Next Steps

Dec 05

It’s difficult to describe.  While it’s emotional, it is undeniably physical.  I feel it mostly in the chest.  Kind of like getting butterflies before an anticipated event, but the anxious squeeze is north of the gut.  It’s also not momentary, waiting to fade; rather, it’s seemingly always there.  It’s a sort of twitter-patter of the heart that hints that it could take my breath away, but doesn’t quite cross that line.  Sometimes it tips me to tears or even, occasionally, weeping.  Most of the time, though, the anxious squeeze is just resonant … as if to constantly remind me that I’m not alone, even if it is uncomfortable.

These first few weeks have been tough.  We’re functioning fine – things are getting done, we’re talking openly, we’re having fun and we’re planning next things.  Still, nothing about the overarching weight suggests that this is an interim transition, but rather a permanent state of adjustment.  I’m just one of several who are wading through new territory.  I think I’m in the ‘sadness’ stage of grief.  Perhaps in the years prior I worked through the denial and anger stages (or, perhaps I’m naive or just currently on one side of a reciprocal process).  For me, my daily challenge has been how to be fully present in operating sadness and not too eager to dismiss its reality and vital worth for the sake of distraction and/or escape.  

Jen was good about validating emotions and then choosing to live out of the partnering truths.  I’ve found myself numb at times and lacking focus on personal disciplines or not investing fully behind the intent of daily priorities.  There are moments of fog.  My personal battle is one of choice.  Today, I am choosing to double-click into my truths from which to live out a more centered day.  It’s painfully ironic that I have solo time because I’m en route to honor a life well-lived by my grandpa who has also just passed away.  It’s been a tough month.

Over the last year or so I’ve had the privilege of being led through some deep personal work.  A key framework that I’ve learned to use to re-center my intentions is my personal mission statement.  Whereas this will be a working hypothesis and a lifetime pursuit of consistent integrity, a particular segment has grabbed my attention on this day: “… I am at peace regardless of circumstance, living fearfully in the joy experienced by others …”

My double-click is to remind myself of what is meant by ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ so that I live out today’s engagements and priorities with clarity and freedom.  A good working definition for ‘peace’? … “The realm where chaos and fear are not allowed to enter.”  I like to picture the eye of a hurricane that represents freedom from the ‘junk’ of this world.  How about ‘joy’? … “A settled orientation of the heart with contentment, confidence and hope in the assurance of God’s control and the experience and awe of His transcendent beauty.”  ‘Joy’ is my favorite word; in part because unlike fleeting happiness, joy is a permanence despite circumstance.  It is present in the good and the bad; it is good in the bad.  And yet peace and joy are interconnected.  Freedom ushers peace; with peace we are free to live in joy.  With joy, peace is beautiful.

Truth to be understood must be experienced.  How can I recall the truth of my peace and joy in times of sadness?  Memories.

Today I choose to be present in my sadness while also at peace and experiencing joy.  My shot-in-the-arm for today is thinking of joy in sadness from just yesterday.  Maren and I had our first joint session with a new counselor.  How did it end?  With us hip-checking each other and laughing on our way to the car afterward.  And as I tucked Greta in to sleep last night, she was sad that I had to leave them today.  As a result, we laid quietly in a big bear hug with light kisses and a soft purr.  She may have been sad, but she knows that she’s loved regardless of circumstance and that’s beautiful.  That is joy.  We’re sad, but also experiencing peace.  

Okay, I feel better working through that.  I’m going to chalk this up as a day well done thus far.

It is hard to say what God has for us to learn and experience on-going through this journey.  We are expectant, though, with the assurance of peace and joy.  Tomorrow I will remind myself of other memories that recall to the front those truths of peace and joy from which to live – in partnership with the emotion of sadness and the anxious squeeze in my chest.

May we all choose peace and run with everlasting joy.

Brad (husband)


  1. I am beautifully stunned, Brad. I need to re-read this ten times at least and find some dwelling place in the truths you expressed. Thank you.

  2. Very well said, Brad!! Much love to you and the girls.

  3. Thank you. Holding you each in peace and joy.

  4. Julie Reardon /

    This is poignant and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  5. Denise /

    I ache for you and the girls, Brad. Grief is a complicated and sometimes overwhelming thing. Thank you for continuing to share your journey with us here. A friend recently shared this:
    Deep blue grief threatens;
    still every December breath
    is a grand blessing
    Praying peace, comfort, joy and hope for you and all who love Jen.

  6. Lisa Roberson /

    I have followed Jen’s story since the beginning when my sister shared it with me. Your sweet little family has touched the hearts and lives of many people. I am continuing to pray for you and the girls.

  7. Kelly B /

    I think your description of grief is spot on (for me at least). I have not lost a spouse but I did lose my mom last year and your summation hits very close to home. Your words are such a gift and I have to say that I am so happy to see each new post. Thank you for your time and thank you Brad for your honesty.

  8. Emily Smith /

    Thanks for writing Brad. You are such a good writer, and I forgot how intelligent you are! Your perspective is beautiful. I am thinking of you and the girls and praying for you. I love the part about holding Greta in the bear hug of sadness. And the purring. So sweet. Keep up the great job being you! Sending big hugs to you all!

  9. Annie Rosen /

    Thank you for being real and vulnerable, Brad. No one can understand grief and the way each of us experiences it because it’s unique to each person. In a line from “The Outsiders” I have to agree, “stay golden”. Which to me means stay true to you. There are no answers which as a person who loves rules and instructions it’s extremely difficult. I hate that there is pain in this world. But I’m thankful that Jen told me she is holding Asher until I arrive♥️ I love your family!

