Rose Crabtree

Rose Crabtree leads a GriefShare group at North County Christ the King Church. (Bill Helm/Lynden Tribune)

LYNDEN — Losing a loved one can be emotionally crippling.

Rose Crabtree was a young woman when she lost her brother. It took her decades to forgive the one she blamed for his death.

Crabtree and her husband lived across from her brother’s farm. She was only 23.

“I received a phone call in the evening that my brother was dead,” Crabtree said. “I was immediately enraged. Unable to hardly say a word. Our minister was there, and I asked why. I truly have no idea what he said, as my anger was so consuming, I was unable to hear.  How could God allow my brother to die and leave four small children without a father? Within a few weeks I left the church. Why would I bother to go when I could not trust God any longer?”

Eventually, Crabtree would raise children of her own. God-fearing children.

“Both my daughters became women with faith in the Lord Jesus,” Crabtree said. “My daughter invited us to watch our son-in-law play the drums in a worship band. Of course, we supported our kids to the max and went to watch. Only to never stop attending.”

But it wasn’t until Christmas Eve 2001 when Crabtree forgave herself – and forgave God.

“Pastor Kim at the end of every message asked us to bow our head and close our eyes and if any wanted to commit to Jesus, they could raise their hand,” Crabtree recalled. “I always respected everyone’s privacy and kept my eyes closed until … I opened my eyes to see my husband’s hand go up. My excuses were gone. I followed in February with giving my all to Jesus.”


At 10 a.m. Saturdays, Rose Crabtree and Laurie Palmer lead a GriefShare group at North County Christ the King Church, 1816 18th St. Rose found that by helping others deal with their pain and their loss, she also helps herself.

“In 2010, we were going to retire,” Rose said of she and her husband. “So the question came up: what would get me out of bed each morning?”

Crabtree had decided to volunteer with hospice before she became involved with grief counseling. 

“We stopped working in March and hospice would not teach a new class until fall, so I noticed that church had this GriefShare class so thought I’d go and learn what happened after someone died and then when I did hospice I’d know before and after,” she said.

But Crabtree never ended up volunteering with hospice. It wasn’t long after seeking grief counseling that Crabtree began co-leading a GriefShare group. Her co-facilitator, Palmer came to GriefShare three years ago as a participant after the loss of her father.

“Rose helped me realize that no two people grieve the same way,” Palmer said. “Grief is different for each and every person going through it. As Rose’s co-leader for GriefShare, I have learned even more from her about grief and that it is a journey one must take to heal. Rose is an effective leader who listens and communicates with her heart. She spreads words of hope for all GriefShare participants to hear.”

‘Not alone’

For 10 years, Randy Watts co-led a grief share group with Crabtree. Mourning the loss of two miscarriages and then the loss of his marriage, Watts said that GriefShare “allowed me to share and grieve in a way I previously couldn’t”

“Rose helped me know I wasn’t alone,” he said. “She was able to listen, not judge. She allowed the group to help each other to move forward. It became group healing.”

Although the healing process is not entirely resolved in GriefShare, the program does give people the tools.

A woman known as Edie attended the GriefShare program after her husband had died unexpectedly.

“My world as I knew it was shattered,” Edie said. “I felt broken inside even as I went about daily activities and the business that needed to be taken care of.”

For Edie, GriefShare was a “safe space where leaders and participants alike share the common bond of a life altering loss.”

“Each week we watched a video and worked through a lesson that helped me move forward with the understanding that the journey would often feel like an obstacle course,” she said. “It helped me realize that all of those feelings were normal, that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and that there is no appropriate timeline for grieving. I am so grateful that GriefShare was available at a really dark time in my life.”

Letting go

At her first GriefShare class not even five minutes, Crabtree knew “that this class was meant for me.”

“I was able to let go of the anger I carried for so long,” she said. “It was so freeing. I understood that although I still to this day do not know the why, I no longer need that answer. God/Jesus is enough. I trust that all will and does work for good to those who believe.”