2021.. so far

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I often write about grief and loss. And you probably know that my husband passed last August. He had early onset dementia. My season is tough right now. Steve is gone and I miss him every single day. He was the love of my life and my soul mate. No one can take his place in my heart.

At the end of March it will be 7 months since he went to be with the Lord.. March 30th would have been our 19th anniversary and April 14th would be 20 years since we met.. He will not be here to celebrate those dates with me.. that is incredibly hard.. I wanted to grow old with him.. I am definitely growing old but without him.

The grief is still very fresh but it is different than it was 3 months ago.. I think I have grown used to it. It is less intense but still knocks me to the ground regularly.. I get up a little more easily.. I’ve had a lot of practice now. This blog post was inspired by some reading I have been doing on grief and how best to help grievers. I feel as though most people have no idea what grieving people need and that is not really their fault. We live in a culture that denies loss and death and worships youth. In the midst of that culture people are facing loss and death every day.

What do you think when you hear about the mass murders that just happened in our country? I know.. it is scary and sad and awful. What about the families that lost loved ones? Once the headlines go away.. they are supposed to go back to their ” normal” lives. They will never do that. Life does not go back to normal when there is that type of loss. My life is never going to be normal again.. and neither will yours when you experience the loss of loved ones.

My passion is to educate people on this topic because grief and loss are real. Denial does not wipe them out. What do grievers need? Not advice .. not scripture band aids.. not platitudes.. They need compassion and understanding. They need someone to be with them in their grief.. to listen.. to cry with them.. to talk about the loved one who is missing. They need to know that those around them remember that person and are not afraid to bring up their names or to ask questions. They need others to realize that their reality is totally different now.. When you are grieving you are not the same as you were before the loss and you will continue to change as you grieve.

People do not get over grief.. they learn to live with it. They join a club they never knew existed.. the club is filled with those who have loved and lost. It is real and everyone eventually joins. As for me, my life has been filled with loss. I have been widowed twice and lost many friends and relatives. I have learned to grieve fully so I don’t end up self- medicating because I am stuffing my feelings. As a friend of someone who is grieving.. you can help them heal by being present with them in this process. I want to encourage you to do that. Don’t be afraid of it.. it is not contagious and you are not going to make a mistake. The biggest mistake you can make is to shy away from someone who is hurting.

I am fortunate to have friends and family who are not afraid of my pain. People who understand and listen. God has blessed me in this season. My hope is that I will continue to be there for those people who will face the impossible. I don’t have answers for them.. I can only reach out to say that God is with them and that He loves them and will take care of them.. because He is doing that for me.. each and every day.

The Lord knows our pain.

“Jesus wept”

Almost 11 years !

It was 11 years ago that I started this blog. In the beginning I really didn’t know what a blog was and I had no idea how to start one or how to keep it going. I was on Facebook and felt frustrated because I wanted to express more of myself than I could there. So.. I started this blog. Throughout the years I often wondered if I should quit.. just leave it up but never add to it. I decided to keep going and to write one more post.. and then another one and then another one.. and here we are today.

Maintaining this blog is like living life.. we take one step and then another and another and here we are. I write because I hope that what I share helps others and that my vulnerability helps people open up to their true feelings and struggles. I don’t get much feedback but that’s OK.. it is something that the Lord has called me to do and I really enjoy the process and the comments:)

My last post was a few weeks ago and I feel like I have been moving forward quite a bit since I posted on February 1st. I am still grieving , of course. It has been almost 6 months since Steve went to be with the Lord.. sometimes it seems like years and sometimes it seems like minutes. The grief comes and it goes. I know it will always be like that but I am learning to live in this season with hope. So many things happened at once for me that I was literally reeling for months.. trying to understand what happened and hoping to get insights into why. Well.. I know what happened.. I lost everything almost at once but I don’t know why. What I do know is that I can survive without any explanations. God is not going to reveal to me the reasons for taking Steve and that makes sense to me now. He is the Lord and He gives and takes away..

My challenge is to keep living and believing that there are purposes for me without him.. not easy. As I spend time alone these days.. the fear is less.. the loneliness is less.. that is a huge gift. I miss sharing my life with Steve.. I won’t get over that.. but I am learning to live with it.. believing that God is the redeemer. So each day I take steps like I did when I started this blog.. one blog post at a time and one step at a time. One day I will look back and realize I made it to 1 year.. then to 5 years and maybe 10 if I am still here. God will carry me into the future even though it looks like a blank slate. He wrote the story of my life and He will unfold it page by page as He has always done. My job is to trust Him and to know that He is good.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Alone with God

 

 

That is the life I am living these days. I live in a room.. like a semi studio attached  to a house filled with a family that rents to me. It is my own private space and I am thankful that the Lord brought me here. I was living here 5 months ago when my husband passed on. I have no idea how long I will be here or where I could ever go since I have a very limited income.

