By Penny A. Bragg—

Dear Grief,

You’ve come calling at my door. I don’t want to answer your incessant knocking, but you pound even louder if I don’t. You are an unwelcomed guest, like a dreaded relative who can’t take a hint. I don’t want you here. I didn’t invite you. No one invites you. But, I’m learning that you won’t go away if I don’t answer. Instead, you will stay at the threshold, knocking relentlessly until I let you in.

One month after my younger brother took his life, I started writing a series of letters to address my grief. As I read back through those letters now, I’m not sure what I was trying to accomplish. All I knew was that death was sucking the life from everything as it once existed.

Perhaps by writing those letters, I was trying to wrestle against my grief and pin it to the floor. After all, I grew up under the wing of a protective older brother who taught me how to fight. As a scrappy tomboy, I knew how to size up a bully and take him down.

My strategy to cope with the pain sounds rather futile now, but grief makes you do strange things. The agony of losing someone you love is an experience that can’t be controlled any more than you can grab hold of a hurricane.

As strange as it seemed at the time, I eventually figured out that the only way to fight against the grief, was to give in to it.

Dear Grief,

Jay is gone and you’ve come in his place. How dare you think that you can fill the void in my soul? Never. You cannot take his place. But, unless I invite you in, I can’t have Jay back. This makes no sense in my weary mind. Can it be that only when I welcome you as I would welcome him that I’ll find the answer in all this mystery?

Over time I realized that the more I welcomed grief to come in and do what God wanted it to do, the less I was torn apart by it. Don’t get me wrong, the process was, and still is, extremely caustic. Walking into an open flame is painful, to say the least.

I think King David clamped onto this concept when he faced Goliath in the Valley of Elah.

“As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword” (1 Samuel 17:48-50 NLT).

I’ve always focused on the fact that a shepherd boy took down a giant with a single stone. But, now I also realize that David advanced toward Goliath, not away from him. As a result, his victory was remarkable. And, that’s not all. David ran toward his enemy with all that he had, but he also used what he didn’t have to fight the Philistine.

“Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head” (1 Samuel 17:50-51 NLT).

David had no sword so he used Goliath’s to cinch up his conquest. The weapon intended to kill David was the very same one used to hack off the giant’s head. I like that.

I suppose that until my giant came calling, I’d missed that poignant lesson as well as this one: While grief is a harshly subtractive process, when we run toward the pain, it results in adding to our lives the very things we lack.

But, how can all this be true? It doesn’t make sense in the confines of my mind. Maybe I’ll never fully comprehend any of grief’s great mysteries, including what I’ve written here. But, could it be that I don’t have to? Perhaps, like David, I just need to rise victorious before the people and hold high the head of my vanquished foe.





Penny BraggPenny 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. ThroughInverse Ministries, their non-profit organization, Penny and Clint have written extensively about the ministry of reconciliation including their most recent book, Marriage on the Mend. In addition, Penny ministers to those who, like her, have experienced traumatic loss and grief. For more information, visit her blog at


  1. 5-30-2013

    Awesome. Thank you.

  2. 5-30-2013

    Thank you so much for your HONESTY, Penny, and your transparency. Thank you for sharing in such a way that I can BELIEVE you. You give me hope, and a companion.

    • 6-2-2013

      Thank you for your kind words, Kathleen. My heart is full in knowing that this offering has been helpful to you in some way.

  3. 5-30-2013

    Entirely beautiful! Definitely written from a place of knowing vs. observation. Isn’t that where our truest lessons come from? As challenging as it is, may we be broken again and again, until we are fit for the battle before us and come through it victorious (like Gideon’s Army)! Bless you and your journey. You are not alone.

  4. 6-2-2013

    Kristie, amen and amen. Thank you for your encouragement. May we be nourished for the battle and continue this good fight of faith. There are more giants to be slain!


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