By Penny A. Bragg—

I’m planting one seed in the dirt each day. Counting down to Christmas. Counting up my blessings. Counting on Christ’s hope.

I dig into the dirt with my fingernails and drop the tiny seed into the dark hole. But the truth is, for as noble as all this advent planting seems, I want to crawl into the hole alongside that tiny seed and pull the dirt up over the both of us.

Hole hiding is one of grief’s greatest temptations. The darkness beckons. Pity and woe are masterful enticers. They promise to stay and bind me there alongside them. They will not let me go. Tenacity at its finest. They are in it for the long haul.

But, I can’t go there. I cannot crawl into that hole and hide because I know that today, somebody else’s sister will hear, “Suicide!” screaming into the other end of the line. Someone else’s sister will have a coroner and a casket come right in the middle of their Christmas, just like I did.

I cannot hide because just last week I stood among a group of other survivors. I cannot hide because they are not hiding. The night we gathered to share our stories, tragedy tied us all together right there in the middle of the courtyard.

“This is our daughter,” a woman sobbed, pointing to a picture taped to the brick wall behind her. “She killed herself three months ago.”

My heart plummets onto the cement and splatters out all over. I know her pain. I know how hard the grief bites in month three. And I know that for as much as she is hurting, she hasn’t even felt the worst of it—yet.

“My son went for a ride on his motorcycle. He was hit by a drunk driver.”

Her words are met by another mother’s knowing nod. Before the night is over, that mother will also stand and tell us that her child was run down while riding a bicycle, and that the driver fled the scene.

“My son was shot and killed on the interstate.”

I reach for another tissue when what I really need is a towel. Their stories continue.

“This is my son,” another woman says, clutching a framed photograph. “He took his life. He was our only child.”

Another woman stands.

“My brother was murdered by his ex-wife.”

Then another.

“The pieces of my daughter’s body haven’t been found. It’s been three years.”

That’s enough! I can’t take another moment. I want to bolt out into the parking lot, climb into my car, and wail my guts out. So does everyone else. But, we all stay right there holding our collective breath; strangely riveted by the sacredness of the moment.

Our sobs crescendo into the night sky, joining in a chorus of a million others and I wonder how we can even stand. But here we are. Standing. We are all still standing.

So, I must push the dirt into the hole and cover up the advent seed, knowing that for as much as I want to stay buried…I can’t. People are bleeding out all over. I am too. But if I hide, then who will tell them that all this pain and grief has been covered by the One who bled out for us all? While I do not dare proclaim that the world is waiting to hear my story or that someone needs what I have to offer. I only know that I cannot stay buried because Jesus didn’t.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV)





Penny A. Bragg spent the majority of her professional career in the California public school system as a teacher, principal, and district administrator. Through the miraculous reconciliation of her marriage after an eleven-year divorce and a distance of 3,000 coast-to-coast miles, God led Penny and her husband, Clint, into fulltime ministry in 2006. Together, they serve as marriage missionaries—sharing their testimony of marital restoration across the nation and abroad during their 40-Day Marriage Mission Trips. Through Inverse Ministries, their non-profit organization, Penny and Clint have written extensively about the ministry of reconciliation including their upcoming book, Marriage on the Mend—Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, and Divorce (Kregel, 2015). In addition, Penny ministers to those who, like her, have experienced traumatic loss. Her book, “For Those Who Weep—A Grief Response Journal,” (Redemption Press, 2014) is available at


  1. 11-24-2014

    Penny, I know the urge you describe. I don’t know what to say or do to support you, but the Lord does. I, and many others, are praying for you. K.

  2. 11-24-2014

    Thank you, Kathleen. At least we can always hide in the shadow of His wings!

  3. 11-24-2014

    Beautifully written to convey the truth of grief. As a woman who ministers to others dealing with grief, you’ve expressed why we stand alongside others. It is the hope that we’ve experienced that has to be expressed–the true hope that is not always a happy ever after ending but a life that can continue, find joy, and serve our Lord. We must stand with a light for those who cannot see it yet. Thank you for sharing and serving. Love you sister.

    • 11-24-2014

      Love you too. Thank you for being one who sits in the wound with others and ministers from that very place.

  4. 11-24-2014

    Tears. And hugs.

  5. 11-25-2014

    Riveting Penny. I wish this was fiction.

  6. 11-25-2014

    Beautifully written. May His peace fill each of you through out the coming months.

    • 11-25-2014

      Thank you, dear one. I’m mailing you and Deb a copy of my new book, “For Those Who Weep.” Thank you for your endorsement. It means more than you know.

      • 11-25-2014

        Sweet. Thank you! And you are so welcome my friend.

  7. 1-3-2015

    Penny, you are an amazing writer – the reader is right there with you and somehow feeling the heartache. And Praise the Lord you end with the wonderful truth that Christ did not stay buried!


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