How God Sustained Wanda Carver Through Deep Grief

Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast! I’m your host, Shelley Hitz and today’s guest is Wanda Carver.

Wanda lost her 41-yr-old brother from a massive heart attack. They were two years apart and extremely close. To make matters worse, their mother was dying of lung cancer and they knew she only had months to live. The day before her brother’s funeral, she was at the brink of losing total control. The Holy Spirit came to her in an almost tangible way. She truly learned the meaning of “the peace that passes all understanding” which helped her get through his funeral, as well as her mother’s and father’s death shortly after. She will share her story in today’s podcast.

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SHELLEY. Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast! I’m your host, Shelley Hitz and today’s guest is Wanda Carver. Welcome! Wanda.

WANDA. Thank you! It’s so good to be with you today.

SHELLEY.  Yes – and just to get started I’m going to share a little bit about you and then we will dive in to your story.

But Wanda lost her 41-yr-old brother from a massive heart attack. – And you know that’s really hits home Wanda because I’m 41 right now (LOL), and I’m thinking wow! That feels young but they were two years apart and extremely close. To make matters worse, their mother was dying of lung cancer and they knew she only had months to live. The day before her brother’s funeral, she was at the brink of losing total control.

But the Holy Spirit came to her in an almost tangible way and she truly learned the meaning of “the peace that passes all understanding” and helped her get through his funeral, as well as the passing of her mother and father shortly after. So She will share her story in today’s podcast.

So to get started Wanda just share a little bit about what the broken crayons in your life looked like during this season?

WANDA. Well – my father was an alcoholic and so that has always been a point of stress for the family but my mother was an amazing woman of faith.


WANDA. And my brother and I accosted we’re just 2-years apart but when we were children we lived on a farm and I think maybe our closeness was partially as result of their work in the other children close by and he and I just grew depending on one another for everything. We were best friends –


WANDA. And that continued. We double-dated as teenagers and just shared all of our experiences and there were memories got shared with Billy that no one else even our parents were aware of. When I got the call – I got a call on a Sunday afternoon from my mother and I was a teacher it was the day before a school would to start off for the fall.


WANDA. And I got a call from mom saying that she had been diagnosed with a lung cancer.


WANDA. She had been coughing for about a year but had dismiss it because our family has a history of Bronchitis and she just ignored it thinking that was it and it would pass until she passed out at work one day.


WANDA. And so anyway when she called and it was 1995 lung cancer was pretty much – it was pretty much a death now at that time. So my first inclination was to run to Michigan where she lived but she assured me that I needed to start school the next day and she would probably need me later there was nothing I can do at this point.

Eventually, it wasn’t too much longer a few months till they did surgery on mom to removed her lung I was there for that but when they got in the surgery went bang but the cancer had already spread to the other lung.


WANDA. And so they were going to begin an aggressive series of chemo treatments. And then in June I went to Michigan to visit I was making frequent trips back and forth, so this has been almost a year since her diagnosis and daunted surgery and chemo. And in June I went up there for a visit spend a lot of time with my brother and he and I had a really good time, and then the 2 weeks later I got the call from my sister-in-law that he just died of a massive heart attack at home.


WANDA. And he had two little boys 10 and 6 and I was devastated. Mom was hurt to know that she had cancer and would probably not make it but you expect that – that your parents are going to precede you in death and this was my younger brother. Anyway we got – I got there realizing I was going to help packed out my parents get through all these, they had so much already on them.

And we were sitting around the kitchen table the morning before his funeral and all of a sudden it was like something was welling up in me it was like there was going to be an eruption, I didn’t know what its going to be but I knew I had to get out of there. And I went down in the basement and something came out of me it was – for lack of a better term sort of what I would thinking aliens sound would be, I have never had anything like that come out me or even hear anything like that. And I cried out to God but I didn’t have the words to verbalized my pain and Romans 8:26 came back to me “The sprit also joins to help us in our weakness because we do not know what to pray for as we should but the spirit himself intercedes for us what unspoken groaning’s.”

