Grief, the Painter

by Shannon Brink

This year, this season, this current reality: wow. We have pivoted as a family too many times to count, making two cross-continental moves mid-pandemic. After another layer of disappointment was added recently, I was having a difficult time and wrote this. Maybe you can relate.


Grief is the painter and my heart is the canvas.

The hues of purple sorrow and reds of anger. I am drenched. Unanchored to a place, we drifted along untethered. Back to our home country, but nothing was the same. The losses were pale orange as we could not step into our Church, whose doors had closed, could not welcome supporters around our table, because of restrictions, and could not visit our family who were locked tight across a closed border.

There were splashes of yellow as we saw familiar places and enjoyed the trees and mountains I had longed for, but still the losses splashed like dark blues across the yellow until it covered it all.

The colours all mixed together becoming a grey of uncertainty and confusion.

To stay or go, to live locked up here or there, did it matter? We came back anyways, to our adopted country with loose ends and unmet expectations sullenly left behind. We believed that the grey would depart, or so we thought, and were thankful that it seemed like it would be better than when we left it. But then, the dark marched across the canvas like an army and swallowed everything up.

With our packed life, and our hope fresh and baby pink, we landed into the thick of a new and raging danger. And the red of anger with all its loss and disappointment, swallowed the canvas whole. Why have expectations? Why have hopes? Nothing is different here, everything is worse yet again and we must remain sheltering in place. Where is community in isolation? Where is ministry in self-protection? More waiting under the thick grief that has washed over my heart.

But there, the words, fresh on the page:  hope.

A hope capable of starting even here, and increasing. A hope that can be seen behind thick grief, that is magnified in sorrow and pain. Have I lost my hope? No. It’s buried under the colours of grief but the fresh white of it is still there, peaking out from underneath. The grief is in the things I have lost, the tangible things: the comforts, the people, the calling, the meaning, all of the things I have been seeking. But none of these things were ever meant to remain.

Wipe the canvas of my heart clean with your sweat and tears, Lord Jesus. You can count the colours of my grief, and measure and separate them. You can let the colours run off into your hands and remind me of the hope that remains underneath it all. You can repaint this canvas with beauty if I let you.  You are indeed the hope of the nations, the truth blazing through it all. None of this was ever meant to be enough. I can be homeless but not disheartened, unhinged, but not untethered, broken-hearted but blessed because I have a hope beyond reason.

Remain the collector of my heart’s grief and wash me new so they can see the hope of your love in me.

Take the brush from grief, Lord Jesus, and be the rightful painter of my story. Don’t let grief have the final say over my heart, but let hope speak.


Shannon is a mother of 4 kids, a nurse, a writer, and a missionary in Malawi. Her family is currently residing in Vancouver, Canada because of COVID. Her writing explores the awkward spaces of life like waiting, grieving, calling, and transition, which seems to become increasingly relevant in our lives and in our global story. She has just finished her first book. Find her at

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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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