When Nikki DeLoach showed up on set to film her new Hallmark movie, “The Gift of Peace,” she says she was still “stuck in grief” following the July 2021 death of her father. Though she knew she’d be starring on-camera as a woman dealing with the grief of losing her husband, she never expected the healing that would take place behind the scenes for her and other members of the cast. DeLoach has opened up about the experience in advance of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries premiere on December 10, 2022.
Nikki DeLoach Says She & Her Castmates Faced Their Own Grief Together During Filming
In “The Gift of Peace,” which is part of Hallmark’s faith-based Dayspring film catalog, DeLoach plays an artist named Traci who was a once-devout Christian but stopped believing in God after her husband tragically died. As her second Christmas without him and an important art gallery event get closer, she decides to join a grief support group, hoping to find some peace and rediscover her creative spark. Hallmark fan-favorite Brennan Elliot co-stars as one of the members of the group, along with Princess Davis, Cardi Wong and Beverley Elliott.
During a December 5 interview on San Francisco station KRON’s “Live in the Bay” program, DeLoach revealed that as the circle of five connected on set and worked through the subject matter of the film, they found themselves processing and healing some of their own personal grief together.
“It was one of those situations where, you know, art imitates life…life imitates art,” she said. “In this grief support group, there’s five of us in it and three of us were actively moving through grief.”
DeLoach explained that in addition to her still reeling over her dad’s death, Brennan Elliott was dealing with the “anticipatory grief” of his wife’s ongoing cancer battle and future health hurdles, and another member of the group had just lost their stepfather weeks prior to shooting the film.
“We were all really in it together,” DeLoach said. “And what I learned through that is that I finally began to start processing. We would all, even between takes, start sharing our stories with each other of our loved ones.”
“And something opened up,” she continued. “Something lightened up inside of me. I began to find some joy again. I began to laugh, I began to start celebrating life again. Like, little by little, I just started inching forward. And we all found that together. So it was just such a beautiful experience of us all being brought together to do this movie, but we were all transformed at the end of it on a very personal level.”
Nikki DeLoach Offers Advice to Those Moving Through Their Own Grief
Although DeLoach feels that the unexpected gift of processing her grief with her castmates made a “giant difference” in her life, she told KRON’s Olivia Horton that there’s no right way to go through loss.
“I have a couple pieces of advice and one of them is just…you’ve got to give yourself a lot of grace,” she said. “You’ve got to give yourself a lot of mercy and know that grief is not linear.”
DeLoach continued, “You know, I am an A-plus student. I bought all the books when I knew that my dad was passing on, like ‘I’m gonna be the best griever that ever did grieve!’ Right? And ohhh, it was like being run over by a truck every single day. I did not know what I was doing. All the books were thrown out the window.”
The actress, who just signed a multi-picture contract with Hallmark, said her biggest learning was that grief comes in waves and phases that can’t be predicted.
“So you really have to give yourself a lot of grace, you have to be gentle,” she explained. “Don’t say yes to all the things that you were used to saying yes to. Really sit and go ‘Do I have the energy for that? Do I have the capacity for that?'”
DeLoach, whose two sons with husband Ryan Goodell are ages nine and five, said she’s also found comfort and purpose in leading her life the way her dad did and would want her to.
“I have infused him into the way that I parent, the way that I love people. My dad was such a nurturer. He had such a big heart. He was the best dad on the planet. He was so good and kind to people. So I’ve just really embodied him in all that I do, and it has kept him alive inside of me and helped me to actually feel him.”
DeLoach also advised that those experiencing loss of any kind seek out support, whether that be in a grief group with strangers or by reaching out to friends and family.
The actress also discussed her approach to grief and the new movie on a new episode of the “Christopher Closeup” podcast, and explained how common it is to question your faith when you experience loss.
“When you go through traumatic loss, it’s normal for you to ask why, and for you to question the existence of God,” she said. “If there is a God, why did this incredible person have to be taken? One thing we touch upon in the movie is that commentary of, ‘Why did God do this to me? Why did God take him?’ God doesn’t take anyone or anything from us. That’s not how God works…But what God offers is a way to get back to the joy, to the peace, to the love, to hope. That is what God offers inside of the pain, inside of the grief.”
“The Gift of Peace” premieres on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on December 10 at 10 pm Eastern and Pacific as part of the network’s “Miracles of Christmas” programming.