I sat at the stoplight, with the back of my car filled with flower arrangements and my mind turning with thoughts and emotions. The week prior had brought cataclysmic change, and my mind was on overdrive trying to process all of it.

My thoughts drifted to the Bible story of four friends who placed their paralyzed companion on a mat and carried him to the feet of Jesus {See Luke 5:17-26}. I’ve always been the one helping, bringing a casserole. But now? I needed such healing. And in our deep hurt, our friends had come alongside us, carrying us.

Less than a week before, my husband had died completely unexpectedly. We had gone to bed like every other night for 26 years, but in the wee hours of the morning, I awoke to Dan’s heavy breathing. Thinking it was a nightmare, I nudged his arm gently. “It’s okay, hon. It’s just a nightmare.”

A few minutes later, more awake, I realized this was not nightmare breathing. I flipped on the light and could see instantly that something was very wrong.

We started CPR immediately; the paramedics arrived and rushed him to the hospital. But Dan never recovered. I came back home, still very early in the morning, to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done — tell our seven children their dad had died.

Moments after I got home, my front door opened without a knock. It was a dear friend and her husband, who having been wakened by a phone call about Dan, threw on clothes and come to be with us. They wept with us in shock and grief.

As we wept together and I tried to explain what had happened, my front door opened again. I looked up to see the first friend I met when our family moved here seven years earlier. We met when she bought some homeschool books I was selling online. We discovered we would soon be neighbors in this big city, and she invited us to her church once we got to town. That church became our church and we’d been raising kids together ever since.

That morning, as my children and I struggled with the pain and grief of such sudden loss, our front door opened again and again and again.

Friends heard and came. Food piled around my dining room table, paper goods and boxes of tissue were set out, coolers packed with drinks lined the dining room. And a band of women, including my sweet sister, worked steadily in the kitchen.

And it wasn’t just the grownups who came to be with us.

As I rested in my room that afternoon, some friends came to get me. “You need to hear this,” they said. I walked into our family room and listened to guitars and teen voices singing praise songs from upstairs in the kids’ rooms.

My children’s friends — in probably a completely unfamiliar experience — had come to grieve with us and be with us.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, Paul tells the body of Christ in Romans 12:15.

What do you say to someone who went to bed married and woke up a widow? How do you fix the hurt for a 17-year-old who will never have her dad move her into her first dorm or walk her down the aisle? What about boys coming of age?

Well, friends can’t fix it. They’re not meant to. Only God can heal those gaping wounds.

But when life shatters with pain, friends can give a soft landing.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” {Romans 12:10}

Friends are not there to fix the hurt. I cannot take away the pain and suffering of others. That is for God. But I can carry them in the hurt.

I can pray for them. And listen to their heart. I can tell my friends I love them and weep with them and just be there with them.

Related: Remind yourself — and a friend too — how much you’re loved with this beautiful 8×10 art print that says: “You’re loved, more than you know!”

  • Anna Smit

    Thank you for sharing this, Lisa. I’m so very sorry you have had to bare so much pain, but I’m also so thankful for a Father who held you and continues to hold you in that pain. And what beautiful friendship met you and your children in the midst of it all.

    Recently I had a woman I had only just gotten to know through my Bible Study invite herself over to sit and listen to my own story of grief. Her presence and tears for my loss meant so much more than anything else anyone had offered me in my grief. Often our wish to “help” people “get over” things stops us from approaching them with the heart of Jesus, the one who chooses to both weep with us AND give us hope. Thank you for this beautiful reminder of who we are called to be like.

    • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

      Anna, I’m so sorry for your loss. You are so right . . . the simple act of listening with compassion is huge in healing.

  • Rene Perry

    Oh Lisa….tears are flowing as I remember that day. One of the things I remember that stuck out to me was Zach’s friends gathered around him praying. Your house was full that day. Still pray for you and your sweet family. Thanks for sharing your heart.
    Love you dearly!
    Rene’ ❤️

    • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

      Rene, I so learned not to shield our kids from hurt to bring them along with us so they can minister as well. I honor you today Rene as one of those heart friends.

