The journey through grief is really a trek through transition. This is especially true for a widow. Our life with our husband is so completely different than the life we find after he moves to Heaven. It is an ongoing process and progresses in its own unique pace for each of us.
I would liken it to the change a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly. The metamorphosis of a stubby, crawling, land-based insect into a gentle, fluttering beauty is the perfect metaphor for change, improvement, and new perspective. Caterpillars and butterflies are so different, it can be hard to believe they are the same creature. The two body structures are so contrasting it’s hard to imagine one came out of the other.
God’s creation can teach us many things about God and His mind. The metamorphosis of a butterfly has three stages. It begins as a caterpillar, becomes a chrysalis, and then transforms to a butterfly.
A caterpillar crawls along the ground. Creeping caterpillars devour leaves, and some destroy plants. Almost all of the eating and growing dominate this stage of life. They appear strong with substance. The caterpillar does this quietly and secretively. Caterpillars have simple eyes, composed of a single lens, and can only see in black and white.
The caterpillar stage can be compared to my life as a wife. I had my husband at my side for two-thirds of my life-span to that point. We grew so close we worked in unison for the most part. We depended on each other and found comfort in each other. No matter what life threw at us we knew we had each other’s backs and that helped us navigate the challenges and enjoy the good things. My eyes were much like the caterpillar in seeing life through the lens of a wife and mother that in some ways sheltered me from seeing clearly how grief and loss would change my perspective.
When it is time to become an adult, the caterpillar finds a sheltered safe spot to transform. The metamorphosis starts when it spins a little silk pad. Some chrysalises hang upside down but others support themselves on tree branches or create a silk hammock.
In the chrysalis, the caterpillar is not quite a caterpillar, but it’s not quite a butterfly either. It’s in a state of transition. The bulk of the caterpillar’s pudgy mass is recycled into the adult features that are meshing together inside the tough shell of the chrysalis. The chrysalis loses nearly half of its weight as the metamorphosis consumes energy. Different species of butterflies take longer or shorter time to complete this phase of life.
When my husband moved to Heaven, widow fog hit along with a devastating dose of grief. The more I tried to fight it, the harder living seemed to get. I drew back into a shell and withdrew more and more from the world around me. I felt like I was in a cocoon of some sort… probably of my own making. Like the caterpillar, I was no longer who or what I was before I lost my husband, but I didn’t yet know who or what I was now or going to be. I guess I’ve been in this cocoon much longer than I expected and certainly longer than some people expected me to be.
I need to add here I could have died in this cocoon. God knows there were moments when I thought I couldn’t keep going. God, in His perfect love and grace continues to hold me and encourage me ever forward. He keeps promising me He has a good future for me.
This is God’s Word on the subject: … I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on Me, when you come and pray to Me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for Me, you’ll find Me. Jeremiah 29: 11-14
When it is ready, the butterfly breaks out of the protective chrysalis and pumps blood into its newly formed wings. The butterfly soars through the air. They feed on nourishing nectar and promote plant growth by pollinating the flowers. Butterflies look fragile and delicate. Butterflies have compound eyes with multiple lenses and can see an array of colors.
I think I am finally beginning life at the butterfly stage. I thought I was a few times before, but withdrew back in my cocoon as life’s trials seemed too big or hard to negotiate on my own yet. I spend a lot of time reading my Bible and praying. I knew I needed faith to hear and know God.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10: 17 NKJV
Faith, then, is birthed in a heart that responds to God’s anointed utterance of the Anointed One. Romans 10: 17 TPT
I’m seeing this world with new eyes, open much wider and perceiving things I couldn’t understand before my heart experienced this trauma. I’m still learning to fly. Possibilities far from anything I imagined in my old life are opening before me. Sharing my story with fellow widows hopefully gives them a bit of hope to keep pressing forward in their journey.
The journey of the heart is about the scariest journey we can take. There are layers and levels of fear we must face as we trudge our way forward. Grief is about scaling inner mountains. I thought my life ended when my husband’s death tore my heart open. The thing is… it’s going through yet another layer of fear as I learn to open it again to new possibilities… all alone again. Learning to live and embrace the future starts with opening our heart to possibility.
Especially that first year my beloved husband was living in Heaven, I gleaned what hope I could from reading other widow’s journeys. It helped validate my feelings and find words that could try to express the chaos of grief that somehow managed to swallow me whole. Reading those words somehow gave voice to my pain so I could hear it and process it better.
Even as time continues to pass I seek understanding from fellow widows. This pain and transition has so many layers. The edges may not be quite as sharp as they were, but the depth of the wound and the changes in me and my world are so profound it has been a very difficult progression.
Just like seeing how caterpillars and butterflies are so different it’s hard to believe they are the same creature, the person I was with my husband doesn’t look anything like the person I’ve become. I evolved from a life identified in union with my husband and transitioned to an individual with new and different hopes, dreams, and purpose. It’s hard to imagine one came out of the other.
I’ve learned God’s love for us establishes our identity. I use to take a lot of strength and identity from the support my husband gave me. Together we placed our faith in God to live the life we thought would honor and glorify Him.
My new identity is found first and foremost in believing God loves me. He loves me just as I am.
So now I live with the confidence there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced His love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken His love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Romans 8: 38-39
With Christ, we are given a new identity. Our value and importance come directly from God. He is the standard of goodness and truth, and He claims us as His own. We are somebody who is deeply and truly loved by the Lord. We are created in God’s image, His heir, His chosen people, fearfully and wonderfully made, and loved beyond measure.
Knowing this and receiving this truth helps me get out of bed in the morning and face the delight and despair of our world. It gives me courage to cope with success and failure as I find my way forward. I choose to walk humbly and confidently with Christ through the day, reflect on the day that passed with repentance and faith, and to go to sleep resting in the peace that flows from God’s forgiveness.
I encourage you to get to know yourself through God’s Word. It is just about the most practical and necessary truth there is for flourishing in our messy world. Simply ask God to guide you and I promise He will. He will reveal His will for your life. God’s will is like a compass. You point it toward Him and start moving in that direction. You don’t have to know God’s whole plan for your future. You just need to know what it is right now. Then take the next step and repeat. God bless you.