Someday But Right Now

Sometimes I feel like when I share my story about Ben’s cancer and death it makes people feel that what they deal with in their own lives is nothing compared to what I went through or continue to live. And then people feel they can’t complain or can’t be sad about what they are going through.

However, the reality is, that whatever struggles you are  going through, big or small, doesn’t make it any less of value or importance to God compared to mine. How we feel and  what we go through ALL matters to God!

God gave us emotions NOT to ignore but to bring to him. When we ignore how we are really feeling we are really ignoring how God wants to help, heal, and come alongside of us. God wants us to overcome whatever we are facing but MOST IMPORTANTLY he wants to be in the midst of our mess with us because we are all so precious to Him. The safest place we can process our feelings is with God. He can handle our curse words, our depression, our anger, our frustrations, and so on. It doesn’t phase him. It doesn’t make him shake his head at us or say to us that we should know better or do better. When he looks at us, it is through a lens of grace and love NOT of disfavor and condemnation.

IMG_3858
Just as my son is hiding in his little hiding spot, God wants us to hide all parts of ourselves and feelings in Him because he longs to heal, mend, and replace our wounds and hurts with His truth and His love

I thought I would express some of these thoughts in a poem about not minimizing or ignoring my emotions as I continue to have ups and downs in my grieving. I have already seen inner healing in myself and received new dreams and new hopes but I wanted to express that it is a constant roller coaster of: grieving and receiving comfort then receiving new dreams, getting hit with new grief and receiving comfort then receiving new dreams, and so on:

There are nights and days when the tears don’t end.

There are and nights and days I miss my best friend.

Beneath the surface, my true emotions lie-

Beneath the skin and muscle

my fragile heart begins to cry:

Like a waterfall of tears

it recalls all the years

the joys and the fears

the happy and the sad

the things that made you mad

the things that made you you

the things you use to do

the things that made you mine

the things that made me yours

the things that were entwined.

Now forever-

torn apart.

And my heart?

Will it start?

To beat-

again?

Or will it forever hold its breath?

Crying and grieving your untimely death.

 

My heart longs for hope and my heart longs to see,

the silver lining that will one day be in front of me.

But in this moment?

It just needs

To be:

Sad.

And needs to be mad.

And needs to be broken.

And needs to feel everything unspoken.

Everything not expressed.

Everything not at its best.

Everything as it is.

Everything not addressed.

Everything that use to be-

his.

 

One day, I know deep down, good will come out of this.

But right now my heart is plunged into this deep dark abyss.

And there in the depths of my soul and the depths of my sorrow,

is the One embracing my heart AND my tomorrow.

He joins me as I re-live the past and present feelings,

until I’m ready for new hopes and future healings-

that will outlast

and surpass

all that I can grasp

in the years to come.

Someday.

But right now?

I am undone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Need For Community: Don’t Hike Alone

I have always felt like  hiking is a lot like life. There are ups and downs, there are times when there seems to be nothing but an uphill climb, there are times when you need to rest, there are times when you feel you aren’t going to make it; but if it’s a long hike you should always walk it with other people.

Many churches talk about marriage, have marriage conferences, constantly talk about how to have a healthy marriage, and so on. Which is good, and we shouldn’t stop talking about it, but if that takes up most of the sermons and focus it leaves single people, single moms, and single mom widows like myself feeling very left out.

Ben was my “hiking” partner in life  and it was devastating  to grieve and to lose him when he died.

IMG_3208
Another dad carrying my son on a group hike

Hike Reflections That Transfer to Life:

  1. The actual hike I recently went on helped me feel less like a single mom but more like mom with a child and a great community of people who were there to lighten my load when I couldn’t hold my son any longer. Losing Ben made me feel overwhelmed and alone but “hiking” life with community helped me see that my family is more than just me and Zeke, it also includes the family of God. Being in community certainly doesn’t ever replace or feel equal to having a husband but it does lighten my load and it does give me encouragement when I am tired and feel like I can’t keep going.
  2. It helped me realize that raising my son will look different from the rest of my friends who have husbands. But my son is well cared for by other dads and other men who love him too. Maybe not the same as Ben, but these men still love him and that is something all kids need and deserve.
  3. We are all on this  life hike together. God did call us to be “fruitful and multiply” but the over arching thing I think God wants for all of us is to be in community with people of all relationship statuses. Being married isn’t the best relationship status we can strive for, it is just ONE relationship status that we can be in. Whatever relationship status we are in, God wants us to love everyone; to seek after His heart; to care for one another.
  4.  We should strive to not only strengthen our marriages but to be aware and be alert on  how to care and to include people of all walks of life and relationship statuses. I am going to keep this in mind if I ever do get married again. If I get married I want to intentional in how to include all kinds of single people: single moms, widows, divorced, people with no family, and so on.  Being intentional means that I will have to think of things and activities that anyone can enjoy no matter what relationship status or walk of life they are in.

A Few Activities Everyone Can Enjoy Together:

  1. Hiking of course!
  2. After church, or just because, pack a lunch and have picnics outside together
  3. Having game nights
  4. Playing sports after church or during the week together
  5. Craft or sewing sessions together
  6. Building projects for families in need
  7. Raise funds for people in the church or a cause and coordinate garage sales together where people can offer things to contribute to the garage sale and ways to help on the day of
  8. Cooking and/or having meals together

Note: Doing activities together must also take into consideration realistic times things  start and end. Single people without kids have the ability to have events that start at 10pm or go on spontaneous trips. Single moms, single widows, and married people can go to these events but most the time it takes planning ahead of time of  who can take care of the kids, if places are kid friendly, and nap/ feeding times.

