Share This Episode
Family Life Today Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine Logo

Lost: How Grief Brought Me Closer to God: Sara Hagerty

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
May 3, 2024 5:15 am

Lost: How Grief Brought Me Closer to God: Sara Hagerty

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1293 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

May 3, 2024 5:15 am

When you're stuck in the middle of a tough time, dealing with heartache and pain, it can feel like there's no way out: No matter what you try, that heavy cloud of grief still follows you. Author Sara Hagerty sits with you in your pain as she talks about how to work through the pain, face it head-on, and find a path through the grief, denial, and all those other messy emotions.

Show Notes and Resources

Connect with Sara Hagerty and catch more of her thoughts at, and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

And grab Sara's book, The Gift of Limitation: Finding Beauty in the Boundariesin our shop.

Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about Grief by listening to "Stages of Grief".

Want to hear more episodes by Sara Hagerty, listen here!

Meet your match! Every donation made through May will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $300,000. As a token of our gratitude for partnering with us to support stronger families worldwide, we'll send you Neighborhoods Reimagined by Chris and Elizabeth McKinney. Donate today and double your impact!

Find resources from this podcast at

See resources from our past podcasts.

Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!

Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Check out all the FamilyLife's podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network


Do you think you're good at grieving? Can we talk about something else?

Are you serious? I'm just curious. I was thinking we're going to talk about this a little bit today. I feel like you already know the answer.

You wouldn't have asked me. Instead of grieving, what do you think you do? I deny and withdraw and avoid. I don't think I'm very good at it either. I think I just move.

I keep moving and doing instead of sitting. I don't I don't think we know how to grieve sometimes. Welcome to Family Life Today where we talk about the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at This is Family Life Today.

I think that's a great question. I think grieving, when I hear the word, it's like, let's do it and let's do it quick and let's get back to life. I don't want to live there. That's terrible. That is not grieving and that's not healthy. But that's how most of us live, myself included. We're talking with Sarah Hagerty today.

Welcome to Family Life. Glad that you're with us because we're going to talk about this as we've been talking about your book a little bit. And you hit grieving in your book. Yes. The gift of limitations, finding beauty in your boundaries. How do we find beauty? We're all breaking and pushing against the boundaries.

Yeah. Do you grieve well, Sarah? I don't by nature, but I feel like I'm learning. I'm learning because I think when we start to see the power that grief has for us as believers, to grow us, to action to God, and that it doesn't mean that we're going to stay there forever, it becomes a little bit easier to do it. And I think my mind is getting there maybe quicker than my body in my life. But my mind, I am beginning to see the Bible is full of people who grieved with God.

There are Psalms where you see at the beginning, Psalm 22, and then you watch a transition into really understanding an aspect of God's nature and his character where I start to go, I think there's a purpose in it. And the more my mind can get around that, the more I start to go, maybe running away from my grief isn't the best thing right now. But I think we all have this grief this moment.

Am I going to stay here forever? Like if I open the door to grief, what if I'm just Eeyore forever? Yeah, exactly. And I think people are like, when they say grieve well, it's important. What does it mean?

What does it mean? Well, I think, OK, so there's the real, you know, for those of us who have lost someone, my dad died longer and that felt tangible. Like I knew when I missed him, grief was coming on and you can't really avoid that. I think a lot of us have the bigger things in our life where grief becomes familiar. What we don't really have a grid for is like, can I grieve that I.

Responsibilities and a lot of needs in my home and I can't meet them all. Well, that feels like throwing a tantrum. I don't really want to grieve, but could there be a middle ground where I'm actually maybe not throwing a tantrum, but I'm going instead of snapping at my kids because they're not making my life any easier?

Could I actually take three minutes alone in my room with a cup of coffee and say, this is really hard, God? I like that because as a mom, when our kids were little, I'd say, stop being a whiner to myself. Not to my kids. My kids were whining, but I'm saying it to myself.

Stop being a whiner. We might have said it to our kids too. Oh, of course I said it to my kids. But I'm saying I also said it to myself as like a self.

Yeah, slap some water on your face. Keep going. But to go into the closet and to just to be sad and to grieve the moment and maybe the even stage you're in, I feel a little guilty about that because shouldn't I feel thankful?

Right. And I think I do the same thing. I think we as believers skip steps.

So we know what we need to be grateful and to see God's move and his hand in my life. I need to be present with my kids. But how many times do I skip steps? Like here I am snapping at my husband three days in a row and he's going, what in the world? Who are you?

