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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - From Grief to Hope

John Bradshaw - From Grief to Hope

John Bradshaw - From Grief to Hope
John Bradshaw - From Grief to Hope
TOPICS: Grief, Faith

John Bradshaw: This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. We both know that there are some things in life that we are going to experience no matter what. And some of those experiences we wouldn't choose to experience if we had a choice. But many of them, we don't have a choice. One of them is grief. Grief hurts, it's painful, and you're going to experience sooner or later. That's just the way life goes. But what is grief, and how do we deal with grief, and what should a person do, what could a person do, when grief strikes close to home? Well, I'm blessed to have with me in the studio today a good friend, Mike Tucker. Pastor Mike Tucker who's the speaker and director of Faith for Today, a Christian ministry. You may well have seen Pastor Tucker hosting Lifestyle Magazine or leading out in one of his "Mad About Marriage" Seminars. Mike Tucker, thanks for joining me today. Mike Tucker: It is a joy to be here with you, John. Thank you.

John Bradshaw: I'm going to start at the beginning. What's grief? How do we define that?

Mike Tucker: Grief is an emotional, psychological, physical reaction to any experience of loss. It can be loss through death, loss of a job, loss of a body part, anything else in your life that is significant, there may be a grief response to it.

John Bradshaw: Now, one of the reasons I'm speaking with you is because you're a trained counselor.

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: A licensed marriage therapist, family expert. And you have some experience with grief as well, and we're going to talk about that in just a moment. Grief is just one of those things that everybody is going to experience.

Mike Tucker: Everyone. You don't get out of life without grief. And most of your viewers have already had some experience with grief. To what degree? That varies according to life experiences. But everyone gets it. Everyone has it. Some people think that Christians shouldn't grieve. That's just a misnomer. You have to grieve. Everyone grieves.

John Bradshaw: Now, there are certain things that you might ought to do when grief comes.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: We'll talk about those soon.

Mike Tucker: Sure.

John Bradshaw: So before we explain it. There's probably ways you can equip yourself to deal with grief before it comes.

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: Okay.

Mike Tucker: Yeah, especially if you see a loss coming, you can engage in what we call anticipatory grief: being willing to go ahead and experience those tears, and trying to anticipate what life will be like without them. But I think beyond that is a matter of keeping relationships healthy, and keeping yourself personally health: physically fit, with positive relationships and a positive faith. But having an appropriate picture of the nature of God, his personality, his character, what he has promised you, what he has not promised you, will actually help prepare you for grief.

John Bradshaw: Okay, now, so you can grieve about different things.

Mike Tucker: Yeah

John Bradshaw: I could, I could lose a cherished possession.

Mike Tucker: Yes.

John Bradshaw: I can grieve that.

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: Okay, what are the inappropriate ways to deal with grief? What are the grief mistakes that people often make?

Mike Tucker: Some people try to stuff it or ignore it, act like it's not there. They will deny it. Other people will try to out-medicate it, out-drink it, something of that nature. Some people will try to outwork it. They just won't give expression to the pain by crying. They won't allow themselves to do those things. Those are all inappropriate ways. Another inappropriate way would be to build a shrine to, to that which is lost. You know, sometimes people build a shrine in their home to a person who's died, and for years on, no one can touch that. You know, to do something like that temporarily may be understandable. But when you do this and it lasts for years, that can be another inappropriate way to deal with it. But just a refusal to deal with the pain, to give expression through tears, through talking, those are all inappropriate responses.

John Bradshaw: As a pastor I speak from time to time with people who will tell me, "Oh, I'm doing fine".

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Or, or they'll tell me, "I'm not doing fine". I'll dig a little deeper and...

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: know, "It's been six weeks since my loved one died, and I find myself still weeping, and I just wish I was..". That's just not realistic, is it?

Mike Tucker: No, it's not. The average recovery time for a significant loss is one to two years, although you can grieve actively for up to five years and not be pathological with that grief. And even when we talk about recovery, that doesn't mean that you won't ever cry again. It doesn't mean you won't miss that person again. That will be a part of your experience for the rest of your life, especially with a significant loss. But it may mean that you come to the point where it's not the first thing on your mind every morning when you wake up, and the last thing you think about before you go to bed, when you finally get to that point of recovery, so that you can function more normally.

John Bradshaw: I think it's important for people to know what's normal...

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: ...what's acceptable, so that they don't think they have a problem they don't have. I remember asking my wife's grandmother... Grandma was around 80 at the time, and I discovered that she'd had a baby girl. She raised three or four boys. I should know whether it's three or four, shouldn't I? And she gave birth to a little girl who died very, very young, as an infant. And so this loss that she'd experience had been about 60 years before, 55 to 60 years before. And I said to her, "Grandma, you had a daughter. I never knew that". And she said, "Yes, I", and just from out of nowhere, her voice choked and tears came.

