Navigating through the days, weeks… even moments at times… of our journey through life after losing our husband can range from uncomfortable to formidable, and prayerfully eventually stabilize to some degree. Over time we learn to grow even as we struggle with loss. I can say I’m growth in progress. The pain of grief may not shrink, but we learn to live with it, for life to use those seeds and help us grow with and around it, creating a new garden nourished with lost love where we reap what could be a new and different harvest.
I’ve been a Christian most of my life. I’ve faced many, many types of trials. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “I couldn’t get through this without having God on my side to turn to. I don’t know how people ever make it through the trials of life without their faith!”
My husband was the love of my life. We had nearly 37 years of a joyous marriage. We said, “I love you” to each other every day. Of course, we had struggles like everyone has. We chose to talk about them, pray about them, and bring them to God, trusting Him to help us. Slowly we learned the importance of making a deliberate effort to find solutions, choosing to love each other more than necessarily having our own way.
I give my husband a lot of the credit because he had a Master’s of Divinity Degree to study to be a pastor. He had a gift of pastoral care and listening, and a heart for couples and families. He was working on his second master’s degree in marriage and family counseling when he got sick. His love and devotion to me and our marriage propelled him to keep trying, keep going, and keep loving no matter what life decided to throw at us… and it was a lot.
Please Be Patient with Me, I’m Grieving by Gary Roe
From the grieving heart:
I’m hurting. Something traumatic has occurred.
Someone I love is gone, and they’re not coming back.
I don’t know how to do this.
It’s like I’ve been hit by a bus,
and I’m lying flat in the middle of the road,
watching the sky go by.
The world speeds on, oblivious to my loss.
I watch but can’t seem to enter in.
It’s as if someone pushed the pause button on my life.
My world has suddenly changed, forever.
I’m stunned. I’m hurting.
My heart is crushed. Grief can be heavy.
And yet, I can’t fully accept it somehow.
This can’t be real.
My dear husband has been enjoying the glories of heaven for over three years. I’ve been overwhelmed far too often with a very real sense of loss and immeasurable pain. My walk with God is the ONLY reason I am still moving forward. It’s God on His part holding me and wrapping me in His grace and mercy that gets all the credit. I didn’t have the strength. Sometimes I didn’t even have the will to want the strength on my own.
God stepped in and loved me where I am… understanding my humanity… frailty… fear… brokenness. He’s the only one who understands exactly how this loss devastated my concept of life. He created me. He knows how I think and react. He knows how sensitive and fragile He made my heart. He knows I long to be stronger… He knows I want to honor Him. I haven’t done a very good job. He patiently keeps adding more grace and mercy- believing in me when I can’t. He keeps encouraging my heart.
The half-living of loss.
The specter of my husband’s debilitating illness hung over me for more than five years as I made caregiving my love gift, yet I was never ready to deal with its whims… never allowing my mind to go to that point somewhere in the future when caregiving would be done. When his move to heaven came, I was still riding the speeding locomotive of keeping all the spinning plates in the air. There was so much to do and so much I hadn’t done. I lost myself in preparing for the memorial services. This was quickly followed by being forced to move to another state just as the pandemic was launched.
After the hero stage there is always a fatigue where you need to rest and renew. Six months after he was gone, I was forced into a two week quarantine of total isolation in a city I didn’t know, where church doors were locked and support groups were cancelled until further notice. The reality of the loss of my husband and its pal grief finally had opportunity to attack and attempt to consume me.
Life as I knew it was nothing like my new reality. The half-living of loss for me was defined by a sadness and aching so deep inside it affected how I ate, slept, and moved. The crash that came when I finally stopped moving long enough left me feeling shattered and devastated.
Experience teaches. If you haven’t lived it, you don’t know.
I wrote the following during that first year of grief:
Our marriage was like a bicycle, with the wheels rolling in unison going in the same direction. We both knew we could change course simply by talking to each other about it and we had the assurance even when we took a rocky, winding, steep or treacherous path… if we prayed about it and knew together it was the right way to go… we would make it. Sometimes along the way, we needed to fix a flat tire or a broken chain. Sometimes we forgot to ask God for His guidance and ended up in trouble. But, even with the detours, problems, mistakes, and breakdowns, we treasured our life, our relationship, and each other. Ours was not an easy life. We definitely had our share of sorrow, disappointment and trials. We also shared some very special blessings and grace from God on top of our incredibly special love for each other.
