Tag Archive | loss

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”

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.”

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.

Be Still and Know

The theme for this year is from psalm 46:10. ” Be still and know that He is God.”  This verse follows me everywhere I go. Where is this stillness that He promises?.. I am not sure. Inside I am often anxious and worried.. the stillness I long for is so hard to find. Sometimes I see myself in the 23rd psalm.. ” Beside the still waters”  when the circumstances are just right. If I am walking outside on a beautiful fall day I get this glimpse of the quiet and the stillness that He is offering. I long to be there continually but it is very difficult. Our circumstances jump out at me and demand attention.. turning me away from God. All I can do is turn back and cry out to Him.. teach me to rest in you and to be at peace no matter what happens.

I know His faithfulness.. after walking with Him for forty years.. He has come for me over and over again. He has provided in so many ways and revealed His presence over and over.. yet I struggle to believe Romans 8:28 right now.. What good can come from this Lord? So what is there for me to do? Wait, pray and trust that He is at work and that in His time He will come for me again and lift me above the pain and suffering.

So I decided to write this out.. to reveal my struggle.. to stop hiding.. I am grieving the loss of so many things right now and watching my life change radically.. feeling at the mercy of God and wondering if there will ever be joy again.. Maybe you feel the same way.. if that is the case, I hope you know that you are not alone. All of us go through these dark seasons.. these tunnels where the Lord seems so far away and there are no answers.. we live by faith not by sight.

So Lord.. I pray for anyone out there who is in pain.. anyone who is grieving.. anyone who is longing to feel close to you.. Come for them Lord and come for me.  Amen

 

Revisiting Romans 8:28

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been thinking about this verse lately and feeling like I need to write about it. You know the one I mean ” God works all things to the good of those who love Him” or as the Message says:

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

I need to believe that right now.. usually I keep the details of my life fairly private. I don’t think it is a great idea to pour out your heart on a blog..I use my journal for that purpose. However today I feel the need to share a bit of my story. Over the last 5 years we have been going through the fire.. my husband lost his job, then could not find another one for 31/2 years and after that we took a cleaning job for the church that was pretty much unbearable for all of last year. It was clear during that time that my husband was not doing well and something was wrong.. but not clear what it was. I was afraid to find out his diagnosis so we delayed going to the neurologist until last month.. unfortunately the news is not good, he has a rare form of aphasia that is progressive and there is no cure.. you can look it up if you like. What has this meant for us? Everything in our lives has completely changed and we are facing a very unknown future ..It feels like life as we once knew it is gone. All our hopes and dreams are gone.. even many of the activities we once did are out of reach these days.

Fear and grief are my constant companions..especially in the middle of the night. Loneliness and isolation are close by as well.. sadness and loss seem to be the new reality. So this brings me back to Romans 8:28.. I see no way that God is going to work this into something good.. but because He never lies, He will. Is that comforting.. not really.. I just want everything back the way it used to be before this disease entered our lives.. I know that the Lord is teaching me things right now, but honestly I don’t want to learn them.. enough is enough. So I continue to trust that He is involved in our lives and we are not forsaken.. I hope to write more on this blog and to work on my book that I want to finish during this season. I am praying for God to provide since we have no resources..we are in His hands totally.. Some days I feel like the disciples in the boat with Jesus.. filled with fear and anxiety while He is sleeping.. wondering when I am going to drown in this sea of sorrow..

So pray for us please.. and if you get a word of encouragement.. please post it here and we will be grateful…..More words of wisdom from Eugene Peterson’s the Message….

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. (2 Cor 1:3-5)

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Two suicides.. one week

 

What happened this week? Two celebrities that many people admired and believed in are gone. Both of them took their own lives and left behind young daughters. It is profoundly sad and tragic. As I think through this horrible loss, I realize once again how little we know about people and the pain they carry inside. These people did not just decide in one day to take their own lives.. there is history here. More than likely they were struggling with depression and despair for years before this happened. Anxiety and depression are at epidemic proportions in our country and possibly around the world. We live in a broken world and it is so easy to feel overwhelmed and under water emotionally. When someone in the public eye decides to take their own life.. it causes widespread grief to spread throughout the culture and the world. Why? We never saw it coming.. they seemed to be doing so well. Yet we are faced with a different reality.. obviously they were not doing well at all and maybe someone should have seen it coming.

So we have to process this loss and hopefully we will take it seriously by realizing that many people are struggling with the desire to end their own lives. The suicide rate has risen 25% in the US since 1999. That statistic tells us that something is terribly wrong. For many of us.. life is nothing like we hoped it would be.. either our dreams are not coming true or they have come true and we still feel empty. Either way this world does not seem to have much to offer us. We need more than the fulfillment of our desires to hang on to..we need someone to turn to when it gets so bad we cannot see a way out.  Without faith.. we are totally lost. We were never meant to do all this alone. I remember knowing this when I was a child growing up in an atheist home with unbelieving parents. Somehow I realized that I could not do life alone like they were.. my heart longed for the Living God. Eventually I found out that He longed for me too and that was 40 years ago.

