The Life of Jennifer Dawn: 105 Stages of Grief

Monday, October 20, 2014

105 Stages of Grief

Last weekend Lydia Grace and I traveled with my mom, sister, and brother-in-law to West Virginia. I even wrote a post for the Knoxville Moms Blog about our trip--Mothering Through Grief.

"The country roads that wind before me today not only carry me home, but they serve to remind me of the twists and turns that life takes us through. You never really know what’s coming around the next bend. Sometimes you turn and the view is breathtaking. Other times storm clouds lie ahead. The last several years have held both for me. I have delighted in becoming a mother to my three precious blessings. There have been moments of pure bliss that have taken my breath away. There have also been dark times…I’ve experienced multiple miscarriages that have broken my tender mommy heart, the loss of loved ones, and having to say goodbye to my father–a man who once seemed as strong and invincible to me, as the Blue Ridge Mountains I’m headed towards today."
You can read that post in its entirety here.

October 10 marked two years since daddy's death. It seems like just yesterday that he was still here with us though. The last two years have certainly had their ups and downs...

One of my dearest friends and I were talking several months back and she said, "How are you dealing with your dad's death? You know that I love your blog, but it is the posts where you share your heart that I enjoy the most. The crafts are great, but I like to read about the personal things that are going on in your life." I quickly replied, "I know. I haven't been opening up as much lately and sharing the personal stuff. It has just been too hard to let myself really dive in and feel it all. It's been too painful. That post is coming though. I promise. It's coming..."

So here it is, sweet friend...

I miss my dad. It's been two years since I sat holding his hand as cancer ripped him from me. {gasp.} And I miss him. The rest of the world has continued on. But for my family, time seems to have stood still...

Two years ago I had to say goodbye to someone who had previously been a daily part of my life. I don't remember much from the days surrounding his death. It's just snippets and snapshots of a hazy and painful time...

Waking up the next morning praying it had all just been a terrible nightmare only to discover that it was in fact our new reality. A life without my dad...

Lord, give me the strength to get up and face this dismal day.

Sitting with my mom and sister as an obituary was scripted out. There it was--the feeble attempt at summing up the man's life who had been my father in one short paragraph.

When I don't have the answers, Lord, I know you are still there.



Going through the motions.

The outpouring of love at the funeral.

Music. A hymn. It really is well with my soul because I know where my strength comes from. Lord, it comes from you!

This doesn't seem fair, but I trust your plan, Lord. Please help me get through this.


Traveling to West Virginia.

Sitting beside the coffin.

People fading in and out.

Well-meaning people at a much later stage in life--older than my dad even--telling me that they knew exactly how I felt because they had just lost their dad. Although no less painful, losing your dad in your twenties is different than losing your dad in your sixties. It just is.

A deep ache in my heart.

Not wanting to leave him.

Needing to hear him say, "Hey there, Miss Priss!" one more time.

Just. One. More. Time.


Still surviving.

Kicks in my tummy from the sweet baby who I was pregnant with at the time. Caleb Joseph even got his middle name from his papa Joseph Edwin.

My little ones asking where their papa went.

Trusting God.



Day by day...

No, minute by minute.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Then it happens...

The rest of the world seems to return to normal. The cards, meals, and kind words stop. Everyone moves on...

Except those who are most affected. Except those whose lives have been shaken to the core by the loss. The aftermath of hurting hearts...

Clinging onto every shred of good just to get through the bad.


And not "5 Stages of Grief". It's more like 105 stages. Confusion. Denial. Depression. Anger. Heartache. Hope. Always hope. And always God. The stages seem to come and go like the seasons.

My anthem being the words from a song...

I still believe in Your faithfulness
I still believe in Your truth
I still believe in Your holy word
even when I don't see, I still believe

My faith in God never faltering. My faith in myself was a different story though.

You see...

That's the thing with grief. There are times when we question ourselves. Am I enough? Was I enough to them? Did I say everything that I needed to say? Was there something more I could have done?

