What Do You Say to a Grieving Friend?

The Loss of a Dear Friend

Arena Men,

This is not a usual blog about our latest Men in the Arena Podcast guest. It is much more guttural. This is a blog about a friend—a 2:00 AM friend—a guy I could call anytime, anywhere, and he’d be there no questions asked.
          Monday morning this week I received the news that Glenn (with two N’s) Hostetler (with two T’s), died of a massive heart attack. I saw Glenn yesterday at church in his signature denim bib overalls. He was so excited about his new career driving a multi-axle truck and the challenges of using digital logbooks.
          Now he is gone. I won’t see him this side of Heaven. Selfishly, I’m angered at the cruelty of life that doesn’t allow us to say goodbye to those we love and didn’t allow Glenn to say goodbye to his children.
          I met Glenn years ago when I officiated his son’s wedding. He didn’t make a good first impression. He was gruff. He was opinionated. He was pushy.
          I didn’t like him—until I got to know him. Glenn was, like most of us, a living paradox. He was hard on the outside but gentle on the inside. He loved to call himself a “crusty burnt marshmallow, hard and gruff on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside.”
          That was Glenn.
          He could both bark at you in one moment, and cry tears of joy without hesitation, reservation, or regret. Fortunately, I got to experience both sides of Glenn. He had a heart of gold.


Who Will Fill the Gaps?

Glenn was an amazing servant and left a massive crater for us to fill in. I can’t come close to listing all he did for the King he loved so much. He famously cooked for all our men’s ministry breakfasts, served on our men’s ministry team, donated his shop for our Arena Gatherings doing all the food prep, and led a Men in the Arena team.
          Every month he handed me a folded check to support Men in the Arena and personally stuck it in my pocket! But probably his most impressive act of service was our monthly newsletter. Glenn folded, stuffed, and prayed over each of the hundreds of newsletters we mailed each month.
          I wonder who will take his place.

Sometimes, Just Say Nothing

What do you say to his oldest son when he calls to tell me the news?
          We prayed. I told him how sorry I was. But words can’t express, and feeling cannot commend what is happening in the moment. To offer up lame advice or Christian cliches pollutes the holy ground of grief. The silence was the most honorable and appropriate gift.
          No amount of Christian cliches help during the immediate shock of death. In moments like this there are some things I do not say:
          “He’s in a better place.”
          “God’s timing is perfect.”
          “God has bigger plans for him.”
          “He gets to be with Jesus now.”
          I know these are all true, but timing is everything. What I really wanted to say was, “This is a bunch of garbage! This really sucks! It pisses me off that he left, and he never got to say goodbye to you. That is wrong! Sometimes, this dark world makes me want to punch IT in the face!”
          Listen to more about grief, its stages, and what NOT to say to a grieving friend in a blog post on grief I wrote after our interview with Arena Coach, Joe Myall.


Locking Shields

At the conclusion of our church’s 2019 men’s retreat weekend, the speaker had the men stand in a circle, lock arms, and look outwards towards the wall. He spoke about defending what is inside by fighting all interlopers.
          But I will never forget what happened next.
          He had us turn inwards and look at the man directly across from us. He explained that we can’t fight off the enemy unless we lock shields with at least one man. He had us stare at the man directly across from us and make an unwritten covenant to have that man’s back.
          Who was looking back at me in his blue denim bib-overalls? That’s right, it was Glenn. We never mentioned that retreat but from that day on something changed, Glenn became my BBQing partner. He dialed in his efforts with the men’s ministry at our church, He became an even more vocal (this came easy for Glenn) supporter of me and my ministry. He started helping me with welding projects that needed immediate attention.
          He truly had my back.
          I loved him like an older, crusty marshmallow of a brother. He will be sorely missed.

Boots on the Ground

We will dive into the deep waters of grief in late April or early May when we release our interview with Brian Doyle, founder of Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conferences. Three years ago, Brian lost his wife Barbara to cancer and shares how he navigated and continues to, through the grieving process.
          Make sure you listen to the conversation about what he learned through the process and how we can help others grieve without causing unmitigated damage.
          You won’t want to miss it.