Monday, April 23, 2012

A Letter to Joy: Enduring Loss Together

'Meteor Crater' photo (c) 2005, dbking - license:

Dear Joy,

Just today, I stumbled across a binder full of printed email messages from the summer we started dating. I couldn’t put it down.

We were so footloose, so flirtatious, so playful, so poetic. So unsuspecting. Back then, we measured loss in welts from Manhattan mosquito bites and wet hair from unexpected afternoon rains.

Little did we know that less than 2 years into our marriage, the first fruits of the loss we know today would settle like a fog on our home. Before Elli was born in 2000, I had never once considered the concept of birth defects. When I first learned of her life-threatening heart issues, I kept terrible thoughts locked up. I wanted to return her to God’s Customer Service desk and get a refund—or exchange her for a child that wasn’t defective.

From the beginning, we dealt with disappointment in secret, too tired to talk, too preoccupied with her care. It’s no surprise that couples in our situation divorce. You stop seeing each other as soul mates when everyday life feels more like a hospital ward than a home.

Then, 8 years later, heaven swallowed Elli's soul early one morning in her sleep. She entered eternity, and we were left with what felt like a mile-wide crater in the middle of our house. Sadly, our emotional separation during her life had landed us on opposite sides of that crater, grieving her loss in opposite ends of the house.

Somehow, we spotted each other, and slowly hobbled around to meet on the same side of the crater. But then, a surprising challenge came. Neither of us realized that grieving processes are as diverse as the people who grieve

I grieved standing up, and found hard work to be therapeutic. You closed the blinds on life, and befriended the darkness of depression. You perceived my grieving as insensitive. I perceived yours as wallowing in self-pity. We were both wrong. We made bad grief partners, each wanting the other to snap out of it.

Now, almost 4 years since we lost Elli, we still deal with her loss differently. But something about knowing this has made all the difference in our love, understanding and acceptance of each other. At least now, we can see and appreciate our different grief styles and not let it be a hindrance to our mutual healing. This is the one lesson I want to scream from the rooftops.

Ironically, loss has not left us empty-handed. It has left us with a ministry. As a couple, we can meet those dealing with welts and wet hair where they are, and give out of the rich storehouse of comfort we have received. We can point them to the God of all comfort, who has been our only Hope for hanging on while letting go.

For better, or for worse,


On Mondays, Joy and I join Seth and Amber Haines as they fight the good fight for their marriage. They call this weekly series “Marriage Letters” and pray that it encourages each of us in our own hard work of marriage. Next week's prompt is “On Outside Influences.” You can join us any time with your own letter to your spouse, whether you both write or blog or not. Joy is  hosting today's link-up on her blog, so we hope you’ll share your letter there!


  1. Honest. Vulnerable. Beautiful.

  2. Every time I read a piece of yours, and Joy's and Elli's story, a hard lump sits in the middle of my stomach - like I want to cry for you or scream for you or wish my husband I could take you out to dinner. Or drop off a nice coconut cake or something. I somehow feel caught in a wave that's too big to manage my flailing swimming arms... and it's not even my wave, it's not my storm, it's not my ocean. But it has touched my life in a profound and unforgettable way. Not because your story has experienced such extreme loss (although it has), it's because of the way you and Joy speak of it, write of it... with such honesty and vulnerability, and above all else, a love that works hard for one another. And that's something, no matter what losses come our way in the future, we can always strive for. Thinking of your family often.

  3. "Ironically, loss has not left us empty-handed. It has left us with a ministry." Yes, so true. Every loss I have experienced in time, in some way, has been used to help someone else through something if I am open to it. Thankful for your wife and you sharing your lives via the internet.

  4. Thank you, Scott, for sharing this. Your writing is so tangible yet poignant. I am again amazed at what you and Joy have endured and how graciously you reach out to others with your story. What an inspiration.

  5. Wow, Scott. I didn't know about your loss, and let me give my condolences; I'm truly sorry. This post is beautiful, open in a way I've never seen before.

  6. This is so powerful. God is faithful & "loss has not left you empty handed". You guys are a blessing to learn from!

  7. Well done. I've wondered from time to time, how Amy and I would respond to a similar trial. I've come to the conclusion that without God's grace, we would not make it through. Marriage (between two sinners) and family are difficult even with the welts and wet hair. Thanks for the honesty, Scott!

  8. Oh my goodness Scott. You shared so honestly the exceedingly painful trial you and your bride Joy went through with your precious child Elli. Daring to speak the things we think but keep inside. Praying that the Lord will continue to heal your hurting hearts and enable to you come alongside others who are hurting and minister to them.


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