Then comes realization. (105 stages, remember?) This life is so fragile. Our time is so short. There are no guarantees of tomorrow.

Resolve. I have to make it count. I have to make every moment matter.

Then the guilt rolls in when our resolve is not stronger than our sadness.

God, I will get through this.

Resistance. I believe a big part of grief is fighting against what has happened. There's a struggle between wanting to change things and finding acceptance in it. It wasn't in plan, so there's resistance. We long for things to be different. We struggle. We grieve. We mourn for how we thought things were supposed to be.

And that's where my faith plays a critical role. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." It doesn't say that God will cause only good things to happen in our lives. It says that he will work things together for our good. Even in the midst of tragic circumstances, his hand is at work. His peace and presence cover us especially in our darkest hours. 

Acceptance. What a beautiful day when we find acceptance of God's plan, of the perfect peace he offers, and of the beautiful things he creates from the ashes of our lives.

So there we were...

Two years later...

Country roads guiding us home to put new flowers down at daddy's grave and pay our respects.

Although Lydia Grace doesn't fully understand the magnitude of life and death, she knows that her Papa isn't with us anymore. She knows that he is in heaven and that she misses him. She also knows that she will see him again someday. Until then, she left him a gift. As we laid flowers down, she left two small acorns perched atop his headstone. I'd like to think he smiled from heaven at her sweet, childlike gesture. He loved his L.G. so much!

Like the seasons that are always changing, our lives have changed forever. There are some things that will never change though...

I'll always love and miss him. But God's presence and peace will continue to cover and guide us as we navigate through life without daddy.

God's beautiful promises carry us on...

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Matthew 5:4
*The photos were taken near my grandfather's farm in Princeton, West Virginia, the cemetery in Bluefield, West Viriginia, and my uncle and aunt's farm in Bland, Virginia.
Image Map


  1. Thanks for sharing your heart! Beautiful post.

    1. Thank you, Holly! That means so much. These are always hard posts to write and even harder to publish. I always hold my breath when I hit the publish button. If one person can read it, relate, and be encouraged then it is worth it.

  2. Beautiful - both the photos and the words! I lost my grandmother a year ago on Christmas; your post absolutely reflects the storm in my heart still.

    1. If I could give you a big hug right now I would. Losing those we love is never easy. I pray for God's love and peace to calm the storm in your heart. I love the words in the song I've embedded in this post... "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't cure." I'll be praying for your heart to find healing and rest, sweet friend. Thank you for sharing your own pain with me.

  3. Beautiful & honest & true. I said a prayer for you & your family just now. It's been 14 years since I lost my beloved daddy at age 13 - it's been more than half my life without him & it's still hard & always will be because love for someone so special beyond words always is. I still find myself crying myself to sleep some nights calling out to my heavenly father wanting my earthly daddy back. But I know he's in a better place & one day we'll meet again. You will be reunited, too. Love & prayers, sister! This is a terribly tough & yet beautiful life, but one day all will be beautiful & tears will be extinct. Seasons of pain make me can't wait. Keep on living the lessons he taught you, your dad would be proud of you I'm certain.

  4. This is absolutely beautiful, Jennifer. You describe grief so well, yet your unfaltering faith is amazing. Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart with us. May God continue to heal your pain.

  5. You have such a lovely heart and you are a strong, strong woman...even though at times, I'm sure you didn't feel that way. I can only imagine how difficult it is. My father left my family when I was three years old and I never had that type of relationship. On the other hand, my mom has played both roles and it pains me to think of life without her. Thank God for your faith in Him. Also, beautiful pictures!

  6. You are such a beautiful person inside and out! I was so proud when you shared your story on KMB because I knew that was out of your comfort zone and a big step for you. Thanks for sharing your story because I know it helps others that are going through the same thing.


Each and every one of your comments means so much to me. I love to hear from friends both old and new. Thanks for taking the time to stop by my little corner of the world and thanks for taking the time to let me know you were here.