Sharing the Burden of Grief | A Story of Hope

Written By: Luann Haskins


September 12, 2023

Hope. Purpose. In the darkest days after his wife’s death, Greg Fischer longed to feel these things again. He was emotionally numb in the depth of his grief — socially and directionally lost. He felt abandoned by God and disconnected from family and friends. His life was shattered, and he didn’t know how to pick up the pieces.

Seven years later, it is now apparent to Greg how God navigated him through the murky waters of grief and sorrow, preparing the way for a new relationship and a new ministry.

Greg had been married to his wife, Cherrie, for 35 years. He and Cherrie attended church together and served in various ministries throughout their marriage. Greg worked at General Motors as a mechanical engineer, while Cherrie homeschooled their two children. They enjoyed boating and traveling. It was a good life. When Cherrie became ill in 2014, they worked together to seek medical options and treatments — they were a team.

That same year, Greg’s father was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. During this time, Greg was assigned a new boss at GM. After working for a hard-driven manager, Greg became thankful for this new overseer, who was a family-centered man. His new boss became a source of empathy and help. Although he initially felt his career was being sidetracked with the transfer, Greg later realized that God had prepared ahead of time the support he would eventually need.

Under his new boss’s leadership, Greg felt a release from the mental pressure of work. This allowed him to focus on Cherrie and his father. He recognized and confessed to Cherrie that he had been treating her as a patient, not as his wife. “I’m back,” he said, and they pressed on together with a fresh closeness, even as her health continued to decline.

In 2016, Greg’s father passed away. Then, two months later, so did Cherrie. Even though he knew his wife was in heaven, Greg longed for the life he’d had with her. In the early days of grief — feeling misunderstood as he suffered from caregiver’s guilt — a few people were especially thoughtful of Greg’s situation and came alongside him to help.

“I did develop a few select healthy relationships — a banker who greeted me with a hug and walked me through some financial decisions, Cherrie’s cousin who kept close tabs on me, and my pastor’s young family who adopted me as a grandpa,” Greg shared.

Greg continued to work, finding that a structured day kept him from focusing on his loss. But the lonely hours at night and on weekends continued to make him feel isolated. He would shop at a local Kroger five times a week just to get out of the house. Greg sold the boat that he and Cherrie had enjoyed together and bought a motorcycle, thinking that he might be able to ride with other guys. But instead, he gravitated toward riding by himself. Then, almost six months after Cherrie’s death, Greg was invited to the GriefShare program at Woodside Troy.

“I came into my first session in the middle of the 13-week program, but I still found tons of useful information and verses to encourage me,” Greg said. “I was surprised that there was as much laughter among the participants as there were tears. Folks were being honest and open. The most impactful part of that first visit was talking with other men my age about their loss, and seeing that they now had some joy and hope for their future. I felt a connection with some of the leaders and I was still learning, so I stayed for the next 13-week session.”

Meditating on Psalm 139:16b led to a turning point in Greg’s grieving process.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. — Psalm 139:16b

“I had to either believe that verse and accept God’s sovereignty, or put myself above God in thinking that I could do something that He did not — cure her or extend her life. That verse freed me from the caregiver guilt I was carrying,” Greg said.

For the next three years, Greg continued to attend GriefShare at Woodside Troy. In 2019, he helped establish a GriefShare program at his former church, acting as a facilitator.

“One way I knew that I was healing was when I shared my story with someone, and the conversation shifted to their story. It wasn’t about me anymore. Everyone has a story to tell, and they just need someone who understands and takes the time to listen,” Greg said.

As time passed, Greg longed to be known by someone again. After reading the book, Living Single by Tony Evans, he took the author’s advice and focused on his relationship with the Lord instead of spending his energy in search of a mate.

“I resolved not to continue into any relationship unless the woman met certain primary qualities and my adult children and hers were in agreement,” Greg said. “I resisted many suggestions for dates from well-meaning friends until one friend just would not give up. I acquiesced and scheduled to just meet for coffee.”

That was when Greg met Barbara Scott. Six months of “just hanging out” with Barb turned into dating, engagement, and now, four years of marriage.

“I’m now adding these four years to the 35 I had with Cherrie to say I’ve been happily married for 39 years!” Greg shared. “Barb is sensitive to Cherrie’s memory and harbors no jealousy, nor does she feel competitive with her. She talks about Cherrie often, probably more than I do. She goes to the cemetery with me, standing beside me as my support, knowing herself the pain of loss.”

Greg and Barb became members of Woodside Troy in 2021 and have been active in the church ever since. They both sing in the choir, and Barb helps in the Special Needs ministry. Greg serves as a handyman on Tuesdays and remains active in the Troy GriefShare program as a lay leader.

“Healing from grief is not a linear process that you can take one step at a time and cross off the list,” Greg said. “It’s a tangled ball of emotional and physical issues that the GriefShare program can help unwind. I strongly encourage anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one to try GriefShare. It’s a safe place to tell your story, to learn of God’s comfort, to laugh and cry with others on a similar journey, and gently approach those hard spots that keep you from fully healing and finding new joy and purpose for your life.”

When you experience loss, many come alongside you to provide loving support. But, before long, everyone else seems to move on while grief refuses to loosen its grip on your heart. You feel alone in your suffering. But you don’t need to. Each GriefShare leader has personally experienced profound grief and, through the grace of God, rebuilt their life. We’ve been there, and we understand in a way others, try as they might, cannot. We’re here to walk with you on the long path through grief toward God’s healing and hope. For more information, click here.