When You Feel All Alone in Your Grief | By Sabrina Chapiel

How God used the promises of Psalm 23 to help me navigate the overwhelming grief I experienced after the unexpected death of my brother. | Christian Woman | Healing from Tragedy | Dealing with Unexpected Loss | Biblical Advice | All Things Work Together for Good

I’m sitting on the dry grass in front of the coop.

The green flecks of spring are beginning to grow though the dead fall grass still lingering.

Green life, reaching for the nourishment of spring sun.

Kristopher always loved watching the chickens for some reason.

Here, now, I’m reminded of him.

This summer it will be nine years.

Nine years without that crooked grin.

Without my tormentor chasing me through the house, beating me at Nintendo, and watching Looney Toons together.

Nine years without my big brother.

It’s the little things that remind me of him.

The chickens.
Peppered macaroni.
Half-popped corn.

How God used the promises of Psalm 23 to help me navigate the overwhelming grief I experienced after the unexpected death of my brother. | Christian Woman | Healing from Tragedy | Dealing with Unexpected Loss | Biblical Advice | All Things Work Together for Good

Nine Years Ago

It is the summer after my first year of university.

My mom and dad, little brother and I are all sitting around our kitchen table with a victim services worker and a police officer.

A tender piece of my heart dies as they explain what happened.

Though it should bring closure, hearing the officer confirm that they caught the two young men who took my brother’s life  gives me little comfort.

He just celebrated his 30th birthday.

Yet these young men will be walking free before their 30th birthdays.

It isn’t fair.

My parents fall into what I can only describe as a zombie-like state.

My dad sits outside in a lawn chair. Alone. Staring for hours at the ground beneath his feet.

My mom moves slowly around the house. Expressionless. Doing dishes and laundry in a trance.

They are alive but grief keeps them from living.

Unable to process my brother’s death themselves, they offer no comfort or guidance to me or my younger brother (still only in elementary school).

His youth offers a kind of resilience I have somehow grown out of; grief did not enslave him like it did me.

I try different things to overcome my grief – to distract me.

Changing jobs.

Nothing works. Nothing I do is enough.

But after months of life in the pit, something beautiful happens.

How God used the promises of Psalm 23 to help me navigate the overwhelming grief I experienced after the unexpected death of my brother. | Christian Woman | Healing from Tragedy | Dealing with Unexpected Loss | Biblical Advice | All Things Work Together for Good

Remembering God

I wait for the comfort of sleep to take me, but insomnia denies me relief.

Night after night, I am left alone with my thoughts.

Thoughts spiraling around my head so quickly I feel nauseous.

Why my brother? Why did he have to die the way he did?

Why does the “justice” served through the court system feel so dissatisfying?

What about me? My emptiness?

The courts can convict the killers, but they cannot bring back my brother.

But one night, a new thought parts through the turbulent waters.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

The Lord? Really!

Where was “The Lord” when my brother was being attacked?

And how can I say that I shall not want, when I do want – I want my brother back.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;”

That does sounds pretty nice – green pastures and still waters. But how – how can He restore my broken soul?

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.”

I haven’t heard these words in years.

They must have been buried deep in my consciousness.

I was forced to memorize Psalm 23 the summer my parents sent me to Bible camp.

But why am I suddenly remembering it now?

How God used the promises of Psalm 23 to help me navigate the overwhelming grief I experienced after the unexpected death of my brother. | Christian Woman | Healing from Tragedy | Dealing with Unexpected Loss | Biblical Advice | All Things Work Together for Good

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Comfort. How I crave it.

But how can this God, the one from Bible camp so many years ago, really deliver the comfort I long for?

In anger, I try to force the unbeckoned words from my mind.

If God is so good, how can He allow such bad things to happen?

But the words fight back!

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;”

Maybe God is trying to tell me how I can have peace in the midst of my pain.

I am desperate for peace, comfort, hope.

My resolve to navigate life on my own weakens.

I begin to talk to God.

God, I’m angry.
God, I’m sad.
God, I’m alone.

As I empty myself before the God of Psalm 23, I realize there’s no harm in giving Him a chance.

Maybe He can comfort me. Maybe He can restore my soul.

What do I have to lose?

How God used the promises of Psalm 23 to help me navigate the overwhelming grief I experienced after the unexpected death of my brother. | Christian Woman | Healing from Tragedy | Dealing with Unexpected Loss | Biblical Advice | All Things Work Together for Good

What grief taught me about God

1. God may allow us to experience grief and suffering in order to bring us closer to Him.

I experienced intense grief. Months of anguish over the loss of my brother. And God allowed it. Why?

