FamilyLife Today® Podcast

When Grief Keeps Going: Rachel Faulkner-Brown

with Rachel Faulkner-Brown | April 26, 2023
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Twice-widowed Rachel Faulkner-Brown felt overwhelmed by losses in her new marriage. But there was more of God to know and He had bigger dreams.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Twice-widowed Rachel Faulkner-Brown felt overwhelmed by losses in her new marriage. But there was more of God to know and He had bigger dreams.

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When Grief Keeps Going: Rachel Faulkner-Brown

With Rachel Faulkner-Brown
April 26, 2023
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Dave: I feel like we're in a Netflix series and we’ve watched part one and part two and we can't wait to sit down tonight and watch and hear and listen to part three.

Ann: I know; talk about like drama, real life, hard things, but also inspiring things.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at or on the FamilyLife® app.

Dave: This is FamilyLife—

Ann: —Today!

Dave: If you've been journeying with us the last two days—and if you haven't, I'm just telling you, you should go back to part one, day one, day two—I think you're on the edge of your seat like we are because we're sitting back here with Rod and Rachel Brown who are back in the studio. We can't ask you to tell your story all over again, but we'll just say welcome back.

Rachel & Rod: Thank you.

Dave: The short version would be Rachel was married twice and both husbands died. And again, listeners, you went ‘What?!” Go listen, incredible heartfelt story and now—

Ann: And you had two children: a boy and a girl—

Rachel: Yes, two kids: a boy and a girl.

Ann: —with your second marriage.

Dave: Yes, and they were six and four years old. Now, you're married to Rod, who's sitting here.

Ann: Which was a pretty sweet, romantic—

Rachel: Oh, totally.

Ann: —kind of story of how you met, got together was pretty remarkable.

Dave: Yes, honestly when you were telling that yesterday, I did not see where it was going to turn. Even though I've read through your book, I don't remember hearing this part, so I'm like, “Wow, this is awesome. You're married. You've got your man.” And then you talk about the struggle with anger and depression. So that's where we were yesterday.

Ann: Well, now you're in a long-term struggle in a marriage.

Rachel: Yes. Oh yes.

Ann: Which is very different from what you've experienced before. We brought you in to talk about your book, His Name: Our Hope in Grief, and we barely skimmed the surface—

Rachel: That’s okay.

Ann: —of the book because your story's been riveting and seeing God at work in both of you.

Dave: Yes, so can you catch us up a little bit about: okay, you're now married. Was this struggle with depression for you, Rod, and some of your anger, Rachel, was that like year one?

Rod: Yes.

Dave: And it hit pretty hard and pretty fast.

Rod: Yes, I mean, I could feel it underlying, but I just did not know what it was until, you know, October when we were at this retreat serving together. And then I'm just finding myself unable to do something very simple. You know it was almost—

Ann: Like what?

Rod: We were actually making a pancake breakfast. I ran Chick-fil-As for two or three years of my life, and I could be in the kitchen and be doing, you know, 16 things all at once and do everything and here I was struggling to do this one thing. That's kind of when I was like, “You know, something's really wrong with me. I think, besides just feeling this unusual feeling day after day after day. I'm just kind of like the walls are closing in on me.”

Rachel: And I don't know that taking your newly blended family on a mission trip is like the greatest idea. [Laughter] Like, you know, six months into marriage but—

Ann: And your kids were how old?

Rachel: Oh, they were five and seven.

Rod: Five and seven.

Rachel: We were like, “This is the greatest idea we've ever had.” Rod was like, “I've always wanted to take my family.” And honestly, we had a great time and our kids for years said that was their favorite vacation. We were like, “Well, that was anything but a vacation. Let me just remind you.”

Ann: Rachel, you said yesterday, you're trying to cover this up for the kids—

Rachel: Yes; oh, totally.

Ann: —knowing that Rod’s going through this struggle of anxiety and because you're trying to protect them because they've already lost their dad.