Mike Tucker: Yeah, yes.

John Bradshaw: Fifty-five to sixty years later, she was grieving a loss.

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: That's normal, isn't it?

Mike Tucker: Yes, it is normal. There's nothing wrong with that. Because this is an impactful experience for your life. You never get over, truly, the loss. You, you may be more comfortable with it; you may be able to function again. But you may have tears over this loss for the rest of your life.

John Bradshaw: Let's say somebody is a secretary working in an office situation.

Mike Tucker: Yeah

John Bradshaw: Well, it doesn't have to be a secretary. It could be a departmental director. Or a guy works in a factory.

Mike Tucker: Uh-huh.

John Bradshaw: So you're surrounded by people. You've got to go back to life. You're putting in your eight to ten hours a day.

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: But grief is just all over you, and grief begs expression. What's the right thing for people to do?

Mike Tucker: Well, the right thing for you to do if you're the person experiencing this is to recognize that your tears are going to come, and that's okay. And when they come, don't make an apology for them. Just allow it to happen. And if the people around you are savvy and they are, they are understanding, then they're going to accept that, and it's going to be normal. So I would say, make sure that you give yourself ample room for, for mistakes. You make sure you double-check your work. Take frequent breaks if possible. Um, and then don't be afraid to give expression to the pain. Don't be afraid to cry, and don't be afraid to tell the stories, because that's all a part of the process.

John Bradshaw: So, to experience grief and to internalize grief, to express grief, is all appropriate and, and fine.

Mike Tucker: It is.

John Bradshaw: But when's a person going too far? I know, this may, it's going to differ from person to person.

Mike Tucker: It will.

John Bradshaw: And, uh, you get the very unthinking people who say, "Are you not over that already? It's been six months".

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: That's the last thing you want to say to a person. When is expressing grief become, when does that become too much?

Mike Tucker: To give a timeline or a specific answer to that is difficult. But there comes a time when grief no longer becomes an expression of your pain, but becomes a monument to self-pity. Sometimes we can like the negative attention we get from the expression of pain. And again, that may not happen the first year. It may not happen until after that. But there comes a time when you realize that you, you're doing nothing but grieving. And you're telling the stories; you're crying with every event. Everything becomes about your loss. That becomes very selfish and it becomes rather myopic. And so, to learn that there are appropriate times to give expression to this, and there comes the time when you actually have to say goodbye to the relationship that used to be, and withdraw that emotional energy, and no longer make this a monument to you and to your self-pity, but, instead, begin to celebrate the life that was, and celebrate the things that you had. Again, that's going to vary for every person, but there does come a time when it's appropriate to do that.

John Bradshaw: Now, you're speaking to this subject...

Mike Tucker: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...from first-hand experience.

Mike Tucker: Absolutely.

John Bradshaw: We're going to talk about that in just a moment. More with Pastor Mike Tucker and grief when we come back. Don't go away.

John Bradshaw: This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me today. My guest is Pastor Mike Tucker from Faith for Today. Mike, we've been talking for a few moments about grief. We alluded to your personal experience with grief.

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: Tell me more about that.

Mike Tucker: Recently I've had the biggest loss of my life. My wife of forty years, Gayle Tucker, passed away. You know, we were partners in ministry. Uh, we had worked together as pastors and in television ministry for forty years. Everything I did was intricately involved with her.

John Bradshaw: It wasn't really a matter of Mike Tucker.

Mike Tucker: No.

John Bradshaw: It was Mike and Gayle.

Mike Tucker: Mike and Gayle.

John Bradshaw: Mike and Gayle. Mike and Gayle.

Mike Tucker: Mike and Gayle. Everything we did. Television, marriage seminars, pastoral ministries. She was a pastor as well. So every aspect of my life was intricately involved with her. She was my very best friend. We were traveling all over the, the world doing marriage seminars, among other things. And we were in Vancouver, British Columbia, when her right hand started to go numb. She thought she had slept on it wrong. But by Saturday afternoon when we were doing a marriage presentation, her right hand would work so poorly that she had to hold the microphone in her left hand for three and a half hours making the presentation, because she knew it would fall to the floor if she held it in the right. I said, "This is wrong, we got, I've got to get you to the hospital". She said, "Wait till we get back in the country, tomorrow," which would be March 6. I said, "Okay". So we flew to Dallas, and when we landed, I said, "Now, which hospital do you want me to take you to, because you're not going home". And so she told me which hospital, I took her there, and immediately they diagnosed strokes. When is insane to me, because the woman was so active. She was not overweight, no cholesterol. I mean, no risk factor for stroke.