And it was the closest I’ve ever come to a visual experience with God himself and in the form of the holy spirit but He was almost there tangibly and He watched over me – and all of a sudden I understood I think for the first time fully what that piece the pass is all understanding is about and there were still tears but the agony was gone.


WANDA. And I began to pour things out to the Lord verbally at that point because He reminded me at the moment of Billy salvation and I was there with him at that time and all kinds of other sweet memories that we shared. And my tears became a tears of relief and joy because I knew we would be reunited.


WANDA. And – so the Lord held me up through the rest of that and I was able to go back up those steps in a whole different mindset than when I went down them, and I was able to help my family through it all. But we still knew things were not looking good for mom. So I went back home after the funeral and I got the call that the doctors could do nothing else but to try to keep mom comfortable, there was no hope and it was December and I went to Detroit the day after Christmas and mom was in the hospital and I stayed there with her.

They set me up a caught and I stayed with her and we shared all kinds of things and talked about the Lord and she was ready that was not concern but she died in the morning of the 29. I got my dad and brought him to the hospital and he kissed her dead body and told her he loved her and then he told me that my sister and I would have to take care of funeral arrangements he just couldn’t. So we took care of all the arrangements and then the morning of her funeral dad was not getting up.


WANDA. And I said dad we’ve got to get ready for funeral and he said I can’t do it and from the looks of him I didn’t think he physically could and he said you’re going to have it on your own, and we did. And I stayed for a few days to help take care of dad and he wanted my sister and I to go through her personal effects and take care of him.

I drove my husband and children and I – we drove back to Tennessee and in less than 24 hours I got the call my father was dead.


WANDA. It was exactly one week after mom had passed and my sister just found him in his bed early one morning and he had died sometime during the night. So I drove back to Michigan and at this point I realized part of it was probably just exhaustion.

SHELLEY. Oh yeah

WANDA. We went through the funeral and so forth and then we had to deal with lawyers because of the wheels and all, and so we had to go through all that while I was still there. But on the way home we stopped at a restaurant for lunch and all of a sudden I started laughing – and at first my family was laughing with me and they were looking around of what was so funny and they were asking me what was so funny and I couldn’t stop laughing to answer them and my laughter kept going and it was getting louder and louder and they were telling me I needed to be quiet and I couldn’t. And everyone at the restaurant was looking at me and my husband realized I was in the state of hysteria.


WANDA. And he threw some money down to pay the bill and got me out of there.


WANDA. And he was shaking me and hollering my name and nothing was happening and my sweet gentle husband slapped me and I know that was hard for him to do.


WANDA. And the laughter became tears and Hysteria according to the dictionary is a perversion of our sensor function.

SHELLEY. Oh yeah

WANDA. And so it was what would be acceptable, the acceptable emotion would be tears but it was perverted into laughter and after he slapped me I guess I cried for another half an hour or longer but afterwards relief came, I felt better. And that was the sort of the beginning of healing and it wasn’t dad’s death, I think it was the accumulation of them all.

SHELLEY. Yeah. You know they often say that when you have deep deep hurts or you’re grieving deeply and if you try to hold that emotion in it’s going to impact you. And I remember my dad was assaulted and he was in coma, we didn’t know if he was even going to wake up and I was just trying to hold it all together I think or I don’t know – I just, you know, I was the oldest daughter and so I remember my uncle coming to and my grandmother had been murdered and he said for years he never grieved his mother’s death, and never felt his emotions and he ended up having – I think it was a quadruple bypass in his heart and he had a lot of medical prompts that they said came from him never dealing with his emotions.

So in a way it may have been a gift for you that you at least had some sort of outburst and you were able to let out the emotion because oh my goodness so much grief, so much to deal with them. I remember when my uncle was like Shelley I just want to give you word of encouragement – feel your feelings, cry if you need to. And I remember after we had that conversation I went in to my car and I just sob and sob and sob and for the first time I cried and for the first time I grieved. And my dad came out of the coma he is now walking and talking but he has never been the same.

And so would you say that was kind of a turning point for you when you were just finally able to released that emotion?

