August 9, 2015: Reflections and Next Steps After Letting God Comfort You

I am coming up really close to the one year mark of Ben being dead for a year. I wish I could have journaled more because I feel I have learned and grieved so much. Also, a lot has happened since my last entry in July. So, I thought I would just type bullet point paragraphs of what I have learned and experienced this first year:

  1.  I am not sure what the second year of grieving will hold but I do know that this first year of grieving has included many raw emotions. There have been many weddings, bridal showers, and parties I have wanted to go to, and I was able to go to some,  but most the time my emotional grief has been too much at times. Not, that I am trying to ignore or run from seeing people but my heart can only handle so much at times. Going back into social circles is very painful. It is painful to see all my friends with their healthy husbands, or friends that I had planned to have my second kid around the same time with, or seeing my friends being loved on by their husbands or significant others. I am happy for them but my heart grieves and misses being loved and being with my best friend.
  2. One of the first parts of my grieving was to just let whatever I was feeling OUT! Whether that was sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, ect. But the most important part to that process was letting God be WITH me (Emmanuel) in that process. Like I mentioned in my previous post, it doesn’t exactly “fix” the hurt or replace the person we are grieving, it is letting our needs be met and cared for. The reason I needed to let God into my grief is because number one, my emotions matter and being cared for and comforted is something God wants and longs to do. Number two, when I grieve with Jesus I give him an open door to speaking to me and to see the situation more clearly. He is able to see the whole picture, I can only see part of it.
  3. The second big half of my healing is learning how to praise him after I have worked through my emotions.  I think so many times I have read and seen first hand that when people’s loved ones die they try to bypass all the pain or sadness and go straight to praising God or seeing the positive. While it is good to praise God or see the positive it is ESSENTIAL to give ourselves the freedom to feel the negative FIRST. I think David, from the Bible, was a man after God’s own heart not because he had everything together or was happy all the time, he was a man after God’s own heart because he was not afraid to be HONEST and REAL with God with how he was feeling. In Psalms 13, 22, 35, 42 and many other Psalms, David is BRUTALLY  honest with God. He does not try to hide his anger, depression, or mixed emotions instead he pours EVERYTHING out to Him and works it out with God. David’s outcome of working through his emotions is PRAISE. We cannot go and should not go straight to praise and bypass our negative emotions or stuff them because if we do that our praise is not sincere and seems forced. Why would God give us “negative” emotions if we cannot express them? I think God wants us to be thankful people but as I Peter 5:7 says he ALSO wants us to “Cast our burdens” onto Him “because he CARES for you.”
  4. Once we begin to praise God we can then see where he working. A beautiful thing about death is what can come out of it if we let God into our healing. God can take the ugly and broken and mourning, and turn it into something beautiful and whole and joyful. I feel like God has taken so much away. He has taken away my husband, the father to my child, my best friend, and all my hopes and dreams I had with him. But very slowly I have bravely asked, “Ok, Lord I have grieved and I have poured my heart out to you and I have let you comfort and speak to me in my sorrow. Now, where are you? Where are you working? What are you speaking to me now?”He has responded. He has given me new dreams.

When my husband was alive I enjoyed doing art projects and anything artsy with him for the church and for people around us. We dreamed of one day doing it as a couple for a job and a ministry. Once he died I was sad I didn’t have anyone to dream or share that with anymore. But this year God has, in a way, taken me back to before I was even married and I had dreams of using drama for a ministry. Long story short I went to an Urbana missions conference when I was a high school senior back in 2003 where I was inspired to use drama for a ministry and to one day even be on the Urbana drama team as well. I started off as a Theatre ministry major at Hope International University but ended up graduating with a bachelors in Liberal Arts and concentration in Children’s Ministry instead. From there took online classes at community colleges to become a preschool teacher and have enjoyed teaching but my first love was always drama. Once Ben died I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Urbana 2015 performing arts team. It has been like going back in time to where I was about 10 years ago and faced with the same choice of either going after finding a career/ job in drama or choosing something that is more stable. This season, because I have the freedom to do either I am wanting to go after drama this time. It’s like getting a second chance and I feel I don’t want to let that chance pass me up again. Not that I regret teaching because I think God can use everything we experience to build on the future or the different seasons in our lives, but  I am sure of the tugging in my heart to pursue my first love again. I don’t know what God will do with my drama passion being re-ignited but I have already talked and gotten counsel from many people and have gotten many ideas that I believe are directing me to something. And I also hope to one day find someone ( a husband) to share in my dream of arts ministry too. But that is another dream that will have to wait for now I guess. Right now, I am so excited for this new chapter of my life of God exchanging “beauty for ashes.”

