When moving forward feels impossible

Devastated by the reality of my loss, I was drowning in tears.

I can’t do this. These words dominated my thoughts and kept me stalled.

It was January 2013. Three months earlier, my son, Jordan, died in a workplace accident.

As a married man of 12 days, Jordan’s young adult life ended abruptly just as he was getting started.

Devastated by the unfairness of my reality, I was drowning in tears. Everything changed and I no longer recognized myself.

I lost confidence in my abilities.

 I lost trust in God.

And I lost respect for my boss’ compassion.

At the large Christian university where I had worked for several years, my appreciation of my supervisor was genuine, until he gave me an assignment that felt inappropriate.

As a grieving parent, I didn’t feel ready for it. Not even close.

James asked me to attend a 2-day conference in a city 3 hours from home. It was a trade show style event which demanded that for long hours each day, I’d enthusiastically engage with people and promote the university.

Typically, I enjoyed these events but now I couldn’t image a more daunting task. Scaling Mount Everest on crutches would have been a comparable feat. I can’t do this, I thought.

I asked to be excused. There was no substitute available.

Quitting my job on the spot became an option until my husband said otherwise.

Why was this work assignment spiking my anxiety?

Grief is disorienting, feeling like the trauma of an emotional concussion.

– Lights were too bright.

– Noises were too loud.

– Short-term memory loss stole facts I once knew.

– Emotional exhaustion left me bone weary.

– Conversations were confusing, as I found it hard to follow.

– Wild swings of emotion caught me off guard.

– Driving a car, I’d find myself in places I didn’t expect to go.

It was terrifying to see how quickly I lost simple competencies.

Panic set it. This may sound like an exaggeration unless you’ve been there. It’s no joke.

Carey, my husband, took time off from his job to drive me to another city and stayed close for every part of this onerous assignment. It was difficult!

But I got through it because Carey was my Hope Hero and did the L.A.P.P.

Listened to my concerns and made me feel heard.

Acknowledged my loss and validated my fears.

Prayed for me.

Patiently stayed present.

What if I hadn’t gone? What if my boss hadn’t insisted?

Unchallenged, I would have become stuck in the limiting belief of “I can’t do this.”

Often, it’s when we take a step forward into the impossible that we discover God has a gift waiting. Sometimes it’s several little treasures ready to be received if we risk discomfort.

A few gifts that I would have missed if I hadn’t attended the work event:

  1. My husband’s physical presence and personal sacrifice made me feel secure and slightly braver.
  2. My confidence grew. I did future events solo.
  3. I made a new friend in Karen who I met for the first time. Spontaneously, Karen invited me to share my black funeral dress story on video.

While I didn’t feel ready or brave, I knew God was nudging me to accept. Here was a chance to recycle my pain for His good purpose. This was a daily prayer of mine. Still, it felt like a colossal risk.

Months after sharing my story, a revealing surprise came through affirming email responses from viewers.

A few variations of this statement arrived in my inbox:

“Thank you for vulnerably sharing your story of loss. Your choice to trust God with your pain gives me courage to trust Him with mine.”

This became my epiphany. My life is not about me. I’m to be a signpost pointing to the source of the one true Hope, Jesus Christ.

Even when life makes little sense—it is a life worth living. God promises to recycle our grief for His good purpose when we participate with Him.

Personal experience with loss has provided all the proof I need. With God, grief can become the platform on which He gives us a new purpose.

What limiting belief do you need to let to so you can move through your painful loss?

God has wired you for a unique purpose. Painful losses don’t disqualify you. It’s true. You have a distinct platform to share it. Will you?

Blessings to you through all the sharp corners and deep bends on our grief journey. You are not alone.


Picture of Shirley Thiessen

Shirley Thiessen

Author and speaker helping you bring hope to broken, grieving hearts.