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Bittersweet Joy

Updated: Jul 22, 2022


With my phone at the ready, I am excitedly awaiting the birth of my second grandchild. Preparation for the big event is much more subdued for the grandparents than for the parents. Yet, I still have a few things to do so that the little one will have a safe place to be when not being passed from adoring family member to another (which at first will likely not even happen). So I find myself dusting off the cherry wood cradle. This was lovingly made by my husband more than twenty five years ago for the arrival of this grandchild’s daddy. While cleaning the smooth wood there is a catch in my throat, and I realize that the joy of baby’s arrival is also bittersweet. I am preparing for the fifth child to sleep in this cradle (our three children and now the second grandchild) since its creation so long ago when my husband and I were just starting our life together.

When baby’s big sister arrived 2 years ago, my husband and I drank in the joy of the blessed event. We could hardly grasp the pure joy of being grandparents. Scattered around the house are pictures in frames of grandpa holding his first grandchild. It marked for us the jubilant passage into the next phase of life, and we were celebrating well! It was a mere six weeks later that my husband died, and I was left to parent and grandparent alone. This grandparenting gig is awesome; it’s just that I miss doing it with my life partner, now more than ever. The joy that permeates so much of life is often bittersweet when shrouded in grief.

The resurgence of my grief hits hard in these times of momentous life events. The sorrow comes upon me as if I am a wave on the sea, violently crashing into the rocky shoreline. Then I am dragged back out to sea, only to have it repeat again and again. Being slammed with grief these two years later takes its toll on me. I must learn once more to cope under this new siege, and I cry out to Christ for comfort and peace. In these moments, Christ speaks to my heart, reminding me that calmer seas are coming soon.

The trouble is, I sometimes forget to cry out to the Lord, seeking instead to try to go it alone. I realize I am not so different from the disciples who think all hope is lost when the boat they are in is being tossed about in a storm. The disciples believed that because Jesus was asleep, that He didn’t care what happened to them.

‘They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.’ (Matthew 8: 24-26, CEB) Just like the disciples, I too eventually call out to Jesus saying, “Rescue me!” When I am drowning in my sorrow and trying to work through it on my own volition, Jesus responds saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Yet, Christ does not leave it there. Instead, Jesus rebukes the waves of my grief, and I am much better able to withstand the hardship and get through it. Sheltered in His love and care, the grief subsides a bit.

The resurgences that are my grief seem to be getting farther and farther apart, and the duration is less. Yet I did not get to this point on my own. I have been doing the hard work that is grief. Sitting with the Lord in my daily quiet time includes a bit of grief work. I have surrounded myself with people who lift my spirits. And, I have been gentle with myself, allowing housework to slide a bit, and finding time for those things that bring me joy.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Dear one, what waves of sorrow and hardship are pounding on you? Do you repeatedly try to handle it on your own? It’s not too late to call on the One who calms the waves and brings comfort to your struggling heart. Merely call out His name and allow the gentle water of Christ’s calm touch to bring you peace. He will not take away the hard things you are dealing with, but Christ will walk with you. I have found that to be true time and time again, especially when my grief disrupts the tranquility of my life.

LET US PRAY Holy Lord, thank You for coming alongside me when I call out to You for help. Some days it seems like all I do is cry to You. I am so glad that You never leave me stranded, even as I am tossing and turning on a turbulent sea. Guide me to calmer waters where I can catch my breath and step once again into the challenges I am facing. In these times of bittersweet joy, allow my heart and mind to cling to the joy so I don’t miss out on gifts of this life. Amen.


In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar at her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at

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