This is hard. The book.

If you are here, it’s because someone has died. Even coming here is hard. But I’m glad you are here. This page is always in process as I find and develop more resources.

[If you haven’t purchased This Is Hard: What I Say When Loved Ones Die, you can preview the book at ThisIsHard.pressbooks.com and order it from Amazon: This Is Hard. And if you would like to order multiple copies, contact me through the contact form.)

About the book

“This is hard.” 

With those words, a hospital chaplain acknowledges the pain we feel after the death of someone we love. And then slowly offers more answers to the questions we are feeling: “Why can’t I think?” “Is it okay to feel bad when they are at peace?” 

This short book is like a conversation with someone who understands loss, with words of clarification for our feelings and space to write what is worth remembering in the future. 

It’s helpful for people in the hours and days after a loss. It’s helpful for pastors, friends, and family members wanting to know what to say and what not to say. It’s helpful for anyone who, at some moment needs to hear, “This is hard.” 

Additional Resources

Here’s a worksheet you can use to help plan a funeral or other event to honor your loved one:

How do I help the children during this loss?

Children often need help making sense of death. (Adults do, too.) Organizations like Erin’s House for Grieving Children in Fort Wayne, Indiana (www.erinshouse.org), and Ele’s Place in Michigan (www.elesplace.org) provide places and programs for children in their communities. They also have online resources that can be used by anyone.

What if we lost a baby?

That’s hard. Nancy and I know. Kristen and Patrick Riecke draw on their own experience and their work with parents to offer support and explanation and encouragement in No Matter How Small: Understanding Miscarriage and Stillbirth. (2020).

How do I plan the funeral service? Do I have to have a funeral service?

You don’t have to have a funeral service in a church with a piano and organ and tight collars and expensive flowers (though you can). Because we are humans and created to eat and tell stories, at the very least do that. If you do want to have a service, this walks you through a service, including writing eulogies: Giving a Life Meaning: How to Lead Funerals, Memorial Services, and Celebrations of Life. (Fort Wayne, Emerald Hope Publishing House, 2020).

What do other people say about their own grief? P

Surprised by Grief” with Clarissa Moll and Daniel Harrell. Each of the hosts of this podcast lost a spouse in 2019. Clarissa’s husband, Rob, died in a climbing accident. Daniel’s wife died with pancreatic cancer. But these two had already thought about life and death more than most people. Rob wrote a book, The Art of Dying, several years before his death, and Daniel was working as a pastor. They talk about their own experiences and the work they are doing with others and invite us into the conversation. The content is often hard, but listening to them interact is remarkably helpful.

Nora McIerney, We don’t “move on” from grief. We move forward with it, TED, 4/9/2019. In a few weeks, Nora McIerney lost her dad, her husband, and her unborn child. She writes and podcasts about grief,  loss, and living. This video is key to understanding the idea of moving forward.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed. HarperOne, 2009. With a foreword by Madeleine L’Engle. C.S. Lewis is known for writing about faith and about Narnia. This is like reading a journal in the days after his wife’s death. It captures the waves of grief. The foreword by Madeleine, also a writer, talks about the loss of her husband, and illustrates that each loss is different.

What if I’m mad at God? 

In Don’t You Care That We Are Drowning? (And Other Unexpected Prayers), Brian Spahr shares the unexpected prayers of people who cry out to God amid their struggle and suffering and loss.

In How to Talk with Sick, Dying, and Grieving People: When There Are No Magic Words to Say, Patrick Riecke addresses many of the really hard questions we have in grief.