Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential. – Kerry Washington
The juncture to widowhood is one of those life changing transitions we usually don’t eagerly embrace with hope and great expectations. Our status shifts as we become separated in this life from our husband. Let’s consider how we might continue to run our race believing in the promises of the Lord. Our legacy can reflect how we embrace and use our talents and gifts to propel us forward with courage and strength, even when we face life’s biggest challenges.
“I’ve found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Fall forward…Never be discouraged. Never look back. Give everything you’ve got. And when you fall throughout life, fall forward.” – Denzel Washington
Our road in life never moves in a straight line. There are ups and downs, curves and turns, wide and narrow places. Along the way we all face transitions and turning points that can be anywhere from very exciting to very unnerving. Most will shower us in a combination of emotions. New beginnings are highlighted and imprinted on our memories. They mark these new seasons we move through as we grow, mature, and forge ever forward to accomplish our purpose and achieve our potential.
Spring is the season of so many life changing decisions and the entrance to some of life’s most glorious transitions. Graduation brings images and thoughts of celebration for young people crossing the threshold of their status as student to the adventure of their future. Weddings celebrate two people dedicating their lives and future to each other in covenant under God. Some families are growing as a brand new life is birthed and added, changing everything they once called normal. All of nature is alive with new life. New blossoms add both color and fragrance to fill us afresh with hope and light the fire of spring fever.
Perhaps we can ease the passage to widowhood somewhat by comparing it to other events immersed with more joyous and hope-filled expectations. There are some striking parallels in this transition to the graduation celebration. We are alone, embarking down a path we mostly have ideas about, but haven’t been on before. While the pain of loss colors, invades, and disrupts the momentum we once treasured, we again have new possibilities to explore. Young graduates reached a level of maturity that allows them to go pursue their dreams as independent adults. We too have a chance to evaluate our gifts and talents and possibly shift our attention in a new direction. Maybe it’s time for a new dream or a new focus, time to rediscover our individuality.
Steps When Life Takes Us Down a New Path
No matter our age or position, we seek the same things in life: connections, purpose, growth and love. When we take the steps, and which steps we choose to take, will vary for each of us. We all grieve at our own pace. Don’t look at this as a complete or perfect list. Let it be a tool you can refer to that could help you untangle some of the chaos and perhaps offer some direction.
Let yourself answer freely without judgement. It’s just for you and it’s not a test. There are no right or wrong answers. It might be best to work through each step, and then go back to the beginning and review it and make changes in light of what you discovered from the process. This is a good thing to journal. Then you can go back later and see the progress you made and make appropriate adjustments.
Describe the future you see right now.
Most of us have a future we were looking forward to with our husband at our side. Depending on how long we were married, our age, our children and their ages, our jobs, our commitments, and the other big factors we consider important, this future could be only a dream or very well defined… or anything in between.
Possible things to consider:
How much of this picture is based on what you want… compared to what he wanted?
How much of this is based on other family members?
Review your life up until now.
What is your passion? It’s something that comes naturally to you that you really enjoy. It doesn’t feel like work, but gets you excited to do. It fills you with confidence and does not stress you. It may be something you volunteer to do or wouldn’t think twice to go the extra mile for.
What makes you feel fulfilled?
What do you regret?
What makes you proud of yourself?
Who are the people who had the biggest impact on your life? Why?
What do you consider your biggest success?
What is your biggest failure? Why?
How do others describe you? What do they tell you are your strengths? Weaknesses?
Let go of the past and focus on the present and future.
This might well be the hardest thing you will ever do. Depending on where you are in your grief process, you may not even be able to hear this right now. I include it because it is a necessary step in moving forward to a healthy future. If this is too much for now, skip it and go to the next step.
I forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize God, through Christ Jesus, is calling me. Philippians 3: 13-14
Paul is teaching the Philippians to put their energy in the present and the hope the future holds. It is concentrating on the things we have control over. It is where our opportunities lie to serve God by loving and caring for the people in our spheres of influence.
Releasing the past will help your mind steer you to persevere towards your new dream as you heal. Dwelling on the past can hinder your ability to move forward. Letting go of the past will make you more present with yourself. When you’re mentally stuck elsewhere, your mind can’t sort out what is currently happening and what needs to happen.
This doesn’t mean you forget your husband. That’s not going to happen. It doesn’t mean letting go of the memories. It’s about allowing yourself to consider new dreams and goals you can accomplish for yourself. He’s not here to help. You can certainly honor him by incorporating his memory in some way. It’s coming to terms with the reality he is gone.
It is allowing yourself to also release any failures and mistakes in your past and learn from them to increase your chances of success. It’s giving yourself a clean slate to start from a position of strength. It’s taking a deep breath to walk forward with courage and determination.
Visualize your ideal self.
Many widows define themselves by their relationship with their husband. Take the time to see yourself as whole as an individual. This can be hard and may take time to adjust to. It’s a paradigm shift for most widows, a dramatic and significantly different way of looking at something. Perhaps think back to a time when you felt fulfilled and happy.
What do you want from life?
What are the things you consider to be most important?
What enriches your life?
What are your skills?
What are your values? Personal meaningful values can tell you a lot about your nature. They can help illustrate the life you want to live as well as the behavior you expect from others. Examples include honesty, compassion, loyalty, creativity, spontaneity, courage, faith, intelligence, etc.
What needs to be changed in your lifestyle? Scrutinize your habits, current daily activities, how you spend your time, and other minute details to see if they benefit you. What could be left behind? What could be added to help you reach new goals?
Who do you spend time with? Who supports and encourages you? Who distracts you or creates chaos and adds stress? Who would you like to add to your support system? Keep in mind, identifying people who are difficult to be with doesn’t mean you have to necessarily cut them out of your life. Use this knowledge to help you manage how much time you are spend with them, and possibly find ways to change the relationship in a positive direction.
There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” —C.S. Lewis
Explore what the future you want looks like.
Try to define your future in as much detail as you can. The more difficult the questions are to answer, the more important to you they likely are. Add questions and ideas as you continue to explore this.
What are you doing in your future? Work? Play? Daily routine?
Who is in your future support group?
What would you most like to see changed?
Is there a manageable change you could make right now?
What are your goals?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10?
It’s Your Future and You Deserve a Great One
I miss my trusted sounding board and the insight he gave me as someone who knew me almost as well as I knew myself. He loved me, saw my gifts and talents and was eager to encourage me to use my strengths in concert with my interests. I’m sure you do as well. We’re on a journey of continuous transformation. Our new season brings us to the process of self-discovery, and it looks different for everyone. It won’t happen overnight.
We have our experience to get us started, but for most of us we are redefining ourselves because our identity was wrapped in unison with our husband. It will take time and patience to determine who we want to be individually going forward. It’s almost like getting to know someone else.
You’re in control of your journey. Feel free to try new things, seek God for wisdom, make new friends, keep on learning, and stray off the main path. The more ground you cover through self-exploration, the more you’ll discover about yourself. The more you discover, the easier it will get and the more enriched your future will be.