Monday will be the 1st anniversary of my husband’s passing into eternity. In some ways it seems like it happened yesterday and in other ways it feels like a lifetime ago. The Lord has me set aside by a back injury.. I spend almost all my time alone. I would never have signed up for this season.. I loved my life with Steve before he got sick. We enjoyed each other’s company and I felt loved every single day.. I know he did too.
Without him, I feel homeless.. he was “home” to me. I lost the place we were living in and the things we both enjoyed.. that was hard, but it was stuff.. and none of that matters anymore…without him. I am learning to live on my own for the first time.. realizing the presence of God more and more. He has me set aside and He is healing some deep wounds that needed attention. He is teaching me to turn to him since there is no one I can lean on.. I have wonderful friends and family, but no one is able to truly understand my feelings and sorrows. That is truly how it is for most of us, but we find ways to fill up our time so the grief we and wounds we have inside never come to the surface..
It takes time away from other people and activities to truly get in touch with ourselves.. lots of time. This time for me is a time of reflection and growth. A time to look at my relationships with others and with myself.. I see that I needed that time and the Lord has given it to me… He is doing a deep work and it is often painful.. No one wants to suffer, but I am more and more convinced that it is in the suffering that we see His face and He is able to heal us. He loves us so much that He will allow these hard seasons to show us just how real He is and how much we need Him.. We can claim to need Him and love Him but it is only in the ” valley” that we experience that love coming from Him and find that He is there for us in impossible situations.. I am so thankful for that reality.
“For He wounds, but He also binds up, He injures, but His hands also heal”
This morning as I was reading from a book on waiting I realized that a grieving season is waiting. Maybe one of the toughest waiting seasons that life has to offer. If you have been following my blog you know that I am grieving the loss of my husband and the life we shared together. I struggle with the desire to move ahead .. I need to stay in this season until the Lord does His healing work in my heart.
Grieving tends to be misunderstood in our culture and that can make a season like this all the more challenging. Now that almost 11 months have passed since Steve went to be with the Lord, I know that there are those who say.. you need to move on and think about the good things the Lord has for you. First of all there is no such thing as moving on.. you never move on and leave behind the person you love.. You move ahead and take them with you.. their presence is what enables you to want to keep living.. it is as though they are cheering you on.. telling you to live your life fully..
Grief has no timetable.. none. Everyone who experiences a great loss needs to take as much time as it takes and no one can say anything about that. That does not mean that they are supposed to just keep grieving and not receive healing . Both of these things happen together. It requires a desire to grieve fully but not without hope that God has plans that He has not revealed.. I find this to be very difficult. There are days when a grief attack occurs and I am a total mess.. as though the loss occurred yesterday and there are days when I am very hopeful and believing that the Lord has an amazing plan for me.
All of this involves waiting. Waiting on the Lord and waiting for the Lord. The sadness makes it difficult to believe anything good can happen again and waiting for something that is totally invisible is very hard.. My season of grief a a transitional time and it is a time of preparation.. the problem is what I am transitioning to and what am I being prepared for? So I am waiting and trusting in the goodness of God.
For me, I fall back on His sovereignty.. believing with all my heart that He loves me and will carry me forward in His time. My heart is heavy with the loss but my spirit is remembering His faithfulness and choosing to believe the best.. even on very bad days.. Clinging to Him and calling on Him all the time… So have grace for those who are grieving, they are all around you and they need your understanding and patience. Nothing is worse for a griever than to feel as though their feelings are wrong and they are disappointing the people who care about them.