And people with kids (myself included) when hanging out with people who don’t have kids make sure the majority of the conversations don’t revolve around just topics on kids. We need to make sure we talk about things everyone can contribute and add to.

Some Topics Everyone Can Talk About

  1. Good movies/TV shows and why we like them
  2. Hobbies
  3. Favorite travel places and stories
  4. How work is going
  5. Dream Job/worst job
  6. How to pray for one another
  7. Where do you feel stuck in life and walk with God?

All Relationship Statuses Matter

I felt very validated at my church when one of our pastors actually said that single people are just as complete as married couples and have a lot to offer the church community.

Ultimately we all need each other. We cannot “hike” life alone. For the all the different kinds of single people, may we be people who recognize that we have a lot to offer  our communities beyond babysitting. We have resources, talents, and gifts that bless married and unmarried people. And for people who are married, be people who not only focus on strengthening your marriages but being good friends to others and loving people who are married and unmarried and include them in activities and events.

May we strive to be people who appreciate and affirm people of all relationship statuses no matter what relationship status we are in. And may we all strive to be intentional in how to include one another in each others lives. We exist to carry one another’s loads, to encourage those in marriage and not in marriage, to care for our children, to care for the world around us, and to reflect Christ in how we love and live our everyday lives. When we are in the family of God  together  we all have a lot to offer one another and are ALL COMPLETE relationships in Christ.

 

Switching the Why to What:The Battle of Logic and Heart

The reality is that we live in a broken world. Nothing is perfect. Life is this intermingling of pain and joy; disappointment and fulfillment; death and life. We may try our hardest to shield our children and loved ones away from as much grief and pain as we experienced growing up or have seen others experience but we cannot protect them from everything. And when something or someone hurts or shatters our reality of innocence or level of comfort we almost always ask, “Why God?” We might do this unconsciously but when we ask “why” we are actually coming to this conclusion of thinking that it is God himself who wounded us NOT the person or situation. That is one of the downfalls of free will.

People and situations hurt us but it is the person or situation hurting us NOT God. For example,when a parent is not emotionally invested in their child the child begins to think that God the Father is like that too. They believe things like God is busy and he and already knows what I’m thinking so why do I have to tell him what he already knows? So, without even realizing, coming to conclusions like this actually begins to shape our relationship and understanding of God that is actually NOT true at all.

The reality is that God IS emotionally invested in us and cares about how we feel. He is NOT too busy for us EVER. And yes he knows what we are thinking but that is not the point. The point of having a relationship with him and praying is all about CONNECTING. He longs to connect because he knows we need and crave it.

We are wired for connection: to be heard, to be seen, to be understood, to be loved, to be cared for.

And going back to the “Why God?” question. That question is actually an intellectual question and it is expecting and intellectual answer. I think because we live in such a broken world sometimes there are no reasons why things happen. And even if there is a logical reason why something happened what we really need in times of hurt or loss is not a logical answer. What we really need is a HEART answer. More than anything our heart needs: comfort, to be heard, to be valued, to be seen, and so on.

When there is a hurt or loss it will ALWAYS come down to what we need from God and are not getting.
Let me give an example of this. My husband dying of  stage 4 colon cancer at 29 years old is a time most people would ask, “Why God? Why would you take him when he was so young? Why do I have to raise my son without my best friend and love of my life? Why couldn’t you just heal him? I want him back.”

IMG_1069

Let us say God miraculously raised my husband from the dead and healed him of cancer and he was given life again.  In essence, I would be getting the answer I wanted and asked for. But is it what I REALLY need when I am hurting?

But I think what happens sometimes there has been so much hurt or loss in our lives that even if we wanted to we still can’t accept or receive what our hearts REALLY need.

That is where inner healing work and counseling can help unravel the inner struggle of what keeps us from being able to receive from God. In order to receive we need to clear away the walls or ways we try to guard or protect our heart. And there probably is a good reason why it’s protected but instead of hiding it away from others and ourselves it really needs to be hidden away  IN God. He is the safest person to guard our hearts because he not only wants to guard it but the one who knows how to tend, mend, and fix it.

A few months before Ben was diagnosed with cancer I was hitting a wall where I couldn’t receive from God so I began to see a inner healing counselor who began helping me unpack why I couldn’t receive from God and why he felt so far. As the walls or “debris” as she calls it began lifting I began to hear from God and was able to feel, see ,and hear where he was in my life more clearly.

She also taught me how to pour my heart out before the Lord when I began to feel angry or overwhelmed during intense times during Ben’s cancer.

Some of these periods had screaming and cussing and everything ugly you could think of before the Lord. Not at him but WITH him.

I beautiful image a friend got for this “pouring out” was breaking plates with God when she was angry. Not physically, although that would be cool to do one day in a safe place, but in her mind when she needed to work anger out with God. I never realized we have that much freedom with God to be able to do that.

But that is the beauty of a patient and loving God. He is not in a rush or afraid of what I needed to express first. He met me where I was at. And it was in those times  I eventually could begin to unravel what I REALLY needed.

I began  to learn how to switch my question of “why” to “what.” “What is God doing?” and “What kind of people are going to come alongside of me in my time of hurt and loss? “and “What do I need to receive from God in my time of loss or hurt?” and “What does my heart need?”

