Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Widow's Story: "Can't I ease back into the life that I once knew?"

I've come to know and love Rachel Moore as she frequently shares her life with my private Facebook support groups. When the following piece appeared in July I knew many other widows would want to read it too because Rachel encapsulates her 2nd year experience and what her faith life looks like now as she heads into the 3rd year of widowhood. Don't we always want to know what might come on the road ahead? With her permission, I've lifted, verbatim, her musings. Thank you Rachel! For more background on Rachel and links to her blogs mouse click here.   ferree


So as we come to July 23rd it marks the official end of the second year for our journey of grief. So many things happened in these past 7 days two years ago. First there was the day that Gary died on July 19th. And then because there was no embalming where we lived in Mexico, we had to have Gary's body cremated the very next day on the 20th. We had a couple of days of collapsing grief and then his birthday came on July 23rd. So with all of those dates and the 23rd being the final one, I feel that we have now journeyed through two years without our beloved.

I am glad to be through this second year. Many seasoned widows had told me that the second year is even MORE PAINFUL than the first. When I heard that I fought it with everything inside of me and yet, during the first six months of the second year, this certainly proved to be true. But now I can honestly say that the latter part of the second year has been much better and I finally feel that I am through the roughest part of this journey.

What I have discovered is that when a spouse dies our life as we once knew it dies with our beloved. I don't mean just a little part of your life but the whole thing is gone, flushed down the toilet, disappeared forever. For some of us it is gone in an instant. For me it was about ten minutes from the time that Gary fell down with a blood clot to his brain, to the moment when he stopped writhing on the pavement, and I knew deep in my heart that he was gone. Ten minutes, from life as normal to a complete upheaval and death of my own life as I knew it. For others, there is a slower stripping of their life through watching a loved one die slowly of disease. In either case, the life that we built as a couple, the life that made us "one" is gone and we are left to figure out how to go back to the starting line and begin again but this time much later in life.

The loss of our own life is the part that no one gets and no one understands until that horrid path is set before them. You see, when Gary died, I thought that I would triumph over this thing called grief in a couple of weeks to a month. I would be strong, I would conquer, and I would approach it like an extreme sport!

The girl now wiser, chuckles a quiet knowing laugh as she remembers those first few weeks of utter shock and numbness to what I would face in the coming years. Oh the delightful blissful joy of ignorance.......

I am reminded of a movie that I saw a long time ago about a woman who was in a coma for something like 40 years. (I don't think it was a true story but it impacted me just the same.) When she woke up, the life that she had remembered as a 20 year old was completely gone as a 60 year old. I remember pondering the implications of that type of a coma and how devastating it would be to have to reinvent your own life because everything that you once knew was now gone. I've realized in the past two years that walking through the death of a spouse is very much the same thing. It's not just a "new normal" and it's not just the death of a beloved spouse, it is the total death of life as I knew it.

I believe that this is the journey that I find myself on as I walk into the first day of the third year. I feel like every day I am discovering what my new life looks like right now and I am making decisions about what I want it to look like in the future. In some small ways I feel a sense of adventure and empowerment as I look forward into the next 30 years or so on this planet. I don't want others to set the boundaries of my life. I want to decide what my life will look like and therefore, I've had to be proactive in my decisions.

I think I'm finally through trying to re-create my life with Gary. I tried so hard to somehow get my life back. Why does everything have to change so drastically? I knew I couldn't have Gary back but couldn't I get married quickly and ease back into the routine of being wife and mother again? Couldn't we plant flowers, sit on a backyard swing, and slow dance after a candle lit dinner? "OH GOD, I am in such pain. Can't I ease back into the life that I once knew?"

I'm slowly realizing that no, life will never be the same. Yes, I want to be married again, but no, I will never have the life that I once shared with Gary. When Gary turned to me and told me he loved me and then breathed his last breath, my husband and my entire life went up in smoke in that tiny moment.

So right now I'm in the season of new beginnings. I'll celebrate my 49th birthday in a few months and I'm back at the starting gate. I'm learning that my new life can be just as wonderful as my first life, it's just going to be different but not necessarily bad. I have many opportunities in front of me and as I pray and seek God's face, I realize that I have the rare opportunity to live two completely full lives but possibly two lives that are radically different from one another. So I have officially stopped trying to re-create my marriage to Gary and I'm starting to seek God in a fresh and a new way. I'm learning to think outside of the box and not follow the assumptions that I once followed when Gary and I were going to be together for many years on end.

What does God want me to do with my life? Does he want me in Colorado? Does he want me to go as a missionary to Uganda? Does he want me to adopt children? Or maybe foster a few? Will I buy a small house when my children leave for college or will I get a condo and live free from those responsibilities. Will I take some of my $$ from real estate and go down town to the homeless people and sit with them, talk with them and find out what their biggest needs are and give freely? Will I do things in ministry that God has called me to do but would have never done as Gary's wife. If God calls me to get married again, what will that look like? Maybe we'll travel rather than be more home focused. Maybe we'll cook together rather than my role being the celebrated household chef. Will we dance together or maybe we'll go biking together instead???

These details really aren't the issue. The bottom line of this leg of the journey is the clear realization that before I could enjoy a new life I had to grieve the loss of the old one. I had to weep and mourn and grieve deeply the loss of the life that I knew before Gary died. Many people think you can just skip over all the grief and get to the new beginnings and the good stuff, I was one of those people. I have learned that it is impossible to leap over grief. You have to muck through it, in all of it's ugliness and all of it's pain.

So here I am at the beginning of the third year. I don't believe we ever get "through grief" but God does heal the intensity of those early YEARS (yes folks it takes YEARS to get through this!) and he has brought me through the really tough times.

I believe this third year is about being very on purpose in seeking God about what he wants this new life of mine to look like. I'm not all giddy but I am looking towards the future with hope and a subdued anticipatory joy. When you think of me, please pray that God reveals his purpose in my life to me and that I will obediently follow him, where ever and how ever he leads.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” Is. 43:18-19

1 comment:

  1. This was a great encouragement to me as I enter my third year, as well. I, too, thought I could power through grief, and I do think God gave me extra strength at the beginning, but no less pain. I am especially encouraged because the Isaiah verses have been brought to me (I believe by the Holy Spirit) three times this week -- in study, in thoughts, and then yesterday as I shared it with a friend whose daughter just committed suicide. I WILL perceive it, because I have great anticipation for what God has in my future. I'm 63, but I have a responsibility, I think, to live a full life, and I need to be looking for that, no matter what it looks like.

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