How Grief Softens the Heart

When I set about to organize, clean, and prepare my house for selling last month, I didn’t realize how this process of purging would hit so close to home . . . as in my heart.

One of the monumental moments happened when my hubby took a couple of days to get away and prepare for a sermon he will be preaching at our church soon.


During that time I was in the throes of going through and “throwing away” a lot of unnecessary things in my linen closet, as well as my youngest son’s bedroom. It goes without saying that this was a monumental task in many ways! 😉

With the house completely empty, I was there alone with my thoughts, providing the perfect conditions for God to speak to me in the silence of the moment.

I came across so many old and useless items that suddenly had profound significance to me at that moment. For example, I came across some outdated medicine that was probably way too old to have on hand but was used for my boys when they could only swallow syrup rather than pills.

I looked at that bottle and tears began to well up in my eyes because I knew I would never buy that kind of medicine again for them. 😦  That phase of my life was, for all intents and purposes, behind me.

Then I came across some old drawings and old toys and old photos <sigh> that all reminded me of my sons when they were young . . . just yesterday!

[bctt tweet=”These hand-held memories brought me to my knees in a puddle of tears. Find out what I’m talking about at MM! ” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Moving to another house, at least for me, is not just about relocating or downsizing. It represents a transition from one phase of life to another.

And although I am looking forward to this next chapter in my life—relishing the freedom and chance to focus on my passions and personal pursuits—it is also extremely bittersweet. I’m also not completely ready to bust out the door and run headlong after the next big adventure in my life just yet!

God used this time of evaluating, purging, and organizing to slow my steps.

God used this time to remind me to cherish the memories while venturing forth to make more of them in the days ahead.

How is this purging my pride or softening my heart?

I think I was reminded of how finite time is. God brought clarity to my busy buzzing brain through this process, which also brought a willingness to . . .

  • Hold on to what has been good in my life. And there has been so much good!
  • Let go of what was only mine to manage, care for, and enjoy—but never keep!

All of that opens my eyes to the many times and special moments that I’ve taken the good for granted. When I stop to realize this and thank God for His blessings, I purge pride.

It also opens my eyes to how short time is, compelling me to live immersed in this present moment! I cannot pine for the days of my youth any more than I can rush toward my release as an empty nester. If I do, I’ll miss too much.

Besides, I’ll always be a mom . . . not just to my boys but, in many ways, to all of you as well!

So my heart is softened as I stare my human mortality in the wrinkled face. But human frailty isn’t such a bad thing. It’s actually quite good when you rest in the arms of an ever-powerful God! 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  —2 Corinthians 12:9-11


What has God used to soften your heart lately?


No matter what stage of life you are in, what do you do to keep your heart and mind in this present moment?


I hope you’ll join me next week when I’ll be finishing up this Soft Heart in Marriage series by talking about how conflict was used by God to soften my heart. Also, the bear that I used in the graphic above was/is my youngest son’s “Jackson Bear” that he got when he was only two and we were visiting Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The pic below was taken in downtown Jackson of our three boys on that trip. On a humorous side note, Jackson bear was “christened” by Braden throwing up all over him when we were headed home and going through Kansas City. Maybe it was b/c a van load of Cardinals fans were in Royal’s territory! Lol

Boys in Jackson 360

Joining with my friends at Giving Up on Perfect, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, NanahoodDanceWithJesusFriday, and Wholehearted Wednesday.

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26 responses to “How Grief Softens the Heart”

  1. I can tell you that I understand exactly what you are feeling and going through. Really!!! I have been reflecting a lot on letting go. It seems that has been all I have been doing this past year. These words speak volumes to me right now… “Let go of what was only mine to manage, care for and enjoy—but never keep.” This is how I feel as a mom and of course a daughter. Your words help me to know I am not alone in this journey. Praying for you as God works on your heart in many new ways. Love and hugs!


    1. I bet you can, Mary! In more ways than one. It seems we are in very similar places in our lives and it feels good to finally talk about it here at MM. I really don’t delve into my messy motherhood too much, but am appreciating the support from other moms on this topic. I’m so glad that this post ministered to you. It has ministered to me as well to share it. Hugs to you, my friend!


  2. Women Abiding Avatar

    I had tears in my eyes reading your post, sweet Beth. How often I wish these years with young children away (to sinfully do “my own thing”… Your words have shed light on my ungrateful heart, and I am so thankful to you for your amazing, realistic, and beautiful perspective xoxo


    1. Oh wow, Tehila! I hope those were good tears. I don’t want to send you into a self-condemned tailspin, though I think all moms should reevaluate their ambitions and pace from time to time. I bet you are doing exactly as God has called you–balancing your mothering presence and involvement with a good and healthy dose of personal ambition. I know you help so many, so remember that. God will help you strike that right balance, my friend! Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement. They are greatly appreciated. 🙂


  3. Beth, we never know what God will use to grab us. I was recently with extended family I hadn’t seen for a while. Several of them are now married with children. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago I was their age. Like the song “Sunrise, Sunset,” I don’t remember getting older. When did they? Blessings to you in your new phase of life! May these be your best days yet.


    1. Yes, I didn’t go into this month of house preparation with any realization of how God would move in my heart. It’s been so precious to unpack and look back upon with all of you! Yes, though it’s cliche, it’s true–time does fly. And that song! Oh, it always makes me well up. But in another sense, I’m anticipating my eternity spent with my sweet Savior too more than ever. Death only seems like a doorway to the life I’ve always dreamed of–not that I’m thinking of taking hold of that knob myself! It’s just taking on a new tone and perspective now in my latter years. Hugs to you, girlfriend! I recently saw on FB your post about how long you’ve been married and it floored me! You must have been 2 or 3 when you got married. You don’t look a day over 40!


