A Pastor’s Grief

manScott Peck begins his mega best seller, The Road Less Traveled, with these words, “Life is hard”.

True enough, Scott.

Over the past two months I’ve grieved the death of two uncles, my brotherinlaw, and my dog, Buster. Four deaths mourned in the midst of ministry in Advent, Christmas Eve, and ministry preparation for a new year of life and ministry.

I shared this personal valley with Redwood last week. After hearing me, 11-year-old Jadon, the son of a Facebook friend said to her Mom, “Poor Pastor Chris, I had no idea his life was so sad.”


Jadon: My life’s not sad. But I am sometimes sad. Pastors get sad, say goodby to people and pets they love. It hurts, and it feels like a rock in your gut and a hole in your heart.

But my life is far from sad. I’m married to my best friend. My kids make me smile with beaming pride. I love being a pastor. I have friends I laugh with. I look forward to each day. My life is happy, even while grieving.

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

Matt 5:4

I’m fortunate to pastor in a church that accepts my humanness. Too many churches expect a perfect and polished celebrity. Too many pastors step onto that platform. I’m just fortunate to be in a church that expects transparency.

Anyway, now you understand why I’ve not been blogging. I’ve been grieving. I’ve been allowing space in my life to feel what I need to feel, when I need to feel it, when the waves of sadness happen to well up. My hope is that the sadness will morph into deeper levels of compassion. In years of ministry, I’ve seen that happen with hurting people time after time.

Good grief requires work. It demands space, a willingness to explore pain, and an attempt to discover the hidden and obvious gifts of grace. Four gifts have been especially helpful in my grief: The fun-loving ways of Amy, my wife. The presence of God who brings life out of death. Recreation that fills my eyes with beauty and my lungs with outdoor air. And grace.

Always, always, grace.



About chris breuninger

I love life, my family, and Jesus. I enjoy live music, rigorous exercise, thoughtful movies, and strong coffee. I study scripture, wine, and people. I get frustrated with narrow minds, Christian stereotypes, and gardening. My vocation is pastor, but I’m hesitant to admit that, and I’m happy when people are surprised by that.
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One Response to A Pastor’s Grief

  1. Roy Johnston says:

    What, you’re not perfect? Did the pastor’s search committee know that? Just kidding, Chris. I love your openness and honesty. Thanks for being real. It gives hope to the rest of us. I know that God will use your grief in amazing ways in the months and years to come.

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