Saturday, November 22, 2014

Keys to Finding Rest in Widowhood

God provided key ways for me to find some much needed rest and peace. 

1. God had people in my life who could help me, but they couldn’t read my mind. I had to ask them. Groan, I hate asking for help, don't you?

So the morning after my meltdonw I called some (Not all) of those sweet church ladies. You know, the ones who say, “Now if there’s anything I can do, you call me, ok?” Several of them picked up their phone and heard me say “Bring a sandwich and meet me at the park at noon.” They thought they were coming to a picnic! Hah! 

Once everyone had gathered, I told them about my meltdown and I showed them the horrible things I’d written in my tear-stained journal the night before. I cried, they cried, … we all cried! I told them, “I’m broken and crippled and I need you---like the friends in the Bible story who broke carried the crippled man to Jesus---I need you to carry me to Jesus. Climb the roof, break through the roof and lower me down to Jesus every day for the next 2 weeks so I can make it through my daughter’s wedding.” 

Did they all do it?

No. People never live up to our expectaions (and we don't live up to theirs). But enough of them prayed and phoned me. Enough. I love that word. 2 Cor. 12:9 God’s grace was sufficient... 
Have you tripped and fallen too? What was it for you? A rebellious child? Bankruptcy? A bad boyfriend?

God's rest, grace, kindness and rescue comes through his people. But we’ve got to ask, and we've got to ask the right people.

There was another key to rest and peace too. God’s grace comes through Himself. Just as I had to tell people I was struggling, I had to tell God. There was a little path at this Rest Area on my journey. A path to prayer. We'll talk about it on Monday. Until then, rest your body, mind and spirit this weekend. Grief is exhausting and draining and sometimes we just have to sit still. ferree

Friday, November 21, 2014

Feelings of Abandonment

(... continuing from yesterday's post...)
The awful picture stuck in my head was that Bruce and God were having a good old time up in heaven and I’d been left behind, forgotten and alone. Stranded in the middle of nowhere and abandoned.
“My husband left me,” I’d joke sarcastically.

Abandonment: “Of all the grief emotions, this is the most difficult,” says Fran Welch of Grief Care Fellowship, a grief mentoring program.
Not everyone hits this stretch of road on their journey, but if you do, you’re not alone.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts  and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
Those could have been my words but they’re from Psalm 13:2: There are many more Psalms that express pain and abandonment.
Do you remember the story of Job and everything he lost? He worshipped God and held on to his integrity in the first chapter, but in chapter 16 he broke down and cried All was well with me, but he shattered me! (Job 16:12)

Jesus Himself, nailed to the cross, cried:  My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mt. 27:46
Life is hard! In the classic, Pilgrims Progress, the main character Christian sinks into the heavy Slough of Despond. In the book A Grace Disguised—the account of a man who’s wife, mother, and youngest daughter were killed when a drunk driver crashed into him, Jerry Sittser speaks of the believers “dark night of the soul.” And in A Grief Observed, CS Lewis’s journal after his wife died, you will witness his shadowlands.
Such words do not draw crowds of happy worshippers looking for easy answers and paths to success. But look at II Cor. 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings…. I think widows get a fair portion of that. But there is hope! The verse doesn’t stop there, it goes on so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 

But I was only seeing the suffering part. With that fresh wound of feeling forgotten, I spent 4th of July alone. While the kids had all gone off with their friends, the rest of the world was having parades, fireworks, sparklers and picnics, I was having an epic meltdown. I wandered around my empty house and the walls echoed with my crying and tears. Far more than a pity party. I was torn and shredded.  
Remember the obstacle course?

Abandonment had tripped me up. I hated crying like that. I was so sick of crying all the time. Do your tears bother you? Do you want to just shake yourself for them at times? Listen to this quote by an early American writer, Washington Irving.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
A song by Gordon Jensen decades ago said, “Tears are a language, God understands.”
God knows our deepest pain. I think he might have heard me that night. Psalm 18:28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
Please visit tomorrow to see what happens...