I think there are times that God does satisfy that intellectual question of “why” but I love how he cares about the “what” as well. As I have said before many times he cares about our WHOLE being.

Are there places that you need to go back to that you missed out on the “what” and having your heart tended or cared for? Are there conclusions you have made about God or yourself that you are beginning to realize are actually not true  but actually more about the person or situation? Are there places where you still need to struggle with the “why?” Let me know your thoughts or if I need to expand on something more.

 

How To Care For People Who are Grieving

This is my second attempt at this post. I didn’t realize there were a lot of gaps I left out until after I posted this the first time. So, thank you to people that have responded to the first post on here and on fb because it challenges me to be more clearer in my writing.

I think the most important place to start when caring for widows or people who are grieving is to pray as you access their particular situation. I am giving suggestions and what I have learned but each situation will be different and it is so important to let God lead in how to deal with caring for someone who is grieving. God knows what we need and what they need.

All of us who grieve, grieve differently and are in different stages of grieving. Grief hits and lights up past wounds, hurts, and insecurities in a myriad of ways. And keep in mind grieving is not linear. It is more like an ocean of waves. One minute you can feel fine the next minute you can feel horrible and as Anne Shirley would say, “in the depths of despair.” Different situations, people, songs can trigger and hit the grief when you least expect it. And even when you do expect it the grief is real and it hurts.

When Someone Feels Completely Overwhelmed and Isolated

There are times of feeling isolated and completely alone. Think of it like this image of complete darkness. This is the initial feeling I felt when Ben died and continue to feel and go back to at different times when different triggers or situations push me to face that Ben is dead. All this person sees is complete and utter darkness and when people say, “You need to get over it” that is probably the least helpful thing you can say. As painful as this stage is it is an actually a healthy thing. It is healthy to acknowledge what you are feeling and how things make you feel. Of course we don’t want to stay in this stage but being able to feel and embrace your current situation needs to happen.

Saying things like,”I’m sorry you feel this way” or ” I’ve been there” and “Thank you for telling me. I am here with you” are more helpful.  Joining them in their darkness is the first step because it is validating how they are and where they are at. And it is in those moments of joining that people begin to see they are not alone.

Look at how Jesus handled people who feel completely overwhelmed. In John 11 it talks about Lazarus dying, Mary and Martha grieving, and this community around them grieving with them. What did Jesus do? He ultimately did heal Lazarus physically and that is what people usually focus on. But if you look back on the text you see this beautiful juxtaposition of ultimate healing of the heart as well. He didn’t rush the grieving or say, “Stop crying I’m going to raise your brother from the dead right now.” Instead he is “deeply moved in his spirit and distressed” (NIV). The New Living translation says, “a deep anger welled up within him and he was greatly troubled.” I love how Jesus joins in their grief and meets people where they are at. He cares so deeply for our hearts and our inner healing and grief. He sits with them and he takes on what they are feeling. Jesus cares about the physical, emotionally, mental, spiritual parts of us and our hearts and is never in a rush.

Please keep in mind that in the overwhelmed state pushing people away or not being able to be around people at times doesn’t mean they don’t want you to be there.

For me, there were just times when I couldn’t be around certain people. Not because they were mean or didn’t get grieving it’s just that I could only handle a small amount of specific people at times. So, do not get your feelings hurt if grieving people seem to push you away it may be that they need space but that doesn’t mean they want you to stay away forever. Sometimes the best you can do is just say,”I understand  you need your space but know that I will be here if you ever need me.” That is helpful in two ways. It lets people know their grieving matters and let’s them know you want to help when they are ready.

A grieving person needs space AND help but on their terms and what they can handle each step of the way.

When Someone Wants To Know How To Face The World Again

There comes a point where a grieving person wants to start anew and is not feeling completely overwhelmed  and realizes that life can still go on. I think what I found most helpful in my situation was to do things that were life giving that I felt would bring joy and happiness and worked for me. I love the arts, being outdoors, and being with people. So, I found ways to do those things and be with people that I knew were not going to rush me to just “get over it.” Realize entering into the world again comes in stages. Picture a huge lake with trails, mountains to hike, birds to see, ect. A grieving person may only be able to handle just opening a door and smelling outside. Then the next stage might be stepping outside the door for 10 minutes. Then they are ready to walk down to the lake and so on. Grief cannot not be rushed but people can help  be guide and gently help the grieving person back to living life in stages. Letting God speak and give discernment in how to lead a grieving person in that process is so important as well.

The trick is this delicate balance of not rushing but also realize that facing life stage by stage is a good thing. The “FIRST” Christmas, birthday, Valentines, Father’s Day- the first EVERYTHING is so hard and so painful but the only way to heal and live life again is to eventually face it.

For example, Ben loved Disneyland. And we loved going there together and it was something we enjoyed together. I wasn’t sure if I could ever go to Disneyland again because there were so many memories we shared there together. The first time I went I was only able to handle just going on one thing. My family and I went on the Disneyland Railroad train. We got on in the front of the park, rode it all the way around, and then we all got off and left. I remember feeling so sad and I think I cried a little. But each time we went back it got easier and it was important to see that even though my husband is dead life could still be enjoyed. It certainly was a lot different but different is ok.

