Day 5

Grief and Remembrance

from the Mourning and Dancing reading plan

Jeremiah 8:18, Psalm 42:1-11, Genesis 23:1-4, Genesis 23:19, Isaiah 25:8, Psalm 43:1-5, Isaiah 65:19-20

BY Kaitlin Wernet

My very first memory is the day I became a sister. As soon as the birth of my baby brother was announced, I kicked open the maternity ward doors with my red Keds, singing, “I’m a Little Teapot” at the top of my lungs. He was the tiniest, sweetest, greatest thing to happen to my two-and-a-half-year-old life.

A few years later, I’d be clever enough to replace the words in another favorite nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” with my own name and reality, singing,

Mary Kaitlin had a little brother,
Had a little brother, had a little brother.
Mary Kaitlin had a little brother
Who lived in her house too.

I taught the song to my classmates, who’d sing it as I paraded through the elementary school carpool line, hand in hand with my little lamb. Some days I still wake up with this tune stuck in my head, rolling over to realize, yet again, the song’s taunting truth: I had a little brother—past tense. He’s gone now.

In the days following my brother’s death, the influx of sympathy cards, corn casseroles, news stories, pastoral visits, written obituaries, and floral arrangements all sang in unison, stuck on the same line: “Had a little brother, had a little brother, had a little brother.”

Death had stolen my song.

During the funeral, I stood in the first church pew, ready to lace up my red Keds, kick open the sanctuary doors, and go claim my little brother. I decided it wasn’t too late for it to all be a big mistake. I was waiting for Grief to admit it had chosen the wrong family, for Tragedy to apologize, and for Sorrow to pack its bags. It all made more sense that way, because my brother was the kind of guy who’d blush at all this attention and giggle at the amount of formality. Or was he? I was already forgetting.

My thoughts are my most unreliable grief companion, with the capacity to be my sweetest advocate or my biggest traitor. Like having a sore muscle, I become afraid to make the next move, knowing that walking through memories has the power to heal, but it also has the power to hurt.

Inside the front door of our childhood home, there’s a piano, the bench cushion worn equally on both sides. Together, my brother and I had written our own rendition of “Heart and Soul”—he on the bass clef, me on the treble. I sit in the same spot now, alone, recalling all of my notes perfectly, the duet only heard in my head. I remember all of his notes too. And I’m reminded that I am still Mary Kaitlin, but I no longer have a little brother who lives in my house too. I feel like the psalmist, pounded by the waves:

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your billows have swept over me.
The Lord will send his faithful love by day;
his song will be with me in the night—
a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:7–8).

Death can steal our song, but it cannot stop us from singing. And while I hold onto the hope of heaven, I am relieved and comforted by remembering God’s faithfulness to me in all things, right now.

When I hear one of our old songs, sometimes I listen, and other times I don’t. But when I’m feeling brave, I begin to mouth the words of that childhood song about my little brother, and I’m reminded of the true root of my grief: love. And that’s something I’ll never forget.

Post Comments (144)

144 thoughts on "Grief and Remembrance"

  1. Elle says:

    Beautifully written, Kaitlin. May the Lord continue to guide, comfort, and flood us with His love those of us who are still navigating through deep grief and sorrow. And thank you also for the reminder that things take time….healing isn’t instant, but it is possible, even while remembering those whose loss here on earth we grieve. God bless.

  2. Jen Magnall says:

    Grief oppressed me when I had my miscarriages. Death had stolen my child, and with it, my identity as a mother, and all the future things I had planned for my child. It was a time of raw emotion for me – for months. Grief kept flooding over me in new ways. As due dates passed. When others announced their pregnancies. Anytime I heard someone complain about their children. Just when I felt close to being healed, something would rip my heart back open. It was a long battle between grief and hope. Although it was nearly a decade ago, I can still feel the scars. I avoid things. I tiptoe around topics, dates, objects. I haven’t healed from the deep wounds I had. Perhaps I can never fully be as I was before “The Dark Ages” as I call them in my own mind, but is that necessary? Can’t I love God in a different way and it still be okay? I have always felt that if I can’t go back to what I was before, God didn’t want me at all. Maybe God wants me because of all that I went through. Maybe God knows my anger and raw emotion were just part of my mourning and love is waiting for me.

    It is difficult to admit that I have spent nearly the last 10 years feeling angry, ashamed, and fake. Like God doesn’t want me if I felt those things. I am finally feeling like that period of time can be part of my story rather than the end of it.

    1. Iris Eger says:

      My heart aches for you because I know these feelings. Losing your baby is so so hard. Have you read „Every bitter thing is sweet“ by Sara Hagerty? The book helped me. ❤️

  3. Jamie L.Racine says:

    I have yet to experience a grief this intense but I know it is coming. It is inevitable in this earthly life. I do my best not to be overcome with fear of it.

  4. Melissa Mcronney says:

    Lord help us to hold on to You in our time of grief.

  5. Abby says:

    Thank you for this. Your phrase “death can steal our song, but it cannot stop us from singing” is now one of the first phrases I wrote in the margin of my brand new Bible. I needed this, especially during the holidays.

  6. Tricia C says:

    Thank you for this devotion and thank you Churchmouse for your words.
    The grief I feel now is for those who don’t know Jesus as their savior. I just keep praying that they will see Jesus.

  7. Sarina says:

    My sister in law passed away in January this year. She was so young and full of life. I could really identify with today’s devotion.

  8. Ashley Thomas says:

    My sister passed away 2 months ago. How fitting for me to read this when I am traveling back to my hometown for the holiday. It will be my first time back since her funeral. I have all the emotions. I, like churchmouse, am able to hold grief at bay to an extent, I am quite worried I will not do this so well once I am surrounded by my loved ones again.

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