coach's daughter grief death

To the Woman Grieving, You Don't Have to be Tough

Maybe it’s because I’m a daughter of a coach….

Maybe it’s because I’m a coach’s wife and I’ve heard the pep talks.

I’ve also faced hard personal seasons. These things lead me to believe I’m a tough girl.

AND, I know a lot of you are tougher. I wouldn’t claim any awards for my toughness. But some of our personal testimonies on or off the field can psych us up with a false sense of strength to “toughen up” and TRY to tackle our problems or emotions on our own.

Do you know the drill? Brush it off. No sweat! No pain, no gain. Right? Who has time for emotions when we’re so tough?

I have already had the opportunity to work on my pride with letting people help me when I just can’t do things myself. However, this year brought with it more of an internal type of lesson for me.

My dad (and first person I learned what a coach truly is) passed away this year.

On a normal year that would have been challenging in itself, but that was in addition to the numerous challenges I had already faced with such a crazy year.

It was more than I knew how to handle.

We had purchased our first home and had been working on renovating it for a few months already.

We had survived 3 kids’ ENT surgeries on the same day—while having no appliances hooked up on the home front. (Thank you by the way to our church family who provided soft meals, jello cups and popsicles for us during that time, you rock!)

My emotions were fried. I was angry with myself for not being more composed. I wanted to push tears aside and just be strong for everyone. I was trying to advance to the next steps and next projects without grieving.

I’d lost people before, but never someone so close to me. The emotions were more than I was used to.

I didn’t understand how to get off the pendulum that seemed to sway between the appreciation for the time I had with this amazing man, the laughter of all the fond memories that we recalled and shared numerous times the week before his funeral, the sadness of watching his health deteriorate so quickly after his long battle with cancer was coming to an end.

And then the fact we lost him during quarantine when very few friends/family could be there for our family. It really just broke my heart.

Then, She Wept

Then in my reading I came across a scripture I have known since I was a child. It’s a more commonly known verse because it’s one of the shortest verses in the Bible.

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

Until this moment I don’t think I ever dug into scripture enough to recognize the significance to when and why he wept. While I have read the passage several times before, the significance of such a tiny little verse was lost on me… until now.

Suddenly this scripture was smacking me in the face. LOOK at what’s going on here. Delve DEEPER.

WHO? Jesus- savior, creator, king. He is omnipotent (all knowing) and omnipresent (ever present).

DID WHAT? HE wept.

But WHY? (I’m not a biblical scholar or going for a lengthy exegetical here- just MY observations)

Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, had just passed away. Mary and Martha were upset too… they know Jesus COULD have done something IF he were there sooner, I’m sure they had a plethora of “what if” scenarios for him in this moment.

But the kicker to me, all of a sudden:

Jesus already KNOWS exactly where Lazarus’ eternity would be lived out. He KNOWS exactly what’s on the other side of Glory. Jesus even went on later in scripture to raise Lazarus from the dead. He was going to see him again on BOTH sides of glory.

Even still, “Jesus wept.”

In that moment, He didn’t put on a “brave face,” he didn’t toughen up or “suck it up” or ignore the emotions all together. He didn’t worry about staying strong for everyone around him or consoling everyone else in their grief.

JESUS wept.

I was trying so hard to be strong for my mom, my kids, my siblings. Isn’t that what we do? I just couldn’t “toughen up” to get past this myself. But once again, scripture comes in to love me in these hardest moments. The hardest place of my year.

Even with all authority under heaven, Jesus was fully man and allowed himself to weep. We don’t have to stay in that place forever, but it’s okay from time to time to let go of that “tough side.” It’s okay to weep.

And I felt stronger once I did.

Golly, we are such tough girls, right? I don’t know why I have that sense of needing to cover it up or write the emotions off … but it’s not probably healthy to do. If God can weep for a friend, and set that as an example that wasn’t hidden or left out of the books … surely we can weep too.

So I gave myself permission to grieve. I wept. If anything, it also gave my kids permission to feel their emotions too. (I’m sure our coach will be super thankful for that with 2 daughters in the house down the road.)

Grab some tissues. Let it out. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I don’t know exactly what it is that you grieve. A coach, a spouse, a student, a parent, or even a season left unplayed. If I were there with you right now I’d get you the box of tissues, I’d give you a hug. I’d tell you to stop beating yourself up for that. You’re still a tough girl, but you’re also human.

Also, to the former athletes (from about forty years ago) who stopped by the funeral home to share your gratitude for the legacy my dad has left to you and how you’ve carried it through your career choices, coaching, and lives; thank you. That was an experience as a coach’s wife I truly will treasure forever.

The stories you all had with him were incredible. The bond and relationship you still have to this day is incredible.

This calling presents unique challenges to a coach and their entire family. But the sacrifices we make as a family seem so worth it when I see the outcome generations later. Your presence there was such a beautiful gift to me, specifically as a coach’s wife.

Dad, Coach: thank you for everything. I love you and I’m so thankful for all you’ve taught me to be!

I miss you so much, and now your legacy will live through me as well.