So today.. so many years later I still know that I cannot do it alone.. especially in the middle of the night when the tears are flowing and the hopeless tries to take over. He is my refuge and my sanctuary and He will rescue me as I call out to Him. I truly hope you are in relationship with this amazing God who gave everything so you could come to Him, rest in Him and trust Him.

Don’t entertain any self-destructive thoughts.. find someone to talk with and never make a rash decision that you have nothing to live for.. You are the beloved child of the Lord and He knows you and accepts you and will never leave you.

 

Rough Waters..

 

This has been a very difficult year so far and it does not show signs of letting up..trials continue and seem overwhelming at times.  In the beginning of every year I hope for an easier time in the next year and for a long time that has not been the case.. in fact it seems like the opposite has happened. Each new trial is more challenging than the last.. time to take a look at that. What is God up to? He could intervene and remove the challenges..He is able to smooth things out so they are not so rough. He allows these tests to come into my life and He brings the storms.

Do I have answers for you? No.. I don’t. All I know is that He is at work and He is in control. His plan is unfolding daily for my life and for yours. He is doing things in us through the suffering. Unfortunately that is the way it seems to work.. we are being drawn closer to Him because we feel like the next wave of disappointment or grief will drown us. For me.. as I am aging and facing things I never expected.. I find that nothing matters as much as I thought when it comes to this life.. It all seems so important doesn’t it? We long for things and dream dreams about our future.. yet it is clear we were not made for this world. So much heartbreak and sadness in our lives and the lives of those around us.

As a counselor, I may be more aware of this than most people. I hear the stories.. I see the sadness in their faces.. women of all ages. Their lives are very difficult and their past is far from perfect. I have no illusions about the condition of the world or the condition of people’s hearts.  As I work with others.. the Lord works on me.. going deeper and drawing me into a greater dependence on Him and His spirit.. I suffer with them and cry with them.

Why? Because He is the comforter.. not me.. He is their savior, not me.. He is the one who will bring healing.. not me. We need to know our own limitations if we are going to walk this walk. We cannot fix or change anyone. God is the one who will save them..rescue and restore them. He is also the one who will do that for me..we are all in the same boat. That makes me think about the disciples when they were in the boat at sea and a great storm came upon them. They were frightened and thought they would die.. but their Lord was with them and He calmed the sea. He appeared to be sleeping and unaware of their dilemma..but He knew and He rescued them and saved their lives..despite their fears and unbelief. He does the same for us.. we are like those disciples.. forgetting who was in that boat with them and imagining the worst.

If you are in a storm right now.. remember that you are not alone. If you think you are drowning in a sea of depression and despair.. stay close to Jesus.. rely on Him.. trust Him to come to for you.. He always does.

We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
    for our hope is in you alone.

Truly a narrow path..

 

 

I had a vision of the narrow path today when we were out walking. The Lord was showing me something in a picture that totally makes sense to me..yet I never saw it as clearly as I did today. When we first enter into a relationship with the Lord our path looks a certain way.. we may become part of a community of Believers and enter into all the activities of the church..most of us have had this experience. As we move along in our faith many of those activities may seem less attractive and we may feel like it is time to become less committed to the church and more committed to our relationship with the Lord. This can be a startling change for us.. what exactly are we to tell everyone? Will they be able to  understand our new choices? Is it OK to say no and to slow down the pace of our life? Shouldn’t we continue to serve and give? There are no pat answers to these questions.. because the answer has to come from the Lord to us. What is He wanting in this season as the old things don’t fit anymore?

This is what I saw in the picture. We were on a wider part of the path .. many people were walking with us and we felt like we were included and needed and supported by others. Then as the path became more narrow.. there were fewer people doing the things we were doing. We can see them behind us.. still very actively involved in many activities but we are being called forward.. closer to Him but further away from others.. our journey has different challenges than it had in the beginning. It seems easier to get distracted and we feel a pull back to what we once knew.. But He calls us to come closer.. and to come alone. I see the path winding up a hill with challenges along the way.. there are other paths with people saying ” come this way” but that is not what the Lord is saying. He is drawing us closer so that we have eyes only for Him. Remember that this path is leading to the end of our lives and we must walk those last miles alone.. trusting Him with the changes that happen as we grow older and as we lose more and more people.. as dreams die and opportunities fade. The good news is we see Him more clearly and as our faith is tested we trust Him more fully. There is no other way.

