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Grieving is waiting

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

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.

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.”

Grief during the 2020 Pandemic

 

 

Loss and grief are everywhere. We are all living in a state of grief right now. Our world turned  upside down when the news of the pandemic took over our world. We have been living in very scary times with no end in sight. As I write this people are losing homes and lives to wildfires that are appearing all over the West Coast. I began to think about all the losses that are happening to everyone..  Many have lost their lives.. others suffer because of a loss of freedom, loss of choices, loss of relationships, loss of jobs, homes,.. I am sure you can name other losses .. it is unbelievable.

We lost the ability to connect with strangers.. to smile at children.. to visit loved ones that are sick and dying. .. to celebrate life changing events.. to gather together to comfort one another when there is a death in a family. So much is lost and in the middle of all this.. there are those of us who are losing family members to diseases other than Covid.. People are dying alone in skilled nursing.. what a tragedy.. there is no way to process that type of loss.. no second chances

I am grateful I was allowed in to see Steve in his last months.. other people are not so fortunate.. So here we are in the middle of a grief filled world trying to process our own losses.. it is a very complicated grief. A layered grief where you walk all alone wondering how you can survive when everyone is sheltering inside afraid.. to breathe the smoky air or afraid of getting sick. A fear based world that has us hiding out… waiting for the day when we can hug each other and rejoice that it is finally over.

Meanwhile we meet on Zoom or some other video format.. we talk on the phone.. trying to support one another without touching.. it really isn’t the same. We are made for relationship with living breathing human beings. Church on TV is not church to me.. it is superficial and lacking the things I would look forward to on Sunday..the human contact.. the hugs and the smiles..So everyday I wonder.. why did I lose my husband now? What possible good can come from this? How do I cope with the isolation and loneliness when everyone is struggling with their own sorrows and losses.

Does the Lord answer these questions for me? Not really. He does say :

TRUST ME

in the darkness

in the uncertainty

SEEK ME

with your whole heart

TRUST IN MY FAITHFULNESS

REMEMBER MY GOODNESS

So daily I return to him from the prison of isolation and grief and tell him I TRUST YOU.. in this pain. You are my Father.. My Redeemer.. My Rescuer.

Shelter in Place

 

 

I actually cannot remember using that phrase before about 4 months ago. There was never a time when I thought for even one minute we would be using it every day and doing it for months. So here we are and we have been sheltering for 4 months.. limiting our contact with other people by staying home and when we go out we wear masks and stay 6 feet apart as much as possible.

The world has turned upside down and may stay that way for a long time.. no one can say that we will ever return to what we called normal. It is going to take time to see what this virus does next and what the reaction to this virus has done to us. I don’t know about you but what I miss the most is hugs and smiles.. Two very important ways we connect with one another have been taken away.. it is a huge loss for me. Thankfully I have a few people in my family I can hug and we can be around one another without masks and smile at each other.. but I miss smiling at strangers and hugging people that I don’t see very often.. expressing the joy that the Lord gives us for one another .

So I long for the good old days when we were not afraid of each other.. when we did not see continual bad news about this virus every single day for months.. I continue to hope for a time when we can relax more and enjoy life in a way that is not possible now.

I wonder how God is at work in this mess. Did He create this virus? I don’t believe He did because it is evil and He is not the creator of evil.. but yes, He has allowed it to exist and chosen not to stop it from spreading.. something that happens in this fallen world on a regular basis.. One thing I know is that He will bring good out of this because His word promises this. Sometimes I get glimpses of good things that are happening right now.. families are spending more time together.. people seem to be more polite and aware of each other out in public.. parents are getting to know their children in deeper ways. We are all learning to entertain ourselves in new ways because things we used to do are gone. Many people are exercising and cooking more.. focusing on being healthy in new ways. Some people are able to work from home and will never have to commute again.. taking stress out of their lives and we end up with cleaner air. Some parents will continue to home school their children because they find that everyone benefits from being together instead of spending long hours in the classroom.