John Bradshaw: The picture of health.

Mike Tucker: Absolutely. She played volleyball every week with a group of ladies she'd play volleyball with for over 20 years. And it took another week and a half of testing to figure out that she had stage four pancreatic cancer that had already metastasized to her liver. And the liver, one of the side effects of liver cancer, can be a condition they call "sticky blood," which means it was creating blood clots in her body, and when those broke apart it went to the brain, and that's where the strokes came from. The stroke was a symptom. She was going to die of pancreatic cancer.

John Bradshaw: Now, if you don't mind.

Mike Tucker: Please.

John Bradshaw: She was going to die.

Mike Tucker: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Pancreatic cancer typically is a one-way street.

Mike Tucker: Yes, it is.

John Bradshaw: But...

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: People can be healed.

Mike Tucker: Yes.

John Bradshaw: God is a great God.

Mike Tucker: Yes.

John Bradshaw: You know God well.

Mike Tucker: Absolutely.

John Bradshaw: You have for many years.

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: But you felt then, how did you process that? Were you living on hope, were praying for her to be healed, or how quickly did you get to resignation, I think we're going to lose her?

Mike Tucker: You know, I, I was realistic enough to realize that unless God performed a miracle, I was going to lose my wife. And she knew that as well. I've worked as a chaplain in hospitals for years. I've done, I've seen enough of this. I've worked with hospice patients. I know, and she knew as well, that unless God intervened, we were going to lose her. And she was ready. She was, she was okay with that. She wanted to be healed. We had an anointing service, as is called for in James. And we, we had a prayer for healing, believing fully that God could heal her. Because I, like you, have seen miraculous healing.

John Bradshaw: Sure And so I knew that God was capable. But I also know, and knew, that God might say no. At least, right now. Every prayer for healing is answered yes. Sometimes immediately. Sometimes over time with prayer and medicine and surgery. And sometimes the healing will take place resurrection.

John Bradshaw: That's right.

Mike Tucker: We asked for option A or B, but we're willing to accept option C. And so yes, I knew that this was a real possibility, and she did too. So we prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.

John Bradshaw: You said Gayle was okay with that.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Tell me, if you wouldn't mind, what she went through. There's your wife of 40 years, everyone who knew her, loved her. So you weren't alone in that.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: How does a person take that kind of news? Gayle at stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It's metastasized. We know the chances are about this good.

Mike Tucker: Yeah, yeah.

John Bradshaw: How does a person deal with that?

Mike Tucker: You know, obviously it was a big blow to her. And it took her a while to just kind of digest this. And when she began to realize it, I asked her, "Are you angry? Are you frightened"? She said, "No". She said, "I've had sixty years of immaculate health". And she had. I mean, she was vibrate and healthy and active. And she said, "Some people never get a day. I've had forty years of a wonderful marriage, and some people never know that. I've had over forty years of exciting ministry, fulfilling ministry. I've got children and grandchildren and extended family and friends. And some people never know any of that. For me to be angry that that only lasted sixty years instead of eighty seems to be somewhat ungrateful, and I'm not going to be ungrateful to my Lord. I just thank him for what I've had".

John Bradshaw: Amen.

Mike Tucker: That was her attitude.

John Bradshaw: Wow.

Mike Tucker: And she got that attitude early on. She never experienced fear, because she knew her heart was right with Jesus. She never experienced anger, because she was grateful for what she'd had. And amazingly, I had already had the same thoughts, which is strange for me, because, truthfully, anger has always been my go-to emotion. But I'd gone through a previous loss, a financial and a career loss, at an early point. We lost our house. We lost our savings. I thought I'd lost my career. I thought it was all over. And I hadn't done anything. And my response was anger. Because at the time I was giving 30 percent of my gross income to the church. I was volunteering as a pastor while working in private business. All sorts of exciting things were happening with the church. It was growing like crazy. And my anger was, "God, what did you want? Forty percent? I don't get it". I thought because of my hard labor, my generosity, the success of the ministry, that God owed me better than what he gave me. And when I realized that anger comes when we think we're getting less from God than what he owes us, then I began to realize that I had sinned in my life by expecting something from God he'd never promised. I confessed that to him, and he forgave me. And I promised, by God's grace, I would make sure my lived theology would be congruent with my expressed or my preached theology. And that happened. So that when Gayle got sick, I realized, I've had a blessing that was beyond what most people ever experience.

John Bradshaw: So you weren't experiencing anger either.

