Joann Deveny


Hope 360 Storyteller – Joann Deveny

Loss of a Loved One

July 13, 1991—that was the day that God became a stranger to me.

My husband and I were on our boat, cruising the lakeshore of Excelsior Bay, while our two young boys were with a sitter back at our lake home at the other end of expansive Lake Minnetonka. While the oversized mansions passed by my vision, I remember wishing for a larger home for my two active boys and dreaming of a third child—preferably a passive girl. Although, I thanked God everyday for my boys, I somehow believed that I deserved the entitlement.  You see, at that time, I only knew God as a powerful entity far away in the heavens protecting my family and me.  So that day, while I was looking into the future and hoping for more, I didn’t realize that soon I would be looking back and longing for what I had.

While the dreams were consuming my thoughts, my youngest son, Billy, slid open the screen door of our lake home and ran into the nearby water of Cook’s Bay.  Even though the sitter found him within ten minutes, Billy didn’t make it. I soon found myself rocking Billy’s body in the ER and, in that moment, I felt that God had failed me.

I experienced my grief like a roller coaster with my emotions setting the rails: depression, guilt, denial and anger.  The way I handled that roller coaster was to jump on and take the ride. I spoke of Billy often, joined support groups, and visited places that pained me the most. My husband, on the other hand, grieved far differently. To avoid the depression of home after work, he ventured to loud crowded places where there was no mention of Billy’s name.  I felt as if we were both riding that same roller coaster, but in two separate cars. When he was on the high rails, I was on the low, and vice versa. We rarely met in the middle.

I felt as if I were shaking one fist at God and reaching for Him with the other, because I was so angry yet I needed Him so badly.  Being unversed in the Bible beforehand, I would read the only chapters that I could relate to—Job and the Psalms. After I would read those passages, I would clutch that holy book in my arms and cuddle it next to my body like a teddy bear. It was the only way I could go to sleep at night without the aid of a sleeping pill. And in my morning prayers, I found the strength to make it through the next day.

With time, and a lot of grief work, that emotional roller coaster smoothed out a bit and my husband and I were starting to meet in the middle. Foremost, I had rediscovered who God was. I had been mistaken—He wasn’t that entity far away in the heavens, He was the strength inside me.

Eleven years after Billy’s death (but what seemed to be 100 years), I found myself in that emergency room again. This time I had my fourteen year old son by my side.  We were both at my husband’s bedside telling him that it was okay for him to go; we would be okay without him.

That morning my husband died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 49. Four days earlier he was mowing the lawn, three days before he was diagnosed with acute Leukemia, one day before the doctor had given him an 80% chance of full recovery.

So again I plunged into my grief the only way I knew how, but this time was different. I had no questions for God, and I harbored no anger.  I wasn’t shaking one fist at God anymore but holding onto Him with both hands.  And so I had to let something go.

I had to let go of the defeating emotions of guilt, anger and unbelief. In doing so, I started looking through the dark clouds knowing that there was sunlight behind them.

 “…joy doesn’t come easily, and it can only be experienced after an intense pain subsides. It can only be felt in correlation of its opposite.”  –When Bluebirds Fly: Losing a Child, Living with Hope

My name is JoAnn Deveny and I am a Hope 360 Storyteller. If you can relate to my story feel free to reach out to me through my email link above.

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If you can relate to my story I would love to help you navigate through your situation or crisis. I am here to be a listening ear, help you with any resources I might have and to be an encouragement you. You are not alone.