Grieving and laughing

For those following us on Facebook, you are aware that the last month has been extremely difficult.  Our BEAM Kenya social worker, Olive Cherop, who also is a dear friend of mine, lost her five-year-old daughter, Tinah Tele.  She had been sick for a few months with a fever, cough, and low white blood cell count.  We fought hard to get her good medical care but
doctors were unable to determine a diagnosis.  She was admitted to the hospital again on October 27th and after just a few hours her little body gave up the fight here on earth.

I walked through grief with another close friend after her son died in a tragic diving accident.  I also grieved with the BEAM family when we lost Anthony.  Walking through grief is a painful, delicate, and beautiful journey.

I recently attended a training on trauma healing which talked about how to support people well on this journey.  I learned things you should NOT say to a person who lost a loved one…

Be grateful…at least you have another child.
You’re young!  You can always have another baby.
Don’t worry, she is in a better place now.

These types of statements minimize the pain and loss and can be extremely hurtful to a person who is grieving a loved one.

Instead, it is suggested to stick to these three basic questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. How do you feel?
  3. What was the hardest part?

Don’t assume you know the answers to these questions.

Sit.  Listen. Be a non-anxious, comforting presence.

Simple, but not easy.  Uncomfortable, but crucial.

I had the privilege to share at the burial and stand in front of Olive with 14 of our BEAM kids as we reminded her just how much we love her and will stand alongside her as she grieves.

Olive is slowly but surely returning to work.  She stepped in a few days ago when we had a case of physical abuse with a young boy who frequents the BEAM counseling office on Black Street.  We involved the local leadership, police, child protective services, and ultimately brought the boy and his two other siblings to a rescue center for immediate protection.

A rough first day back to work but one that solidified our desire as BEAM to continue to advocate for the safety and protection of vulnerable kids.

Olive and I walked into the rescue center to begin the intake process for these three kids.  I gladly accepted the offer to sit down.  I noticed the rusty chair and its tattered cloth seat but I didn’t diligently observe its stability.  I sat for a few minutes as the coordinator asked questions about the children’s background.  Then “Bam!”  The bottom fell out from under me and I crashed to the floor.

Not only did Olive laugh at me in the office but she laughed the entire way home.  The visual of me falling to the ground will be implanted in her photographic memory forever as a comic relief reference in the midst of her grief.  Blame it on lack of government funds or a God who likes to use His people to bring laughter to a grieving heart…I don’t know.  But I’ve got your back, Olive, even if it means making “fool” out of myself every once in a while…

Olive’s mama’s heart is in a lot of pain and will be for a while.  Her life has been forever changed with the loss of her precious daughter.  But she is pressing on with hope.  And we believe that every loss suffered will build in us a deeper sense of compassion, connection, and understanding for those around us.

With love, gratitude, laughter, and grief,


*Please consider a monthly or one time donation to support the BEAM Kenya mission to advocate for the emotional, spiritual, and education needs of impoverished children in Kenya*


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  1. Oh Colleen, touching so thoughtfully on the ying and yang of life. This is challenging to reconcile at times. Olive, arms are embracing you from around the world as you grieve sweet Tele’s death. I admire your willingness to continue to do God’s work even as your pain is so raw. Much love, Mama Colleen❤️

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