Rachel: Oh yes. Well, and I did not want them to see or own that we caused this because I know how sensitive kids can be. And when they're like “Something is wrong with Dad,” and “Did we do that?” You know, we’d just gotten married, and they were so excited to have a dad. I really did want to protect Rod. As angry as I was, I didn't want that to spill over. The spill is real, as we all know, with illness in your family but it was this hopelessness to it. I'm not going to lie. In sickness and health, is that going to be like, there's not going to be any health?

Ann: Like, is this my new normal?

Rachel: Oh yes and I mean, I wanted—on my worst day, I wanted out. I'm not going to lie. I mean, I was just like, “I want to quit this” because we, me and the kids, we had it pretty good, you know? And that's marriage. I mean, it's like a single woman with two kids and we were kind of living our best life and this was like upsetting the apple cart, like big time.

I mentioned yesterday before we left that the Lord sat me down and really taught me the power of communion so as I broke the bread—because I will tell you I really think that so many wives and husbands impede each other's healing with unforgiveness, and I think forgiveness is the route that unlocks marriages. It unlocks futures. It unlocks healing. It unlocks identity because we hold things, and the body keeps score. And I was—

Dave: Now, had you told Rod? I mean, was this something you verbalize, “I'm mad. I'm mad at God. I'm sort of mad at you.”

Rachel: Yes, you know, I—

Rod: Well, I could see it. I could definitely see it.

Ann: And you said you felt shamed.

Rod: Oh, yes, tons of it.

Rachel: Yes, judgment and shame, like we're having a baby in our house and just perpetuating, I mean, my judgement and pride and like, “I didn't struggle with this, and I've lost two husbands.” Like “Get yourself together.” That's what people who have not struggled with depression, that's what they think. Just “Can you just like get over yourself” and that is not helpful. And I was being anything but helpful and probably a little passive aggressive. I mean, I'm sure a little bit of the silent treatment. Like “I just, I can't deal with you.”

Dave: I see Rod shaking his head yes. Usually when somebody says a little passive aggressive, [Laughter] it's a lot more than what you think. Is that what you were feeling that was happening a little bit?

Rod: Yes, and at the same time, I think that I choose to move past that time, so I don't really try to remember it in details. I just know there was so many new things, you know, learning to become a father. I mean, the kids were calling me Dad and, you know, they loved me before. I mean, Campbell, our daughter, like the first day I met her, she started calling me Dad, which was, you know, five months before we got married. The day we're getting married, Davis is up there with us and he—you know, the guy’s/pastor’s praying over us and he's just like “Thank you, Mr. Rod. Thank you, Mr. Rod” because I'm marrying his mom, going to be his dad.

So, you know, I just have these precious children in my life and a woman that I'm so excited to be married to.

Ann: And a weightiness.

Rod: Yes, yes, there was weightiness and then, you know you're learning to communicate with your spouse. I mean we’d been in two different states, so you're learning her personality is very different than mine. Our upbringings are very different, so you're learning to navigate all that. Now I'm a father. She's been the mom to them for years.

One of the early conversations we had, because I'd seen this go wrong with friends, I said, “Hey, I'm not going to discipline them for at least six months” and “I'm not going to like demand they call me Dad or”—you know they were already doing that. But I was just like, “I'm not going to demand any of those things. I really want to come in as, you know, as a supporter of yours and get to know the kids and just develop this relationship.” Because for so many other people I'd seen, it was like coming in and now I'm the dad and, you know, demanding these things. I'm like, “I don't want to demand anything. I want to grow in love with them and become that; that they'll want to have that type of relationship.”

We actually went to a blended family retreat, Ron Deal.

Ann: Yes.

Rod: He was saying it takes what seven, eight, nine years. She's like, “That's not going to be our story. We're not/it's not going to take us that long.”

Rachel: I was a blender. I was not a crock pot, okay? I was like, “I just refuse to partner with that. Like, we are different.”

Ann: I remember I heard Ron share that and so I've shared that with blended families, and they're shocked and angry. Like “It cannot take that long.”

Rod: Yes.

Rachel: I know, and it takes every bit of that plus.

Rod: Yes, it just takes time. I mean, I think children are different and that relationship with them is different so with a father and son, it might take less time than a father and daughter.