Probably the biggest gain I see is that we are all less busy. We have more time to be alone and more time to connect with the Lord.. I realize that not everyone is taking advantage of this .. they may decide to continue to have busy lives by being on Zoom  and the phone as much as possible..That is too bad.. because my deepest feeling is that the Lord wants time with each one of us.. it may be even more important than going to church or spending time with friends. He longs for us to come to Him with all our broken dreams.. disappointments.. losses and sadness so He can apply the balm of Gilead on these wounds. It is our choice .. He will never force us to seek Him out.. As for me, I can only continue to live by letting him carry me as I stumble and fall under the weight of my situation. He is my everything.. my sorrow and grief are too heavy to bear by myself and you are probably experiencing some of that yourself. He is with us and for us and wants us to come as His weary and broken people so He can shelter us from this storm.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God..

(from Psalm 46)
   

 

 

 

Pastoral Counseling

 

IMG_0826

As many of you know I have been working with women for the last 14 years as a Pastoral Counselor. I took the last two years off to take care of my husband who is currently in skilled nursing where he is getting very good care.

As this broken world continues to spiral downward.. many of us are hurting and really could use some help. I have decided to return to the work I love and I am praying that the Lord will send me people to help as He has always done in the past. My own situation continues to be challenging but in the midst of it.. I need to pour out to others so that the Lord can use me as a wounded healer. I decided to post this in case anyone reading it needs to talk through whatever struggle they are having. I am posting this here and on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/aliciasroses/) You can message me on Facebook if you want to connect. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. Pastoral Counseling is not therapy and it is not Spiritual Direction.. it may have components of both but it is truly counseling by the power of the Holy Spirit as He brings healing to the brokenhearted.

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,
and a garment of praise 
instead of a spirit of despair. ( Isaiah 61)

 

Isolation

Yes..that word is powerful..the things that happen in that space are deep and profound. For the last several years the Lord has been working through a lot of isolation..at first when I began to experience it..I was frustrated and bored..wanting more contact with people..more activities..more life..

Strangely it seemed impossible to have a “real” life if I felt alone and isolated..As things have unfolded the isolation has become much more normal..but incredibly difficult. The last 6 months have been a major challenge..my life with Steve is gone and I am in my 3rd living situation where there is a family on the other side of the walls..Does that make the isolation worse? Of course..and now I can’t go see people at all..unless we talk from a distance and we are supposed to restrict our driving to essential things..my emotional health is not great..I am grieving the loss of my husband (he is still alive but in skilled nursing) the loss of our life together..our home..all the things we collected over the years..my work..the death of so many dreams.

Things are hard..but I still have my health and I still have hope..Hope in the Lord and His goodness. The time alone is hard but needed..grieving takes time..it requires all of our strength and energy..it refuses to wait..demanding our attention..it has no timeline..no deadline. Grieving is hard work..if we ignore our grief it will not go away..it just hides inside of us and one day it will emerge and try to destroy us.

Yet grief is not our enemy..if is ordained by God to bring healing and restoration..He works in these seasons of loss and grief..unearthing old grief that we forgot we had. He takes our hand and walks us through the pain so we can begin to heal..He reveals His love to us in our helplessness..we turn to Him because there is no place else to go.

Right now the entire world is grieving ..many of us are grieving on all kinds of levels..people are losing loved ones..jobs..friends..money..we have lost our freedom to go places and do things. Make time to sit with your grief to feel all your feelings..even the ones you wish were gone..be real with yourself and others.

Lord we trust you in the middle of all this ..we believe you are at work and that you are good.

 

Hospice

 

 

Yes.. they stepped into our lives last week.. at my request. Steve is declining rapidly. He can still walk around and eat and he tries to communicate. Most of it does not make sense. He is only partially here.. he is also very tired and weak and unfortunately a fall risk.

