My husband has only been dead for two years. He died August 13, 2014. But really I have been living under emotional stress for about three years. He was diagnosed in late July of 2013. I have had a lot to sort and work through emotionally, spiritually, and mentally with the Lord. Cancer and death has pushed and challenged my faith and confidence in a God who could still be loving and comforting in such traumatic circumstances.
I wanted to share and record my second year of reflections. I hope this helps and encourages other people who are faced with grief or hitting a rough spot in life:
One: Do what works for you! A lot of people suggested I join a grief support group or widows group. To me, the introvert me felt it would have been too much. After his death I only had the energy to process my grief not everyone else’s. I chose to continue counseling, to only meet with safe people who got grieving, and to give myself lots of grace when I needed to take things slower or do things at my pace.
Two years later, I just joined a Young Widows group (widows under 50) on FB and I felt because I have grieved well I can handle reading and processing others grief now. I’m glad I waited because now I feel I can really objectively and wisely contribute and come alongside people who have gone through losing a spouse much better.
Two: The reason why grief, especially when you were married, is hard is because your lives were so entwined and every single aspect of your life and routine revolved around that person.When someone dies it is like this awkward and uncomfortable dance of the mind being constantly reminded of the past and how things use to be and is now faced with the cold wake up call of the present and having to compare the two all the time.
I have been reading a book called The Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson, (highly recommend it) and it talks about how we respond to present circumstances usually goes back to our past. It also talks about how ultimately the past and the future technically don’t exist. Not to say the past didn’t exist or there is no future, but the only thing we can control is the present. I have been taking this in and connecting that to what happens when a person of grief must re-learn how to deal with life without a loved one in the present. For example, when my son got sick my husband and I would work out a game plan and a way to care for him together. Since most children medicines ware off after 4 hours we would come up with a game plan where my husband would get up during the first 4 hours when the medicine was due so I could sleep. And the next 4 hours after that I would wake up and my husband would sleep. So, when my son got sick for the first time since Ben died I realized that I was the only one getting up every 4 hours to give my son medicine. That is a lot to take in. In those kind of moments I had to realize and acknowledge Ben was really gone and it made me miss sharing the getting well game plan with him. So, when you are faced with current circumstances your loved ones absence is being beat over your head and flooding your emotions because you have to re-learn how to live and a way to solve your problems without them there.
Three: As I look at how other widows are handling grieving I have begun to realize how important it is to grieve and connect to Jesus as we grieve the death of our loved ones. When people think of grieving in a healthy way they talk about feeling all you need to feel and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Which I totally agree with. However, I still find and read about how widows who have followed this advice to the letter and still feel as if it their husband died yesterday 9 years later. There is something missing. I don’t know how to quite put connecting to Jesus into words because there is nothing more healing then experiencing it for yourself. I will try explain it the best I can.
When I get hit with grief I start to pray to the Lord to connect and have a conversation with me in that moment. Each situation is different but this is the basics of what I do:
1. I ask where He is. He speaks to everyone differently (words, images, verses, actual feeling God’s presence or comfort, ect) but he speaks to me in images for the most part. I usually see him holding my hand or hugging me or stroking my hair or rocking me like a parent would a little child.
2. I then ask, “God what is that I need to get from this moment? Is this a moment to be embraced by You? Is this a moment where I need to hear His truth about my self worth or what he thinks of me? If it’s a moment where someone says something that is not helpful or tearing me down I ask for protection from the Lord and ask what my heart needs instead. If I am with someone when I’m hit with grief, especially if they say something that is not helpful to me in my grieving journey, I go through the above process and then go onto these things
3. Where are you with the person I am interacting with. Is this person hurting? Is this person telling me something that is aligned with Your Heart?
4. Is there something the other person needs? To be listened to? To hear Your truth? To feel your comfort?
I have found the more that I invite God into my grieving process and daily life it is so healing because he is the one who knows what my heart and other people’s hearts need.
Four: God made all of us to live in community. A huge part of my healing this second year has been within community. Community is not perfect but we all need it. We need people around us who can call us out when we are believing lies about ourselves, to keep us staying close to the Lord and seeking Him, to be physically there. There are times when I wish I could be held in the arms of the Lord physically. And I find it so healing and so comforting to be hugged by a friend or family member when I am hurting or having a bad day. I do think that is why the church is suppose to be the body of Christ. The disciples had Jesus in the flesh but today we have one another (like Jesus) in the flesh to minister and to hopefully love like he did. When in a healthy community seeking the Lord and His heart together it can be a beautiful thing. Being in a good community helps remind you that all we go through, good and bad, is experienced together. We are not alone. Knowing we are not alone doesn’t take away the pain or the grief but it does encourage and uplift our hearts and gives us hope that we don’t have to take on the world or experience life by ourselves.
In summary, I cannot change my husband dying (past) so young or the traumatic things we had to go through, but I can decide to walk the present with the Lord.
A quote that is in my living room and my kitchen says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” When I read that I get this image of dancing with the Lord and with community around me hand in hand. Dance expresses: anger, sadness, grief, happiness, joy, frustration, and so on. To be totally honest and real before the Lord and community as we live life together is something so powerful and so liberating and so healing and so comforting. Losing a loved one alters our lives forever but with the Lord and community it is not the ending of ours it is only the start of a new chapter to walk with the Lord and others.