Our culture is saturated with people who are facing all types of loss and Covid created many more losses than anyone realizes.. I am praying to be one of the people who reaches out to the broken hearted and brings comfort…so that my own pain is not wasted. Remember when Jesus quoted from this passage in Isaiah? It is our mission in these times.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning
About fifteen years ago I was part of a group of women who were reading The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge and Brent Curtis. It was a book that changed my life. John has gone on to write many other books..his wife and son also write. I appreciate their ministry and their message. This initial book is still my favorite..I often refer to it in my counseling practice and recommend it. The concept of a sacred romance was new to me and a little unnerving at first. Was God truly a romantic and was it true that He was romancing us in this very fallen world? As I began to open up to that possibility.. I saw glimpses of the goodness of God in ways that were wonderfully surprising. Of course.. it began to make sense.. we are created in His image … we embrace and long for romance.. He…
It was hard finding a title for this post. Dreaming is very important in the kingdom of God. He gives us the capacity to dream and imagine. But dreaming our own dreams and letting God give us dreams.. these are two different things. The reason I am writing about this today is because the Lord is dealing with some big issues in me that have to do with dreaming. For most of my life, I have let dreams be a way of escaping pain and suffering. It started in childhood. I was very unhappy with my family and there were many reasons why. I am not going to go into it here, but I needed a way out.. so I dreamed of this perfect life.. a perfect family. One very different from my own.
Unfortunately the path I took to get that perfect life failed. I had relationships with men that were unhealthy and eventually ended up marrying an abusive addict.. but when he passed away.. the dream of a better life was still alive and I married Steve. He was a wonderful man and I had many of the things in my life that I thought were lost forever. If you have been following my blog, then you know that Steve also passed away.. last summer. I lost everything when he got sick and I no longer had that wonderful life that I cherished. It was not a perfect life and for most of our marriage we had financial problems .. there was no real stability.. so I filled my head with dreams of the day when I would get that last piece and live happily every after. Instead Steve became ill with dementia and things became more and more difficult.
Now that he is gone, I am alone and sure enough.. the old dreams came back.. dreaming of another chance to have that life that would be close to perfect.. funny how that could sneak in even at my age! This time, the Lord has stopped me from dreaming.. Now, that doesn’t mean that I won’t get another chance.. it just means that He is teaching me to be in the pain and suffering without trying to escape through dreaming. He is helping me to live in the present and be content with not knowing what the future holds. I believe that this is how He is teaching me to rely more deeply on Him. My old dreams are gone but He can give me new ones when it is time and more importantly He is enabling me to believe that everything He has prepared for me is going to be better than my dreams.. It is actually very freeing not to be dreaming and to realize that this season is teaching me so much about our Great God.
I have always loved this scripture.. but finally I feel as though I truly understand it
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
As my husband and I talked over dinner this evening I began to get a picture from a recent walk that we took in our neighborhood. We were walking along a trail near a stream and at one point the stream disappeared..it was underground …we walked along wondering if we would see it again. It suddenly reappeared as though nothing had happened..as beautiful and perfect as it was before it became invisible.
As the picture of this stream appeared in my imagination I realized that God has a stream just like the one we saw that day. His stream runs along the path of our lives..it is a flowing stream made up of people, places, and dreams that we encounter as we travel the road of life with Him. We may have a relationship with a person or a vision we believe God has given us..when (for reasons we don’t understand) we no longer see them…
Yes, it is. While we are waiting, God is working deeply in us and preparing us for the next season. If we forget that, we may end up wasting the time wanting the season to be over.
When we wait..we pray and ask God for things that we desire and that is as it should be. We can’t be sure that everything we ask for will happen.. but we can be sure that He has heard. Knowing that this is true brings peace in the waiting if we trust Him to only bring those things that are good for us.
All of the above implies a deep faith and trust in the character of God and His goodness. It requires us to remember that we are not forgotten, that we are not being punished and that His love for us is underlying evrything.
Remembering the important things…I consider it an essential part of the life of a Believer. It is related to reflecting but more intentional.. When I am feeling insecure and fearful there is nothing that helps me more than remembering the goodness of God. We all have history with Him. If we sit down and allow ourselves to look back on all the times He has rescued us.. all the ways He has surprised us.. all the important moments in life when suddenly God was present with us.. in trials and in joyful times. Lately I have been taking the time to remember.. probably because yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the day I met my husband. I often tell the story of how it happened.. people enjoy hearing it and I love telling it. It is a reminder of how God orchestrates things perfectly and how He has a plan…
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.
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.
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.”