  • Veronica

    Lisa, I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved husband and friend of twenty-six years. As I was reading your post, I was deeply moved by the actions of others, young and old, to grieve along side you and your children. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your heart today. Praying for you and your kids. Xox

    • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

      Thank you for your kind words and prayers Veronica. <3

  • http://www.womensempowermentservices.com Silvia Arvelo

    Hello Lisa: Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us this morning. This blog hit me to the core of my soul. One because I can’t even imagine the pain that you and your family experienced but also because I am not sure how other than family would walk through my doors. God knows my heart, I have been speaking directly to him about my needs for true and authentic community and the right doors are yet to open. I pray that God will continue to send people that truly love you and care for you through your home and heart doors! Blessings, Silvia

    • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

      Sorry, Silvia, not sure where my reply went. I wanted to tell you that God desires us to have that bone-deep fellowship and He will meet your every need in the wait.

  • Stephanie

    Lisa, I am so very sorry to hear about your loss. I pray that God continues to comfort and encourage you and your beautiful family during this difficult time. Thank you for sharing this story with us all. God bless you and your family ❤️

    “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” ~ Psalms 46:1 (kjv)

    • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

      Thank you, Stephanie.

  • Kristy Lynn Hanson

    Dear Lisa, first off I want to say how sorry I am for your loss! I thank God that He surrounded you with the love and support you needed at one of the most difficult times of your life! I too am a widow, became one at age 37 almost 3 years ago. My husband and I had only been married 4 years and had a very difficult marriage, we were actually separated when he suddenly passed away on a mission trip to Mexico. I was apart of his church for 5 years, active on the women’s ministry and a member of the worship team but found myself facing this loss without the support of my church family. My daughters (from before my marriage) and I had to struggle alone and left that church several months after his passing way because it became clear that it wasn’t my church and the members did not step up to support us during the loss. Our situations are so different but the fact we were separated does not mean that I wasn’t grieving over the loss of my husband and my marriage. God has been there for my through all of this but I have become apprehensive about finding a new church because of the hurt I have gone through before. I want to find that community like you spoke of in your post and I think that is what stirred me to comment. I am so very glad that God put people around you during your time of grief dear sister. I hope to someday find Godly friends who are willing to stand beside me when I need them as well. Blessings to you and your beautiful family, Kristy Lynn

    • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

      I am so sorry Kristy for your deep loss and the hurt in your church. Yes, I so affirm for you to get plugged back into a body of believers who, though not perfect, can walk with Christ alongside you. Thank you for commenting.

  • Susan G.

    Thank you. Praying our merciful God will continue to comfort and guide you every day and will surround your children with everything they need as they grow in Him.
    Love and prayers!

    • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

      Thank you so much Susan!

  • http://lisaappelo.com/ Lisa Appelo @Faithful and True

    Nancy, I’m so sorry for such loss. Covenant completed. . . 35 years is amazing and yet that means deep loss. Griefshare is great; thank you for sharing that.

  • http://www.holyvacationqueen.com Kathy/holyvacationqueen.com

    My gosh, what a beautiful testimony illustrating love of God’s people during your grief. Blessed for those who mourn came alive for me for the first time. Thank you, and God bless you for your faith and carrying your beautiful family through with the help of your dear, Godly friends. Visiting from Testimony Tuesday. You touched my heart today.

  • http://soulstops.com Dolly @ Soulstops.com

    I am so sorry for you and your family’s great loss…Thankful you’ve had friends come alongside you and your family and I pray they will continue to do so…

  • Beth Williams

    Thank you for your open, honesty in sharing this heartwarming story! God knew what you needed that day & it was friends to come around & be there for you and your kids! Grieving is hard & friends help soften the landing!!
    I’m usually the one to run in and help out! I understand that people need to be carried through trials. I have a wonderful small church that is always right there for you when trials come. Before mom died my pastor spoke with my dad, via dad’s request, and even visited him at home. My dad got re baptized! When mom died the small church held a little funeral for her and even fed my family! (All that even though my parents never went to that church)! They truly showed God’s love to my family during that time!
    Blessings :)

  • bluecottonmemory

    My heart so hurts for what happened – for your loss. Your story shows how God can come in and bring something deeply beautiful into something so incredibly painful! Your faith and hope in Him is so incredibly encouraging! Praying for you and your family!

  • http://www.Trueandfaithful.net Lisa Appelo @True and Faithful

    Barbara, how amazing to have spent 51 years together. I’m so sorry for your great loss and I know even as hard and painful as the grief and missing are, God WILL take care of you. I’m praying for you across the miles even as I write this. May you feel God holding you in the palm of His good hand.