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Facing A Lonely Road In Widowhood

(....continued from Tuesday's post...)
On Tuesday I closed by saying that the biggest surprise was ahead of me, and this was it. This is what my future looked like after I'd come through all the "firsts" of my first year of widowhood. See what the sign says? Nothing. Barren. Empty. Lonely.

It blew me away. I thought I'd finally be done adjusting to widowhood, but I was only just beginning and I didn't like it one bit. Have you felt like that?

Now if you haven’t passed that first year point yet, don’t despair. It might be entirely different for you, that's entirely possible! But if you do get to the second year and find it looks like this, take comfort in the fact that many others have felt the same way, and they’ve survived and thrived! In fact, now that’s why I do this blog and my book and the Lifeboats---because there’s life after death for our husbands, and there’s life after death for the widow too.

But many will tell a new widow "the 2nd year is the hardest." I hate that! What could be worse for a new widow to hear? And I totally disagree---what could be harder than the day your husband died? Don’t devalue that. What we can agree on is this: the second year is very different. For me it started out empty and very very lonely.

I went to a grief support group for the very first time 13 months after Bruce died. Ugh, I dreaded it. I couldn’t imagine ever leading one, and look at me now, talking to widows all the time! God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” Eph 3: 20.

I wouldn’t have believed the life that was ahead of me at that point. I was still struggling with “God is my portion.” If He was, why did I feel so empty? What could I do with the constant loneliness and yearning?

I was busy that spring of my second year. It looked like I was rebuilding my life. I would start graduate school that September, and I was planning to be a school librarian. Lisa, my middle child was was graduating high school and looking at colleges, my son was getting his drivers license…

My oldest daughter was getting married in July.

But I felt numb inside. I was just going through the motions. As I look back, I now think my mind was in shock the first year, but the second year my heart was still in shock. My faith was determined and hard-headed. And I was working very hard to keep my head above water ---I had 2 prayer partners I met with regularly, my walking partner and I walked an hour every day and we tried to memorize Bible verses together---(she did fine but I still had widow brain and nothing would stick), I had the grief group, the “God is my portion” verses...

But all my efforts could not make up for the picture I had in my head. It’s like all I could see was that God and Bruce were having a good old time up in Heaven...

Tune in tomorrow for the continuing story...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

3 Tips for Getting Through the Holidays

With Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and all the birthdays and anniversarys in between, the holidays are barrelling down on us like a runaway train. Seeing them coming all at once gets overwhelming for the best of us, but  especially if this is the first or second year of widowhood.

Often, the aniticipation is worse than the day itself. But it's important to think ahead and prepare a little at least so it doesn't catch you off guard. If you do, the holidays might not be as bad. In fact, they can surprise you with precious moments and priceless memories.
Here are a few tips:

1. Give yourself something to look forward to on Thanksgiving Day
  • Take a trip out of town to visit relatives or friends.
  • Ditch the traditions. There's no way this year will be anywhere near traditional anyway. Try something totally different like spending the day volunteering at a homeless shelter.
  • Instead of cooking like a maniac, make reservations at a restaurant that serves on the holiday. Then go to a movie to pass the rest of the afternoon or evening.
  • If you've never tried the Black Friday shopping mania, buy a Thanksgiving Day newspaper and map out the stores and bargains you'll find. Go to bed early, set your alarm for 3 or 4 a.m., set your budget, too, then start your engine, fire up that crazy glint in your eye, and yell "CHARGE!"
2. Give yourself an escape plan
  • You're at Aunt Jane's and feel like you'll suffocate or explode? This will be easier if before you go, talk to Aunt Jane and say something like, "If I disappear for a few minutes, please don't worry about me. I get these little grief storms and I might slip into the bedroom or take a little walk. I'll be back shortly and I'll be OK." If Aunt Jane disagrees with you and says you have nothing to cry about, then you'll know maybe you shouldn't even go to her house. But chances are she'll be your bodyguard and valient defender if you let her in on the plan.
  • For other situations, like a restaurant, movie theater or shopping, you can just walk out. But you can also slip into the restroom first, think about what's best for others involved if you've got children, family or friends with you, and pray. Then you can leave, but you might be glad you stayed. In any case, you've given yourself the ability to make a choice and do what's best for you.
3. Be your own best friend.
  • Look in the mirror and ask, "What does this girlfriend need right now?" Then remember this: "My God shall supply all your needs . . ." Philippians 4:19, and set out to find what God has supplied.
  • Don't hesitate to call in the troops. Ask for help, or invite yourself over to someone's and help them. Unbelievable as it might sound, people think you've got it all together and that you don't need them. Cash in on all the "If there's anything I can do" offers you've received.
It's wise to see these days coming on the calendar. Try to prepare for them by giving yourself something to look forward to, keep in mind an escape plan and be your own best friend.
Your Heavenly Father has not abandoned you. He loves you and holds you close.