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about the tormenting “thorn” (12:7) in his flesh. He describes the thorn as a “messenger of Satan” (v 7). Torment, from Satan – yikes, I’m thinking that this was a pretty painful experience for Paul.

Paul even asked (nay, pleaded) God to take away the thorn. God’s answer? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v9).

God said no. There’s a reason He allowed it.

You see, when we are weak, hurting, or grieving, we are in a state where we realize that we are helpless. We are not in control. It’s times like these when many of us turn to God and find His grace.

The power to persevere through “torment” as Paul describes it, is only possible though Christ. Paul ends by saying this:

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

2. God can bring good things out of terrible situations.

Looking back, I see how God was able to use the tragedy of my brother’s death to save me. He allowed me to experience the grief. But He waited with open arms until I was ready to come to Him. To rush to the comfort of my Father’s arms.

He brought miraculous triumph, out of the worst of tragedies. A daughter comforted. A soul saved.

What better example of this is there, than the death of Jesus? He was whipped, mocked, beaten, stripped naked and nailed to a cross – if that’s not a terrible situation, then I don’t know what is. But God brought good from it.

In fact, I daresay it’s the greatness goodness we know. Through Christ’s sacrifice for us, we can experience salvation.

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Jesus paid our wages for us. He bore the burden of the sin that separated us from our Holy Father. And now? We are able to have a direct relationship with God, and experience His gift of eternal life.

How God used the promises of Psalm 23 to help me navigate the overwhelming grief I experienced after the unexpected death of my brother. | Christian Woman | Healing from Tragedy | Dealing with Unexpected Loss | Biblical Advice | All Things Work Together for Good

3. God keeps his promises.

I was promised healing, restoration, and comfort from my Father. And that is exactly what I received. We have a good Father, who keeps His promises to us.

However, sometimes He asks us to wait a little.

And sometimes He asks us to wait a lot. The Israelites waited a long, long, loooooooong time to see God’s promise to them fulfilled.

God made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17), told him that he would have many descendants, and that they would inherit the entire land of Canaan. But it didn’t happen overnight.

The Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians for 430 years (Exodus 12:41), and wandered the wilderness for another 40 years after that (Numbers 14:34). I would consider that a long time.

We learn in the book of Joshua how the Israelites do eventually enter the promised land. Did God keep his promise? Yes He did! Even though it took many years.

If you are waiting for God to fulfill His promises to you, do not lose heart. He may ask us to wait, but He will always keep His promises.

All things work for good

I sit here now, drinking the spring air and watching my son chase the chickens.

We decided to name him Weston William Kristopher after his uncle.

He’s got the same mischievous and playful heart as my brother!

My brother may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28

Has God ever brought something good out of a painful circumstance or loss in your life? I’d love to chat about it in the comments.


Sabrina is a Canadian country girl, farm wife, and crunchy mama. She loves the outdoors, whether it’s gardening, hiking, fishing, or just taking a nature walk with the kids through God’s creation. If she’s not outside, you can find her sitting with a herbal tea, writing on her blog crunchyandcountry.com. Here, she shares her thoughts on parenting, homesteading, and simple living. You can also find Sabrina on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

This article has been shared at these encouraging Christian blogger linkups.

Sarah Koontz

About Sarah Koontz

Sarah Koontz invites Christians of all ages to explore the beauty of God’s design. She is a passionate storyteller who enjoys using illustrations to communicate deep spiritual truths. Sarah lives on 13-acres in South Dakota with her husband, two daughters and a rowdy flock of 30 chickens. She revels in their simple, uncluttered life.

Follow Sarah on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

Read Sarah’s full Bio Here.

49 thoughts on “When You Feel All Alone in Your Grief | By Sabrina Chapiel

  1. Sabrina and Sarah — so MANY powerful lessons here. And what a clear picture you’ve painted of the ways in which grief lambastes an entire family in different ways.

  2. Sabrina, thank you for sharing your grief and your hope with us! And thank you for the reminder that the words we sink into children’s hearts from Scripture may carry them later through the darkest places.

    1. Helene – isn’t it amazing to know that the seeds planted when a child is young can really flourish and bloom and that child is older? It gives me confidence for my children too that what we teach them now really will stay with them through the years.

  3. Oh, what a tragic story. 🙁 Grief is such a hard, hard thing to have to go through. But also as I understand it, the only way to heal is to go straight through. In my times of deepest grief, I didn’t necessarily “feel” God’s comfort but after the fact, I knew he never left me. Thanks for sharing this intimate story. Blessings to your family as you continue to miss your brother.

