When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One ~ A Book Review

When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One ~ A Book Review

Having finally got a few days to myself, I am disciplining myself to start working my way through the mound of unread books on my bookshelves. One of these books is When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One: Finding Hope Together  written by David and Nancy Guthrie and published by Focus on the Family.

N Guthrie book

Nancy and David Guthrie have one surviving son and they buried two children in infancy due to a genetic condition called Zellweger Syndrome . This is the kind of book that you could keep within reach for the first two or three years after a family bereavement, for all family members to dip in and out of, as they feel able. It is relatively easy to read, and very helpful. Nancy is a gifted writer and speaker. I was so blessed to have been able to hear her speak live in Belfast, last year, at the Irish Women’s Convention.

This book covers every aspect of family grief; such as preserving the marriage relationship, parenting grieving children, surviving holidays, displaying photographs and belongings of the person who has died, dealing with ‘well-wishers’, holding on to your faith, all discussed in a realistic and practical way.

The book also features interviews with others who have experienced different types of grief, such as the loss of a spouse, a parent or the loss of an older child to suicide.

This book is written from a faith perspective but in a sensitive way – we aren’t expected to smile and be happy just because our loved one is in a better place.

The closing chapter is entitled ‘Going On‘ and here Nancy writes:

“There comes a time in our grief that we realise we have to figure out how to keep on living, how to incorporate the loss into our lives. We want to feel normal again, to feel joy again. But even entertaining that prospect feels like a betrayal of the person who is gone……..If we choose to let go of the pain, or at least let it become manageable, it doesn’t mean we love the one we’ve lost any less. And it doesn’t mean that person’s life was any less significant or meaningful or that we will forget. Perhaps it’s not so much that we let go of our grief, but that we give our grief permission to lessen its grip on us.”

I have read several of Nancy’s books and always find them to be sensitive, helpful and easy to read. This book would make an excellent gift for any family who are seeking to navigate their way through grief in the context of a strong Christian faith. Nancy closes with the words:

Your loss has given you a new appreciation for life – and a new anticipation of eternity.

A discussion guide to use with this book is available here.

Holding on to Hope in my Life

Holding on to Hope in my Life

As I alluded to in my blog post The Struggle, I’ve found the past few weeks especially difficult, for several reasons:

  • The fact that I am doing a part-time university course along with working part-time, means that I simply don’t have time to access my usual sources of emotional support. My university course does however finish at the end of November (next month).
  • October was the month that Leah found the most difficult during her illness. A lot of very difficult things happened in October 2013.
  • Christmas and the New Year is approaching. Along with it come Leah’s 18th birthday and the second anniversary of her final hospitalisation and the crushing parting of her death.


I’m very much a people person and one thing that I always enjoy, is a day out along with a group of women from our church to a Christian Women’s Conference. For many years we attended Focusfest together, originally this used to be in a big tent in Coleraine, but more recently it was in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

More recently we started attending the Irish Women’s Convention in Spires in Belfast. Last year when they announced that this year’s speaker would be Nancy Guthrie I exclaimed to the friend beside me “I want to book my place for next year right now.” I was so excited about the possibility of getting to hear Nancy Guthrie speak in person.

Nancy lives in Nashville and she has one living son called Matt and two children in heaven, a girl called Hope and a boy called Gabriel. She is an accomplished writer and Bible teacher.

Not long after Leah died I read Nancy’s book HEARING JESUS SPEAK INTO YOUR SORROWSome time after that I started using The One Year Book of Hope. I don’t use it every day, as I have several daily devotionals that I like to use – I dip in and out of it.

There was over twenty women in our group yesterday and our ages varied from women in their thirties to women in their eighties. Most of us traveled the 140 mile round journey to Belfast via Ulsterbus. We arrived just before before the 10am start time.

IWC Programme

Nancy was such an easy speaker to follow. She spoke about her own experience of losing two babies to Zellweger Syndrome, when they were only a few months old. Then she spoke from the book of Job in the Bible regarding the lessons that God has taught her and her husband through all of this.

