Ground Grief

“Do we have any ground grief? I mean ground beef?” My daughter laughed at her verbal slip-up before pausing and tilting her head thoughtfully.

“Ground grief. Hmm. I wonder what that would look like.”

She shrugged, laughed again, and left me standing there with an unexpected lump in my throat and an unbidden series of scenes trundling through my head.

A still image on the ultrasound screen, no heartbeat where there had been one before.

A needle in my mom’s chest, pumping chemo through her weakening body, and then a box with her ashes laid shallow in Kentucky clay.

My grandfather’s wide-mouthed laugh.

My youngest wailing in my arms when we told her we would not be returning home to Papua New Guinea.

Rocking my long-legged teenager as she sobbed while her classmates on the other side of the world buried a friend.

Familiar faces, misty morning mountains, students raising their hands in worship, heart sisters sitting cross-legged on my worn couch, jungle trees like broccoli as we took off for the last time…

Loss after loss draped heavy layers across my chest until I could barely breathe, like that time I fell hard out of a tree and stayed there in the dirt trying to suck air back into my suddenly empty lungs.

Ground grief. I know that place of collapse, where the pain is so heavy that even sitting up is too much.

But why is it all stealing my breath again now? Life is sweet at the moment. Our family is safe and healthy, our kids are happy, and we have a community of good friends around us. Enough time has passed since most of our losses that they don’t directly shape our day to day.

Why now? Because… grief.

Grief is liquid. It soaks in and saturates, running to where it wants to go, and sometimes it shows up like a water stain in unpredictable places. It doesn’t follow rules, doesn’t respect schedules, and doesn’t stick to a linear path. Even when life is good, grief can roll in and knock you flat and gasping. Its presence does not mean you’re living in the past, ungrateful for today. Continued grief is no more about ingratitude for what you still have than missing an amputated limb would mean you’re ungrateful for your remaining ones.

Grief is simply a soul level knowledge that things aren’t the way they were meant to be. It’s an agreement with our Creator that we are made for eternity, and this broken place is not where we belong. We feel it, we know it in our bones, we carry all the not-yetness in our heavy hearts. We groan, and creation groans with us, and together we move one day closer to the breaking of grief itself.

We’re down here on this ground, waiting and aching. And here’s the miracle:

He’s right here with us.

I remember the day it hit me. It was a day I couldn’t move myself out of the Psalms, couldn’t even move myself out of bed. And there it was in Psalm 56, verse 8.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in a bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (NLT)

Collecting tears in a bottle isn’t something that can be done quickly or from a distance. It takes nearness, familiarity, gentle intimacy. It takes focused, quiet presence. He’s here, just letting us grieve. No accusation. No impatience. Just companionship.

Jesus is called a man of sorrows. He gets it. He’s been the one on the ground, grieving and pleading with His Father. He’s had our dirt on His teary face. He’s been laid in the hard earth, the life drained out of His broken heart.

He’s with us in a way that can only come from a place of common experience. And He is with us in a way that can only come from knowing the end of the story, seeing how all things will be made right.

Because His love flowed liquid red onto our ground, and that ground couldn’t hold onto Him, we can stand and step forward and forward and forward, knowing that the seep and stain of grief has a sure end.

“He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” ~Isaiah 53:3-5 (NLT)


  1. Bernadine
    Mar 25, 2018

    This is so right. on. Why does it take so long for one to realize that today is today and tomorrow will bring a new day. We just need to be so thankful for what Jesus did for us and remember it every day not just once or twice in a year.

  2. debbie
    Apr 19, 2018

    just beautiful, Beth, beautiful…

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