So the challenge is to accept what is and to learn how to spend time alone with God on a totally new level. There are very few distractions or responsibilities in this season. It is a huge adjustment. My nature is to want to take care of people and now I just have my cat and myself. Some days we do well.. other days are so hard that all I do is think about everything I lost. My husband, my home, my things, my job .. the beautiful valley I walked in almost every single day.. all gone.

Days that  I struggle to not be angry at God and probably almost everyone else.. anger is a part of grieving. Other days I am so sad I have to drag myself out of bed and force myself to eat and exercise. My life feels empty and no place feels like home. I am writing this because I want you to know the context of this post. So I spend lots of time alone. I know God is with me but I am lonely for human contact… missing the hugs and kisses that Steve gave so generously. Does it help when people say but you are not alone.. God is always with you.. No it does not help. Why? Because I am grieving and it is painful and it is a solitary road that no one truly understands. There are moments when I know God is close.. but they are surrounded by many more moments when I think to myself.. what happened to my life? Where am I?

Covid life has not made this any easier. People and places are off limits and here in California many churches are closed, so that dimension of life is also gone. I don’t enjoy watching church.. on Zoom or Facebook live.. it reminds me of a bad TV show. So now I am struggling with my relationship with the church.. feeling disconnected and discouraged.. wondering what it all means. I struggled with church all my life as a Believer and got disillusioned over and over but kept returning. This time is different. As I have prayed about it and wondered what to do.. I get the impression God is saying don’t be afraid to be alone with me and to let that be enough. This doesn’t mean total isolation but it does mean not looking to church for support or meaning in my life.. It means not clinging to something that is gone.. maybe not forever, but at least for now.

I often  think about those people who spent time in prison or heroes like Corrie Ten Boom who was in a concentration camp. There are many examples of people who are models of what it is to be a person of great faith. They suffered alone with God and He was enough. Let that be my story Lord in these dark times.

 

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” 

The Rabbit Hole

The title of this post is drawn from a picture that I saw in my head about grief. Of course it is related to Alice In Wonderland. After googling rabbit hole and grief I came across a movie made in 2010 called “Rabbit Hole”. I never saw the movie but I know it is about a couple who lose a child and the grief they experienced after the loss.. it sounds almost too sad for me right now.

The reason for rabbit hole is that after Alice fell down the hole, she was in a different world and that is the experience of grief. When you lose someone close to you, your world totally changes and it is surreal. People you know go about their business as though nothing has happened. I almost want to stop them and say ” don’t you realize everything is different now?”. Then I remember it is not for them.. only for me. I am in a world that I don’t recognize because my husband is with the Lord now. At the same time, the world itself turned upside down several times.. last March and actually yesterday was a day like none other.

Back to the world of grief.. I often wake up and wonder where I am.. I moved 3 times in just a little over a year and most of the things I looked at and used for 18 years are gone.. I have days when I wonder if I could find them all.. a strange thought since many of them are in Idaho and lots of things are here in different homes of friends and family and some went to strangers through the Goodwill store.. My world turned upside down three times and then Steve passed 4 months ago and my life disappeared.. the life where I spent every day for years looking out for him and taking care of him .

So I have fallen into the rabbit hole and I continually find myself wondering where I am.. It is easy during a grieving season like this to feel lost or crazy .. or just totally different from other people. All of these things are true.. except that I am not crazy.. I am grieving deeply and fully.. Trying to make sense of a world that makes no sense.. trying to feel at home.. when home to me was my husband.. anywhere he was.. that felt like home.

Covid could be making your feel like you fell down that same hole. Maybe you are grieving things that are no longer possible.. For some of us, yesterday was a trigger too.. what happened to the country we grew up in? Is everything out of control? A very challenging time to be alive.. in so many ways. So.. you are not crazy if you feel scared or depressed or disoriented right now.. You are just a human trying to cope with a very broken world where loss is a big part of life.. You will land on your feel and so will I. Our God will come for us in the middle of the mess and rescue us from the heartbreak we may be feeling now. He is for us and with us.

He has prepared a place for us… better than our wildest dreams.

