Grief…it’s all-encompassing, overwhelming, exhausting. Nobody knows how to do grief until you are in the middle of it. And then you have no choice. It’s like running a marathon you didn’t train for.

When my son, Colby, died I thought my heart would break. At times, I had a hard time catching my breath. And I had this great sadness in my soul. There were so many different feelings and emotions running through my heart and head.

On his death bed, I promised Colby that I would tell his story and help other people going through the disease of addiction. When Colby was in jail in 2004, he opened his heart to Jesus. It brought me great comfort to know I would see him in Heaven someday. I didn’t know if his story would be about his salvation or about his 20-year struggle with addiction. It turned out to be about both.

And the more I told Colby’s story, the more I realized his death was actually my salvation. I had not been walking with God for many years.

I would not have made it through the deep gut-wrenching grief without God. He put His arms around me and would not let go. I had no idea what a relationship with Jesus felt like, but now, I do. God is the great healer.

There is not one sure path through grief. But I do know that you have to go through it in order to begin to heal. You can’t ignore it. You can’t walk around it. You can’t wish it away. It takes intentionality.

Grieving the loss of my firstborn child is the hardest work I have ever done. There are no 1-2-3 steps. There might be a time when you think you are doing pretty well. A day you have made it through without crying. And then, it’s like a wave comes over you and knocks you down again. The hard part is to keep getting back up.

While working through my grief, I learned the necessity of giving things to God—the good and the bad. If you don’t take your anger, your hurt, your bitterness, and your questions (“Why me? Why my loved one?”) to God and hold onto His promises, you cannot even begin to heal.

Notice I’m not saying recover. You probably won’t ever completely recover, but you will learn to hang on with a little less pain. And you will learn to laugh again and appreciate all the beautiful memories.

At one point, I actually had to forgive Colby for not taking care of his body and dying at the age of 33. Jesus, our greatest teacher ever, taught us about forgiveness for everyone. He forgave the men who nailed Him to the cross! Just like Jesus, I had to forgive Colby for what he had done.

After Colby died, I knew I needed a support group, and that’s when I discovered GriefShare. It’s a support group that helps you endure any loss. It is led by caring people who understand what it means to lose a loved one. Whether you have lost a mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, child, or friend, it is a safe place for you to process your emotions and to work through your pain and grief.

GriefShare was what I needed to cope with the pain of losing a child. It allowed me to share my thoughts and feelings about Colby, which really did help. It saved me and restored my spiritual health. It helped me to get back up.

If you are grieving the death of a loved one, check out GriefShare. Chase Oaks offers this support group program twice a year. The next GriefShare begins on Thursday, February 7, at 7:00 p.m. We are here to help you move towards hope and healing and to help you begin rebuilding your life after loss.