Grief is a Lifelong Journey

36 years ago yesterday…

October 29, 1986, I attended the funeral of my brother, Dan. I blogged a few weeks ago about attending a funeral of a 24 year old son of a friend. I watched a sister speak at her brother’s funeral. I know a piece of what she felt. I have also been the sister beside the casket.

October is always a mixed bag for me.

I enjoy the fall air and crisp leaves. I enjoy wearing hooded sweatshirts and jeans. But I also am aware of the calendar – the day Dan was in an accident (18), the 8 days he was in a coma, the day I said good-bye to him at the hospital (25), the day his organs were donated (26), and the day I attended his funeral (29).

Today we remember Dan.

I have blogged about Dan once a year for quite some time. I skipped 2021, so it’s been two years since I used this blog space to tell his story. I have told his story from a variety of angles. This year I want to link his story to the process of grief.

Grief is a lifelong journey.

…IUP will need Thompson (70) and Mark Zilinskas (99)…solid play on the defensive line from people like Danny.

I was scrolling through Instagram recently and paused on a post by Daniel Brooker, the husband of a couple I follow. Daniel and Brittany Brooker have each lost a prior spouse, have married and blended their families, and minister to widows and widowers. In a lengthy post, this portion leapt off the screen: …so be careful who you allow to help you set your pace on this [grief] journey…it’s complicated and unique. Scripture says “we walk through the valley,” not sit and stay, and not run out of it. It’s a lifelong journey…you can in fact grieve wrong and make decisions that make things worse and hurt others, so be wise along the way, but there is so much grace given by our Father that always gives us a way back.

I attended my brother’s funeral and drove back to graduate school alone. I had not developed a church community, had not yet learned to be authentic in sharing struggles, and began to try to look like I was holding it together. My motives were pure at the time, but how I processed Dan’s death became a problem.

I didn’t grieve well.

Instead of processing internally, I reached for external things to heal my pain. I reeled, spun, grabbed for sanity, turned my back, and stepped off the godly path I had always tried to walk. Using Brooker’s phrasing, I “ran out of grief” into relationships that promised me companionship. As a result, I grieved poorly and made decisions that made things even worse while hurting others. I have received forgiveness from God for that season of my life but still grieve the pain I caused, and the confusion I caused about how a Christian is to respond to hardship. The consequences of sin are never worth the fleeting pleasure of the original offense. The consequences simply aren’t worth it.

Thankfully, God is a Father.

When I became a Christian at the age of 12, God became my heavenly Father through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit took up residence in my heart. God the Father took responsibility for me in much the same way I keep an eye on my own children. When my life hit rock bottom with a pregnancy out of wedlock, God was right there.

He let me fall apart in His hands.

This post is dedicated to Dan and the role his played in my life as God allowed my life to fall apart in His hands and then helped put my life back together again, better this time. What God has wrought through the grief has led to starting Oaks Ministries, writing Live ABOVE the Chaos, and writing and leading One Gritty Blink bible studies.

I only knew what I knew at the time.

I perceived God a particular way between 1986-1993. I played games in my relationship with Him like I did with people. I regret the sin, but the scaffolding in which I was trusting needed to collapse. I only wish I had had a community to lean on and an understanding of the overarching story of the bible when it collapsed. God’s Word could have been a comfort and the church family could have pointed me to Jesus (or lifted me up by the armpits and carried me to Jesus).

Above all else

Junior defensive tackle #70, Dan Thompson, had 7 solo tackles in the ballgame.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23) Pay attention to those that hurt and are grieving. Learn about the grief process from experts and give grieving people time and latitude. Wherever they are spiritually when the grief hits is where they are. Show up in sensitive ways. Learn what being “sensitive” means. Compared to 36 years ago, many resources abound. I have linked a few good ones below but there are many more.

Dan, I still love you.

Part of who I am today is part of you and your “early” departure from earth. God came and found me in my broken grief process and has it for good result. But be not fooled, my sweet brother. October finds me (and my son) still wearing your football jacket, watching college football movies like Greater, and I buy Keebler honey grahams and Chicken in a Biscuit crackers to consume in memory of you. I even love Brussels sprouts now like you did (especially the ones served at Pies on Post).

I don’t remember what I said at your funeral.

I can only remember turning around and seeing all the people — the packed church, full balcony, standing room only, and people who traveled for hours to a rural church where you played the Drummer Boy in the community Christmas pageant each year.

I miss your personality.

People loved your gregarious spirit. I don’t have one. I am still serious and still a writer. I am not a people magnet like you were, but that’s okay. It will always be a special thing that belonged to you alone and remains in my memories to make me smile.

Picture Explanation: Dan was a really great football player but he made it happen for himself. He drove across the state to hand his films to the I.U.P. football coach and was accepted as a freshman walk-on. Thereafter he was a full scholarship recipient. The team remains a well-respected in NCAA Division II football even as of this past week.    

This is my ninth memorial post about my brother. If you want to go back and read any of the prior posts the links are here: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014

Instagram: @danielobrooker @brittanypricebrooker @pamluschei


If you are interested in being contacted about participating in a One Gritty Blink bible study in 2023, click on the Oaks Ministries link below and contact me by email. Let’s focus on things that count for eternity.

© 2022 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.

6 Responses

  1. Laurie,
    Your words hit home with me this morning. Dan was very special to me. We grew up playing doctor and nurse to casual dating as teens. I struggle with October, but never pinned the reason down. It is a sad time for me. Thank you for uncovering a lingering grief over Dan. I look forward to reading your prior posts.

    1. “Uncovering a lingering grief over Dan”
      Yes, it lingers, doesn’t it? I have been grateful that my daughters were born November 1. There is a piece of me that is always glad October is over. I understand. May God give you peace today for this loss and others. You have had some big ones. Love comes your way.


  2. I love your love for your brother! I am sure he loved you very much too. You have done a wonderful job of helping your children love him, even though they never knew him. He will always be remembered and loved in your family!

  3. Sweet, Friend! What a tender post and what a tender reminder that grieving is normal and healing takes time! There are beautiful lessons to learn through grief, mostly that God is faithful and redeems. I can’t wait to meet Dan again in eternity and to see you two hugging, hanging out, and eating delectable crackers! It will bring me joy. In just a little while….

    1. Yes, grieving is normal and healing takes time. I hope I give much more space and latitude to the grieving process of others than I did decades ago. It is hard to trust God with our suffering and poor decisions, but may He grant all of us the continued ability to prove Himself faithful and redeem it all, not just some.

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I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6

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