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Beginning

The very beginning of 2021 is finally here. We are still in the first week.. before you know it we will be well into 2021 and it will no longer be a new year.. it doesn’t take long to get used to things. New things become old in a very short amount of time. I started out this year with a bang..literally. I was out walking with a friend and ended up tripping on an uneven sidewalk and before I knew it my forehead was bleeding everywhere and my friend and landlords were all trying to help me .. I was surrounded by very caring people. Late into the afternoon I went to the ER.. got stitches, x-rays and a tetanus shot. I am currently struggling with bruising, scrapes and muscle pain.

The good news is I did not break anything ..no bones.. teeth or glasses. I am so grateful it was not worse. So here I am wondering how to look at this fall. Will 2021 be a terrible year? I hope not.. I’ve decided to look for the deeper reason for this fall. I always look for meaning and for God’s purposes.. I don’t always find them but I always search. It is easy to see that He is slowing me down.. giving me a reason to stay home and rest and reflect. In the last few days I realized the need for that rest.. not just because I hurt everywhere but because I have been running non stop since my husband started showing signs of dementia. In the skilled nursing the people always say that it is a marathon not a sprint. Dementia can last many years and unfold day after day.. at whatever pace it chooses.

I recently realized that Steve showed some major signs early one that I did not recognize. The earliest sign was probably 7 years ago.. the more obvious changes began 4 to 5 years ago. So I ran the race with him all that time until 4 months ago and in reality I have not been eager to slow down and remember all that has happened. One thing I do know is that I need to do that.. to grieve fully.. I need to remember and reflect.. to really look at my story and to realize how much I have been through. So I am doing that.. writing this is part of my therapy. I will also be working with a Hospice Grief Counselor to get the support I need. This will enable the past to go into the past and bring me to a greater level of acceptance.

God..the healer wants my attention and He has it. I am learning to receive help.. I am allowing myself time to be here now and break the habit of always trying to move ahead ..My future is a blank slate and I know from the other time I was widowed that the Lord has brought me to that place so He can lead me at His pace and I can rest in His sovereignty.

As for you.. my hope is that you did not start 2021 in such a dramatic way but that you too will take the time to reflect on all the losses and disappointments we all faced in 2020. There may be more in 2021, but we will handle those better if we take the time to realize what has happened and let the Lord comfort us and heal us.

Our God is faithful in all things.. at all times.. He never changes and we can trust Him in all circumstances.

He is our Hope!

Every year around this time the Lord gives me a word to focus on. A word to take into the New Year. This year it was very obvious that the word is HOPE. I know you need this word too. 2020 has been a year of great losses We have been surrounded by a deep sorrow that surrounds us as we get up, during our days and at night. The world turned upside down in March, and shows no sign of returning to what it was before the pandemic.

What is going to happen next year in 2021? No one knows. One thing we do know is that our hope cannot be in the new year. At the end of December, even before Christmas we start focusing on next year and of course that temptation is even greater when everyone wants this year to end. It will. The day that it ends is December 31st.. that also happens to be my birthday. Every year as the year ends.. my personal year ends. How much do I want to believe things will be better next year? How much do I wish this new year would be easier than 2020 when we had a worldwide pandemic, and I lost my sweet husband to dementia?

That’s right I want to dream of better days.. that somehow the pain will lessen and I will find a new purpose in life. Nothing wrong with that, except it is not the answer. The answer is to be found in this season we are celebrating right now. God came into the world when it needed Him the most and brought us hope. It is a hope that we have right now . Jesus is our hope and He is with us in this mess and in whatever new challenges we will face next year. As we approach Christmas it is an opportunity to remember what He has done for us, and to be thankful that we are not alone in a broken world. We have His promises that lift us above our circumstances and we have the hope of eternity with Him.. where there will be no more tears or sorrow.

We have so much to celebrate as we think about Him and how He has saved us and will always take care of us and provide everything we need as we trust Him. So.. in the sorrow, I am going to rejoice in His goodness. i am going to look ahead.. not with faith in 2021, but with faith in our GREAT GOD.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Art Journaling Grief

Sometime last year I started a journal to deal with my grief using art. I returned to it recently and realized that it truly helps me process my emotions. In my case creating beauty is the key. For others it might be just drawing something or using color to soothe the soul.