For Campbell and I, it took a little bit longer, but the last five, six years have been amazing. But, you know, there was some stuff going on before that—of her at some point wrestling with the grief of her father, who she never really knew. And all of a sudden when she started grieving that, she didn't know like, “How do I love him and love Rod? I don't know how to do that.” And so around 10 years old she was really confused of, you know, “How do I do both of these?” And “I don't know that I'm going to call you Dad because I have a dad already.” And, you know, some of the things that are heartbreaking.

At the same time, I was just so excited that she shared them out loud and that we could start working through that, which was very fast once she started admitting it. It was a like fast journey back to a beautiful place, but it—

Ann: And let's say also, you have a high-pressure job that you're doing on top of that as well.

Rod: Yes, yes.

Ann: —and ministry.

Rod: Right, and it was changing a lot. I think I would tell you—I know you've been kind of sharing some advice—I would say anytime you're in trouble in anything—and I was in a lot of trouble in those months, whether it be asking for help parenting, asking for help at my job, friends, whatever. Just ask for help, ask for help, ask for help. I'm so grateful that my pride didn't get in the way of that because it easily could have; but I'm so glad it didn't.

Ann: Okay, Rachel, let's go back to are you in your house alone—

Rachel: Yes.

Ann: —as you're about to do communion?

Rachel: Yes. My mother-in-law was going to come over and I told her she couldn't come. I was like, “I can't see the Brown family this day. I was just—you know it was kind of like the tip of the iceberg for me this day. The Lord sat me down. I just was in my own quiet time doing what I do, and it just became apparent to me that that I was in judgment and pride against Rod.

I tell women this all the time because I do think forgiveness is just such a key—you know, it's such the key to the door that we all wish we could open so many times, but we're just not willing to admit. It was certainly that for me. When I took communion that day, I broke the body. I just went and got a cracker—and I don't even think it was grape juice. I didn't have any—and I broke the body. It was like, “I'm breaking this for Rod's body to be healed and for you to be healed and for you to extend healing to Rod.” I just remember like really seeing Jesus on the cross with the crown of thorns on His head.

I truly believe for anybody who's experiencing depression and anxiety, like really focusing on the crown of thorns being pressed on His head because there was something about like Brad's brain was being just pressed. I just think Jesus took all that with the crown on his head for depression, for anxiety, for all these things He was bloodied and so that was like the thing. I just saw myself extending forgiveness to Rod, extending forgiveness to myself for the judgment and the pride that I'd had, and then just, you know drinking, and just really assuming that forgiveness for myself, forgiving Rod's body.

I mean it was just this mashup of all the things that I'd really missed in communion. I just never fully understood it. And to much has been forgiven to much you want to forgive. And after that, I think it was like that moment where I just released him to heal and just stopped kind of holding him in contempt. I think as wives we can do that, and our oneness creates that. You know, and so that just freedom for Rod to heal, freedom for my judgment, freedom for my pride, freedom for my unforgiveness. I don't think—there was a walking out of it, as with anything, but it was definitely—

Then I went and prayed with a woman. A friend invited me to go have prayer on this little/this little cottage in Milton, probably about a month after Lighthouse family retreat when he really had his breakdown. At this prayer session—which I didn't want to be at, and I never have been to anything like this—and she looked at me and she was like “Rachel Brown”—and she was like/she opened her Bible, and she didn't know me at all. She looked at me and she was like “The picture I see is a crocus coming up out of a winter snow.” She was like, “Has your life been really hard?” It was like God himself said, “Rachel, I see your life's been hard.”

I still go back to that day because just as much as all of us have been through hard things you just want to know that God knows, you know? And you know that He knows but yet you don't know. You know what I mean? It's like, “Does He see me?” Like “This has really sucked.” I mean, “Does He see how sad this has made me to have Rod so sick?” I'm deep in it at this point and I start like dry heave crying. There were two other people in the room that knew my story and they were crying with me because it was like she said, “The God of the universe knows your heart.”

Ann: And sees you.