July 6, 2015: Journal Reflections Of Letting God Comfort You

Now that Ben is gone I truly feel I can raise Zeke by myself with all the help of my great community of friends and family. Family is not lost, it is re-defined. Family is not broken it is mended and healed slowly in time. Zeke has my dad who is becoming like a father to him and so many other great men in his life.

Although in the midst of all the love I feel, I feel so alone. Family can be re-defined and mended and healed but the love between a husband and wife cannot be duplicated. I miss going on dates. I miss all the sweet things he would say when I was having a bad day. I miss going to the park with Ben and Zeke on the weekends. The last year of his life we could not be intimate for many reasons but I remember I still loved even the smell and presence of Ben being with me.

It’s so easy to just plow through cancer or hard times and just ignore the bad feelings or suppress the pain you feel so you don’t have to think about it or have to deal with the grief you feel as you watch someone you love slowly deteriorate. Ben and I, and my parents were fortunate enough to have such a great inner healing counselor/mentor that helped us through the most difficult times of our lives. However, choosing to go deep and choosing to wrestle through it ALL has taken a toll on my body mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Healing from a loved one’s death is not something that can be achieved quickly it happens over time. Everyone “grieves differently” but not everyone finds healing.

It has been very difficult to sift and wade through all the different waves of emotions I feel. The simplest things can trigger memories of good and bad of Ben. Sometimes it can be a song on the radio or someone randomly singing on the street that reminds me of him. Sometimes it can be seeing a couple laughing or hugging or kissing. Sometimes it can be having to overhear my friends talking about their weddings or dates or anniversaries. In those moments I have learned to not suppress what I’m feeling but to just let the tears come. I believe one of the most missed parts to healing is letting God just sit with you in your sadness or whatever you may be feeling. Feelings are a good thing because it indicates where our hearts are or where they are breaking. And it is those weak and vulnerable moments God wants to grieve with us and comfort us. When we let him into those moments we not only give room to comfort but we give room to healing. It is not a healing that fixes or replaces a loved one but healing of having our needs attended to and cared for. And having our needs be attended to and cared for is one of the first steps to the long journey of healing.

Pebbles or Jewels?

This is a story I wrote in college, I was 21 years old. Back then I wrote it as my process of dealing with being single. I never dated all through high school or college and I was feeling pretty down on myself. Flash forward about 8 years and I was astonished at how this story helped encourage me in my grieving process of losing my husband. I won’t say too much. But I will say that I love how the Father (God) is never in a rush or hurries us. He is so gentle and patient with us. That is what is captured in this story I wrote:

Which Will You Choose: Pebbles or Jewels?

The little girl clenches tightly to the ordinary grey pebbles in her hand. Her father puts his tender, loving hands on her tiny shoulder. He holds out a handful of sparkling, glittering, rainbow-like jewels. Each jewel is glowing so brightly the little girl must use both hands to shield her eyes.
“Let it go,” her father tells her.
“I can’t.”
“I want to give you something better.”
Hurt and wounded tears well up in the girl’s eyes. With her fist still clenching her ordinary grey pebbles, she melts to the ground. “Daddy, I want to trust you. But how can I be sure what you have to offer will last or satisfy? I thought the pebbles I found for myself were jewels but it turned out they weren’t. The more I looked at them the less beautiful they became.” Soft, tender tears begin to fall from her father’s eyes. Ever so gently does he kneel down and lift her head up to his tearful face. As her head is lifted up she begins to weep, uncontrollably.