Here are a few pictures from that journal:

This one is showing the waves of Grief
“Is He worthy?” A favorite song
Another favorite ” Sanctuary”
Creating beauty with some of my favorite colors yesterday.

i am hoping these might inspire you to try doing something as you process your losses from this year. We all have them and sometimes words are not enough

Blessings,

Alicia

The Veil

I woke up thinking about this journey and how hard it is.. my usual morning thoughts. I knew Steve was going to die and I tried to prepare myself for the day when I would lose him. Of course that is impossible. We cannot be prepared for the death of someone we love no matter how hard we may try.. once they are gone the waves of grief sweep over us and we can only hang on and wait for the next one.

He is gone..yes I know where he is.. but that does not always help. I thought of the wall that divides us from our loved ones once they move out of this world. It is so hard.. we know they are there, but we cannot see over that wall or climb over it or see through it.. It feels like they are within our reach but that wall stands in the way..

I try to talk with him and tell him things.. wondering if he can hear me .. trying desperately to imagine that he is able to know what is happening to me. My heart aches to hear his voice and at times I hear it in my head.. telling me not to worry or be fearful.. reminding me that I can continue without him.. it helps and it doesn’t. I want to tear down that veil and run into his arms.. to tell him that I love him and that I miss him.. my heart breaks into a million pieces.. I gather them up and keep going.

This is grief my friends.. it is real and it is hard and we were never created to be able to endure it alone. I am so thankful for my friends and family .. for those who support me and help me keep his memory alive. I am most thankful for the Lord.. the God who carries me through each day.. even the days when I tell Him I hate Him and all He does is wait patiently so He can love me again.. He picks me up off the floor and tells me to rest.. to let him restore me.. to let Him bring healing to me in the midst of the darkness.. He is with me and for me and I know this.. I can run from Him but there is no where to go.. I try to blame Him but I know that this death is a result of our broken world and not punishment from Him.. He is good.

He has Steve now ..He loved him so much that He rescued him .. he is reunited with those who went before him.. released from the suffering and the pain.. safely home.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The hidden places..

I wrote this 4 years ago but I think you might find it helpful.. truth never changes..

Alicia's Roses

dscn4151

We have these places in our lives. They are like closets full of things that we don’t want to look at too closely. The truth is they are not hidden from the Lord. He sees and knows all the things we are keeping from Him and from ourselves. This closet may hold secret sins and idols.. but it also holds pain. Pain that we put in the back under everything. Why? So we don’t have to grieve and face the losses that happen in life. So when God goes into that closet and begins to pull out things.. He has only one purpose in mind and that is healing. How do I know that.. because I have experienced healing from His hand over and over again.

He wants to bring us into freedom. To touch our wounds and heal them. To bring out the poison.. the toxins that have developed…

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Grieving and living

It has been five weeks since Steve went to be with the Lord and I miss him every single day. Part of me wants him back but another part knows that he is better off where he is and I need to try to begin again. It is very difficult. there are constant reminders of our life together and the continuing empty places I stumble across that can only be filled with his presence.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.. I have so much time alone that I can’t run from my thoughts and feelings.. a mixed blessing.. How do I grieve and still live? A big question when you lose your spouse, best friend and your biggest fan. I don’t know the answer since I am learning how to do this every single day.

There are very sad moments and lonely days. There are difficult nights and early mornings that seem endless. My mind entertains way too many thoughts about the future.. everyone tells me to stay in the present.. that is very hard when the present is so far from what I wish it was.. yet I see the wisdom in that advice.. I also know I need to believe that the future is going to be better than the present..

I had a conversation with someone who seemed to want to convince me that a better future might never come.. that some things never change.. that we need to be prepared to accept the present even if we are unhappy and longing for something more. That conversation was very hard.. it seemed to undermine everything I believe about God.

The God I know is always doing a new thing. He is a God filled with love for His children. He puts desires in our hearts because He wants us to ask for things and then believe that He will come through and answer us. He is the redeemer. He takes what is meant for evil and turns it into something good. His ways are not our ways. He is always for us.. ahead of us, preparing the way for us. This is the God of Romans 8:28.. He takes all things and uses them for good in our lives.. ALL THINGs.. He will do much more than we could ever ask or imagine and we will see His goodness in the land of the living.

He rescues us.. searches for us.. pursues us. His heart is for us and His plans for us are for our good and He will never harm us. My life is proof of this. God is not in a box that we create.. He has more for us than living in our own small sad stories.. There is a larger story and He is the hero of that story.. coming to save and restore us over and over again.

So.. yes I am grieving and sad and lonely.. but God is with me and for me and will surprise me with things that I can’t even dream about right now. He has collected all my tears and He weeps with me.. I trust Him fully and will continue to believe that He is in this season with me and that He will deliver me when it is time.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

( Ephesians 3: 16-20)