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.

My Journal from April 30, 2015

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