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Redefining Happiness: Embracing Joy in the Midst of Grief

Episode 14- Living in abundant joy and unspeakable grief with Brooke Fuller

Redefining Happiness: Embracing Joy in the Midst of Grief

Is it possible to be living joyfully while grieving? My guest on todays Podcast shares her incredible story of living with love and loss. We met them at a brain injury facility where her husband Zack was my Dad’s room mate.

Zack and Brooke with their 3 daughters, after brain injury
The Fuller Family

How the Fuller family began

Zack and Brooke on their wedding day

My guest Brooke married her hunky Jesus Guy and soul mate Zack, she shares their beautiful joyful story of, finding the one her heart loves with us on the Podcast. We talk about the vow “in sickness and in health”, how there is no way she was even close prepared for what that meant.

They had their first Baby Girl Charley and were ecstatic. Truly not taking any moment for granted.

Zack and Brooke with Baby Charley before the brain injury
Baby Charley was born about a year and a half before Zack got sick

Then one day he just got sick

Brooke shares how they were just doing life, serving in their church with the youth group. Zack was an active healthy young Dad and Husband who played guitar leading worship and tried any daredevil thing he could.

Then he started having headaches, blurred vision amongst some other sudden symptoms. They continued trying to live life but Zack proceeded to get worse.

Within two weeks he couldn’t, walk his speech was completely slurred, his eyes were bouncing back and forth and he was starting to say things that were completely off.

Their local hospital couldn’t figure out what was happening and they continued to try and get answers. Finally the hospital recommended going to a bigger hospital where they finally got some answers.

At the hospital it was difficult to get answers
It was a while before they realized what was happening with Zack

The diagnoses

It turned out his cerebellum was enflamed because of something called “Castleman’s Disease”. Instead of his body fighting the castle-mens it attacked his brain. By the time they figured out what was happening and removed the Castleman’s it had already given him a sustained brain injury.

Every brain injury is different, even though my Dad and Zack were room mates they were still different in terms of some of their challenges.

Therapy slowly but surely started helping Zack they spent the whole summer near him staying in an RV park
Brooke, Zack and Charley

Brooke stayed in an RV park near the brain injury facility all summer long before having to go back to work as a teacher in the fall.

One thing I noticed right away when I met them was how sweetly she talked about her hubby, and how much she championed him to their daughter Charley. They called him “Daddo”, and despite his lack of ability to reciprocate her or Charley’s affections she kept on.

Our families found so much comfort in the fact that we are all believers, it was so sweet of the Lord to bring us all together.

At the Brain injury facility they lived in an apartment with a therapist who spent day and night re teaching them how to do normal everyday life things, on top of daily therapies specified to their particular brain injury.

They say after a certain period someone with a brain injury won’t get any better, thankfully that wasn’t God’s plan…

Their marriage is precious and it's evident by his smile in this photo of her kissing Zack
You can have joy despite grief

Coming home

Brooke resolved to do her best to make sure Zack was eating well, and getting exercise and therapy, once he came home and it became a bit too difficult to get to the brain injury facility. She worked with him and he worked hard to. The changes were not overnight but slowly by slowly bits and pieces were starting to come back.

Zack climbed a mountain with the help of arm crutches and his wife
With the help of Brooke and his arm canes Zack climbed a mountain

I live everyday right next to my source of both joy and grief.

Zack is a determined man and competed in the Spartan race with the help of his team
Zack participated in the Spartan race with some help from his team

Growing family

Brooke and Zack had always wanted at least 4 children. While many might have assumed he could no longer have them, that definitely wasn’t the case.

Their second baby went to be with Jesus before being born, which was such a hard thing especially after going through so much. She got rid of all of her baby stuff and then found out she was pregnant again!

They had Juniper and then Marigold which makes 3 babies here on earth.

Brain injury or not they made a choice to keep living and pursuing their dreams.

a picture of a sweet family walking fully in grief and in joy

I’ve experienced deep well of grief and that is the same well I feel joy.


Grief and Joy simultaneously

While there have been some wins it has been a long road. Zack is not the same man he was when they got married. Their marriage is not the same marriage it was when they got married. Brooke shares very honestly when she is having a hard day, and very honestly when it’s an amazing day.

I think our society is uncomfortable with grief. As Brooke says “we want to fix each other, and I can’t be fixed”.

Usually at the beginning of a tragedy people surround you with a lot of support, eventually people want you to get better and be happy. But truly grief like this never leaves it just changes over time.

I believe we need to give people the space and grace to grieve. Is it uncomfortable? Yes. Will you say the wrong thing? It’s possible. Will you say the right thing? It’s possible.

Brooke wants people to know, the same well she experiences grief is the same well God fills with joy. You can’t have deep joy without having experienced deep grief.

How and why we should approach grief different

It’s not an easy thing for people to hear. And yet I believe this should bring us great hope that those around us who are grieving can experience joy again and at the same time as their grief grows and changes over the years. Jesus told us we would experience trials in this life, but promised us that He has overcome the world. What does this mean?

This means that while here on earth we will walk through hard things, certainly more than we can handle on our own. The good news is that Jesus came to offer us Salvation and a relationship with Him for eternity. As we walk with Him and get to know Him, we will learn more about His character and learn to trust Him more and more. He promises to walk with us when we can’t do it on our own. This earthly body we have is a temporary one, and when we enter eternity with Him there will be no more pain or sorrow.

Caroline with Brooke at a women of faith conference
My Mom, Sisters and I all ran into Brooke at a Christian women’s conference the same year we met at the brain injury facility

I’m going to end with Brooke’s favorite scripture. This grounds her and gives her hope because nobody and no circumstance can snatch her out of God’s Hands.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine…

Song of Songs 6:3a

(You can read here my interview on Widowhood and how my guest Laurel has been walking through with Jesus)

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