He quickly embraces his vulnerable precious girl. Both father and daughter weep together as he carefully and slowly rocks her back and forth in his arms. Not long after he begins to quiet her with his love and sing adoringly over her and her broken heart. “Hush, my little one,” her father says as he kisses her tiny little head. “I know and feel your pain more than you know. I am here. Hush. Shh. Trust me. Let me help you heal from your pain,” he whispers in her ear.

The little girl’s crumpled hand slowly unfolds as one small pebble falls from her hand. Her father lifts her to her feet and they begin to walk. And as they walk hand in hand she soon notices in her other hand a bright, glowing jewel in the middle of her ordinary pebbles. How it outshines anything she’s ever beheld! “Don’t worry about the other pebbles,” whispers her father, “they will be replaced later. For now, trust and walk with me.”
-Aimee Gonzaga (Price)

Ben’s First Birthday In Heaven

This is from my journal entry I posted on Facebook from awhile ago. I thought I would share it here as well:

I have loved reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and have started journaling and writing like that in my Grief Journal. This is my Grief Journal at 2am on March 14, 2015. I learned that sometimes my best ideas or thoughts come after 2am (Nicole Sanchez, Shannon Hardy, Miki Gao). This is what God spoke to me:

Today just be still and rest in the fact that I am with you as you continue to grieve. My arms are wrapped tightly around you. When you are sad, angry, confused, or upset, let me be with you in that moment. Of course my ultimate goal is to bring you out of it but most importantly, I want to help you through and be right in the middle of all that you feel so that we can share the load together. Many people have this picture of when trouble hits that is when they call on me to “rescue them out” or to come and get them. What they don’t usually see is that I am always right there in the sticky mire or deep pit with them. So, let that sink into your whole being and into your spirit. When trouble hits instead ask where I am and how I am already working on your behalf. This journey you and I are on is a partnership. When you fall I am there, when you tired I want to give you rest, when you feel lonely I am right there, ect. Just because I am right there every step of the way does not shield you from all the pain, hurt, sadness you will feel. In fact, you need to feel those things in order to truly find healing. But remember that we can do it together if you let me.

Verses that God gave me:
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God..”
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Reflections On What Would Have Been Our 4th Anniversary

The night before what would have been our 4th anniversary, May 12, 2015, I couldn’t sleep very well. I feel like I was a little anxious with how I would handle what would have been our 4th anniversary the next day. My late husbands birthday, March 13, I felt fine the day before but cried almost the whole morning. But that is a different blog entry altogether.

This was such a happy moment at our wedding: May 13, 2011
This was such a happy moment at our wedding: May 13, 2011
I woke up May 13, to my surprise, actually at peace. Not that I wasn’t sad, because I was, but I think I was actually relieved. It is hard to explain. When my late husband was alive with cancer he was in so much pain. He put on a good face when we were out in public, or at church, or with his family. At home I saw the true Ben. I saw him toss and turn and not sleep a wink at night and then leave by 6:30am to go to work. I cleaned up his throw up when chemo made him sick. I saw the the pain in his eyes when he would pry himself out of bed. He would tell me he felt like a useless husband because he couldn’t hold or pick up our son out of his crib in the middle of the night. My whole life revolved around keeping him alive. He would try to to juice every other day with the Green Star elite but the last leg of his cancer he couldn’t do it because he didn’t have the strength. I did it. I also made smoothies and had to start grinding up his pills into the smoothies when he kept forgetting to to take his pills from the alternative medicine doctor. That is just a nutshell of all the stress and all the work it took to keep him alive.

What many people do not realize is that yes his death was too soon and was heart wrenching but the whole entire cancer journey I was preparing for the worst and processing it with a counselor/ mentor. She helped me process all the unfairness I felt, all the anger, all the “why am I going through this at such a young age?” questions I had. We even discussed what would happen if Ben did die. We had to discuss that because the doctors didn’t think he would live long.

