A Different Kind of Goodbye

Saying Goodbye To You

Saying goodbye to Ben when he died was like saying goodbye to him as a person. For the first few years I had to say goodbye to all that he was to me. He was my best friend and wonderful husband, my love, my cheerleader when I doubted myself, my comfort at the end of the day, my assembler of confusing IKEA furniture, my plus one, the one to remind me when I needed to rest or take a break, an amazing father to our child, my artistic partner, and so much more.


I was fortunate enough to stay in the same house that Ben and I found together before he died. We moved into a townhouse in February 2014 and he died in August 2014. The townhouse we found was spacious, practical, and ideal at the time. But three years after his death that began to change.

As grief became less intense it’s like the scales on my eyes fell off and I was able to really see the house and the way I arranged things in a different way. I unpacked and put things away mostly by myself as Ben slept most of the days and sometimes whole weekends because of chemo. During that time my mind was on overload and not able to think through things clearly, so many things were put in odd or hard to reach places.

The summer of 2017 I began to rearrange my kitchen, purge many baby items and baby clothes, and things Ben picked out for me but I never really loved. Getting rid of those things began this process of saying goodbye to Ben in a different way.

Things were pushed to a new level when my landlord verbally threatened that my son and I had to be out of the townhouse in 30 days in October 2017 for reasons that didn’t even make sense.

Our landlord never did send the written 30 day notice but it began the process of asking the Lord if the townhouse was still the place for us to be. It turns out He did have a better place in mind and He led me to a place that I would have never have found if I wasn’t listening to Him as I was driving around after work.

Saying Goodbye To The Old Me

I had to start sorting through the whole house and garage and decide whether to keep, donate, or store. This was not a goodbye to Ben as the person anymore. But this time it was a goodbye to the person I was. A goodbye to who we were together. A goodbye to the dreams we shared together. A goodbye to my past life. A goodbye to things I had learned to love or tolerate. It was a goodbye to all the ways I was an amazing wife and partner to someone.

All the boxes in the new place
The realization you are not a couple anymore is not an immediate process. Your brain knows what it means but it is the heart and the emotions that still feel connected that takes time to process and let go of.

Three years later I now feel mentally and emotionally not married to Ben. It is a strange thing to say or explain but a huge milestone to realize and to embrace for myself. I now see Ben as my late husband as in the past and embrace the new current single me today.

Saying Hello To The New Me

Saying goodbye to who I was is emotional but it has been a beautiful exchange at the same time. As I have learned to say goodbye, I have also learned how to say hello to the new me. Hello to a deeper and wiser person. Hello to being more compassionate and more understanding. Hello to a new style of clothing fashion. Hello to a stronger and braver person than I ever thought could exist apart from Ben. Hello to a new perspective on life. Hello to new communities of people who are willing to sit in my pain and healing journey. And most of all a hello to a deep-rooted faith and understanding in a God I could have never known without Ben’s death.

I have this vision of my life with Ben being like living in a beautiful house. When he died it was like a terrible storm tore every single last bit of the house to shreds and all that was left was ashes. The only thing left standing was the solid foundation the house was standing on and me in tears with our son in my arms. The Lord represents my solid foundation that holds me up when all else fails me. This has not taken away my pain or grief but it has made me realize that even though it seems like everything around me may seemed destroyed or lost He never changes, moves, or passes away. He remains the one thing that remains in my life forever.


Grieving Is About Letting Go and Forgiving

One of the first things most people do when a loss happens is they go through the stage of “why.” 

“Why did this happen to me?”

“Why did this happen to someone so young?”

“Why did they have to die?”

And then people go through the “if only stage”

“If only I would have seen the signs.”

“If only I would have not lost my temper the day they died.”

“If only they would have told the doctors sooner.”

All of these stages should not be suppressed and all of these stages are actually needed to get though grief. Why? Because asking these questions are part of the process of working through grief. The things that we think and the things that we feel in grief doesn’t always make sense but that is not the point. The point is to let things come to the surface. The “why’s” and the “if only’s” really have to do with our hearts being hurt and  being in pain.

Too many times I see believers skip through acknowledging the pain and go straight to praising the Lord that their loved ones are not suffering and they will see them one day in heaven.

It is great to know that we will see our loved ones again but it is not truly comforting to our hearts when we miss our loved ones. We miss having their presence in our lives and we miss the ways they were a part of it. And grieving this part matters! These stages need to be processed and they need to be grieved. Acknowledging these things are needed to work through the chaos. We have to start somewhere and sometimes that means being really raw for a period of time

But eventually grief takes on a different stage. There is a part of letting go. I had to come to grips with how much I was not in control of. Yes, I can get to make my own choices but I have no control of the outcomes or the other people around me.

For me, I felt angry I didn’t see the signs of how sick my late husband really was. When I think back on our dating and even early marriage there were little warning signs that seemed more like personality traits than major health problems. I thought it was just a personality trait of his when he would sleep so much during the day. I thought it was because he was such a chill guy that liked to relax. I thought all his stomach pain was because he stuffed himself too much at meals.

My late husband’s nickname was BBQ Ben because he loved to BBQ meat so much
My late husband chose to not find out why he slept so much throughout the day. He chose to ignore his stomach problems. He chose to ignore problems with his bowel movements. He chose to ignore and suppress his emotions that caused harm to his body. He chose to ignore a lot of other things I probably was not even aware of leading up to his stage 4 colon cancer. The doctor said with Ben’s condition he probably had the cancer for about 10-15 years. All of these things and countless other things that led to his death were his responsibility NOT mine.

Grieving is not only about letting go it’s also about forgiving.

Forgiveness is about bestowing grace upon another person and to stop feeling angry or resentful for a flaw or a mistake they made. Forgiving another person is to give grace to the things you couldn’t control and wish the other people who you felt wronged you well and give grace to that debt.  If your loved one had an addiction they died of you eventually have to let go of your own anger toward them so you can be free of resentment and accept that they chose into it not you . If a doctor messed up with a surgery that may have saved your loved one’s life you eventually have to wish them well and bestow grace and peace upon their future. If after your loved one died there were friends that stopped inviting you to things you have to forgive the fact that you couldn’t control their choice they made and wish them well. You can still acknowledge how people hurt you and still forgive them and then wish them well.

But sometimes the hardest part of forgiveness is about forgiving yourself and giving grace to yourself for the choices you made or the things you were unaware of but not responsible for in your loved one’s death.

And for me, I am the hardest person to forgive. I realize now that most of the things I’m angry about  Ben’s death are things that were never my responsibility to keep or to hold onto.

I had to sort out what my husband was responsible for and what I was responsible for. I let go of things that were out of my control and responsibility and gave it to the Lord. The things I was responsible for, the Lord and I worked on together. And we continue to work on as they come up to the surface. The Lord calls me to be diligent with what he puts before me and accept what I can and cannot control. And to me, that has been so freeing and so comforting in my grieving process. It takes the burdens that were not mine to bear off of me and the ones that are mine can be  joined and worked on with the Lord.


Our responsibility is to find out what hinders or blocks us from the Lord, have space to process it, and eventually be freed from it. Because of the Lord I can be free from the guilt I felt of maybe not doing enough when Ben was alive. I can be free from hiding how I really feel from the Lord. I can be free of carrying burdens on my own. I can be free to face all that life throws at me with the Lord. We have faced one of the hardest things life can throw at us and we have gotten through it together. It has given me hope on my hardest days of being a young widow and raising a son on my own. It has given me strength when I feel like I have none. And to me, that has made all the difference.



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.

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-


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:


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-



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.


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.

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.


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.”

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.