Who are you? But if I give myself a little bit of time, snapping actually becomes tears. And I'm going, I'm overwhelmed with my life. And you are the only person who sees it and knows it this closely. So I need you to be perfect right now.

Right? But you go into the closet to grieve and you can take us there again? What are you saying? I go into the closet or go to someplace where your kids aren't, which for me is my laundry room. Or if I could like hide in the dish, wants to go there. I go to someplace where nobody is and I give myself permission to feel before God. And I say, OK, I'm acting mad, but underneath the mad is really I'm sad.

This is hard. And I have hard responsibilities in my life that I am not fulfilling. And honestly, I can sometimes get to and I feel like I'm actually really failing. I feel like you've given me these children to steward and I feel like I'm an utter failure.

You know, in the moment I'm feeling like an utter failure because my mud room has mud in it. But if I can step away, I'm feeling the stewardship that God has asked of me. And that naming it before God, sitting with it, that's a picture of like minute grief, right? Our friend Jamie Winship talks about confession. He was a cop in D.C. and he says confession. He said, when we have somebody on the stand, when we say, you know, they don't say, I'm sorry. They tell you, this is what I did. This is the truth. He said confession is telling God the truth of where you are, of what you're feeling, of what you're going through.

That is so good. And that changed the way I looked at it in terms of that closet experience. I'm starting to do that. I could be in a meeting and feel like a failure. Lord, I'm telling you, this is my confession. I feel like a failure. And then I'm digging through that. And I'm talking to him about it.

I think that's really helpful. And that is grief in some ways. When we feel like a failure, there's a deep sadness in our hearts. Like, I'm not hitting. To be able to take minutes.

And I'm not talking hours or days or weeks. So sometimes I think it can stretch into longer to say, I'm going to give myself permission to be sad. It releases some of the mad. Do you think it's easier for women to do this? I mean, in my marriage, it is for sure. And one of the things I've noticed is I have given more permission to grief. It's interesting how it also has given my husband more permission. Maybe because it's also giving me a greater tolerance for his pain.

I don't know. I feel like as a woman, I love his strength. And so when he's weak, I need to make space to really let him be weak.

So in a similar way, he's practicing and learning like, oh, this thing is hard. And I can't come up with a new business strategy to circumvent this. I actually need to sit in this moment and go, it's not working out like I thought it was. And this is hard.

Well, you obviously have an answer. No, I was just listening to you talk about this. And I'm like, I don't do this well. I do it a lot better now than I ever have.

And some of that took years and decades. I remember saying to Dave, like, what are you feeling? He'd be like, I don't know. Like, what do you mean? And I know a lot of guys, you know, you get in a men's group with them.

It's like, dude, what's really underneath all that? I don't know. I'm just. Right. I know. Why?

Because they go situation expectations, whatever. Yeah, there's a route to that. I never knew there was a route. And then when somebody told me this decades ago, I'm like, I don't care. I don't want to get to the root. I'm just going to fight through it.

And I'm going to get the job. You and everybody. Because it feels, honestly, unknown to get to the root. Right. It feels very vulnerable. Very vulnerable. Like for my husband, you know, one of the things that we've talked through is like, if he's gruff, that's like my warning sign.

He's actually hurting. Yeah. Like, and I'm wanting to respond to his gruffness and quiet that down. When in reality, what he really needs is when we have a quiet man.

This is hard, isn't it? Or what's up. Or what's up. Yeah.

I can't say it's a hundred percent true, but I think it's very, very true for every person listening to what you just said, especially men. If I'm gruff, it's a flashing dashboard light on my soul saying it's something else. There's something off.

It's worth paying attention to. And then if you can identify it, grieve it. Can you grieve it?

Can you give it a funeral? Maybe it is an expectation. I'm not getting, I'm not getting a promotion. It's not going to happen. And again, even as I said, I'm like, I can make it happen.

I'll get around. There are things it's like, God is setting a limit and that's a gift. Even saying it out loud. It's like, I still don't want limits to be a gift and beauty and boundaries, but you're right. There are times we have to say, I need to grieve this.

I need to accept this. I need to move into this in a beautiful way because I think we do this with our marriage. We want to change her, change him to be what we thought we married anyway. And then at some point we realize now this, who she is, is absolutely beautiful.

I need to embrace and love her as she is, not make her any different because she is a gift from God just the way she is. That's hard to get to the place where you're settled and content. Right, which I think is why grief is such an important part of the process.