The praise and worship was amazing, most of the songs and hymns that we sang were ones that have been really special to Leah and/or me in this journey.

The titles of Nancy’s three talks were:

  • When your world falls apart.
  • Questions we ask when life hurts
  • Hearing God speak in your storms

The talks will eventually be uploaded to the Irish Women’s Convention website – I highly recommend listening to them.

I wrote six pages of notes and that’s always a good sign! During our lunch break I deliberately browsed the book stall WITHOUT my purse, in the hope of being able to resist the lure of all those nice shiney books that I might never have time to read. However, when the day was over I returned to the book stall and purchased two books by Nancy Guthrie:

The book O love That Will Not Let Me Go is a collection of twenty-two short meditations drawn from the sermons and writings of classic and contemporary pastors and theologians, edited by Nancy Guthrie. The chapter that particularly caught my eye is one by Joseph Bayly entitled “Our Faith is in God not in Healing”. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, though.

I think that there is so much misinformation and false teaching in Christian circles regarding healing, as was evidenced shortly after Leah died, when a Christian leader (not in my own church) arrogantly confidently told me that my daughter had died because of lack of faith. He then proceeded to quote the Bible verse

Matthew 13:58 (NIV)

And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

I write more about this subject in my blog post entitled The Healing Question and also in Does God Answer Prayer?

I love the quote on the back cover of Nancy’s book:

Nancy Guthrie on death

Yes, I am devastated and heartbroken at having to say goodbye to Leah, but I will never forget her faith and the peace and serenity with which she faced death – for me that was awe inspiring.

After the conference was over, most of our group went for a yummy meal at Acton & Sons on Brunswick Street. We had pre-ordered our food and the staff were both efficient and attentive. This gave us all further opportunity to catch up with each other and renew friendships.

After a delicious meal we had just enough time to walk to the Europa Bus Station to catch our bus. I arrived home with renewed strength to face my situation. I feel like my inner compass has once again been re-calibrated towards ‘true north’.

I had known that sooner or later this phone call would happen

I had known that sooner or later this phone call would happen

The original bed that Leah ordered online from Dunelm Mill for her new bedroom was faulty when it arrived and an identical replacement wasn’t available.

Dunelm Customer Services handled the situation really well when I explained our circumstances – through floods of tears – and why everything had to be just right for my daughter coming out of hospital.

They arranged for us to get another cheaper bed as a temporary measure, which would then be replaced by the very pretty bed that Leah had chosen when it came back into stock.

They were in touch with us periodically after this to apologise for the fact that the chosen bed still wasn’t available.

This morning I got a call on my mobile from an unfamiliar number and the voice when I answered it said “This is G…. from Dunelm Mill, sorry for the delay, your daughter’s bed is now ready, do you still want it?”

I had to explain as kindly as I could that we didn’t – the girl was very embarrassed.

I had known that sooner or later this phone call would happen and that it was going to be so hard…….

I like this quote by Nancy Guthrie who buried two of her children –

Our faith keeps us from being swallowed by despair.
But I don’t think it makes our loss hurt any less.”

Praying for a miracle?

Praying for a miracle?

I found this really helpful essay on praying for miracles…….

“It is one thing to be asked to pray for another person. I’m happy to do it. I want to do it. I must admit, though, I am not always faithful to do it. However, it is another thing to be told what to ask God for in the situation. I’ve noticed that often requests for prayer come with specific instructions on how to pray. I call it a “please pray for my predetermined positive outcome” request.
And while I’m questioning our accepted methods of requesting prayer, I’ve got to ask, why do we seem to make it our goal to get as many people as possible praying toward our predetermined positive outcome? Is it that we think God is resistant to doing what is good and right but can be pressured by a large number of people to relent and deliver? Do we think that the more people we recruit to pray for the same thing will prove our sincerity or improve our odds?”

Click here to read more Praying Past our Preferred Outcomes