This image is loaded with grief and love; it was taken mere days after my glioblastoma diagnosis when I was in the thick of grieving my prognosis and grasping to hold on to this man, the love of my life.  This week the connectedness of grief and love resurfaced in my life in a serendipitous sort of fashion.

Yesterday my cat threw-up on our front entry rug.  Gross right? Normally a behavior like this from my cat would elicit disgust, frustration and annoyance.  Yesterday was different.  Yesterday, my cat’s puke tumbled me into grief- raw grief that caught me off-guard.  

Our 13 year old cat Fritz has been acting older lately: moving slower, drinking more, losing substantial weight and yesterday he puked for no known reason.  “Maybe this is the end.” my husband chimed teasingly from his office beside the entryway.  It was a small, seemingly weightless remark, the sort of remark that I would usually brush off with an eyeroll and half-hearted chuckle.  Not yesterday.  Yesterday while my husband worked in the office, my children played boisterously in the living room and I was preparing to take my oldest daughter Christmas shopping, grief stopped me in my tracks.   I was taken aback by the intensity of grief I felt in that moment.  Yes, maybe these are my cat’s last days.  Yes, he’s a hallmark in our lives, he’s been part of mine and Ryan’s family for 13 years, always part of the kids’ lives.  Yes, he is a sweet cat.  Yes, I know grief over a dying pet is real and warranted.  But this was something more.  

As I welcomed grief and explored why she was there I realized grief over my aging cat had triggered the intense emotions of grief I felt when I was processing my prognosis after I learned of my glioblastoma diagnosis.

Historically I am not good with feelings.  They are inconvenient and inefficient.  I like to box them up and pack them away for a later date….or never.  However, as the book The Road Back to You (1) illustrates, if you never revisit these feelings they cumulate into an overstuffed closet waiting to burst.  My closet of grief burst open yesterday.  I had somewhere to be, I didn’t have time to sit in this grief right then.  I wanted to box this moment away, try to shove it in a different closet and pretend I didn’t need to deal with it.  

However, I am learning there is a better way to deal with uncomfortable emotions: move towards them with self-kindness and compassion. (2)  I am practicing choosing to take a stance of courage towards awkward, inconvenient feelings.   So, with tears threatening to spill from my eyes I texted my dear friend explaining the perch of grief I was sitting on.  I sent this message so that as I pressed into my day and the shopping date with my daughter, I had accountability to revisit this conversation and to sit in these emotions and feel them.

Incredibly as I revisited my grief later in the day, I found a connection to something so much bigger than myself. Let me explain. Scripture tells us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses- our ancestors who have gone before us. (3)  In my grief I found comfort that I am not alone. Furthermore, a couple of days ago during my 15 minute quiet time I was meditating on the scripture Revelations 22:1-2. 

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,[a] with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

As a pharmacist, I loved this scripture because it speaks of heaven and there in heaven are trees growing alongside a river and on these trees are leaves that are used as medicine to heal.   Medicine without side effects; medicine with the promise of curative, perfect healing. I love the idea of that kind of medicine.  

This scripture  also depicts “a pure river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God”.   Engaging in the world of glioblastoma there is so much death; oh how I am thirsty for the water of life.  That dark morning as I pondered this scripture, my 8 year old daughter reading a book by my side, I thought of my Grandma Krahn, who died over 20 years ago.  When this Grandma babysat me as a child she would sing at bedtime for my sister and I from the bottom of the stairs, her health too poor to want to climb them.  She would always sing the gospel song, “Shall we gather at the river.” – The river, depicted in these verses.  My thoughts of my Grandma were vivid, as if I was right there with her at heaven’s river edge: a reminder that I am indeed surrounded by ancestors who have gone before me.  I could almost hear and see Grandma’s ever-booming voice softened by her joyous smile reminding me of how much work I have yet to do on earth. “Love deeply and passionately” she seemed to say to me, ”you are never alone”.  I think about my youngest daughter who is teaching me so much about living passionately; in this moment I found a connection between those gone before me and those who will continue after me.  I am part of something bigger than myself.

I am grateful I have learned a bit about embracing grief.  There as I sat with my oldest daughter on our worn couch wrapped in blankets to ward off the chill of the morning, I was grief-struck.  Tears filled my eyes, as I grieved the loss of my Grandma; this may have been the first time I cried over the loss of my Grandma.  I’ve always loved funerals, they are beautiful celebrations, but I am new to the process of grieving well.  This same daughter, beside me, asked me a couple of times recently if I miss my grandparents,  I said, well no, I don’t miss them, they died so long ago.  Now sitting in my grief I see that my daughter’s question was a remark that she doesn’t want to lose her grandparents and perhaps she was asking for a pathway to deal with the grief if such a loss were to happen.   That dark morning I turned to my daughter, asked her to put down her book, and with tears in my eyes, I declared, “I miss my Grandma Krahn so much.”  I paused to swallow the lump in my throat and continued, “but her love will never die and it is still with me and always will be.”  I hugged her as she wriggled, uncomfortable in the vulnerable conversation.  I hope that she heard, grief is normal.  Grief is meant to be shared.  And I hope she also heard, love lasts forever.  

I open my eyes and think about the Chapter on Love I am organizing for my memoir.  I’m beginning to ponder that perhaps love is just as much like an energy field as it is an emotion.  I think of my other Grandma, Grandma Elias, and the remarks that my cousin made at a family sharing time before her funeral when I was 17 years old.  He spoke of the first law of thermodynamics-  the conservation of energy and that the total energy in a system is a constant and does not change. He spoke that when grandma died her grandma energy remained.  I feel this grandma-energy as love: the love of my ancestors still with me.  

I’ve been on a journey lately, towards a greater understanding of love.  Love is the crux of belonging and connection.  I like self-sufficiency, but in writing my memoir I am unearthing the vital nature of embracing love, vulnerable love. And what’s more, I now see that love and grief are intertwined; if you choose to love, you open yourself up to grief.  Grief like I experienced when I learned of my prognosis: when I saw my future vanish and envisioned my kids growing up without a mom.  Grief that my husband traipses through most milestone moments such as my birthday and survivor anniversary as he is reminded of the brutal reality of his potential future.  Grief that has no words and can only be consoled with a warm vulnerable embrace of love.  In seeing anew this connection between grief and love, I was curious what others have spoken of this relationship, so I googled it and found this: 

  Queen Elizabeth II made popular Dr. Colin Murray Parkes words, “grief is the price we pay for love.”  That’s it! And Brene Brown’s words come rushing to the forefront: you cannot selectively numb emotion.  If I want love I need to embrace grief.  

My high school English teacher, who I adored and think of often lately, wrote a beautiful book called Vidh:A Book of Mourning.  Here she recounts with striking vulnerability the grief of losing her husband.  One of my favorite sections is called Vows where she promises not to turn away from the things that remind her of her late husband.   “I turn to love and all that you once lived, and though it brings you back to me I will not turn away.” (4) That is love and that is grief.

What a journey it is pressing, pulling, and penetrating the length and width, height and depths of love –  and grief.  I promise myself, my husband, my family and my community, I will not turn away.  I will not turn away from grief.  I will not turn away from love.






  1. The Road Back to You, by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile, p.143
  2. This comes from the concept “turn towards the difficult feelings with kindness and compassion” voiced by Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Brene Brown’s Unlocking us podcast, Oct 14, 2020.
  3. Hebrews 12:1
  4. Vidh: A book of Mourning, by Phyllis Nakonechny. p. 112.

Photo Credit: Vicky Falk