    1. Thanks very much Lisa – sometimes it’s easier to acknowledge that God was present in a difficult time after much time has passed and we are looking back on things. And that’s such a good point, the best way to heal is to go straight through – it hurts, but we have a God who can comfort us. Blessings to you as well!

  4. Sabrina, Thank you for sharing this very tender piece of your heart with us. I can’t even imagine what your family has endured.

    You have brought such Glory to God through your pain in sharing with others that are in a season of grief the Hope that we have in Jesus to minister to us and redeem every bit of that grief for His Glory and our good.


    1. Thank you for such kind words Karen! You put it really well – Christ really does redeem every bit of that grief for His Glory and our good. I will never comprehend or understand God’s master plan, but I have to know and trust that everything that happens, every bit of suffering, pain, or hurt, will come together for His glory – He’s in control – and that thought is so comforting.

  5. Sabrina thank you so much for sharing your story. I lost my brother, my only sibling to suicide when he was 29. I struggle daily with the weight of grief. My grief has kept me from living. I have tried so hard to overcome it, but it has taken away so much of who I was. Your story gives me hope. Thank you and God bless.

    1. Kim – my heart aches for you, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your brother. Losing a sibling is undescribable. I know exactly what you mean, grief has a way of stripping you of everything you are, and leaving you empty. I’m glad my story has given you hope – hold onto that hope. If God can rescue me from the pit of grief, I know He can do the same for you. I still think about my brother every single day – but the difference between now and 9 years ago, is that God has shown me how to continue living, not just surviving, but really living. Kim, I know that can happen for you too. Keep holding onto your hope, and I will keep you in my prayers. Blessings ❤

  6. Sabrina & Sarah- Gosh this came at the best time! We just had 2 family deaths this past week. My husband lost his mom unexpectedly. Many “whys” have been floating around and the grief has been thick. I was comforted by this post, and I’m going to share with my husband.
    Thank you so much for sharing!
    Visiting from #MomentsofHope

    1. Julie – I’m so sorry to hear about deaths that have struck your family. Unexpected deaths especially really rock us. I can definitely understand the “why”‘s you speak of. Though I still can’t answer the “why” around certain parts of my brother’s death, I’ve been able to reach a point where I no longer need to ask. For me, it’s only been possible because God has promised me that He has a plan and that I don’t need to ask why anymore. I’m glad you were able to find comfort through my story, and my prayer for you and your husband is that you would also be touched by the incredible comfort God had to offer. Blessings to you and your family Julie.

  7. Sarah & Sabrina, what a beautiful testimony of God’s grace in the midst of such overwhelming grief. Praying this post will reach many who need the comfort of the Savior. Pinning this one!

    1. Hi Donna, thanks so much for your kind words. I too pray that my story will reach those that are in need of God’s comfort and promises for healing and restoration. Blessings to you!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story and the hope that can be found in the midst of overwhelming grief. Your words point us to the truth. Thank you! May God’s grace and comfort continue to fill you in the days to come. Bless you.

    1. Thank you Julie! Hope really can be found amidst grief – God promises us that hope. I’m so thankful for how he changed my life though this process. Blessings to you as well!

  9. Thank you for your honesty, your words, this article. Though I haven’t experienced loss in the same way, I know the paralysis, the crippling effect of grief. How it can engulf and keep you stuck in its’s grip. This is one of the best things I’ve ever read about grief. Thank you. I loved it and I will be sharing it.

    1. Liz, your words are so kind, thank you. My prayer for sharing this story is that others will find hope through it – that they would be encouraged to seek God, and rest in His promise of comfort. He can lift the paralysis you speak of and pry grief’s grip away. Blessings to you and yours Liz.

  10. Sabrina and Sarah:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! As a hospital chaplain I hear these questions often: why did God allow this to happen? How can he possibly heal my broken heart? How can I even get through the next breath?

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this loss and pain. But I love the lessons that you have taken away from your season of grief. It’s so hard to see through the darkness to get to the light. I know your story will be such an encouragement to others who are suffering.

    1. Hi Melissa – it’s very true, I think these questions are common during times of grief. It’s just so hard to wrap your head around death, loss, tragedy, I think we ask questions to try to find comfort and some type of closure. At least for me I know that was part of it.

      Thanks Melissa, I too hope that others who are suffering through grief will find encouragement and hope. All the best to you, blessings!