Losing this bond I shared with my dear husband is my deepest sorrow and most agonizing pain. Now I feel like the bicycle, but I only have one wheel and my tire is flat. The chain is definitely broken and draped on the ground because it misses its connection to the other wheel. I have no idea how to start moving again. When I survey the landscape around me, I see nothing but rubble, mostly enshrouded in darkness. No pathway is discernable, and sorrow engulfs me. I spend a lot of my time in prayer, seeking God for grace and direction. I know He loves me and has a plan for me, but so far He chooses not to reveal what that is.
So much of this still resonates with my heart. How can more than three years pass and I still find myself so raw with groanings I struggle to put into words? While this is true, it is also true I am making progress. It is tedious and messy and often excruciating. I can’t seem to fix the bicycle, but I’m learning to carry it so I can at least get moving.
Yes, the cataclysmic rhythm of this journey sweeps perilously like a gigantic pendulum between the mind-bogglingly staggering grip of despair and excruciating anguish trying to swallow and destroy me, engaged in a life and death battle with my Triune Godhead offering peace, hope and a future of rewarding purpose. This loss is not transient. Nothing I can do can reverse what happened. As the reality of the finality he can not come back slowly invades my consciousness, the utter magnitude of profound loneliness overwhelms me, bringing with it a whole new meaning of fear, desolation, and consuming sorrow. In spite of everything I’m feeling and going through, I hang on to the hope God will get me through this.
Every journey through grief is unique – just as God created each one of us with our own unique qualities, gifts and graces. The beautiful truth about giving our cares to God – our Father who created us, knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us EXACTLY as we are – is we give Him permission to reach into our broken hearts and bring His healing love… healing us perfectly, and as His Word promises us in Romans 8: 26-30 (I love the way the Passion Translation puts it):
And in a similar way, the Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness. For example, at times we don’t even know how to pray, or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words.
God, the searcher of the heart, knows fully our longings, yet He also understands the desires of the Spirit, because the Holy Spirit passionately pleads before God for us, His holy ones, in perfect harmony with God’s plan and our destiny.
So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together for good, for we are His lovers who have been called to fulfill His designed purpose. For He knew all about us before we were born and He destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of His Son. This means the Son is the oldest among a vast family of brothers and sisters who will become just like Him.
Having determined our destiny ahead of time, He called us to Himself and transferred His perfect righteousness to everyone He called. And those who possess His perfect righteousness He co-glorified with His Son!
Amen! This doesn’t mean everything in our lives will suddenly become all roses and sunshine. Grief is a journey, one step at a time (sometimes one breath at a time). Clinging in faith to God’s love and mercy will ensure we keep pressing forward. Even while I finally feel like I can breathe again and lift my hands in praise and thanksgiving, I continue to face moments and periods of deep sadness and pain. I wanted to share this because I want to encourage my fellow dear widows with hope that at some point, we reach a turning point where the relentless grief begins to lift, even if just a little bit or slowly. We must have hope to press on so discouragement doesn’t eat us alive.
We are all growth in progress, growing up or down, inside or out. Things test us now that wouldn’t even be noticed before. Other things become catalysts for our good or break us down even further. We are propelled forward because life is sustained by movement.
The cries in my heart are becoming a fresh sound that is being turned into a new cadence as God’s healing power transforms my mourning into joy. The opportunity for joy is found in the process of celebrating and remembering life. It is made possible by engaging with the world around me. It is rediscovered when I allow myself to try something new, open my heart to making a new friend, forgive freely, and embrace opportunities that come my way. Healing is ours for the taking.
So I speak over my heartbroken soul, “Take courage. Remember when you used to be right out front leading the procession of praise when the great crowd of worshipers gathered to go into the presence of the Lord? You shouted with joy as the sound of passionate celebration filled the air and the joyous multitude of lovers honored the feast of the Lord!” Psalm 42: 4
May our precious and loving Father wrap you in His strong and capable arms right now and infuse you with His hope and strength, and bring you quickly to a place of peace and rest as only He can do.