Grieving Without Expectation


Learning how to grieve seems silly, but I am. As we drew closer to Zekey’s entering of Heaven, I started wondering, and often, “How would I grieve?” Would I surprise myself and go off the deep end, turning into a pile of rubble? I feared becoming an angry woman, causing earthquake-like effects with those who I loved most.

I desire to grieve true to how I feel so that it will not backfire on my husband and children. That wasn’t allowed, they’d been through too much – we’d been through too much. So, I took my wonderings and started praying. I asked God, even in the midst of chaos all around me, “Help me to grieve well and true.”

I felt God reveal to me directly to my heart and through people, that grief has a mind of its own and that is okay. I am learning not to have expectations on grief, even if others do for me. I concluded that if I want to cry and I cannot get it out, I need to focus on me and get to the source of what is keeping grief at bay. Since Zekey’s passing, this usually means crawling in his bed and letting myself miss holding his flailing legs and stroking his thick, beautiful hair. This is currently my favorite go to, but I know, it may not always work.

If I am feeling content just knowing where he is, that’s okay and I do not need to feel guilty about being ‘okay’ and even happy and relieved that he is home (Heaven, the truest home), even though that means he is not here with me.

I am learning to be honest with people right away and not let words that have offended stew too long. I even need to let other momma’s who have felt grief know that we will grieve differently and that’s okay.

For those around me, letting them in on what my needs are to grieve has been key to grieving well, so that they can at least understand my needs as a grieving momma and even help in tangible ways.

Grace. Grace for me, for others who offend me with their words or expectations. Grace for my husband as he will grieve differently. Grace for my children as they also grieve extremely differently from each other and myself and will their whole lives. Grace for when I hurt others in my grief…Lots of grace.

People who are grieving are at a highly emotional state – they can be easily offended. Give them grace because, heck, they’re giving you grace. It may seem like you are just one more person telling them you’re praying, or thinking of them but, really, they are hearing every word and phrases you pair that with, at least I am.

There will be triggers that could set them off. For example: “God will never give you more than you can handle” Uh, yes, yes he does. I cannot handle this on my own. Needed Jesus all the days, all the hours, all the minutes. Can’t handle loosing my son to Batten disease.

“God’s will is perfect.” Yes. Yes it is. And this wasn’t God’s will. God’s will is in heaven. Zekey is wrapped up in God’s will now that he’s left this, Jesus- needing world.

Your expectations on how I am to grieve. The depth of my grief, the sharing or not sharing of my grief. That’s up to me, not you, no matter if you have grieved before and especially not up to those who do not have significant grief under their belt.

Hope. When I’ve written about the hope of seeing Zekey again, I’m not thinking in the same way one would “hope to be a famous athlete” but THE HOPE that I KNOW I will see him again and for ever and ever thank you to Jesus. Sweet, precious Savior, Jesus.

To those comforting the grieving, take note:

Listen. Listen to the hearts of the one grieving. Do not make this a time to make a point, especially theologically. If you listen, and you feel the need to say something that happens to have a theology-driven response, only say things that you believe to be true as well as the one in grief. It’s completely selfish to do anything else but that.

Don’t assume the worst. I’ve said things about my boy and I have felt that even though I’ve given God the glory a million, trillion times over (because He deserves that and MORE!) if I forget to give it one time, and I’m just bragging on my sweet, sweet boy, just let me. I still know that he is a gift from God.

Give them grace because they are giving you grace. Those who grieve are, believe it or not, having to bite their tongues a lot in order to show love over revenge or setting you right. When our hearts are right, we know you mean well but sometimes, we are just too overwhelmed with emotion.

We don’t want you to be silent, we just want you to think before you speak. I am learning, too.

Above all else, love. If you listen, believe the best and pour out grace, you are choosing to love them well. And we thank you.






  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Andrea B

    You write so beautifully, Breena. I don’t know how you do it, in the midst of all that is happening in your family and within you. But I’m grateful for your giving us a glimpse into what grief looks like – at least for you – and how we might better respond to those who grieve. I’ve been so blessed by all your writings, watching you glorify God through the agonizing ache of all this, watching you love your boy so fully even as he faded from this earth. I hope those closest to you there are a great comfort to you. Thanks again for sharing your heart with the rest of us.