Day to Day Ways To Care For Widows and People Who are Grieving

thought I would break down things that I have found helpful in my day to day. Everyone is different and what is most meaningful to them will probably depend on their love language and particular needs. The FIRST thing you can do is to get to know THEIR love language and just ASK them. Here is my list of the most helpful things for me:

  1. CLEAN: It can be: dishes, vacuum the different rooms in the house, putting away dishes, laundry, help organizing the garage (I still need to finish), sweep the backyard, ect.  I realize I am the worst at saying no to these kinds of things but deep down I think and know this is probably one of the most helpful things. I think the reason I say no is because I like to be independent and I feel a little embarrassed when my house is a mess or dishes are piled up.  I need to take people up on this offer more and I think the more people ask the more likely I will eventually say yes. Having a clean house, car, kitchen helps me feel more relaxed and less stressed.
  2. COOK: Meals are always helpful! I love when the meals are already cooked or prepped to just heat up. There are times when families have invited me over to eat with them and I really enjoyed that.  I also love cooking with other people. Cooking with family has taken the burden off of feeling alone or isolated. One of the hardest things since Ben died is cooking. So many good and bad memories are tied to cooking. It reminds me of something he loved to do when he wasn’t sick and something we learned to enjoy together. It reminds me of how my family and I worked hard at trying to cook something healthy when he got sick. Sharing meals or sharing the burden of cooking is so helpful.
  3. GIFT CARDS TO MY FAVORITE PLACES: It can be restaurants, shopping places, movie tickets, massage places, and so on. I think just being a mom in general you forget to take care of yourself because you are so busy taking care of kids or others around you. But I love when people remember that I am important too! And being widow you have even less attention at times because there isn’t a husband to give you a break, or rub your feet, or give you a big hug at the end of the day. Gift cards are nice because it is one less decision I have to make in the myriad of decisions to be made for my son and I.
  4. HELP AT EVENTS: Going to school, church, or group events are hard with kids. So much planning and co-ordinating goes into being around people. And adding having to go to those events without a husband is even harder. Things that are helpful: offering to get food or drinks for me or my son, playing games at the table or nearby so the I can talk to friends, help with carrying bags or purse. I think I don’t even think I need help or think people want to help until they ask. I may not always say yes but just being asked means the world to me because it helps me realize that someone noticed and someone cared enough to ask me.
  5. INVITATIONS TO COFFEE OR DIFFERENT PLACES I am not much of a coffee person but I love to hangout with people and just talk. It makes me feel a little more normal and it just feels good to get out of the house and to be invited somewhere. I also love to go places and go to fun events (like karaoke) especially if it’s adventurous or something with the outdoors.
  6. OFFER WAYS YOU LIKE TO HELPThere are many times people ask me how they can help and I really can’t think of stuff on the top of my head. I find it helpful when people are specific with how they want to help. Some people have offered: that they would love to babysit Zeke and the general times they can do it, shopping for groceries or things I need, organizing rooms or different places in the house, available if I just need to vent on the phone or process stuff. I can’t tell you how many times just being able to cry or talk about things over the phone with a friend helps me feel so much better. I actually take to heart and remember what different people say and will actually take them up on their word if the situation calls for the help they offered.
  7. PRAYER OR WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: I will never turn down prayer especially if it’s in person. Prayer when I’m having a good or bad day is always helpful. Also, when people are specific in something they appreciated about me as a mom or something they admired means a lot to me. And this one means the most to me because my number one love language is words of affirmation.
  8. CHECKING IN WITH ME: It means a lot when people just send quick Facebook messages, texts, snail mail. It doesn’t have to be long even notes. People just saying that they are praying for me, if I need help with anything, or asking how my week went means a lot to me.

I hope that is helpful! If you are a widow or single mom leave a comment of what is helpful or meaningful to you. Please keep giving me feedback if this helps or if you want me to elaborate or expand on different areas of grieving. I feel grieving and death is so complicated and so hard to tackle at times and hard to confine to a blog post. I hope that people who are grieving remember they are never alone and there are people like me who get it or who want to learn how to get it.

Below is a picture of my son’s room. There is something about how even having one clean room brightens my day. IMG_0952

Listening to God in The Midst of Grieving and Everyday Life

I feel this post is a little jumbled but try to bear with me as I attempt to process some things that God has been teaching me and putting on my heart lately.

I have heard people say countless times that since my son is so young he doesn’t understand death and won’t remember my husband when he grows up. A book called, “I Give You Authority” by Charles Kraft talks about how even babies in the womb are still shaped by either the love or hatred they felt while in the womb. I think something I have been learning these past few years of  inner healing and a closer connection with Jesus is to go straight to the source and ask the One who KNOWS and SEES all, rather than to listen to people and what they think. I asked Him, “God, does Zeke understand death and will he remember Ben when he is older?” God spoke to me and said:

“Zeke does not understand everything but his heart feels the loss and it feels the empty presence of his dad not being there. Just because he cannot name specific things or events does not mean he doesn’t remember him. Zeke’s heart will remember Ben and it will remember his love and joy he poured into him when he was alive.”

There have been many occasions where I have felt tongue tied when helping Zeke understand death and what it means to have a dad in heaven. He has said things like, “Daddy is in heaven. I want to go to heaven all day. Please!” or “I miss daddy. Can we take a plane to see him.”