The morning of what would have been our 4th anniversary, like I said before, I felt relieved for so many reasons. I felt relieved I didn’t have to see him in so much pain. I felt relieved I didn’t have so much stress and so much work on my shoulders. I felt relieved he is in heaven cancer free. I felt relieved I could start anew and decide what would be life giving to me this year with my son.

Isaiah 61:3 “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.”

The ashes of my life I had with my late husband are a painful thing to grieve and lament. I do not like the saying that “everything happens for a reason” because I don’t think things always have to have a reason. God never said that, people say that, people made that saying up. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” God is working to make things “work together for the good.” It doesn’t say “God makes things happen for a reason and works it out for the good.” We don’t understand everything and somehow it can be redeemed and worked out for good. We may never understand why things happen but we can be sure God can give us beauty for our ashes and that he is in the business of working things out for the good in our lives.

Reflections On My First Mother’s Day Without My Husband

I don’t know if it’s just this year that seems to have a lot of tension about Mother’s Day or maybe there always has been I just didn’t notice it until this year. I am feeling very uncomfortable with the extremes of hating Mother’s Day and the people who love it.

This year I definitely feel a twinge of pain as I watch all my friends husbands doing sweet things like: family portraits, giving their wives a chance to go out and get their hair or nails done while they watch the kids, and the list goes on. As sick as my husband was, with his chemo brain and all, last year he still managed to cook breakfast with our son for me on Mother’s Day.

Something I have been learning with my counselor/mentor is instead of solving problems with how I think God would respond to go straight to the source and just ask. I asked him what He thought of Mother’s Day. This is what I heard the Lord was speaking to me to write:

While society does focus on actual “mothers” on Mother’s Day there are many people who mother and nurture others around them that are not actual mother’s or who are mother’s but mother children who are not their own. There is that saying that “it takes a village to raise a child” without all the support of others around a mother, whether that is a husband, doctor, sister, aunt, friends, family, ect, all these people shape and nurture our children.

God also spoke to my heart about how He is a like a MOTHER. Matthew 23:37 says, “…How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” I hope that wherever people are at whether it be that  they themselves are mothers, if they are not able to be a mother, if they lost a mother, if they lost a child and were going to be a mother, if they are grieving being a mother but a widow like me. Remember how much the God of the Universe longs to be a mother to them. Mothers are known to be sacrificial, to die defending or protecting their children to death like Harry Potter’s mother. And how did Jesus decide to show His love for us? By doing just that. Not by raising a strong army and rising up against the government with full swords and trumpets blazing which we would expect the Savior would do. He chose to lay his life down for us like a mother (or father) would. He chose to give his life so that we may have life.

God is standing with you wherever you are and however you are feeling this Mother’s Day. God wants to join you in that, and most of all, He longs to hold and to love on you today and be a like a mother to you.

Another closing verse that I feel is like God being like a mother and father  is Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

My Journal from April 30, 2015

Recently I feel I have been running into intense feelings I haven’t felt earlier. I have been feeling really angry and really sad and can’t stop crying at times. As I’ve been learning with my counselor/mentor to allow myself to feel those things. The only way to get through this is letting myself feel all I need to feel and to allow God to be “Emmanuel” to me. I have felt so much freedom to pour everything out and invite God to speak and to comfort me at the same time. God cares about helping us heal but he also cares about being with us in the midst of everything. Healing doesn’t always come from taking away something but sometimes it is found in just letting God comfort you in your pain.

Hello world!

I recently lost my husband to stage 4 colon cancer on August 13, 2014 at 29 years old. I wanted to start this blog to encourage and to share with others a little bit of our story and what I have learned and continue to learn. Being a widow and caring for my almost 3 year old son is quite a challenge at times. I am blessed to have a great community, church, counselor/mentor,  and freedom to be brutally honest with all my ups and downs with all that I feel with Jesus. Walking this with Jesus has become less of a chore or duty but more of a relationship and walking this together.

This picture was taken a few weeks before my husband died: August 2014
This picture was taken a few weeks before my husband died: August 2014