      1. LOL But thanks for the compliment. And I totally get the new perspective on dying and heaven!


  4. Beth it’s hard letting go of stuff for me. I have many things right now that were my babies toys that my toddler grandsons are playing with. They are like new and I have my Mom’s stuff all over the house.


    1. Oh yes, I’ve held on to several of my sons toys, trinkets and momentos from childhood–a bit too many of them, in fact! But that way I will have all sorts of things to share with any future grandchildren! I’m always keeping my eye on that some day event of grandmotherhood! Thanks for joining the conversation, Deborah. I appreciate your words of encouragement.


  5. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Softening? No. I am reeling, but I am upright and still in the fight.

    Last 48 hours have been a season in hell, physical systems failing. But I can and will go on because I am harder than pain, and harder than death.

    Lost the vision in my left eye, at least for now. But I still have one eye to see from, and it’s my shooting eye.

    Bring it. I am the hardness.


    1. your shooting eye? Oh Andrew you are relentless!!! xo


    2. You probably smell of smoke and sulfur for how many times you’ve walked through hell, Andrew! But you keep coming back from the dead–literally–and for that we are all praising God! I’m soooo sorry to hear about your eye. That’s got to be the hardest. You might be able to distract yourself from the pain in a moment of writer’s bliss–but to not see what you are writing would be a killer distraction. I’ll add that to my prayers for you. But I’m glad to hear about Barbara’s father. Such an answer to prayer! Hugs to you, my friend!


  6. A beautiful ode to the powerful impact of life change and the memories that wash over us in waves …


    1. Thank you, Linda. I bet you can truly relate. I feel like, though I’ve not labeled this series about “moving” per se, it is about moving–God’s movement in my heart in this transition of life. Hugs to you!


  7. On February 8th of this year I wrote a sticky note and stuck it right above my computer screen, “I want to love better.” This year has brought many opportunities to do just that. I went through the “cleaning out” of nests of three kids – our grandchildren have spent many a day here in the same house – I continuously get rid of things they have outgrown. Such is life. Like our tears, I believe our good, good Father also stores our memories and in heaven we will be able to savor them for eternity. Not sure what that will look like but I’m sure our Creator has some ingenious plan!!! Thanks for the link up.


    1. I love that idea about God saving our memories in heaven, Susan. I know that all of us will have a perspective and vantage point in heaven that will bring everything into laser-like focus. I’m also encouraged by the fact that you can relate and resonate with my words. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone in this season and that others have gone before me to find each day as precious as the last. Hugs to you!


  8. I understand. I’m the mom of 5 now grown kids. Grandchildren make up for so much! Hugs!


    1. I appreciate that, Teresa. Knowing that others can relate is so healing to my heart. I look forward to those grandparenting days. I’m sure that will put a whole new light on this darkness that I sometimes feel. Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend.


  9. Mary Flaherty Avatar

    So…what does it mean when you find a bottle of hydrogen peroxide that you’ve moved with you that is the same age as one of your grown children? My son’s dog was sprayed by a skunk a few years back and I went over to help him clean the dog up. Apparently, using Dawn liquid soap, peroxide and something else is the best solution. I called Hubbles to see if we had any peroxide and he found some with an expiration date of 1987! It was the same age as my younger daughter!Why did I keep packing and moving that? I know this has nothing to do with your post, but it does.


    1. It means you hold on to what might come in handy someday, I’d say, Mary! As long as you’re not drinking the peroxide, I’d say it’s not a bad thing to keep on hand. But that’s too funny about the date! I’ve moved way too many times to have let something that old stay in my linen closet. However, I have a tendency to purge too much too often, so then I’m left regretting what I just pitched because invariably I need whatever it was. I’ve had that happen in several situations since I’ve purged this past month! I mean, I go for at least 5 years without needing any of that stuff and the moment I throw it away–bam!–I need it! ha! Thanks for joining the conversation and glad to see your smiling face back at my place. 🙂


  10. It’s so hard to get rid of sentimental things, even syrup medicine. 🙂 They are reminders of sweet seasons. But purging pride? Ouch. I really need to do that–often and thoroughly. Thanks for sharing this, Beth.


  11. Oh can I ever relate?! I have been realizing there is so much in my heart I need to let go of in order to be fully present and steep in the Father’s love! It’s easy to hold onto things that we don’t need anymore, but I’m convinced when we are able to let go, God’s love rushes in even more fully. Such a good post!


  12. Oh, Beth! Look at those sweet babies! What treasures! Mine are not yet as old as yours and I’ve got quite a few years before I’ve got an empty nest, but when I see the sweet pictures of their baby or toddler years, I can easily start to cry! I celebrate each wonderful step of growth and praise God for all He is doing in their lives as they move onto the next appropriate developmental stage, but grieve at the same time.
    Thank you, friend, for blessing me as always when I come here! And thank you for sharing your precious message of hope alongside me at #MomentsofHope!


  13. Beth, As the mother of 4 grown children and (& *sigh* 7 grown grandchildren, 2 with children of their own) I can certainly relate to your post! I think I already told you, but I’m in a time of transition, too. This is my last week at what has been my full time job/ministry. I’m excited, but I know there are things I will miss! BTW … love the photo of your 3 boys in Jackson! What cuties!


  14. Beth, thank you for sharing. I am not a mother, but I liked the line in here about holding onto what has been good, and letting go “of what was only mine to manage, care for and enjoy – but never keep.” This is a good reminder for all of us because everything we have belongs to God. Everything we have is meant to be managed and cared for and enjoyed, but it’s not ours. Entrusting what I have in God’s hands and acknowledging that it is His in the first place helps soften my heart and let go of my pride. Great post!


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