  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Shannon Chappell

    Well, that was perfect. I find myself getting offended too… at things I know I shouldn’t. But the emotion is right there & it’s hard not to. Especially when people ask how I am. I usually say “ok” & I can tell by the look on their face that they are thinking “just ok?” Everyone grieves differently. And for different amounts of time. Somedays I’m ok, somedays I’m not. My life will never be the same. Yours won’t either. You are right about the significant loss- people are quick to relate to those grieving but every situation is different & we all have different emotions. It’s frustrating. But you are right- we need grace.

    Also, I agree- I hear everything. I may not react to it but I’m paying attention. I don’t know if there was a point to all of this other than letting you know YES, I agree with all of your words. Perfectly said, as usual.

    • Reply March 31, 2014

      Carey Largent

      I agree with you, Breena…and you too, Shannon. Thank you for sharing. Yes, Grace. Grief is certainly a journey of its own…much to navigate…continue taking it to Him as you always do. Love you sister-friend. On my heart and in my prayers.

  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Jean Holt

    Breena, you have wisdom beyond your years. You are right where God would have you be. To be present, to be really present is the most courageous way to honor Zekey. Thank you for letting us be a part of this journey.

  • Reply March 31, 2014


    Bree…i knew your husband when he was a little boy, I came to “Grace Community Church” (as it was known back then) per my new husband. We had a 16 mo. baby boy and I had just found out I was pregnant on a Thursday and had cancer that Friday, I came to know The Lord during that time. I lnow your pain.

  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Rita Arvay

    In your grief you are teaching so many of us life lessons. Grief, as you said is different for everyone. No one knows how you feel or what all you are dealing with. I appreciate each gently spoken word of wisdom. Thank you!

  • Reply March 31, 2014


    Youre so brave and strong. I have no words, but if you ever feel alone (and you may already be familiar) and Kay Warrens facebook page. I dont know what to say, but thank youbfor sharing

  • Reply March 31, 2014


    beautiful, beautiful words because they come from your heart. you bless us with these words. and yes, God gives us more than we can handle. for some reason, believers think it’s biblical that He won’t… but it is not biblical. or comforting. thank you for letting it out and sharing with us what you are going through.

    But He said to me “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
    2 Corinthains 12:9


  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Sara Joy

    This is beautiful and remarkably clear and kind. In whatever small cyber way I can, I grieve with you. God’s love has multiplied, spread, been glorified through Zekey, and your words. You are on my heart, mama.

  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Vickie Rankins-Anderson

    Thank you very much sweet and powerful Breena. I am blessed to walk a little closer with our Lord each and every time I read something you and Andy have written. Even though I don’t see you guys, I am thinking of you constantly and lifting you up. May blessings fall down on you like a perfect spring rain.

  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Andrea Kelly

    Dear Bree,
    It is so hard when people don’t “get it”. Grieving is ultra personal. There is no instruction manual. You can’t make yourself feel a certain way. (I would have married the first man who adored me if that was true. lol) You just can’t! You can’t rush it. It’s ugly. It’s painful. It’s beautiful. Bree, you “get it!” You are rare. I have suffered a substantial amount of heartache in my life to recognize it. (I’m not bragging…there’s no contest here, just honest.) The best that others can say is “I’m praying for you” then shut up. Our society can be so self absorbed and act like they “know”. No, you don’t know what it is like to have all your skin peeled off. (figuratively) No, it doesn’t hurt just a little bit. From one stranger to another, “Bree, I think you’re awesome!” Sending you hugs, prayers and compassion.
    Andrea Kelly

  • Reply April 1, 2014


    Thank you, Breena, for the lesson in ministering to the grieving heart. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said the wrong thing…nor can I tell you how many times I’ve heard the wrong thing and wanted to snap back. I pray that you will grieve as long as you need to, and however you need to. I wonder if maybe instead of telling people “God never gives us more than we can handle,” we should say, “God never gives us more than He can handle.” I don’t know you, but thank you again for the invaluable lesson.

  • Reply April 2, 2014


    From one grieving Mom to another…. You are in my Prayers. It’s been 5 years, 6 wks tonight since my Philip went to live with Jesus…. Grief is such a personal thing–grieve in your own way & in your own time. Be Gentle with yourself. Whispering prayers for you….. Margie

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