It's like that children's book, you can't go over it, can't go around it, can't go under it, have to go through it. Grief is a necessary part to accepting what's given us and to actually embracing it, to seeing it as beautiful. Like if I think of, you know, let's talk about marriage in particular, early years of marriage really hard, giving myself permission as a newer bride to be disappointed and sad, moved me away from mad, definitely opened a door for a connectedness with God because it didn't feel like my, my conversation with God before then had been one dimensional, like change this and him. I mean, I just felt like I was the head of the prayer team for my husband.

I was the president of it. Could we all be praying for my husband? But that was my one dimensional conversation with God. Could there be another way, which is I sit with you and I go, actually, this is really hard, Lord.

And I'm sad. And the young bride in me is sad that this isn't what, he's not who I wanted him to be or who I thought he would be. In that grief, God meets us.

And really, I think he changed the people we want to be in grief. As you guys were saying that I thought of the potter's wheel. And it's almost, I picture it as the clay being on the potter's wheel. And we don't want to get on there because marriage and our children, they form us and God's using them to shape us into these people he sees and wants us to become. But man, when his hands get on there through our marriage or our kids, it's painful in the moment. Well, and I think about kids, you know, we can get really bent, especially children who are in teen years and into the young adult years as to what we imagined them to be and how to be. And because as parents, we feel like we've been given the key, it is a hard key to relinquish to say, you know what, in this season, this is really painful that it's not looking like what I thought. But if I can sit in the grief of it, maybe God might open my eyes to what he is actually doing. And what he's actually doing in me as I wait on what he's doing in that child. It's hard. So hard.

It's a crucible. And I think nobody talks about that because, or we don't talk about it all that often because we just imagine that the dreams for our kids are going to be the actual things that they walk out. But even in a wildly thriving child, exactly like you pictured all those years when you prayed for them. I've talked to so many moms, because I'm around so many moms that have said and cried, like, he gave his life to Jesus when he was five. And I knew like, God has his hand on him.

I thought he was gonna, and then they'll name all the things I thought he was. And now, and they're shattered. So what would you say to them?

I mean, those are the limitations we've been talking about. Like what if your dreams are on the other side of the fence? You got this yard in front of you and this life in front of you and your dreams are over there and you cannot get there. I think we experience it a lot with our kids because of sovereignty. And we go, I cannot make something happen here. So could it be that widespread across the body of Christ, God is reaching people through their delayed answer to prayers. And I think what happens, if we give ourselves permission to grieve that, it becomes a different kind of conversation. Change this kid, move this. We are really masters of interceding.

But what about grief prayers where I just cry with you and I use the Psalms as language to talk to you, God, and I actually find your comfort. I mean, it's so, as you were saying, it's so healthy. I mean, everybody's got their story. I'm thinking when our oldest son was born, we're both athletes, right? I was a college athlete. So we think we're going to have these athletes, right? People would say to us, your kids are going to be so athletic.

And so CJ's born and he's a great kid and he gets the age where he's starting to get into sports, right? And I remember one day, like in the driveway or something, throwing him a ball from three or four feet and it was like clumsy. He couldn't catch it.

It was like uncoordinated. And I remember going, oh my goodness, he doesn't have it. Not that he can't be an athlete, but he's not naturally, he couldn't catch it.

And I was always natural. So I remember thinking, oh my goodness, what do we do? He's not going to be the guy. He may play sports, but he's never going to be the, yes.

And Anne's like, yes, he will. She came from two coaches at college. Everyone's going to be a coach. And one of the things that was beautiful about CJ is he played all the sports, enjoyed it.

And it was just a joy. I mean, we tell stories about during basketball games, he'd be staring at the scoreboard cause he's trying to figure out how the wires and the lights lit up. And that's what he does today.

He's an engineer, IT guy. But he was super shy too. And I thought our kids are going to be so outgoing and I, because I thought that's better. The world receives that outgoing person, you know?

Cause I was able to see it early with CJ. So I accepted it and actually celebrated, he's going to be an amazing man. Sports probably won't be the center of it, but it'll be a part of, well, then my third came along and he's gifted. I mean, gifted athletically. I threw a ball to seven years old, 40 yards on a beach and he dives and catches it with his pinkies. And my buddy turns to me and says, that dude's playing the NFL someday.

And I'm like, I think so. He's just every sport, the best on the field, the smallest. And he gets the NFL and he keeps tearing his hamstring.

Here's I'm only sharing this because this is one of the hardest moments of my life. He gets into his second NFL season. He's been released three times because his hamstring keeps pulling and they resign him, which is they, they believe in him that he has three different Jersey numbers. He gets in training and the general manager grabs me. He doesn't talk to me about my son. I'm the chaplain.