A couple of years back I would have just crumbled at those words especially since one of the gifts I have is the gift of mercy (being able to ACTUALLY feel a person’s pain or what GOD IS feeling for a person). In the past, feeling someone else’s pain caused me to get overwhelmed and paralyzed in what to do, so I would usually end up doing nothing or try to stuff or ignore what I felt. However, inner healing counseling and now recent training of becoming a prayer counselor has taught me to begin to sort through difficult situations like this. I know I have so much more to learn but I would like to share the main things I have learned so far:

  1. The first thing I have learned to do when I get tongue tied or start feeling Zeke’s pain or some else’s pain is to take a deep breath and invite God into the situation and ask where He is with the person. God speaks to all of us differently (verses, words, pictures) and he almost always gives me pictures or images. I usually see him holding the person’s hand or Him hugging them or Him inviting them with his arms wide open.
  2. The next thing I ask is what the person needs. Sometimes I receive answers like: “Just hug them and let them cry.” or “Listen to My Voice and I will give you the words.” On one particular occasion Zeke kept crying and me hugging and giving words of comfort was not working. Instead, God guided me to an actual photograph of my husband and I before the cancer journey. When I showed it to my son he instantly stopped crying. I don’t know why that helped but for some reason that is what helped him.
  3. In general, it is important to remember that I cannot fix EVERY SINGLE THING people might be feeling.  But I think something God has been revealing to me is that every single person is HIS PRECIOUS CHILD that He loves and cares about.  My job is not fix people but to join God in helping them connect with Him and hear His voice. Many times people do not really need an answer they just need you to sit with them in their pain.
  4.  I have learned to keep listening to God’s voice as the main guide in my life. Many times people, even Christians, get so caught up in solving problems on their own without running it by God first. I have learned to say, “God this is what I’m thinking. What are you thinking and where are you in this problem? And how can we solve this together?” God is at work EVERYWHERE, our job is to simply ask where he is and how he wants us to join him.
  5. When I start getting down on myself and thinking things like, “No one is going to want to date me because they probably think I will never be ready to date or marry again,” or “People must think I am an emotional wreck because  little things remind me of my late husband and make me cry.” It is important to realize in those moments that I am listening  to the enemy or even my own thoughts and when that happens, I need to invite God into the picture and ask, “God is that what YOU THINK of me?” And I will never forget  one of the times I asked him that question when I was feeling down about myself. I was in Canada sitting on a rock overlooking this beautiful meadow of grass and trees. And you know what he responded with? It absolutely floored me and brought me to tears. He said:

“You worry so much about what OTHERS THINK about you and NOT what I THINK about you. I think you are a lily among thorns. You have sought me out in the midst of the most painful situations. Do not worry about your future. For now, focus on Me and being in My presence and what I want to tell you and your heart. The person I will bring to you, will see what I see and will love and cherish you and your beautiful heart. You are NOT undateable or unlovable. You are PRECIOUS to me and I LOVE YOU so much.”

The scene I experienced in Canada. I wish the colors of the trees could have been captured better in this pic.
The scene I experienced in Canada. I wish the vibrant colors of the trees could have been captured better in this picture.
Hearing those words from God in the midst of my sadness did not change my status of being single but it changed my view of myself and it gave me a more clearer picture of what TRULY IS and what REALLY matters. Getting so caught up in what people think about me to a point that I obsess over it and get down about myself, especially when it’s negative, is not how God called me to live. I think the passage that He constantly has been pointing me back to as a reference and reminder is the passage of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

Martha is so concerned about TASKS and DOING THINGS for Jesus but Mary is concerned about BEING WITH Jesus and LISTENING to what he is speaking to her. I long to be like Mary and just sit at Jesus’ feet and ask where he wants me to go and what he is saying to me.

I think that is why one of the names God chose for himself is Emmanuel, God WITH US, because he wants us to realize we are in this together and he wants to be with us EVERY step of the way.

The Ins and Outs of Being A Young Widow

 

I thought I would be more specific in the things that I have experienced and learned in my life as a young widow. I tried to include  the main logistics of things that needed to be done after his death too. If you know of other young widows that this might help please share this blog because our experiences can be different from older widows. These are the main things I could think of. Please comment below if you can think of anything else! Here my list:

