Sacred Clubs

This is a club no one wants to ever be in.  The desperate heartache that rips through a new widow can not ever be explained or measured.  The depth of this pain instantly draws compassion from all other wives while they try to imagine their worst nightmare and all other husbands as they imagine their worst fear over leaving a young family. As a young widow, I can now say there is hope for the new widow.

There is a new, young widow in my community.  I do not know her well but our kids go to school together.  I have cried many tears for her since hearing the news; and many tears for me.  My kids and I have gathered together and prayed for this young mom through our tears.  We know their next steps all to well and these next steps are terrible.

I will reach out to this fellow widow sister now that she has joined our sacred club of a few who understand just how bad it is.  I will begin by telling her that I am so so sorry that she has had to experience such gut-wrenching pain and unfortunately there is more still to come.  I will also tell her that there is hope!

My Journey

In the beginning I didn’t even feel human anymore.  I felt like a hollow shell, just walking around.  I couldn’t understand any emotion beyond utter sorrow.  It would surprise me when I had to enter the world to buy groceries or run errands and people didn’t seem to notice I wasn’t actually there.  I felt so detached from my body I was sure others would notice the separation between my spirit and physical form.  They didn’t seem to notice that, but they did notice my changed mental state.  I couldn’t hold thoughts in place and lost all short-term memory.  Widow brain is an actual condition.

I found I often couldn’t understand simple concepts that I somehow knew I use to know but didn’t care enough to try to figure out again.  I would get “triggered” and my thoughts would then hijack me, leaving me speechless and sometimes physically lost.

There were times my life would require me to do something very similar to what I had to do while my husband was in cancer treatment. It was during these times I didn’t feel like I was in my body. It felt like I was almost hovering above myself.  I found out later from my psychologist that this is a symptom of PTSD.  I was diagnosed with PTSD from living in the hospital with my husband while he was suffering in palliative care for three months, seeing things that continue to terrorize me. These out of body experiences are called disassociation.  You can’t watch someone you love more than yourself suffer in such a horrendous way without some big consequences.

Everything about my world and life changed.  I felt like only half of me.  My husband I were complete partners in everything.  We made all decisions together.  We deeply respected and loved each other.  He was my soul mate.  Without him here I couldn’t understand who I was or how I could possibly “move forward”.  Yet it is almost 3 years and I am not only surviving but many days even thriving.

What Worked for Me

How can I explain to a new widow that despite how bad it is right now and how bad it is yet to get, there is hope?  How did I get to the place where I am now; enjoying life and filled with purpose almost every day?

People prayed for me.  “In the same way the Spirit comes to us and helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

My prayer was consistently sobbed, “Jesus please help me!” as that was all I could manage to express.  People showed up and connected with me.  They lavished gifts, meals and baking on my children and I showing us such a gift of love.  They showed up with wine, cheezies and amaretto, prepared to drink with me for as long as it took to help me laugh and feel loved again.

I held my children close and began to try to parent them again.  Planning my daughter’s 7th birthday, a month after her daddy died.  Then we needed to plan Halloween where I decided to write my husbands name on the wagon he lovingly built to pull our kids around in just for this one day a year.  I slowly started getting through each day by simply putting one foot in front of the other.  Doing the next right thing as best I could.

I started regularly seeing a grief and trauma psychologist.  I began reading any story I could find of others overcoming huge tragedies, especially widows.  I clung to the promises in my bible and would read it for hours at a time.  It was recommended that I start journaling my thoughts.  I hated this idea but was desperate to heal.  I decided maybe I would just begin by writing memories of my husband that I didn’t want to ever forget.  Memories I wanted to make sure to tell the kids to help them remember their dad.  Soon I was journaling about my emotions, life complexities, and lamenting in it about how much I miss Chad.  I still inconsistently write in this journal but most often now I am writing in my gratitude journal; making a list of everything I have to be grateful for.

I started planning fun things for the kids and I to do that we could look forward to.  I then began planning adventures for myself with my best friend and a couple other friends started joining in with us.  I signed up for my favourite half marathon again and began training.

