Monday, August 29, 2011

Christian Widows: Is The 2nd Year Really Harder?

Autumn is right around the corner, and with it the first anniversary of widowhood for many readers. It's a common rumor that "the second year is worse," and some have already alluded to dreading their second year because of this rumor. Of course if you do a google search about the second year, there's plenty of evidence to support the 2nd year slump. I wouldn't recommend anyone actually do that---Why? Because I already did, and I can tell you it's very depressing and discouraging to read it all!

I'm not going to tell you the second year is easier than the first; each individual's grief is unique--you can't score it on a scale of easy to hard. But I can tell you it's like apples to oranges-- the years are very different.
And I can tell you that with Christ, you do not have to dread the second year. Respect the challenges it presents, but remember you do not have to grieve as those who have no hope. You have the freedom to make the choice to draw on God's strength, to claim his promises, his providence, and his peace. You are still standing, breathing, walking, talking--and as long as there's breath in you, God will bring beauty from these ashes.

The first year we intently focus on getting through the year. It's the first of everything: the first birthday without him, the first anniversary, the first time making these huge decisions without him, the first time getting an oil change, plunging the toilet, mowing the lawn or caulking the bathtub. And the emotions! They are a wild ride! You find yourself crying in the grocery store, crying over the news or a commercial on tv, or crying because we've been surprised by the relief from a ray of kindness or a good laugh. Not the dainty, tissue-dabbing sniffles, but heaving,  soul scorching cries that exhaust and extinguish the brain; they catch, clutch and scare us.

We work really hard at getting through the first year, as if that twelve month mark is a big finish line.

Thus the reason for the rumor. We get to that one year anniversary, we take a look up from the path we've been running on so hard, and we see the road stretching out empty and long before us---that's hard! We thought we were at the finish line; we've exhausted and depleted our reserves, and now there's another twelve months to go!
   /
Let me give you the heads up: pace yourself. You won't be in this race against grief forever. You need not pressure yourself to get over it, nor do you need to guilt yourself into grieving more. Knowing Christ gives you that freedom! 

There are other reasons the second year gets tagged with the harder label: emotional support from friends around you might drop--they still love you but they don't know what to do now. And you are changing. You've probably accomplished much of your actual grief work and now other realities clamor to be dealt with--loneliness, income, chores, health, and the variety of challenges that come with various seasons of life.

For now though, let's talk about heading into the second year. What do you expect? As you look at your calendar, what sort of plans are you making? Will you try anything new? Are there particular issues and challenges that will stretch your faith and make your seek the Lord? 

If you've turned the corner on your second year, was it as you expected? Are there issues you'd tell others to watch out for?

We're all in this together, so draw strength and wisdom from one another and the lessons learned. And as I've already said--you won't be here forever. Next year at this time some of you will be starting new careers, schooling, or relocating. Some of you will be married! Some will be new grandmothers. Others will find a new and vibrant level of relationship with God. For He does have plans for you--for each one of you! Plans for your good, to give you hope. And joy. Don't forget that, and you can look forward to these next twelve months with anticipation and wonder!

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
You can do this.
ferree

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bastian/2151908455/in/gallery-48926779@N02-72157626766418587)        

9 comments:

  1. An uncharted course is before and at times that can be scary.Almost 10 months into this journey and I can say that I am doing fairly well,but what lies ahead,no one knows.

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  2. I'm still less than 3 months into my widowhood. I've heard from my grief support group that the second year is harder. I know my friend DeDee is almost into her 3rd year and there are times that she really has a hard time still. I used to believe that after a year or so, everything would be back to "normal", but now I've heard that we are never back to normal. I look forward to the time when my heard does not feel like a knife is sticking into it.

    Kay

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  3. Ferree, thank you for talking about second year issues. I'm nearing the end of my first year, and have been dreading the second year if it will be like some are saying it is for them. I don't want to have my head in the sand about it, because it sounds like it can have its own issues that are different than the first year ones (and I already think I'm experiencing one of them - great loneliness), but after reading your article I feel a little better that in Christ I need not fear it so much, and that there are better things ahead. Thanks for the encouragement that I can do it!

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  4. Instead of facing the entire second year with dread, we just need to take it day by day.

    Philippians 4:6-7

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  5. Thank you, Ferree. I am going to copy this and put it in my Bible to remind myself of hope. I agree that readers should be selective about what they read on the internet. I've dropped some blogs and other sites that were just too negative.
    I am so thankful to have found your blog not long after I lost my husband. I encourage the widows yet behind me that it slowly gets easier. I still cry, but the tears are less hurting and more cleansing.
    In the second year, I believe widows begin to see the present and future, as you said, and must accommodate to the new decisions and challenges. I look forward to the second year as I pray to identify myself less a widow and more fully a Christ-follower.

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  6. Wow! Thanks, Ferree! You have such a gift! You expressed the first year so well! Boy do I relate! And as I was within a month of approaching the one year mark, I too looked fearfully at the second year - thinking, discouragingly, how would I ever make it??? But, as Johanna has said - we will do it - one day at a time! I have already felt my 'support' backing off. And that alone, is scary! But I am seeing that my Lord is still here and as faithful as ever. ~~Sheri

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  7. Thank you for all of the encouragement for all of us. I struggled through the second year as well. It had different challenges. Some firsts may still come. Oil changes are one thing, buying tires and home maintenance continues to be a challenge. Finding a few friends to offer advice is good for some of those firsts. As far as friends and family backing off, they do. We can't be afraid to call on them when we need them though. If they are friends, they will be glad that you were honest and asked. Finding the balance between doing things ourselves and asking for help is important. Ask help not only of your friends when you need it, but of God as well! He won't let you down. It is only by Christ's strength that we do all things! Loneliness is a big challenge. It doesn't just go away even after the second year. This is one of my biggest struggles as a single mom. Sunday nights are tough. Too much to get done and not enough time. Finding peace in this is difficult. We do our best. God loves us no matter what! He is preparing the perfect place for us! His love sustains us!

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  8. My second year will begin October 14 and I've been thinking about it. Like some of you, I have read it is more difficult than ever. My thoughts were, "Please......no!" The thing that makes me so sad is the lonliness and feeling like that will ocntinue on forever. I am thankful for my family, my church, and my friends, but there are stll many, many hours alone. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

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  9. I am just starting my 5th month without Steve - I am taking one day at a time. Some days are good and I get great rewards as I am now able to engage with others and enjoy the experience - other days are tremendously sad and become more introverted and I do my grieving. I have learned not to 'expect' either good or bad days because I am proved wrong everytime. Those times when my vision is centred on loneliness, pointlesness and missing him in a hurting way -well, they are just minutes, hours or days which do pass - I just ride the wave now - and sort of know that a better minute, hour or day is on its way. Life is a mixed bag. I liken grief to a wound - it is raw for a start but then gets more deeply painful as the wound starts its healing process - I should imagine that, in the second year, I will still be feeling the tenderness. The grief charts indicate that from 18 months onwards things get much easier. A friend who is also a widow - said that she was healed at 2 years and 3 months into her widowhood. We are all different but I have drawn great encouragement from that. She is close to Jesus and has yielded to Him in her grief.

    I am taking this time to get closer to Jesus - spending time in prayer, (some fasting), and bible study. Jesus fills a lot of the voids - the rest I am learning to deal with one by one.

    There are some days that I still can't get my head around what has happened.

    I draw a lot from you all.
    Thank you for your posts.

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