Rachel: Then she said, “You will declare the goodness of God before the nations,” and I knew it was true. I was not in ministry at this point. I mean, I'm like just a mom with a depressed husband in Milton, Georgia and two kids, but I knew. I knew I had a story to tell. I knew, I knew God was calling me into this life, and that's when I started Be Still [ministries]. It was about six months later.

Ann: Wow!

Dave: Rod, how did you dig out? I mean, did you sense—

Ann: —a change?

Dave: —a change in Rachel towards you and did that help?

Rod: Yes, definitely. I mean, I don't know exactly when the timing of it, but I definitely remember a switch. I think some great counseling, some great truth, us learning how to communicate with each other better, and I was actually on some medication for probably 26, 27 months at the time. Even when it came time, I couldn't even—at some point I told Rachel, you know, on the medications, like “I'd be fine staying on this the rest of my life. I mean, if I need to be on medication, I'm okay with that.” But I knew that I wasn't fully experiencing life. I think there was a tad dull on it. And so, I just, you know, talk to my doctor about getting off and I never, you know, I didn't have any problems getting off. And so—

Rachel: —slowly.

Rod: —yes, slowly. Yes, so it's been, probably been six and a half years, I guess, something like that—you know, maybe seven, but at least six and a half.

Rachel: Now you get to help men who are in the same situation.

Rod: Right, yes.

Rachel: It's like so hard for men to talk about because it's embarrassing. And, you know, a lot of times they're suicidal.

Rod: Can't tell you how many men I've talked to who have expressed that, you know, whether it be anxiety or depression or early in marriage or about to get married and having a bunch of things. It's just amazing how many people/somebody will tell somebody—I won't even know the person—they'll “Hey, I've referred this guy to you. Is it okay if he calls you?” Yes, and so many pastors too, you know,

Ann: And we’re living in silence and darkness and when it's there, Satan can have a heyday with us personally in our marriages. People have really surrounded you guys and helped you as you are now helping so many.

Rachel: Yes. Well, and on our retreats, on our widows’ retreats, we take 20 women on the small retreats, and I would say of those 20, 25 percent are suicides. It's a rampant problem and you cannot heal outside of community. As the nation becomes more disconnected, I do think it is a symptom of a disconnected people, world. I think for us it's just like staying connected to people and being honest. Like vulnerability is where it's at. To me there's just—you know, hiding is the most miserable place ever. And yes, I'm just so thankful for Rod; that he was able to heal and able to heal to a place to help others. You know, that's the most amazing part of healing is: how can I learn from this and how can I help others?

Rod: Right.

Dave: I mean, you've been married ten years now.

Rod: Ten years.

Rachel: Professionals.

Dave: So that was all year one-ish.

Rachel: Yes.

Rod: Yes, that was in the first five months.

Dave: So that's—it's been a while.

Rachel: Yes, it’s been a while.

Dave: What's it like now? What's your marriage? How has this impacted the kids? How's the family?

Rod: You know, I mean, maybe one day we get/I get to talk with kids and see if they even noticed anything.

Dave: Really, really.

Rod: I have talked to both of them in the last year just because I feel like our, my son is old enough for him, you know, so I've shared things with him. And then something happened with our daughter this fall that kind of, I felt like, opened the door for me to share a little more with her, but I'm really not sure to this day how impacted.

But I know for us, I just feel like we have grown for sure. I can say for sure every year since then we've grown together more closely as we have really more owned our identity, I think more and more every year—just learned how to support each other.

I mean, that's why I feel like my role is in this ministry: What can I do to support her? What kind of—you know, is it folding chairs? Is it speaking at a fundraiser? Is it—I was on her board for the first few years just to, you know, I've been on board of other ministries but wanted to come on, but I also wanted to get off as soon as possible. Just because it's hers, you know, and you know family being on the board. I just—I really want but I did that for a few years, so I feel like my role with her ministry is just like introduce people, talk to people, you know whatever she needs. I just want to help her in all of those things—if it's taking care of the kids for the retreat, whatever it is. My role with her is supporter in Be Still [ministries –], never alone and all those kinds of things.

But in marriage, I feel like we get a better all the time.

