EDITOR’S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One by David and Nancy Guthrie (Tyndale House).

Chapter 1:  How Are You?

“How are you?”

It’s the question everyone is asking you these days. You’re grateful that people care—but it sometimes seems unanswerable, doesn’t it?

“Fine” doesn’t sound quite right. You may be functioning and perhaps even feeling better, but you know you’re not “fine.”

If you were honest, your answer might be one of these:

“I’m afraid.”

“I’m disappointed.”

“I’m relieved.”

“I’m angry.”

“I’m confused.”

“I’m sad.”

That was my answer for months after our daughter, Hope, died: “I’m sad.”

I was deeply, devastatingly, pervasively sad. And I wanted those around me to give me time and space and permission to simply be sad.

It’s Okay to Be Sad

Our culture is very uncomfortable with sadness. Unless they’ve lost someone close, most people don’t understand how sorrowful simple aspects of daily life can be when you’re grieving.

I remember the first time I went to the grocery store after my daughter, Hope, died. It was all I could do to get there, and I wept as I walked the aisles. Everywhere I looked I saw products I no longer needed to buy because she was gone. And it just seemed too ordinary a task; I was going back to life as usual, but without Hope. And that didn’t feel right.

A few months later I went on a retreat with our choir. Standing up, I told everyone, “I haven’t lost my faith. I’m not hopeless. I’m just sad. And I’m going to be sad for a while.”

In those days, tears always seemed close to the surface. While I’d rarely cried before Hope, now a day rarely went by when there were no tears. There was so much pain inside that needed to find release.

Many people were afraid to say something about Hope, fearful it would cause me to think about her, adding to my pain. What they didn’t know was that I was already thinking about her. When they spoke of her, it touched me, and my tears were a relief to me.

Recently a woman who’d lost her husband a few months earlier caught up with me after church. She told me she was crying all the time—at work, on her way home from work, and at home in the evenings. “What is wrong with me?” she asked.

“Wasn’t your husband a significant part of your life?” I asked. “And wasn’t his life precious and valuable?”

The answer, of course, was yes.

“Then isn’t he worthy of a great sorrow?”

Before you can get on with your life, you will have to give way to grief.

For some, that may seem easy. For a while you may not want to feel better because the grief keeps the one you love close—even as the days and weeks seem to pull you away from the person you loved and still love.

But for others, sorrow feels like an enemy. Some people are afraid to cry—afraid that once they start, they will never be able to stop. Or they fear being unable to control when or where their tears come to the surface.

There’s no need to rush ourselves through sadness or to avoid it altogether. Sorrow is not weakness, and tears do not reflect a lack of faith. God gives us the gift of tears to help us wash away the pain.
It’s Okay to Be Happy

While sadness can be awkward, laughter can seem off-limits—or certainly inappropriate following the death of someone we love.