I'm not a dad. And he grabs me and goes, Hey, I don't know what Cody's been telling you, but he's making this roster. He's probably starting. We are so excited. He's been lighten it up all off season. We cannot, he's, he's not a practice squad guy.

He's playing in the NFL. And I just go home like, Oh my gosh, this is unbelievable. Two hours later, his wife texts on the group text and said, Cody just tore his hammy again. And it was over. That was the end of it. Literally as the text came in, I took my, I threw it across the family room and it just, I was there alone.

I don't know where it was. And I just, it hit the wall and I was like, you gotta be kidding because it wasn't his ability to took him out of the league. It was an injury and it seems like a minor one, but something's really bad in his heartbreaking. And I just, it was hard to grieve that. I mean, Cody would say to you, yeah, my dad took it a lot worse than I did because I always knew God had a bigger plan for me than playing football.

And I think I wanted it more than he even did. And it was a hard thing when you are beautiful. I'm like, no. Yeah. Right.

Right. Now I look back and it's like, okay. And I had to grieve. Well, and I think the stories like that, where we actually walk through grief, we come out the other side.

Yeah. There, there are so many though, and I would say maybe even much smaller things in our life because they don't feel like they warrant grief. Weigh us down because we're going, why, why did this thing never happen? This like, and we just, God, where were you?

This was the dream of my heart for this scenario. So I think, I think there's a power. Grief actually gives us, I mean, we, we talk a lot in our current culture, right? About being present, being present with our kids right in front of us, but mostly because I think our phones feel like this massive distraction. And I wonder if being present isn't actually something we need to pursue in and of itself, but that if it becomes a byproduct of grieving our limitations, meeting with God in our limitations and having him impose his dreams for our life, his will for our life in a way that is different than what we thought.

When I can walk through grief, this hurts. My eyes start to open that there's more going on in my life than just me overcoming this one limitation. Mmm. That's good. What do you mean by presence? When people being in is present, be more present in the situation.

Yeah. I mean, I think being more present to a situation is like, it's, you know, 10 o'clock. We take walks in the woods every day with my littlest people. It's, or it's 930 in the morning and we're taking a walk in the woods.

And the way the sun hits my littlest girl's hair, it's blonde. And I get to go, Oh Lord, yeah, I'm old. And you also gave me a child in my older years and it's wonderful. You know, I, or at the birthday party, right?

Like the birthday party where we've done all this to celebrate my daughter. And maybe at the very end I see her hug her best friend and I just think, this is sweet that she's divine. Being able to stay present to the moment without all these thoughts hanging out in the back of my mind, distracting me from being able to see what God's doing right here. Our son that just Dave talked about, he's a pastor now. He calls them God goggles. Put on your God goggles.

That's so good. To see what God is doing. We're driving to school with the boys in the morning in the fall in Michigan.

You know, you grew up in Ohio. The display of color in the fall on the trees is mind blowing to me and I love nature. So we're in the car, I'm like, guys, look at this tree. And we just in the car about God doing this. Like this is amazing, but you know, they're like tired and they're, you know, now, now a lot of kids would be on their phones or some device instead of noticing the beauty around them.

And I think you're right. When we notice when say I'm going to put my God goggles on, there's something spectacular everywhere that God is displaying himself. And even in the moment of we can get so fixed on the thing that we want to overcome, you know, if it's a health issue, like when I'm finally through this, I also have a sick child. And when we finally figure out what's going on with him, figure out how to help him, then we're really going to settle into normal life as a family. And then I can be more present with God.

And I can be more present. But could it be the Lord saying, you know what, right now I actually have beauty for you. It's interesting the notion of grief and walking through seasons of grief. I've heard people say that you actually grow your capacity when you grieve, because you start to see the smaller things that you wouldn't see when you're not grieving. When you're grieving your eyes open to your own pain, and an opening to your own pain, it's like you start to have your eyes open to other things around you that you wouldn't have seen when you're just plowing through life. There is a gift that God gives grieving them that we start to go, oh, there's beauty right here in my yard.

No, I'm not getting that one thing that I'm so desperate to have it. But right here, I think of our family took a big epic, this is not the way we normally vacation. Normally, we are piled into a van with suitcases falling out of the door every time we open it, driving across the country. But our family took a trip, a once in a lifetime trip to Maui. And while we were there, there were just some struggles that were surfacing within our family. And I had some alone time and I'm going, you brought us all the way to Maui and this is coming with us.

Like, you got to be kidding me. This is our vacation. And it's here. I'm at this cliff, at the edge of this cliff, just like crying to God. You brought me to Maui and this is happening. You brought me to Maui and this is happening.

