A Widow’s First Year Alone

A Widow’s First Year Alone

In some sense “widow’s first year alone” is deeply false. I’m not really alone. I never have been, and I never will be.

But grief is hard. My husband died exactly one year ago. I don’t think I’ve ever been through anything so exhausting – not OB-Gyn residency where I’d spend long nights in the hospital with little or no sleep, not the weeks caring for my husband as he became increasingly unable to completely care for himself. They say losing a loved spouse is like losing an arm or a leg. I think it’s more like losing most of who you are.

Grief hurts. In some very real ways I’ve come to terms with the pain, and most of the time I focus more on the future than on the past. But there’s a treasure in grief that you can’t purchase any other way. Words don’t do it justice, and you’d never choose the pain you have to endure in order to get it. But for those of you who are walking a similar journey, perhaps these ideas will help you find your own treasure.

This is in response to some of you who have asked me to share more about my journey as a widow. I’ll try here to share some thoughts about what helped, and God’s place in the journey of grief.

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What to do with Pain as a Widow: 2 Critical Keys

What to do with Pain as a Widow: 2 Critical Keys

There’s no way to make death and grief OK. Death is an aberration in God’s universe, and every time we meet it there is suffering. We try all kinds of things to delay it, ignore it, and pretend we can evade it, but not one of us can escape death. Death hurts – a lot.

Grief is many things; loss, loneliness, anxiety, stress, anger, depression, exhaustion, and so much more. Grief comes in waves, and each one is different than the one before. If you’ve lost someone close to you, even caring friends are unlikely to fully appreciate its deep and long-lasting impact on your mind, heart, and life.

I think the best word to describe the impact of death on those of us left behind is pain. What do you do with the pain as a widow? The death of my husband Al last year wounded me deeply. And yet I’m still standing. Some days are harder than others, but I keep going. Some have asked how I can do so. It’s more than simply knowing God, although that’s important.

Several things have been helpful in my grief journey, but there’s one thing I’ve come to know that has made the most difference. And it is this:

It’s not supposed to not hurt.

You could take out the double negative and it would still be true; this is supposed to hurt. This is not OK. And when we as Christians try to make it OK we cripple our own hearts and miss out on the empowerment God would like to gift us with.   Tweet that.

For those of us going through grief it often seems that if we could just make the pain go away everything would be alright. But that’s not what God promises, at least not yet.

And it’s not even true. If the pain would magically go away, so would the memories, the love, the gift of that person in your life. That is true even if the relationship also included suffering.

Pain means we care. Pain means we loved. Pain means this is not the way God intended our lives and the world to be. Pain means our love was deep, our lives are different because of that loved one’s place in it, and their time on this earth changed us forever. Those are good things. Would we really not want to hurt at the death of someone we cared about so deeply?

It’s not supposed to not hurt.

So what do you do with the pain? How do you go on? Can you even go on?

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Why you SHOULD Sweat the Small Stuff

Why you SHOULD Sweat the Small Stuff

It’s probably happened to you. Your life is going along relatively OK. There are bumps in the road, but you’re still moving forward – even if it’s slower than you wish. Sure, life could be better, but you’ve come to some sort of compromise with your dreams. Maybe this is as good as it’s going to get.

And then WHAM! Something totally disrupts your imperfect-but-known way of life. A flood or tornado or fire wipes out all your earthly possessions. The marriage you thought would last forever ends in a flurry of betrayal and trauma. You get a call that your loved one has been taken to the hospital after a serious accident.

And suddenly the things that mattered so much yesterday don’t matter at all today.

Nothing brings life into perspective like trouble. It happened for me with the death of my beloved husband Al in February. It’s not that I didn’t expect this time of loss and grief; I knew when we married that barring a miracle or Jesus’ imminent return I would be facing life as a widow one day, though Al’s death came sooner than we expected. I truthfully had my priorities about right. But still the stark reality of death has taken what I knew to be true and broadcast it in front of my face in 3-D neon technicolor and shouted it in my ears with the volume of a jet engine.

I don’t look back now; I look forward. And that changes the way everything looks. From the perspective of eternity, everything here and now becomes unimportant – while at the same time becoming supremely important.

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Suffering in Marriage

Suffering in Marriage

Suffering in marriage is common. I’m honored to be posting over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. Thank you, Sheila Wray Gregoire, for the opportunity! I hope you’ll check out all Sheila has to offer, and read the full post there.

Suffering in MarriageMarriage isn’t supposed to be about suffering, is it?

There may be a few marriages where everything goes smoothly and life is truly “happily ever after,” but truthfully I haven’t known any marriages like that. I considered my marriage very happy, happier than most, but it was not devoid of suffering. But it was actually those challenging aspects that brought me the greatest satisfaction and became the most valuable.

Suffering in marriage is a touchy subject. That idea may immediately bring up thoughts of abuse, control, manipulation, addiction, violence, and any number of other painful and destructive ideas. I just want to get this out of the way right now: those behaviors are never OK. Never. Period. End of story. If there is abuse, manipulation, or violence going on in your marriage, get some help now!

But there’s a whole other aspect to “suffering” that is much more common, perhaps universal.

As human beings we are basically selfish, and when two selfish people become joined in marriage there is certain to be suffering.

You are certain to be hurt if you get close enough to someone, and you are certain to hurt them also. And life has a way of bringing its own suffering in a thousand different ways. It’s not a matter of if, but of when. But it’s what you do next that really counts.

Suffering can crop up in many different ways. Your spouse wants sex when you don’t, or you want sex when your spouse doesn’t feel up to it – over and over again. Your spouse develops a serious illness. Your teenage child gets involved in drugs. Your baggage or your spouse’s baggage from your family of origin spills over into your life now. You’re forced to choose between a job you love and doing what’s best for your marriage or family.

Your suffering may be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but it feels really heavy – and probably unfair.

I hope you’ll check out the rest of this post over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. There I talk about how to tell the difference between “good” suffering and “bad” suffering. I’d love to see your comments and questions.

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When You Can’t Let Go after Your Spouse Leaves

When You Can’t Let Go after Your Spouse Leaves

Marriage is supposed to be forever! When you said “I do” you looked forward to joining your lives, building your family, and probably growing old together. And then something happens. Your spouse leaves, and you can’t let go.

Here’s part of a message Gerry (not her real name) wrote to me recently: “I am unable to let go of my husband. He left me a few years ago for another woman. He still relates cordially with me and our kids, but it’s so painful to watch him go home to another woman. It hurts. I desire to have him back but he seems disinterested. I am sexually starved and feel so empty and worthless. I don’t know how to cope.”

It’s difficult to describe the trauma that happens when your relationship breaks apart, and your former spouse acts as if there was never anything between you. In some ways it’s more painful than if that person had died. They’re still out there, but they’re not with you. You can’t get rid of the images in your mind – either real or imagined. The what-if’s won’t leave you alone.

A marriage unites two people together, and there’s no way to separate them from one another without significantly tearing your soul in shreds. God hates divorce not because of some arbitrary directive from on high, but because of the way in which it hurts his children. And it’s especially painful when it appears your former spouse is doing great even though you’re in agony.

It’s bad enough to have to learn how to live single again after being married. But Gerry talked about something much deeper.

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