Mike Tucker: No anger either. In fact, it's been six months since her death, and I'm still not angry.

John Bradshaw: Forty years of marriage.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: A catastrophic loss.

Mike Tucker: Yes.

John Bradshaw: No anger.

Mike Tucker: No anger. There's incredible pain.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Mike Tucker: There's incredible emptiness and loneliness. There's, there's, I cry at unexpected times. But no anger. Because God has not shortchanged me one iota. He has given me more than what he ever promised me. And so since he has given me more than what he promised, I have no reason for anger, because most people never experience what I've had. I celebrate what I've had. I miss what I've had. But I'm not angry with God.

John Bradshaw: There's more. We're going to come back to the story we began in just a moment. Pastor Mike Tucker, we're dealing today with grief, something we all must experience, and something that, if it hasn't come near you, it will. Today's program very important. We'll be back with more in just a moment. "Every Word" is a one-minute, Bible-based daily devotional presented by Pastor John Bradshaw and designed especially for busy people like you. Recieve a daily spiritual boost. Watch "Every Word".

John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. My guest today, from Faith for Today, Pastor Mike Tucker. Mike, we're talking about your own experience with grief.

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: A couple of moments ago you shared how Gayle was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. We got about to the place where she was accepting of this diagnosis and ready for whatever God had for her. So what happened next?

Mike Tucker: Well, you know, we got the diagnosis March 16 of 2016. First symptoms March 3 to March 6, and then the diagnosis March 16. And so we began to examine our options. We were praying for healing. But she wanted to be home. And so we took her home. Started with home health, and eventually went to hospice when it was appropriate. But basically, she wanted to get as strong as she could and enjoy the time she had with her family. So we started calling in family members. We had to limit the number of friend visits because we have so many in the area, and it was draining for her.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Mike Tucker: And so, so many I wanted to bring in, but I couldn't. But she just started spending her days making sure that things were right between her and the Lord, and that she spent as much time with her children and grandchildren and siblings and her mother as possible. And so there were days of joy and days of laughter. And she entered into a coma on April 8, and then passed away April 10 She was, her daughters were by her side. I was with, with her. One of the, the sisters were with her. She passed peacefully while we were praying with her and touching her and loving on her. And she fell asleep in Jesus on April 10 in the afternoon, about 5:47 p.m.

John Bradshaw: Now, the first symptoms.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: March 3.

Mike Tucker: March 3, when her hand went numb.

John Bradshaw: And then goodbye.

Mike Tucker: April 10.

John Bradshaw: Six weeks.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: There are couple of questions I could ask at once. One is, that's really quick.

Mike Tucker: Very quick.

John Bradshaw: From having your ministry partner, your life partner, you're traveling together, you're doing God's work. And she's, evidently, in full health.

Mike Tucker: Full health.

John Bradshaw: Six weeks later she's gone.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: At the same time, Mike, that's not quick. Quick is hit by a bus.

Mike Tucker: Yeah, yeah.

John Bradshaw: That's quick.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: So I wonder if you can talk with me about, about the emotions that you experienced and how you dealt with, or how you're dealing with...

Mike Tucker: Um-hmm.

John Bradshaw: ...uh, losing a perfectly health wife, just like that. Where does that take you? How do you wrestle with that?

Mike Tucker: I wanted to be as strong as I could around her. But I, I wept like crazy. Just trying to get my mind around, anticipating what it was going to be like without her, and just accepting the reality that unless Jesus intervened, I was going to lose her. The things that I've been trying to do is, is to think. When the thoughts come, I think them fully. I weep when the, when the tears come. I talk about it, I, I share my feelings with other people. I write about it. Um, I pray about it. Those things are helpful. The other thing I do is I walk. When I'm home, I walk anywhere from eight to twelve miles a day. Those are prayer time for me, and it's thinking time. It gives me the opportunity to focus on nothing more than, than my loss and my God and, and my prayer time. And those things have helped me. Talking with my family, talking with friends, telling the stories over and over again. Not just the stories of her loss and the death, but the stories of our life together.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Mike Tucker: Of meeting her, the first date, you know, and the proposal. Telling those stories over and over again are important to me. And then the stories of ministry together, the different places we've been, the decisions for Christ we've witnesses. Those are the things that are helping me. And then being close to my family, just holding onto my daughters, my grandchildren, and helping them grieve as well. Those are the activities. But before Gayle died, she wrote a letter to each of our children and to our two grandchildren. It was a letter to be given to them about six weeks after the death. By write I mean she dictated and I had to type, because her hand didn't work and she had lost her sight by the end. And after she finished that, she said, "I need to write a letter to you". I said, "Well, we have no one to dictate that to. I mean, basically, you're stuck. And what are you going to say to me you haven't said every day for forty years anyway"? She said, "You may be right". I said, "So, for argument's sake, what would you say"? She said, "There's nothing to regret. We had a great life together. Don't, don't beat yourself up for any mistakes. No regrets. That's number one". And number two, she said, "Live our life". That's what she wanted for me. Our life has been faith, family and ministry. That's who we are, that's what we've done.

