.

And there were dark thoughts too. Things I cannot express in words.

Very Honest thoughts on grief that are hard to admit. Most people don’t know what to say to you when someone you love dies…so they try to comfort you with their own story. This is okay most of the time. There were many well-intended well-wishers with their similar stories of pain or death…that were only meant to comfort me. But if I am being truly honest…sometimes their stories would leave me feeling worse. Please don’t hear me wrong. I needed to share in the pain with others and relate to their pain at times. Most of the time it was comforting to know I was not alone. But in my sad, sinful heart I found myself ranking my pain with theirs. Thoughts like “well at least their loved one lived 30 more years than my Dad…they don’t really know how hard it’s been for me…they could never understand how much deeper my pain must be than theirs” filled my heart. This was not right…and it eventually led to guilt/conviction on my part. But it was how I felt at moments throughout the process. My hunch is that in our human nature it’s easier to go there instead of facing the reality that I just need to heal on my own and not worry about anyone else’s story. I’m sure people who have lost babies or children or spouses or watched someone suffer for months before dying have thought similar things about my story. Grief just takes you down these dark pathways at times. I have noticed that for some they stay in that dark place for years. I’m praying that my heart can stay connected to God’s love and grace and my gratitude for the years I had with my Dad can take me out of that dark place so that I don’t stay there. So that I see the ways God is healing our family, teaching us about His love and working for the good in our lives {even in the midst of this pain}.

Fast forward to today. You may not have lost a loved one but that does not mean you are not grieving. This letter is to you if you are battling cancer or addiction or suicide or depression. If you have been abused or made to feel like you are worthless in this life. If you are struggling to let go of a relationship or the hope of one. If you lost a child or cannot get pregnant or long to be married. If you are suffering {and you will at some point in this life} then you are probably grieving on some level. Let me first say that I am so sorry. I do not wish pain upon anyone. I may not know exactly how you feel {and nobody will} but I can empathize and say I am sorry you are going through this struggle. I do not have all the answers or even half of the answers about grief and faith and life after death. I know simple, basic, biblical truths about the Lord. I am not a pastor or a biblical scholar but I have felt God’s hand over every pain I have suffered. I have learned about God’s love my whole life and I know that He loves us, He died for us and He promised us eternal life with Him if we believe that he is who he says he is {the book of John says that God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not die…but may have eternal life}.

I have not known exactly what to say when people {or my children} ask me those common faith questions like:

“Why does God allow bad things {like death} to happen to good people?”


“Why does God allow people to suffer or die at all?”


“How could a good God allow any pain, hunger or suffering in this world at all?”

It’s complicated. I don’t fully understand it. But, I do know that he is there when we fall. He is there in the darkest hours of our lives. He lives and loves and died to set us free from these heartaches. On this side of Heaven I do not think we will ever fully understand his ways. I hope you know that IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING LOSS…YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Just ask God to give you peace, comfort, hope…He will. He is able and he is faithful and He loves all that He has made {especially you}. The Lord is continuing to redeem my emotions by showing me that I am not alone and He is good and He gives and He takes away…but He is good.

In the beginning of this experience I though grief was like a thief. But now I think it is like a thistle. It really stings when you first touch it…it’s very painful. But if you can get past the first sting…you can see it’s beauty.



P.S. If you are struggling with grief or pain and have more questions about the things of God…I would love for you to take some time to watch this video. I think it beautifully articulates God’s nature and attempts to explain some of those questions that we all face in our life through. This is a sad story, but one of hope as you learn about the Merrick family’s and their daughter Daisy’s battle with cancer. Their blog can be found HERE.

Britt Merrick | When Sparrows Fall from Reality on Vimeo.

Please drop me a line {laurapanfilio@gmail.com} if you have questions or need prayer.

31 days (250)

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5 Responses to {thoughts on GRIEF}

  1. Ailie October 14, 2013 at 10:36 PM #

    Oh sweet Laura, I have tears running down my face as I read your post tonight. Such beautiful, raw, hopeful words. Thank you for sharing your journey and the reason for your hope.

    I have suffered a different grief, but I do understand some of what you have been through. It is hard and it is definitely a journey with ups and downs.

    This last week I’ve seen this verse pop up twice :: Psalm 126:5 ~ Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

    Praying for songs of joy to fill your spirit . . .

    • Laura Panfilio October 14, 2013 at 10:59 PM #

      thanks sweet Ailie…love you. xo

  2. Laura October 15, 2013 at 12:26 PM #

    Very well said. Thanks for giving us a look at this very difficult time of grief that forever changes us. Love you.

    • Laura Panfilio October 15, 2013 at 5:21 PM #

      thanks Laura. Love you too! thanks for flying out here to be with us last year when we needed so much support. hugs to you! xo


  1. 31days {of letters} | everydayVALENTINE - October 15, 2013

    […] Day 14 {thoughts on GRIEF} […]

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