Rachel: Yes, we do.

Rod: We understand each other better all the time. We laugh about what we used to, would cry and yell about. [Laughter] We can now just like—our different personality we know each other. It's just fun to be able to really trust each other. And the trust took a long time—

Rachel: It did.

Rod: —to really go “I believe in your advice and your wisdom” and then I think for both—you know both ways. You know it took us a while.

Rachel: Yes, Shelley Giglio posted probably four years ago, “Don't be afraid to love the hardest.” Oh, I mean, I'm telling you what, like, you know you just live by statements that you hear other people say. Like whatever you want to call those, mantras, whatever. I remember it just pierced my heart because I was just like, “I never want to be afraid to love the hardest.” I feel like we've lost financially—you know, a person that was very close to us that stole from a lot of us. We just checked our daughter out of a residential treatment program for an eating disorder in December. And that was, you know, the hardest thing I've ever done except losing two husbands. It was worse. It was exponentially worse. We did it well.

Rod: We did.

Rachel: I feel like we weather well. I think one of the big things for me is I just, I just realized that you know, when you sign up and when you surrender, you know life is just going to be probably pretty hard. And when you can just get to that place where you're like “Life is hard and yet all of these beautiful things are happening to me and life is still hard,” you know, and Rod and I are at that place. I don't think there's anything that we couldn't go through. And yet I know that, you know, we're doing it and we're just laying our children at His feet because we—truly they're not ours.

Ann: It's hard to do that it, isn't it?

Rachel: It is so hard but we're learning it on another level and everything that we go through is for us to learn and to give away to others and you know our kids, I tell them, “Your pain is your superpower.”

Ann: Yes.

Rachel: It is—all of our pain—collectively, all of our pain is our superpower. I look at the Gospels and I'm like “Their lives just weren't easy at all.” [Laughter] So I'm kind of like, “Why would we think ours is going to be easy?” But I'm glad I get to do it with Rod.

Shelby: Hi, I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Rachel Faulkner Brown and Rod Brown on FamilyLife Today. You know, it might seem to a degree that Rachel's story is all wrapped up with a bow, but we know that's not the case. And she and Rod know that that's not true either. Destinations in the Christian life are rarely what satisfy us, but often what we look for, because a relationship with God in the good and the bad in the process is just as important, if not more so, than the actual destinations.

Well, Rachel has helped us to see that, and she's written a book called His Name: Our Hope in Grief. This is a book that we believe in so much that we want to send a copy to you as our thanks when you give today. FamilyLife Today is a donor supported ministry and it would not exist without the dedication of our FamilyLife partners. We wholeheartedly appreciate you if you give.

And if you have yet to join us, we'd love it if you'd consider partnering with us today. And when you do, again, as our thanks, we're going to send you a copy of Rachel Faulkner- Brown's book called His Name. You could partner with us financially today at, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. That could be a one-time gift or a recurring monthly gift. Again, the number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Alright, let's hear more from everyone to be encouraged about what we often fail to remember.

Ann: You guys are such a light.

Rod: Thank you.

Ann: You're such an inspiration.

Dave: Yes, thanks.

Ann: Your realness, your honesty, your story, but your surrender to Jesus continually has been just so empowering to all of us. And you guys, our listeners, you're going to want to get this book.

Dave: I'll just say—

Ann: Yes, it’s so good.

Dave: —you know, as I read through it—

Ann: It's a devotional.

Rachel: Yes, it is.

Dave: —it reminded me of what I often forget. Your story does but just as you go through: He's our peace. He provides. He's Yahweh. He's the Great I Am. I mean, it's just a reminder that we all need to lay our foundation on this is who He is. We're not alone. He is seeing us. He is with us, and He will provide.

Rachel: Yes, He will.

Rod: He will.

Rachel: He has.

Shelby: Coming up tomorrow on FamilyLife Today is our very own the man: the myth, the legend himself, Bob Lepine. He's going to be talking to us about forgiveness in marriage, resolving conflict, and seeing patterns in our marriage that aren't healthy, that we need to bring to the Lord. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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