  11. I pray that you continue to find comfort in whatever ways the Lord has revealed himself to you. I always struggle with the waiting of the Lord’s promises and often think that many of them will not be fulfilled while I walk this life. Many of the Israelites died before the Lord’s promise was fulfilled, thus died thinking he had forsaken them. Sometimes that is how I feel so I just continue to pray and ask him to reveal his will and plan. God Bless!
    Visiting from Holly Barrett link

    1. Thank you so much Deanna. Yes, I would have to agree – waiting can be so difficult. Sometimes I think that waiting runs contrary to our human tendencies towards instant answers, instant gratification, instant relief – and yet, sometimes God says wait. I often have to remind myself that if God makes us wait, He has a very good reason for it.

      I do the same thing! Pray and ask for His will to be made clear. Blessings your way Deanna.

  12. Sabrina and Sarah:
    Thank you for sharing this post. Such a riveting piece as life can be so painful and unexplainable. You have offered much wisdom on how to navigate through these painful times and grief in particular. Praying that God’s peace and comfort would fill you in the times ahead. This is sure to encourage many. May God bless you!

    1. Joanne, thank you so much, your kind words mean a lot. It is my hope that others would be encouraged by my story. You’re very right, life can be painful and unexplainable. The unexplainable part is especially hard, because I know that I was always looking for answers, looking to make sense out of what happened. But God showed me I didn’t need to keep doing that. He would lift the shadow of grief, and help me overcome. Blessings to you as well!

  13. Sabrina, my heart goes out to you and your family because I know the pain never really goes away. Believe me this hits closer to home than you know.
    I’m so glad that something beautiful came out of it and you have the clarity to see that now. It might have seemed senseless, yet God weaved a whole new life — yours in Christ.
    It also struck me as I read this that God too grieves for us when we’re far from Him and how much He longs to bring us each home.
    Blessings to you!

    1. Marva, thank you so much. Its true, the pain never leaves, but God offers the comfort and ability to not just survive, but really continue living and thriving. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

      Ah, I love that point Marva! He’s such a good Father isn’t He. Grieving for us when we are far, and in His perfect plan, finding a way to bring us home. God was able to use this painful experience to bring me back to Him, and I am so thankful. God bless you as well Marva!

    1. Thank you Amy. I am so thankful as well for God’s goodness and how He worked in my life – to lift my grief, but also to be closer to Him. Blessings to you Amy!

  14. Sabrina, I cry as I read this. Yesterday marked the two year anniversary since I lost my younger brother to a tragic event. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. While the days have gotten better, they are never the same. I feel your pain and loss to the very core of my being. But, as much as I have grieved, I have seen the hand of God more than ever before in my life. Like Job said, “My ears had heard of you BUT NOW my eyes have seen you.” He has used my story of suffering to release me from a 20-year prison of shame AND to minister to others going through similar circumstances. I hold on tight to the promise in Romans 8:28, anchored on God’s flawless Word that does not return void. Thank you so much for sharing your tender story to bring hope and restoration to those facing grief! May God continue to bless you with sweet reminders through your son and a ministry of hope! Hugs, Sabrina!

    1. Esther – my heart is heavy hearing that you also lost your brother to tragedy. I’m so sorry for the pain you bear because of it, I know it too well. Something I wanted to convey through sharing my story was letting others like yourself know that they are not alone in their pain – I can relate, I can understand, and I know how hard it is. But there’s hope. Hope in our wonderful God.

      Oh what a great quote from Job! Isn’t that just the truth though? I can’t think of a better way to describe how tragedy or loss can reveal God’s hand in our lives. And Roman’s 8:28 is a ROCK of a verse for hard times. What a wonderful promise isn’t it?

      Thank you so much Esther, hugs to you too! <3

  15. What a beautiful and tender post, Sabrina! I can’t even imagine the pain and difficulty of working through that time of grief. But with the Lord’s help you’ve come out of this with so much wisdom and peace! I love the way you point us to Christ whenever we struggle in these kinds of unfair and horrific ways. There is hope in Him! And thanks to Sarah, for sharing your story here. Just wonderful!

    1. Thank you very much Beth for your kind words! I owe all of the peace I have now in my life to God – He is the answer. It took me a while, many months of unbearable grief weighing me down, to realize that my comforter, my healer, my Father, was waiting for me. So much hope is there is Christ – my prayer is that others who read my story will find their hope in Him as well.
      I too am thankful to Sarah for providing a platform for me to share my story! She really encouraged me through writing this.
      Blessings to you Beth!