How do I feel? Very sad.. relieved that he will get extra help..ready but not ready.. accepting but not accepting all of this. It all happened too fast.. only 7 months ago we were taking our last walk on Drake’s beach.. now he can barely function. Today I talked with him and told him that I would be fine when he went to be with the Lord.. a lie that is necessary.. I hope he understood. I reminded him that he would see his parents and sister there.. He responded positively but it is difficult to know if he truly grasped what I was saying.. My selfish desires to hang on to him are finally gone.. he will be restored there and out of this life where his body and mind are both failing.

I am sharing this because I need to.. it becomes more real when I write about it and it is a very real part of our lives.. learning to let go and saying goodbye when their time is getting close. I sense the Lord being close to me but I am sad and lonely and afraid of the future. There are times when I just want to close my eyes and wake up to the life I have lost.. my husband, our home .. most of our belongings.. all gone..

So.. I continue to believe that God is good even though I don’t know if right now I can rely on Romans 8:28 to be true.. It always has been but nothing has challenged my faith like this trial.. I know I am not forsaken and not abandoned but the nights are long and the tears continue to flow ..

So.. I have opened my heart to those of you who read this.. I am not hiding and I am hoping it encourages you to be authentic and real and allow others into your pain. We were not created to suffer alone and I am so grateful for the family and friends that continue to support me and let me lean on them as this long trial unfolds.

He is faithful and He is good.. He will never forsake us and leave us to face all these things alone. His ways are not ours.. His thoughts are not ours.. We see through a glass darkly..trusting Him to reveal more in His time.

Help me to cling to you Lord..on this last leg of Steve’s journey .. to remember that you knew all this was going to happen before time began..

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Upside down

 

It has been months since I last wrote on my blog.. I thought maybe I would give it  up.. but I see that people are still reading it so I am back. My world has turned upside down since I last posted. My husband’s disease suddenly worsened and he was hospitalized. He is now in skilled nursing.. all of this started on the day after Labor day so it has been almost two months. I had to move quickly and I am now staying with my daughter. She and her husband were gracious enough to take me in and let me be here until the next step is clear.

Everything is unclear.. my husband is still here but eventually this disease will take his life and I will be a widow again.. The first time was 20 years ago. Everything is different this time.. Steve and I are having a sweet season right now.. I am able to help out with his care and show him that my love is just as strong as ever.. He is able to smile and tell me he loves me.. even though he is confused and disabled now.. He remembers me and he remembers us. We still look into each other’s eyes and I continue to look forward to each day that I have on this earth with him.

Dementia is a terrible disease and it should not have the right to take the life of someone so young.. it is so hard on the person who has it and terrible on those who love that person. Sometimes I just can’t imagine that the Lord is allowing this and yet I know deep down that he has purposes that are totally mysterious in all that is happening. I am grieving for the life we had together.. knowing it will never return. I miss us.. our home, our lives our dreams. I look ahead the road is empty.. no more dreams for me.. only the hope that God will not waste this suffering.. that He will use me to bring comfort to those who will go through this and need understanding.. He is teaching me what grief feels like that is daily.. anticipatory grief.. ambivalent grief.. grief that rises up and attacks me at night.. grief that hides it’s face and suddenly tries to drown me.

A while back I started writing poems.. I never even liked poetry but they seemed to come out of the darkness and sadness.. from somewhere deep inside me.  Here is the most recent one:

The Eye of the Storm

It is totally dark

the winds blow all around me

There is no future

No light

Only a deep darkness

I am alone

sad, lonely, waiting

The road ahead is empty

He is here with me, yet I 

feel like I am falling

Keep me close to you Jesus

 

My memories of our life together are like sweet soft pillows that I lie on at night when the sadness comes.. the trips we took.. the dinners we ate.. the drives we went on.. the sweetness of our love.. nothing can take that away.

Our God is with us as we continue to trust Him through all of this.. He will never abandon or forsake us.. we are His.