“Re-imagining Life in the Exile of Grief”

I met Ryan 20ish years ago in a youth group that my friend Valerie attended. Ryan had such a sweet spirit at that time. Flash forward 20ish years and Ryan is now a minister, with that same sweet spirit. His messages inspire me and speak to me, and I am consistently left wishing I lived closer to his Colorado church. He has such a unique perspective, and it is evident, even through social media, that Ryan has a heart full of love.

Ryan wrote the following poem approximately 5 years after the death of his brother. Ryan had this to say about his poem:

“It was 5 years after Brandon’s death. I was in the midst of healing. Yes, healing takes a long time. It always takes longer than we think, doesn’t it?

Grief…it hurts like hell. It’s like exile. But now I am convinced, now I know: Life can be made new again.”

I hope this poem touches your heart like it did mine.



“Re-imagining Life in the Exile of Grief” by: Ryan Canaday
(Inspired by Psalm 22, 23, 42, 43, and Jeremiah 1, 2, & 30)

The hurt is incurable.
The wound is too deep.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?

They call this place “the land of the nevers.”
Never again will we…
See him—a smile
Hear him—a sigh
Touch him—a scar
Smell him—a cigarette
This is “the land of the nevers.”

Like deer longing for flowing streams,
We wait in the ravine…
But the Wadi is dry, there is no water.
And we…we are poured out like water, and our bones are out of joint,
We know death.
And now we are dying.
In this land…In this foreign land
You don’t give a damn.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?

I remember that day, I remember the drive.
There was no water,
Not even tears for food
Nothing, numbness, nothingness

For you are the God in whom we took refuge
But now we cry by day,
And we find no rest at night.
We stand near the mouth of the lion!
I am the lion and the mouth asks: “Where is your God?”
We sit with the venomous serpents!
They are the serpents and they tell us lies: “God must have taken him for a reason.”
My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?

To you we cry,
Do not be far from us.
Save us from the lion!
Save us from the serpents!
Do not hide your face from us.

Grief is indeed the darkest valley,
We cannot walk…
Over it—denial
Under it—cheat
Beside it—arrogant
Between it—dead
We must walk through the valley.
Dark, pain, cold
My God, my God, have you forsaken us?

O God, lead us out of this barren land.
Grief has changed us,
But this wound cannot define us,
Sometimes we say “no” to death…we want to live!
Bring us to the wilderness.
This is where we experience you—
Deeply, intensely, passionately

We will be like deer longing for flowing streams,
We will play in the ravine…
The Wadi will be filled with gushing waters!
The waters may be dangerous—
But in these waters…in these waters
There is life!
My God, my God, God will be with us.

Lions and serpents still encircle us.
But you have protected us!
We still cry, but these tears are our food,
And we rest in the evening…
Sharing the memories of his life,
Telling the stories,
Retelling the stories.

Life is different; it will never be “the way it used to be,”
This is grief.
But this hurt is not incurable,
Life can be made new…
Different, but new.
The wound is deep,
But healing is possible…
As we re-imagine what life without him and life with God
is all about.

My God, my God, God has not forsaken us.


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