John Bradshaw: I want to ask you this. No regrets.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Easy to say.

Mike Tucker: Oh, yeah.

John Bradshaw: Easy to say, no regrets. Hey, Mike, when I'm gone, have no regrets.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Really?

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Do you have any regrets?

Mike Tucker: I really don't. You know, I've made mistakes.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Mike Tucker: I haven't been the perfect husband. But every time I think of those things, I remember what she said. No regrets. That means that she had forgiven me for any mistake, just as I've forgiven her.

John Bradshaw: I think it's important to be able to look back on mistakes made...

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: ...within the context. We're human, we're going to make mistakes.

Mike Tucker: Yeah, absolutely. She had an amazing memory. She could forget every mistake I ever made. So why would I beat myself up over something that she had forgiven me for? God has forgiven me, and he says he remembers my sins no more. So for me to remember it and bring it up seems foolhardy.

John Bradshaw: What I believe is that even when you have some kind of catastrophe in your life, if you're a believer in God, you can still see God's hand.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Right? Is that right?

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Did you see God's hand through this process.

Mike Tucker: Yes, I did.

John Bradshaw: How do you see God's hand in what's a disaster?

Mike Tucker: Yeah. The first place I see it is in the way she died. She died as she lived. And when people saw the congruence between what she lived and how she died, they were brought to faith. Another way that I see this is that, even though we've had a close-knit family, this has brought us even closer together. My daughters and I are tight. And I, I don't make decisions without them. But another thing is that as I've given expression to my pain. I've written about it. I've shared it openly from the pulpit. And when they see me doing this, it gives them courage and gives them hope. Those are some of the, just a few of the ways that I see God's hand in this.

John Bradshaw: We just have a moment. Someone's experiencing grief...

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: ...and it just seems like the end.

Mike Tucker: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Now, very obviously, one can go on, because for six thousand years of human history people have...

Mike Tucker: We've done so.

John Bradshaw: ...been going on. Yeah.

Mike Tucker: We've done so.

John Bradshaw: What do you say to that person who's grieving, uh, and just sees blackness ahead? How can that person go on?

Mike Tucker: First of all, this won't last forever. It will seem like it. But the darkest part of it will not last forever. God has promised to be a very present help in this time, even though at times he seems even further away because of your pain. That's normal. He's promised to get you through this. He will.

John Bradshaw: The Bible promises us, in Psalm 30 and verse 5, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning". Is that your experience?

Mike Tucker: It is.

John Bradshaw: Is there joy?

Mike Tucker: Yes, there's still joy. It, it comes now in moments, and at times I see a little bit more of it. I see it in my grandchildren; they're 3 and 5, and when they want to come play with Papa. They miss Grammie like crazy and they cry, but they like to play with Papa, and I see the joy of life in their eyes. That's joy for me. When I preach and I see people respond to a message, that's joy to me. When they respond to the television programs, I have joy there. I have joy with my daughters. There's still joy in life. It's mitigated with the pain, but there's still joy. And I know that God has even more joy for me in the future. Eventually there'll be more.

John Bradshaw: Pastor Mike Tucker, this has been a big deal. Thanks for joining me today.

Mike Tucker: My pleasure.

John Bradshaw: Truly appreciate it. Thanks. Let's pray together.

Mike Tucker: Sure.

John Bradshaw: Let's pray. Our Father in heaven, we're going to be honest with you and tell you, we wish there was no such thing as grief. We don't like loss. Human beings weren't created to grieve. When you created this earth, death wasn't on your agenda. But an enemy hath done this. We thank you today that the Bible encourages us, "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world". And so we will take our strength in you and trust that, when life's difficult circumstances come, you'll get us through; that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Thank you, Lord, for allowing Mike to be here today and share his experience. Continue to bless him and use him in a powerful way to offer hope, and hope in Christ to many. And bless us. Friend, if you're going through a difficult experience now, would you yield your heart to Jesus? Just pray, "Lord, take my heart and make it yours". Let that be your prayer. Lord Jesus, take my hand. Give me your peace. Give me faith and trust in you always. Lord, we thank you for answering our prayer and keeping us close to you. In Jesus' name, Amen. Thanks for joining me today. I'm looking to seeing you again next time. Until then, remember, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
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