  16. Oh, and Sarah … I didn’t see a link to this back at my linkup–From Messes to Messages. I’d love it if you’d share it there. Such an incredible story that I don’t want my readers to miss out on!

    1. Thanks Danielle. Sometimes I have a hard time believing it’s been 9 years too. Almost a decade can pass, but memories remain vivid, and I still miss him. The difference now is that I have a Saviour who comforts me when grief tries to take hold. He is my rock!

  17. Sabrina, your tragedy-to-triumph story has deeply reminded me today of Christ’s continual goodness in grief and sufficient grace in the deepest sorrows. I’m truly thankful for you sharing.
    Blessings to you, with Grace upon grace

    1. Hi Jessica. I’m glad you could be reminded of Christ’s goodness and grace. His grace really is sufficient for us, like Paul highlights in 2 Corinthians 12:9. May God bless you Jessica

  18. Oh wow. Heartbreaking. I haven’t experienced a loss like that before. I just can’t imagine the pain. Makes me think of John 16:33 about how we will have trouble in this world but that Jesus has overcome. How wonderful when God takes pain and suffering and uses it for our good and His glory!

    Beautifully written – thanks for sharing with us at Literacy Musing Mondays. 🙂

    1. Hi Brandi. Yes, hearing you mention John 16:33 (such a great verse), it really shows how my story fits into the context of that passage. Two big truths stand out to me from that verse: in this world, we will have trouble. It’s not all roses – there’s pain sure to come. BUT – Jesus has overcome the world. He will give us peace. We don’t have to be held captive by our troubles and our pains.
      Thanks for the great points Brandi, and for your kind words. Blessings to you!

  19. I can’t imagine the grief you felt or the sadness you still feel, but I am glad we serve a God who redeems the broken situations. He really is the only true comfort in this life.

    1. He really is Sarah. I’m thankful everyday for His redeeming love and His grace. Other comforts are fleeting – like I mentioned in my post – partying, changing jobs, I even tried travelling – but comfort through Christ is lasting.

  20. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for the loss of your brother. I, too, have lost a brother. He died in a motorcycle accident 12 years ago. He was 33. He had one son and another on the way. I was 30 at the time and I remember that intense grief- for 2 years!! It was just awful! But I knew through it all that God truly loved us, that He didn’t do this terrible thing to us. I was aware that I couldn’t possibly see the big picture this side of heaven. I know that I will see him again one day. But there will always be a void. Peace to you and your family. Thank you for your words.

    1. Thanks Susan – I too am sorry to hear that you also lost a brother. 12 years may seem like a long time, but I understand the void you mention. A decade can pass, and still a piece of my heart mourns. I think in part, that shows how deeply we are capable of loving. We were not meant to live this life alone, but in close relationships with each other, and with our Heavenly Father, Christ and the Spirit.

      That’s a good thing to remind yourself during difficult times – “God didn’t do this terrible thing to us.” I’m happy you were able to cling to that truth and remember God’s goodness through your tragedy.

      I pray you continue to experience God’s powerful, comforting hand. Blessings.

    1. Thank you so much Sarah. Yes, some of the holidays, mother’s day, father’s day, can be triggers for grief – I hope my story can provide some hope and encouragement for those struggling with grief at this time. God bless!

  21. Sabrina, thank you for sharing your story. I needed to be reminded today, and I’m grateful for it. Grief has played a role in my family a very long time. My adopted son has lost so much, including my husband almost 9 years ago. He still struggles greatly, and I often take the brunt. Recently, I’ve become so discouraged by it. God knew, and has sent encouragement in several forms, including this post. Thank you so much for sharing. May God bless and continue to comfort you and your family.

    1. Robin, what a difficult loss to deal with, for both yourself and your son. Losing a husband, losing a father – my heart aches for you, as I understand the weight of grief when you lose someone you deeply love.

      9 years may seem long, but that doesn’t mean that grief disappears. It sounds like your son is still hurting. It’s hard to find coping mechanisms for dealing with grief, our relationships and loved ones often suffer. We get angry. We have a lot of emotion that needs to be directed somewhere.

      However, we can direct that emotion towards God if we choose to. I’m so thankful for that. Does your son have a relationship with God? I’ll pray that he’s able to find comfort in God, and that he realises he can direct all of his frustration, anger, sadness, grief, whatever it may be, towards our Saviour who will bear our burdens for us.

      I’ll pray that you Robin would be continually encouraged, and that God would keep sending you uplifting reminders that He is here for you through it all. Godbless

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