So I am praying and asking God to keep me on that path. To block out all the voices that try to pull me in the wrong direction. I want to follow Him up that winding path.. to stay close to Him as the path seems to disappear at times.. My desire is to hear Him as He leads me and to trust Him with everything.. Let it be so Lord!

“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him
    so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.
    Blessed are those who wait for his help”

 

Grief.. a very long and very lonely journey

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I decided to write about grief again. It used to appear more regularly on this blog, but it has been quite a while since I posted on this topic. There seems to be some misconceptions about what happens when we suffer losses.  All losses involve grief at some level, but some are more intense than others. Of course the loss of a loved one is at the top of the list. We encounter deep grief when someone close to us dies. Our hearts are filled with a heaviness that is indescribable.. loneliness at the deepest level possible. One thing that troubles me in our culture is the absence of information on grief.. the denial of grief and the way people feel like they need to hide their grief. What a tragedy this is. God allows us to feel grief and it is a very natural part of life. No one gets through this life without going through losses and the older you get, the more you will experience. In the light of that information.. we need to know all we can about this journey we call grief.

It is impossible to say when your first big loss will occur. Sometimes children have their first huge loss in childhood.. a grandparent, friend, or sibling. Their feelings are deep and troubling and we can only hope and pray there is an adult present to help them process the loss. You may not experience this level of loss until adulthood.. that is quite common. When you do.. it will hit you hard.. your capacity to understand how you feel will be very limited. Unless the person who died was very ill for a long time.. you will not be prepared. Even if that is the case.. you may still find it totally disorienting and scary. Sudden tragic death is even harder to deal with..everything in us wants to cry out No.. this did not happen.

Grief has a life of its own and cannot be controlled. It often starts out slowly.. God’s grace for us includes a period of shock.. we don’t actually realize what has happened.  Slowly the shock wears off and each time a season changes or a holiday passes..we feel the loss all over again… almost as though it just happened. People who have lost spouses will often say the second year is worse than the first.. this is because as time passes the loss is more and more real. Your loved one is not there to celebrate holidays or witness important family events.. Feelings of grief are hard to understand unless you have an awareness of the process.. you may feel angry, frustrated, depressed, sad and lonely at different times or almost all at once. People have wondered if they were losing their minds because their grief was so confusing and intense. You may be very alone with your grief.. others can express their sorrow and understand your loss from a distance, but they are not with you every night when the lights go out. Many people spend sleepless nights crying and wondering if life will ever return to normal. Eventually.. you will come to a place of acceptance, but no one can tell you how long that will take. It is different for every person.. each of us grieves differently and uniquely.

No… Life will never be the same. You have joined a club you never wanted to join. You will never get over your grief.. you will learn to live with it.. if you process it and don’t stuff your feelings. Most depressed people suffer from unresolved grief.. many addicts become addicted when they encounter a loss and are unwilling to face what has happened. Not allowing yourself to cry and to suffer will only hurt you more in the long run. In our busy culture, people feel like they need to look like they have bounced back even before the grieving process has started. There is no time to waste.. life must go on.

My purpose in writing this is to give you permission to grieve.. not only your personal losses but the loses we read about every day online or hear about in the news. the losses our friends experience that tear our hearts apart. These things affect us deeply and we don’t need to block these feelings or pretend that they don’t. We live in a fallen world and there is suffering every single day all around the world. God grieves for those who are hurting and He gives us the capacity to do that same thing..

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  

Jesus wept.

Half the year..

2013 is half over. We’ve reached the half way mark today. God has been busy this year doing all kinds of things. I can only imagine what will happen in the months to come. Fourteen years ago I began my life over in the month of July. Since that time, nothing has ever been the same. I was widowed July 6, 1999. . the beginning of a new season in my life.

Because the marriage was extremely difficult, I grieved but I also felt a sense of relief. God was setting me free to experience so many new things that I could have never anticipated. So here I am, married again..for 11 years..rejoicing in the goodness of our God. I remember thinking that my life was over..how could I start over after a 25 year relationship? What would my new life even look like? It was very scary and a little exciting.

My new life started up almost instantly and it was filled with surprises. God blessed me with a new husband, wonderful son-in-law,  and three amazing grandchildren. .  I married into a wonderful faith filled family and acquired three grown step children and ten more grandchildren.. I was given the opportunity to go to seminary and start my own counseling practice. I’ve had time to spend many wonderful hours with my daughter.. making up for the years when we were unable to have the relationship I always wanted.

God continues to bless me with new friends and wonderful opportunities to do His kingdom work. All those years when I wondered if my life would ever change were not wasted. He was preparing me for this season when I would use my life experience to minister to the brokenhearted.

To God be the Glory.. He brings life out of death..He is always doing a new thing and today is the beginning of a new season! Rejoice in Him.

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