  1. Things that need to be changed after death: I had to notify different places of his death and take him off accounts like: our bank, internet, phone, electricity, his old credit cards, auto insurance, cable. Be prepared to send the death certificate off to MANY places. Getting at least 5 or 6 original copies of the death certificate is a MUST!  And always try to keep at least one or two copies with you at home at all times because some businesses are able to settle things on the phone if you have the death info ready. Each business has their own rules. Some don’t require a death certificate so you have to call each one and see what each one requires and what paperwork to fill out. Ben was cremated and I ordered the death certificates through the mortuary and it was sent to our house about a month later.
  2. Important places to contact: I needed to call, meet, and fill out paperwork from Ben’s work It is also important to find out if he had  life insurance through work . Ben had a small amount of life insurance. I also went to Social Security and since I am young and have a child I get some help from them each month. I never knew Social Security took care of young widows!
  3. I planned the memorial service. I got tons of help from so many people but I came up with the songs, who would share, what the program would look like, and the structure of the service. It is important to do what you are able to do and not to push yourself though. Once I had the structure of the service my parents helped me delegate jobs and tasks for different people.
  4. It disgusts me to even fathom that people will take advantage of widows in their grieving but sadly it exists and people have NO MERCY and they do not care if they lie to you. A few months after Ben died I got threatening letters from a  debt  collection agency, which I didn’t know to be fraudulent at the time, that said I had to pay off Ben’s school loans, which was a substantial amount. I met with a family friend earlier, who is a financial  planner, and he already confirmed that since Ben acquired the loans before we were married I was NOT responsible for paying his loans back. The debt collector lied and would state half truths and pressured me to pay off at least $8,000 within the next few days. I was so confused at why I owed money if I was told earlier from our family friend I didn’t owe anything. But the debt collector made it sound true and they are trained to sound convincing. I  ended up giving her my routing number and bank info. (NEVER DO THAT!) I called my dad right after and he said that I shouldn’t have done that. I had to close my bank account that same day and open a new one so they wouldn’t take the funds out. Lesson learned: Usually when people pressure you to pay something on the spot it is NOT to be trusted. I should not have given the debt collector any info and should have  said that I would like to talk to another person first. Always get a second opinion and meet with financial planners who know the rules and ins and outs of things concerning death and debts that are owed. I later called Ben’s loans and they also confirmed I didn’t owe anything.
  5. People project their own fears onto you when it comes to your financial stability. Many people came up to me, who weren’t widows, and said I needed to do X Y and Z when it comes to money. They do not know that being a widow is totally different than being a divorced or single mom. Lesson learned: Don’t believe the fears that people project onto you and just let all the negative comments just slide off of you like water off a ducks back. What is most important is to find out what is true about YOUR PARTICULAR situation and get help from experts who actually deal in the specific areas you that deal with death and widows.
  6. People project their own experiences as a widow onto you. Some widows were helpful and some not so much. People automatically assume that since they are widows they understand you and what you will feel. It is true that we (widows) grieve and feel the same things but how we deal with it and what we do with our grief can be totally different.   Lesson learned: I do think I will always be in love with Ben but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to love another. I would like to quote what my counselor/mentor said again, “God can always redeem what was lost.” Yes, I lost Ben. Yes, it hurts and it is heart breaking. BUT as I mentioned in previous blogs, if we let God into our healing he can slowly comfort and give us new dreams (beauty for ashes).
  7. As a couple we had certain traditions or things we did together.  I learned that putting myself in situations that could make me cry or be emotional can be a good thing. For example, Disneyland was Ben’s favorite place but it was something we both enjoyed together. I think it was important to go to Disneyland to learn how to love it without him. The first time I  would go to a place or to something we use to do together was ALWAYS hard but it was needed to grieve the whole person I lost. Each situation is different so it’s important to wade through if you can handle doing it or to just rest and not do it. It’s important to go with what you are able to handle each particular time.
  8. When it came to parties, weddings, and showers oh my! (especially baby showers) those all triggered so many emotions. I experienced feelings of loss, anger, sadness of seeing husbands and wives together, comparison of my loss and how I don’t have a husband to help me at different social functions. I know for me I didn’t want to completely isolate myself the first year either. Because ultimately people do want me there and my presence DOES matter. I was not able to go to all the events I would have wanted to go to but that is OK and ACCEPTABLE! So, I went to what I could handle at the time and what worked for me.
  9.   I had people that I had to  put boundaries on seeing for a year. These are the people who didn’t get grieving, would tear me down and demand unrealistic things from me, people who were friends of Ben’s but not respectful to me, and so on. I didn’t have to surround myself with negative people or put myself in unsafe situations while I was grieving. If there was a situation that I would have to be around these kind of people it  was important to have a game plan of not being left alone with these people or give them boundaries ahead of time.
  10. It’s important to realize many friends and loved ones deal with your loss and even their own grieving differently. Some friends don’t know what to say, some say things that are not helpful, some keep their distance because they don’t know what to say or afraid they will say something dumb, some can’t be around you because it is painful to see you in so much pain, the list goes on. The best thing I found helpful to do was to realize that  I am NOT RESPONSIBLE to help people in their grief journey. It doesn’t mean I don’t pray for them or stop being their friend it just means I realized I can’t fix anyone or how they deal with their grief. I am responsible for ME and my son and helping him cope with the loss of not having a dad.
  11. When “special days” like our wedding anniversary, his birthday, Father’s Day, ect were coming up I found having a game plan of what I was going to do helped. I would do what I knew would be life giving like: going to a park, eating at a fun restaurant, going to my parents house for the day. I never knew how I would do the day of. Some special days I would cry all morning and some I would be fine and break down at the end of the night. So, it’s also good to be flexible and be easy on yourself too because sometimes I would plan something and then realize I just needed to rest or change the game plan. So, it’s important to explain to people that you would like to do something but the day of it might change and catch you off guard. And that is ok because emotions and grief can be unpredictable!
  12. It’s sad to think about or do but since my son only has one parent it was suggested I think about life insurance in case something happened to me. I actually did it through my AAA and made my son the beneficiary. AAA monthly payments are not too bad and the paperwork for it is one page and way easier than most paperwork I have had to fill out for Ben’s death.
  13. Ben and I were semi-good about knowing each other’s passwords for things. Thank goodness I told him to keep all his passwords saved somewhere that I knew about. However, there were some that I had to figure out. So make sure you and your spouse tell each other ALL the passwords to things like: utility accounts, health insurance accounte-mail, Amazon, iTunes, even pass codes for their phone,ect. Oh my goodness especially Gmail! They are so strict about not even giving out the passwords to spouses and loved ones!
  14. When it comes to healing do what works for you! Some people think you should join a widows group, or join a grief group, or connect with other widows, or read specific books, ect. I definitely thought about being in a grief or widows group but I am more introverted and being around other people and their grief, especially if they are not handling it well, seemed like it would cause me more stress. I know what I did will not be what works for someone else but this is what worked for me: I surrounded myself with positive and uplifting people that understood grief, met with people one on one or connected with the widows I felt comfortable with, I continued to go to my inner healing counselor/mentor, I journaled and did listening prayers, I did read some books on grieving, I stayed in my church community and vulnerable with how I was feeling and when I needed help, I had and still have a private prayer group that is constantly praying for my family and I keep those close friends up to date in how I need prayer and encouragement. The number one thing I sought was what I felt God was leading me to. His voice is the one that matters and if I stayed connected and seeking him in my healing He was able to reveal what I needed and what truths to listen to and what he was speaking to my broken heart.