As I'm saying it, and I'm also writing it in my journal, it was like the emphasis changed as if it were His words to me. This is happening. And I brought you to Maui. This is happening.

And I brought you to Maui. And it was like this picture to me of God going, don't wait till this stops happening because I have moments for you right now to encounter me. Live your life now.

Live your life. I can say to somebody who's struggling with Lyme disease, I could wait till I'm through with all this and miss a whole lot of time where God is going, I want to meet you right now when your family's not functioning on all cylinders, when you're not knocking it out of the park as a mom, when you're a C-minus mom, I have things to show you right now. The verse came to my mind, I'm sure you're familiar, Psalm 34, I think it's 18, the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. It's those moments where you're almost pushing Him away because you're so broken.

And when you pause, He flips it, like you said. Really what you wanted all along was my nearness. I mean, if we think about it, the end of all of our dreams and our goals, deep down inside is we want to feel like we've made an impact. We want to feel like we're seen.

We want to feel like we belong. Could it be that in the times when those things are thwarted, God gives us that? His nearness to the brokenhearted. I like that idea too, Sarah, of just as we're talking about beauty and our boundaries, of just like we've talked about how God whispers to us. That we're not so distracted that we can hear His whispers or we're not so distracted that we don't see the beauty all around us, even in the midst of pain.

I think as moms, as listeners, it'd be great to talk to your kids about that. Like what are the hard things going on in your life and in our family and in the world maybe? But what are some of the good things you're seeing too? What are the good things that God is doing in the midst because He's always good?

Absolutely. And I think that is the gift of our limitations. We've got eyes fixed over the fence line. And if we can name them and grieve them and accept them, you start to look at the grass underneath your feet with different eyes.

You start to look at the tree in your yard. And I feel like I wrote this book and my limitations only got more intense. And it's like the Lord going, you have life right here, Sarah, not when Lyme is done, not when these things are resolved in your family, not when you have a more quiet house or a more ordered mud room with no mud. You have beauty right now for you. There's beauty right now.

It's accessible. I mean, I would say for listeners, like right now, that thing that you've been praying for to change, there's life when it doesn't. There's life for you right now when you're waiting and it's not. Will you pray for our listeners, the ones that are feeling like there's so many limits to my life?

Yes, I would love to. God, thank you that you meet us in our limitations. We thank you, God, that we don't have to wait till they're done or over or we're through them to dream with you. And God, I ask for listeners right now who are very acutely feeling their limitations, whether it be physical or in their family, their parents or with their children, God, we ask that you would come even today, God, and give them a brush with your wonder and your beauty.

Give them a whisper that says, I'm here. I am near to you, brokenhearted. You would help us to grieve what hurts and not just stuff it.

Give us a way through, God, Amen, Amen. Right now is when you can find beauty in the life God has given you. I love what Sarah has directed our focus toward today, because who doesn't struggle with contentment? Who hasn't at one point or another longed for life to be different than what it was?

Some of us are over the fence gazers looking at what could be instead of what is. And today's conversation has been significantly helpful from my perspective. And I really hope it has been for you too. I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Sarah Haggerty. Sarah has written a book called The Gift of Limitation, Finding Beauty in the Boundaries. I have been actually reading this book. I'm reading it right now about halfway through it. And it has been enormously helpful for me to look at things like my weaknesses, my limitations, the fences in my life, good gifts from God, instead of things that God is, you know, putting in my life to hold me back or to make me feel like I can look at other people's lives with longing because my life doesn't measure up to what their life is like. It really has helped me in many ways to unlock satisfaction has lovingly and purposefully directed my life.

You can get your copy of Sarah's book right now by going to the show notes at or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. And that number is 800, F as in family life, and then the word today. And I wanted to let you know that this is a very unique and rare month at Family Life because we as a ministry have been given a generous donation that will allow any gift given to the Ministry of Family Life to be doubled dollar for dollar up to dollars.

Yes, that's right. So any gift that you give to the Ministry of Family Life will be matched dollar for dollar. So when you become a monthly partner, you give $100, it's actually going to be turned into $200 a month.

If you give a one-time gift of $50, it's going to be actually a gift to others. You can go online right now to, click on the donate now button at the top of the page, and it'll walk you through how to become a partner with us here at Family Life. You can find more details in the show notes at Now how can relationships make an impact and connect with your community? Well, next week, Chris and Elizabeth McKinney are going to be here with David Ann Wilson to talk about just that, having a godly strategy when you think about being a good neighbor. That's next week. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you in the next edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-03 06:41:09 / 2024-05-03 06:54:10 / 13

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime