Good Grief?

In spite of the difficulties I have faced in life, I have lived a fairy tale existence compared to the pain and loss many have had to endure.

I often wonder, when tragedy does strike, how do we deal with it?   When one of my friends is suffering how should I respond? What do I say? I just read “Good Grief,” a book by Erica McNeal that answers those questions.  Good Grief is a moving story of loss and grief and grace.  The parts of the book that detail Erica personal experience as a three time cancer survivor and a mom who lost five children are heart wrenching and filled with hope.  This is not super woman, this is a woman who has leaned on a super God.  Her book brings encouragement to those who face grief and a clearer understanding of what to do when you are the friend or loved one who must walk through the valley with them.

Erica McNeal

I wondered where the phrase “Good Grief came from so I looked it up.  It is probably a minced oath – that is, a softened form of another exclamation that might be deemed blasphemous. In this case, the other exclamation is “Good God!” In context of the title of Erica’s  book it is far from blasphemous.  Good Grief certainly leads to a “Good God”  who brings Great Hope.

Yesterday,I recommended Good Grief  to a woman who lost two boys. No matter what your situation, I recommend it to you.

What have you faced?  What hurtful or helpful things did well meaning people say?


  1. My mom became ill when I was in 7th grade and has never fully recovered. It was an illness that was difficult to explain and was hushed up publicly within our family. It affected all members of our family and really affects all still today 30+ years later.

    1. Author


      Thank you for sharing this. Make me wonder about the negative power of secrets. Do you think things would have been different if you didn’t need to hush it up? Hope there will still be some healing. Thanks again for your comment.


  2. I can’t imagine losing five children!

    Ken, I like how you say, “This not super woman, this is a woman who leaned on super a God.”

    Lord, help us to lean on you, so that no matter what dumps on us, we can be a testimony of your grace.

    Sounds like a great book, Ken. Another one I can recommend to my readers. Thanks!

  3. After losing my first wife at 35 years old I’d have to say the worse piece of advise I ever got; and this was given to me by just about everyone, was, “Don’t worry It’ll get easier with time.” I can tell you that it doesn’t get easier, however, if you point your heart to God he makes you stronger and in that strength everything seems easier. Since God loves all his children and doesn’t want to hurt or lose any of them we have to remember that every thing that happens in our mortal life is so that we may make new disciples and so that we can glorify him in our eternal home.

    1. When my husband passed from suicide the worse comment I got was, “Aren’t you glad to be out from under that mess”. I nearly killed the man. I said I would give myself and everything I have to have just one more minute with my husband. Have you lost your mind.

      1. Mary, sorry to hear about your loss. That sounds like the most horrible comment someone could make at a time of suffering. Don’t blame you for wanting to kill the man that said it.

      2. I wasn’t planning on posting on Ken’s post here (not completely sure if it’s appropriate)… but, after reading this, I must walk that line! OH MY GOODNESS… I do not blame your response at all Mary! I would have felt the same way. I cannot imagine how devastated you must have felt hearing those words. Sometimes common sense alludes people.

      3. Author


        Most comments people make come from a good heart with good intentions. Not sure what that guy was thinking.


    2. That would have to be a devastating loss Roger. My father went through a loss of a spouse at a young age as well.

      He’s never talked much about her to us kids but I can tell there are times he misses her. Thankfully my mother is a strong woman and is understanding of the feelings he holds.

    3. Author


      Thank you for your comment. I learn something new from you every time you comment or we talk.


  4. Ken,

    I have not lived a “fairy tail existence”. I was born with cerebral palsy, compounded by a couple of car accidents with fusions in my back and neck. In a matter of 18 months December of 2004 – June 2006 I lost my mom to cancer, my husband to suicide, my brother drank himself to death. I lost my job, my house, my step children, and my church who believed if one commits suicide they go to hell for braking the commandments. I do not tell you this for your sympathy, but to tell you I don’t wish such pain on anyone. But if it ever does happen I offer this advice, lean hard on the Lord and you truly find out who your real friends are.

    Such tragedy can send you into a tail spin of bad choices drugs, suicide yourself or take your mind to very dark places or it can teach you and mold you into a stronger person for Christ.

    To my surprise my pain has become a tool that drives me. When my husband died I started a “Mission Project” sending care packages to men and women in the armed forces. Sharing my story with those who suffer from the things they saw and did. My hope being it stops them from following in my husbands foot steps. A lot of good can come from living through such pain. But I’m not sure the pain ever completely leaves you, my life and God’s path for me have completely changed because of these experiences. It can still at times (anniversaries, birthdays and special occasion) become a sad and lonely existence, where the pain consumes me.

    Ken you and so many others in my life like you have a kind heart and a gentle spirit. You give of yourself in ways that inspire hope. You and your tapes have been a huge part of my healing process. Laughter is a wonderful tool in healing.

    We met when I lived on the Iron Range. You went to school with my PCA (Personal Care Attendants) family. Bobbi (Baker) Hanson. She took me to see you again last year when you spoke at Grace Church. Your assistant (Aaron) at the time gave me some of your videos as a gift. They have been a gift straight from God. Through them you have taught me to laugh again. I have tried to learn self forgiveness through Gods love. If God can forgive me why can I not forgive myself, is where I some times still struggle. Through your ministry I have been very blessed in the healing process. In such tragedy words often fail us, but your example of Gods love in your life shines through and gives people you don’t even know the strength to continue.

    God Bless you and your ministry. I can’t wait till “Fully Alive” comes out in DVD.

    Love ya, in Christ’s name

    1. Author


      Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story. I remember meeting you and Bobbie. Hope we can see you again someday.


  5. Erica sounds like a very strong woman. Such loss and struggle. In light of her story, my pain and struggles pale in comparison.

    The most I’ve really struggled with is strained relationships, childhood taunting, and the normal trials people face.

  6. I was there when that question was read in the audience at the Syracuse one-day, asking Why Did God Take My Two Sons?

    Your answer was so heartfelt and resonated with the entire theater and I hope you know that. I went with a group of women who all are now talking about getting Good Grief for a variety of personal reasons.

    The question was a pain filled reminder that this life is an earthly life. Your message gave a lifeline to someone who was obviously in tremendouss pain and your loving gesture touched us all

    1. Author


      I certainly hope my words helped instead of hurt. I do know that sometimes I have been guilty of saying the wrong thing.


  7. Luckily, I’ve not been the one dealing with tragedy…I’m usually the one not knowing what to say. I’d love to read this. Saying, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “we’re praying for you” always seems like not enough.

  8. LarryTheDeuce – I can surely understand your family’s and your Mom’s difficulties with having an illness no one understands. I’ve had Fibromyalgia with intervening Chronic Fatigue for years now. Even though these illnesses are better known now and we have some treatments out there, they never really go away. Trying to explain to friends, family and others how you feel and what you cannot do as a result of the illness, can be very difficult. Some understand – some do not! Sounds like I need to read Erica’s book Ken!! I have learned to lean on my Great Physician, Jesus Christ for everything and he has never failed me!

    1. Danease – Great thoughts. I also think often times people who are ill or hurting may not know what they need, especially in the beginning when they are dealing with first time emotions of their illness/grief. Therefore, explaining to their family and friends how to help is a complete challenge; because they truly don’t know what to ask for. I know when I was going through my cancer the first, or even the second time, I did not know what I needed from others. This can lead to a lot of unmet expectations and conflict in relationships.

  9. In many ways, the 2 worst comments we received compelled me to write Good Grief! after learning how common sayings like these are. In fact, I spent years in online support groups, reading one jaw-dropping comment after another of the hurtful things people had said, and realized I was not alone. In all honesty, I figured, if Justin Timberlake could bring sexy back, I could help bring common sense back for those who were hurting… (and I may have considered that as a subtitle for the book, ever so briefly!)

    The most painful words we heard were: “You have no idea of the hell you put my pregnant wife through when your baby died!” and “How many more babies are you going to kill?” And, these were said by people in our support system who loved us.

    My hope in writing Good Grief! was to create a book that would give more effective suggestions of what to say and how to HELP people through their grief, instead of inhibiting their journey.

    1. When my dear sweet daddy died in Dec., we met many who said hurtful things such as, “you must be relieved from the burden of his care,” “Are you STILL grieving? It’s been 4 months since he died!” “Your mom is ‘co-dependent’ because she is still missing him so badly after 5 months!” (They’d been married for 60 years!). It is awful how you have to defend your right to grieve! You’re supposed to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on.’ Well, when people love deeply, it takes time to grieve, and they may never get completely ‘over it!’

      1. I don’t think you EVER get over “it” or “get back to normal”. People can move forward in their lives, but “it” will always be a huge chapter in their stories! My losses have made me who I am today, and I’d be very different had they not happened. I likely would not have the depth of faith and trust I have in God!

  10. I am currently doing a Bible study on Job, called “The Eye of the Storm”and find it very challenging as it deals with suffering and helping friends through difficult situations. It makes me realize just how blessed I am in life.

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