WANDA. I would. You know I too am the oldest and I think sometimes we take on a lot.


WANDA. And I’ve been holding it in for everyone else. And you know I think sometimes people think that tears are a sign of weakness but we know they’re not because Jesus wept.


WANDA. And, I think they’re part of the healing process we need to shed those tears and that was important for me to learn that it was not only just okay for me to cry – it was necessary.


WANDA. And I think that is an important thing for people to realized. And so often we don’t talk about what’s normal and what’s not, and we all grieve differently but you know for the next year I would say all of a sudden I would just have – I might be driving down that street and not even be conscious of thinking of any of my family and start crying and I’m not typically a crier and what I would think about what brought this on, there might be a saint or a song playing on the radio or –


WANDA. There’s something that brought a sensory – memory there that set off some tears and I want to say it it lasted for about a year off and on it wasn’t frequent but that grieving process does not end when the funeral is over.

SHELLEY. Right, exactly. And you experienced tremendous grief in a very short period of time – your very close immediate family. Someone who has experienced lost, deep lost in their life, what is one piece of advice or encouragement you would give to them?

Now, we already talked about feeling your feelings allowing yourself to grieve but is there something else that you would want to share with them?

WANDA. You know the Lord is always waiting to share whatever experience we’re going through. And when I was down on that basement that day and the Lord met me in such a very personal intimate way and brought me to a new understanding in a greater relationship with him as a result. I was reminded that God has always grown me and I think He does most people – He grows us in the valleys not on the mountain top.


WANDA. He grows us in the valleys if we will turn that, those hurts over to him. And you don’t ever hope for those hard times but when you are on the other side and you look back, you can see reasons for joy and you know that the scripture says “Rejoice in the Lord always” I don’t think it mean that we are to rejoice that we are going through this hard time but that we can rejoice because God is going through with us. And to me If we can just spill out our feelings to God even if they don’t found too spiritual.


WANDA. You know there would be angry in the midst of it.


WANDA. But God deals with truth and God knows the state of our hearts, our spirits better than we do.


WANDA. And whenever I hit those low spots during that time, to just be able to say to God I need you right now, I need that comfort and for me – I’ve got a sister also but she’s 17 years younger than me, so we did not share a childhood and I can remember coming back from my dad’s funeral thinking I’m nobody’s little girl anymore.


WANDA. I was 43, I hadn’t really technically been a little girl in a long time but you know to your parents you always are and I thought there’s nobody left with whom I could share those childhood memories and that felt like part of the grief too, I don’t have it.

SHELLEY. Yes. There’s so many facets and I’m sure we could talk for hours more because there’s so much to grief and there’s so much that you learn and you walk through but I just love how you said rejoice in the Lord always and it’s not rejoice in our circumstances, it’s not rejoice in what you’re walking through, it’s not rejoice in this pain or this hardship, it’s rejoice in the Lord and we can find that joy – the joy is not the same as happiness, it’s not depended on our circumstances coz’ we can find in him and so I just love that you share that.

Now If someone is resonated with your story or would like to contact you, how’s the best way for them to find you online?

WANDA. Well, I am on Facebook but I at And I have written a book “Everyday Experiences with God” and this story is one of many in that because I feel like our stories honor the Lord when we can show what he’s done in the midst of them and so if they go on that site they’ll find some of the stories that have been recorded – just stories of how the Lord has moved and I am grateful for that and I would love to have conversations with anyone online or otherwise that would be special coz’ I love to hear other people stories.

SHELLEY. Amen. Well, I pray that many will get in touch with you, find your book, be encouraged And in closing your story is just another example of how God can turn our messes into masterpieces. So thank you so much for sharing your story today Wanda, I really appreciate you.

WANDA. Thank you Shelley. I appreciate what you are doing, this is honoring to the Lord and I can’t wait to see what all comes from it.

SHELLEY. Yes – amen! And all of you listening and thank you for joining us today. If you are someone else you know has a powerful story to share I would love to have you on the show, you can apply to be featured on the podcast at and I will see you next time, bye!


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