Overall, the first year especially, can include many raw emotions that seem intense and all over the place. I don’t think widows should EVER feel guilty for how they feel or what they can’t handle. If you think about it LOSING a spouse is a BIG THING to lose. Our lives are so intricately interwoven and intertwined in a way that is not like other relationships on earth.

I had hopes and  dreams with my husband, we fought and we resolved conflict, we had mutual friends, we raised our son together, we encouraged each other, we prayed together, we came up with game plans of how to handle different events with a child, we planned our daily schedules and year together, and so on.

I think that is what made it so hard to start life again without him and why almost everything reminded me of him because our lives intersected and crossed in all areas of life. 

I think watching the movie Inside Out was such an amazing thing to see recently. It was like a visual picture of what I felt when Ben died and what it looks like when there is a huge loss. It’s like your whole world crumbles and all your emotions go haywire because your “normal” is gone. However in the movie, like Jesus, we can have new dreams and life can go on. It will NEVER be the same and it shouldn’t. But it can be different and that can be a good thing. 

Living without my best friend and the love of my life is one of THE HARDEST things I have ever experienced  but thank goodness for a God who is Emmanuel (God with us), who promises to comfort and be with us in our grief and never rushes us in our healing process.  It astounds me to have a God who cares about my WHOLE BEING: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical and how he can show us how he can heal ALL OF THOSE if we let him. And then he doesn’t stop there, he turns our mourning into dancing and our ashes of old dreams into sparkling new ones. He gives new dreams to us when we are ready and that is a BEAUTIFUL  and HOPEFUL thing that just astounds me everyday.

A Widow’s Perspective On Being Single Again

I have been working on this particular post for about a week. These are the three main things I wanted to share with all of you. I hope it makes sense. Enjoy!

THOUGHT 1: I think marrying for the second time around things will be a lot different. Before I dated Ben I thought being in a relationship would be great. He was my first serious boyfriend after 4 1/2 years of not having a single boyfriend in college.

Ben and I on Halloween a few weeks into dating
Ben and I on Halloween a few weeks into dating

I was beginning to give up hope because I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school either. No one asked me out. And it didn’t help that I went to a Christian college where many people got married very young. I remember a wise mentor saying to me in college, “Who you are when you are single is only amplified when you are in a relationship because when you are in a relationship you have to deal with your baggage and their baggage.” I understood what he meant but not FULLY until we got married. I soon learned, in order to maintain a healthy relationship a lot goes into it. We were dealing with his family baggage, mine, and each other’s. There was a  LOT of hard work, patience, and conflict resolution. We only had 3 short years go marriage together and the last year was the 14 month cancer battle and that was very testing on our relationship and marriage on so many levels.

That is why this second time around I really want to step back and use my time of being single to work on my issues and my connection and relationship with God. I now know the good and bad of being single and married. I really wanted to grieve well this whole year was so that when I do get married again I am coming from a solid foundation and a fresh place to start again. I don’t NEED a husband, I WANT one. I am not desperately searching for someone to become my husband because I feel I’m ok with being a single mom and confident in who I am. But I do want someone to share my life with. That is what I feel is lacking. I miss having deep conversations with Ben, praying with each other before he went to work, raising Zeke and enjoying the good and bad moments together, and so much more.

A wise mentor couple of mine in high school and college taught me to realize that I AM a COMPLETE person. Mark 10:8 says that “the two will become one.” It doesn’t say “the two half people will become one.” God created us to complement each other NOT complete each other.  These same mentors said to think of your relationship and walk with God like you are running a race. And to look for someone who is running alongside of you who can run the race with you. This wise advice is something I took the heart the first time I got married and is something I am taking to heart the second time as well.

THOUGHT 2:  I think the interesting thing about being a widow that sets me apart from other single people is that when trouble came and cancer threatened our marriage and our faith I did not back down or walk away. I honored and followed through with that vow of “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” It’s one thing to say you will do something but when a crisis or hard time hits that’s when you’re true colors show and your words and your vows are put to the test and pushed to the limits.

Life threatening cancer and death are some of the most traumatic things a couple will deal with in a lifetime and I dealt with BOTH. 

And NOTHING about it was easy. There were definitely days when I wanted to walk away. There were days when I had to clean up BOTH Ben’s vomit from when he got sick from chemo and Zeke’s vomit in the middle of the night; There were days when I wished I was single again so I didn’t have to take care of someone so sick; There were days when I wanted to throw his strict diet and alternative medicine regiment out the window and not make his special juice which took about an hour to make each day. But like I said, not only did I not back down  or walk away but I chose to walk it WITH JESUS. I chose to let Him be a part of our journey; I chose to be honest and real with how I was really feeling; I chose to let Him comfort me even when there were no answers; I chose to listen and go deeper with Him, and I chose to love and trust Him even after Ben’s death. I have learned to simply not push through things but really take time to sit in the most painful areas of my life WITH JESUS and let Him comfort, speak, and ultimately give me the strength to not just to survive but thrive.