Send in your ideas for dealing with the holidays to encourage other widows. If you missed my post about the book "The Empty Chair-- Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions" and what a good help it is for getting through holidays year round, click here. I think you'll really like it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Widowhood is full of SURPRISES!

Widowhood is an emotional roller coaster!  

Today we continue to recall the many surprises, so please add your comments like we did yesterday.
Did you feel Shock? Like waking up every morning (if you slept) was like a slap in the face? That empty half of the bed…
Pain? I couldn’t believe how much it hurt, almost physical. And then it didn’t go away after a week or two… Since I had a strong faith I thought I’d be over it in two months at the most…silly me...
What about Grief Attacks? —you know, you’re minding your own business when all of a sudden you hear a certain song, or smell some men’s aftershave and suddenly you're in a puddle of tears...? I've heard of widows just plopping down on the floor at Home Depot to have a good cry, or pulling their car over to the side of the road... And don’t ever try to pick out a greeting card in the Hallmark store, I'm just saying. Don’t ever go to movies about dogs---spoiler alert---the dog always dies and you'll need a full box of tissues. And don’t watch the Budweiser commercials on Superbowl Sunday! Grief Attacks just hit us out of the blue. 
Widow Brain/ Grief Fog—finding it so hard to concentrate or remember what to do next? I’d get lost going around the block. How about you? Any stories?
And did you have any "Am I Going Crazy?" emotions---like a bit of relief that it's finally over, and then guilt because you feel relieved? … Let me assure you you're NOT going crazy. This is all pretty normal, and it will not last forever.
Do you remember the hymn Amazing Grace?

One of the verses says,”Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come…” and you know what? We went over all these surprises and changes because I wanted you to see that you’ve already covered some distance on this obstacle course. A long way!

Give yourself a hug, and take a deep breath…

This biggest surprise for me though, was after the first year. After I expected to feel all better and normal again. That road sign is coming up on Thursday. Tomorrow we'll squeeze in some tips for getting through the holidays. ferree

Monday, November 17, 2014

Widowhood = Many Changes

The first year of widowhood holds so many changes! I don't want to dwell on them and bring you down, but what were the most significant changes for you? Please shout out your experiences in the comments today. Use the anonymous identity if you're not a blogger, and don't try to comment through your cell phone, it just doesn't seem to work.

(If this comes to you by email click the title to get to the website where you can comment).

Do you remember any of these?

  • All that horrible paperwork and estate stuff!
  • What about physical changes? Anyone lose any Sleep? Lose any weight? Gain any weight? Grief affects us physically!
  • Christmas and holidays and birthdays and anniversaries!
  • Did your church attendance change?
  • Friendships? Many widows experience huge changes in the friendship department. Some say up to 75% of friendships are lost.
  • Secondary losses? For example, the roles your husband filled, housing, financial security, your in-laws...
  • What about Trust? That was a really hard thing for me. It shook me to the core that a day can start out perfectly normal and change forever in an instant at suppertime. I live with that realization every day...and I’ve come to understand what a gift that is.
  • What about Faith?---I had those God is my portion verses I mentioned on Thursday, but I wasn’t so sure about that. Many days I realized I just really wanted Bruce back.
But hang on tight, there’s more tomorrow…
Today though, tell us about the changes you experienced, OK? Click the comment box, or if you receive this by email, click the title of the post to get to the website where you'll be able to leave a comment. Thanks! Sharing your story is important. You matter!