Two months later I returned to work part time and a month after that full time.  Work was a great distraction for me, however, it also added a lot of stress to our lives.  I have three busy kids who love sports and youth group.  Juggling their schedule while working is another super natural feat that I am never sure how I manage to get it all done.

The best thing I have done is be intentional with my healing.  I had a sad/mad angry period but I didn’t get “stuck” there.  Self care and lots of grace for everyone who is hurting are so very important.  If mom is okay the kids will be okay.  Everyone grieves differently and no matter how a new widow chooses to go through this, it is okay.

I still have not cleaned out my husbands’ closet.  I don’t need the space and it’s nice for the kids and I to see his clothes so why not just leave them there?  Regardless of the timeline it is okay.  Someone else may need to clean out closets right away.   During my angry stage my wedding ring made me feel fraudulent.  Like I couldn’t be displayed as married when God clearly had other plans for me, so I had it resized around 2 months out to fit on the ring finger of my right hand where I still wear it.  Sometimes I put it back on my left hand because that feels nice but now have to be careful not to have it fall off.    I hear many widows asking about when they should take their rings off and the answer is, “whenever it feels right to you”.

It will be three years on the 19th of this month that my husband went home to live with our Lord.  I am no longer a “new widow” but that new pain can still be recalled at a moments notice.  I am however also thriving and feeling joy again.  I am able to honestly say that I am happy that I am still alive.  I look forward to the fun adventures I know my kids and I will have in the future.  I am making big decisions all by myself and can often get through an entire week without crying; some months even longer!

There is hope for the new widow.  It is so hard and healing takes intentional work but it is definitely possible.  I am the proof!


Tanya Christians met her soul mate during her final year of university in Spring 1999. Although she was only 21 at the time it didn’t take long to know that this guy was the one. Chad Christians was charismatic, adventurous, confident, gorgeous and incredibly kind. He was a talented athlete who made everyone feel better the minute he entered a room. Deeply loved by everyone who knew him, Tanya always felt incredibly blessed that he chose her. Chad had a 2-year-old son when Tanya met him so once they moved in together in 2001, Tanya became a part time step mom. They were married July 2004 and then had 3 children together; a daughter in 2006, a son in 2007 and a second daughter in 2010. They built a beautiful life together in a close-knit acreage community.
Chad was a successful business owner and Tanya happily gave up teaching to stay home and raise their kids. They were incredibly happy.

In 2015, Tanya returned to work as a teacher, first part time because their youngest was in kindergarten and then full time when she was in grade one. It was June of this year that everything shattered. The life Tanya thanked God for several times a week came crashing down. Chad had been having severe back pain which led to his gall bladder being removed. After that surgery, Chad’s intense back pain was still more than he could stand. He had
been seeking medical attention for his pain since February but it wasn’t until June 11th, 2017 that the answer to the pain was found. A moment forever etched into Tanya’s mind. Chad had terminal, stage 4 gall bladder cancer. Despite being told the odds, Chad fought this cancer with everything he had, even seeking private treatment out of country, but it was just too aggressive. To everyone’s devastation Chad passed away 3.5 months later at the age of 41. When Chad moved into the different hospitals, shortly after diagnosis, Tanya moved in with him. She was by his side every moment as his health started deteriorating very quickly. Tanya’s strong faith in God gave her peace and hope during this horrendous time. She started a small, private blog telling her story during the endless hours of living in a hospital. Reading other widows blogs during this time gave her hope as well that possibly she could figure out how to live without her beloved Chad.

Chad passed away September 19th, 2017 at the age of 41. Tanya still lives on their small acreage, is working full time as a grade 6 teacher, has three kids in sports and activities and tries to stay connected to her community.
Tanya hopes sharing her story of how she is choosing to build a life where she and her kids thrive, despite her devastation, will give others hope too. How being intentional with her healing, taking steps of self care, adventures with and without her kids, staying connected to those who love them and a deep faith in God is helping them all to live a whole-hearted chapter 2 of their lives.

You can find Tanya on Instagram @christianstanya and her personal blog