THOUGHT 3: Healing, especially from a death of a loved one requires healing of the heart, mind, body, and soul. I think so many times I see people just focus on one or two of those things but not all. For example, I have seen people have this mindset of putting all their energy into getting fit once their husband or loved one dies. Not, to say that is bad, because actually I have been enjoying running more and being able to be fit again. But I feel bad when I see comments of women who say, “Well I tried fitness and being fit but then when something hard came up I sank into depression and now I can’t understand why I just can’t  run or find the motivation to work out when I know it’s good for my body.” And then the response I see is even sadder “Well you just got to start running again and your depression will go away.” In some ways that is true because working out does give you endorphins, which makes you happy BUT in the long run it doesn’t fix the heart and the deeper issues. It’s like a toddler throwing a fit in the grocery store because  they have been to several stores that day and are tired and want to go home and then the mom says to shut up and suck it up. You can tell a kid to stop their behavior and you can get results but the deeper issue is that they are tired and their body needs rest. However, if they are throwing things off the shelves they do need to be told to stop and clean it up, but what they REALLY need is to be comforted and their heart tended to because it’s not easy to shop all day when you are toddler…and of course the toddler ultimately needs physical rest as well!

My son, almost a year old, resting peacefully in his crib
My son when he was a baby resting peacefully in his crib

And as adults, are we just like that toddler when we are hurting?  We can be told to change our behavior by: running, getting fit, buying more things, being in a relationship, ect. But at the end of the day and if we are really honest with ourselves changing behavior does not change our heart or the inner issues that are at war within us. God created us to be whole people.  And everything: the body, heart, mind, and soul need to be all working together and ALL TENDED to to find healing.

Reflections on the End of the First Year: Choosing Healing

When it comes to alcohol it has different forms that can either heal or numb. Alcohol, in it’s medicinal form, can help heal wounds and cuts. We all know it stings and there will be pain but in the long run it eventually heals the wound or cut. On the other hand, alcohol’s other form is to numb. We go to a bar, a wedding, or a social event, or our house and use it to numb what we are feeling or what we don’t want to feel. And in the long run, it doesn’t heal the “emotional wounds” because we don’t ever deal with it and we will keep running into it in our lives if we not don’t address it. Everyone, even myself, have our own way of numbing the pain at times with our own choice of “alcohol”. It can be: food, staying busy, watching tons of Netflix, climbing the academic ladder, writing a famous book, landing a better job; only wanting to talk about ministry and not what’s going on in our own heart; you fill in the blank.

I recently went to my first wedding since Ben died and I was faced with choosing healing or choosing to numb. I was honored and blessed to share in my dear friend’s wedding and got to see her marry her best friend, but at the same time, I grieved and began to think of my own wedding about 4 years ago and how I longed and missed my best friend and husband.

My husband and I during our first dance: May 13, 2011
My husband and I during our first dance: May 13, 2011

But I have learned that letting yourself feel the pain and intense emotions that tend to light up in different settings is so freeing. So, at the wedding,  I was not depressed when the tears came as my friend had her first dance with her husband. I let God be with me in that pain. And yes it stung and yes was painful but, like medicinal alcohol, God poured his love and comfort over  me and he was able to bring healing and  I was able to have joy in the midst of my sadness.There is joy because my needs and feelings were being met. And like I mentioned in the previous blog, God the Father wants to be there for us and care for us in our pain. I was fortunate enough to have a great girlfriend who physically hugged and comforted me when I began to cry during my friend’s first dance with her husband. That was also very comforting to have a friend that didn’t have to say anything but to just physically be there with me in that moment as I was hurting and missing Ben. I later asked God where he was when I began to cry at the wedding reception and he gave me this image of him stroking my hair and kissing my head as he held me tight in his arms. He also gave me an image of where he was with my friend and her new husband. He was dancing with them and enjoying their love and happiness. I think that really struck me that God was able to comfort me in my sadness AND be with my friend and her new husband at the same time. BOTH of us mattered to him and he wanted to join us both in what we were feeling.

I know choosing to heal is easier said than done because healing is a choice and healing is painful and a lot of work. The amazing thing about God is that he does not  rush us if we are not ready. He is patient.  He is still with us when we just want to numb out or “not go there.” The passage of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 has really been sticking out to me and I guess I didn’t really understand it deeply until now. It says:

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

God is not in a hurry. And whether we are choosing to let God heal or to numb out, he is with us. He is there and wants to be with us in whatever we are feeling. He is with you when you are feeling down about being single; He is with you when you make your kids cry because you are yelling at them; He is with you when you are failing a test you studied and knew like the back of your hand; He is with you when people are treating you unjustly; He is with you when you are feeling like you don’t have any friends; He is with you when are finding out you are having a miscarriage; He is with you when you are questioning if he really cares; He is with you in EVERY situation!

As I end the first year of grieving I am embracing and looking forward to the second year. The first year has been emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually  exhausting but allowing God into my pain is bringing healing. It is very uncomfortable at times and in the midst of it, I felt I would never get over it or stop feeling so much pain. But I truly feel all the hard work of letting God be with me and speak to me along the way has slowly begun to heal my “wounds.” That is where the exchange of “beauty for ashes” comes in. There is always an exchange if we let God into our healing. And that is the beauty and hope we have in a God. I love what my counselor/mentor said in our session earlier this week, “God can always redeem what was lost.” Life sucks and there is darkness and evil but God can REDEEM and God not only comforts us in our sorrow but he also gives us beauty for ashes. I would like to end with this verse in Isaiah 61:3 of God wanting to give us:

“… a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”