  10. Terry Reznick /

    My prayers are with you and the girls, through this journey of recovery and healing

  11. Sue Nitz /

    Brad thank you for sharing you journey with us. I have been thinking and praying for you and Maren and Greta. Today when I passed your house on my way home from work I was thinking that Jen probably has a village of angels all set up praying for you and all those she loved. Her village Here took care of your family and now you have a whole new village looking over you. My thoughts and prayers continue. God’s love and blessings to you, Maren and Greta.

  12. Candace /

    You touch my heart

    • Jen Roesch /

      I want to encourage you to continue to find joy in the small moments. In the small wins. When no one is watching but Jen. And when you struggle to find joy, this community is here for you.

  13. Katie Pozzuoli /

    Your family continues to come to mind often, and I pray for you, Maren and Greta each time. I’m sorry for the loss of your grandpa. May God continue to hold you close.

  14. Karin Eppert /

    Oh Brad… thank you for continuing to share. I get a catch in my throat each time I see a blog entry in my inbox. You are all doing today well. Sending much love.

  15. Brad, thank you for sharing. I hope you will continue to write. I have been following since only a couple weeks after the first time Jen was diagnosed. So even though we never got to meet, I do feel the loss of her as if she was my friend. I appreciate that you have been sharing your thoughts here. God bless you.

  16. KC Stallings /

    Hi Brad,
    You don’t know me as I only recently knew of Jen and this blog a little over a month ago through one of your family friends. I can tell just in her last few posts that she is an extraordinary woman and I so appreciate her transparency (and now yours) as you walk through this life. You see, I’m living with cancer now and my deepest fear and sadness is the possibility of leaving the ones I love the most behind — seemingly much too soon. My heart aches with yours and your girls. Please know that I’m lifting you all up in prayer for grace and healing and joy-even in the sadness.

  17. Kathi Roth /


  18. Jen M. / Springfield, IL /

    Thank you for continuing to share your journey with us. I was introduced to Jen’s blog by a mutual friend-blogger back in 2012, and her passing took my breath away. It was easy to feel as if we knew Jen simply through her writing. To peace, memories, and hip-checks …

  19. Bonnie Jackson /

    Brad, it touches my heart that you expressed yourself so beautifully!! I echo your sentiments in missing Jen everyday, she occupies my thoughts alongside Kaylie. I wonder if they’ve seen each other? Yes, Joy and Peace in the ache…. That’s where the Lord resides. Sending our prayers along with you as you go to remember your Grandpa ❤️

  20. Cindy Mitchell /

    Brad, you are an amazing father, and doing an awesome job on continuing with Jen’s blog.. She is with you and is very proud of you.. My thoughts and prayers are with you and the girls..

  21. Kim Rourke /

    …to be present in my sadness while also at peace and experiencing joy”… food for my thoughts! Hoping that sharing is cathartic.

  22. Lindsay W /

    Brad…your words are beautiful…you seem to have an amazing gift of self-awareness emotionally(as Jen also did). Praying you find space to continue to check in with yourself/and the girls emotionally. Praying God meets you in this place as only He can. ❤️
    We are grateful for your posts…we all looked forward to them so much and your entries have continued to reveal to us what we can be lifting up in prayer. Freedom to not post of course…feel no pressure, but pray it also blesses you.

  23. Connie Stahlbusch /

    Brad, thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts. You are an amazing writer and I like that all the readers are able to stay connected to you, Maren and Greta. Praying and thinking of you all in this new and often times painful journey.

  24. Newbie friend /

    Thank you Brad for continuing in Jens footsteps. You are helping us learn to navigate life by sharing your experience. You are a gifted writer and have captured your challenges of living with grief in a way that helps me to understand that experience better. We have choices about how we will respond to the things we didn’t choose; Peace and Joy.
    God Bless

  25. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7). Praying for you and your family in the quest for peace my friend. Thank you for sharing your struggles and beautiful words with us.

  26. Kate Mathie /

    Hi Brad,
    Grief is a physical thing. For me it bubbles up ins my chest. Sometimes I can get away with watery eyes and an exhale, but sometimes the tears flow.

    You and Jen have always modeled resilience and actively working on positive thoughts. Maren and Greta have learned from you and are coping with so much grace. My head is crowded today so I am taking a page out of the Anderson book and drilling down to my truths.

    Much Love,

  27. Geralynn Touscany /

    Hello Brad, the articulation of Grief in, C.S. Lewis’s, “Grief Observed” book is really close to the experience.

    No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

  28. Another Jen /

    Your words are beautiful, your family is beautiful, and your love is beautiful. Sending love to you all from afar.

  29. Hillary in California /

    Brad. I am another stranger that feels like I know you all through Jen’s blog. Learning of her passing (especially for all of us far away/ strangers) has been difficult. Jen’s writing resonated with so many of us from afar, I think, because of course..she was lovely but also prioritized everything perfectly. What a huge blessing now it is to read your words. Thank you thank you for posting. I know I speak for countless readers— we are grieving with you and are sending you strength as you navigate this new chapter. She was so right— she married a wonderful man. It always made me smile when she wrote about you, it was abundantly clear that yours was a deep love that nor only comes from those happy marriage milestones but also from going through the real and the hard stuff. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your extended families.

  30. Your experience reminds me of a poem by Kenneth White

    the loveliness is everywhere
    in the ugliest
    the most hostile environment
    the loveliness is everywhere
    as in the turning of a corner
    in the eyes
    and on the lips
    of a stranger
    in the emptiest areas
    where is no place for hope
    and only death
    invites the heart
    the loveliness is there
    it emerges
    it rises in its own reality
    and what we must learn is
    how to receive it
    into ours.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. My personal definition of a saint is someone who is farther along than I am and holds out a light so I can see the path. You and Jen have been saints to me and I am deeply grateful. Jennifer Kay