Widow’s Growth VS. Butterfly Life Cycle

 

Like a butterfly, Widows experience our own “metamorphosis”, becoming new creatures, but what is also similar, is the transformation that occurs in “stages.” These stages are uncomfortable and even painful but in the end, a beautiful butterfly emerges, soaring high and rising above all of the layers that it had to shed along the journey.

Here is a comparison and breakdown of the four stages of the butterfly and widows.

First Stage: The Egg
As with a butterfly,  widows  start out in their grief walk as tiny eggs which are in every essence, quite fragile. Some widows give the appearance of having this hard outer shell of a super widow, but  when we surrender to the grief,  we become as delicate baby eggs, requiring nourishment, protection and supervision until we are ready for the next phase of life.

Interesting Fact: Each tiny egg is a circular or oval shape that can easily roll away and get lost, misplaced or crushed.
Personal note* Baby “eggs” in widowhood need to stay together with other like-minded “eggs” and under the protective authority of their special grief coach covering until they have matured.

Second Stage: The Larva (Caterpillar)
When the egg hatches, consequently, a butterfly does not emerge, but rather a fuzzy and peculiar insect in the similitude of a worm. This furry little creature stumbles and inches its way along as it consistently grows and expands. During some research, it was discovered that in this phase, the caterpillar spends most of its time eating. In the grief/growth walk a widow needs to be with a counselor or coach who knows what widowhood is all about or in a group with other widows feeding on their experience as a widow.  As a widow walks the road of grief they find that certain habits, places, people, and things no longer fit comfortably in their life.  They can no longer digest them.    Like the growing caterpillar, a widow is “molting” which is a process during this phase when the caterpillar sheds its outgrown skin.

Interesting Fact: A caterpillar will go through the molting process several times while it is growing.
Personal Note*  During her grief walk, a widow is constantly shedding layers of her former self. She must shed the anger, the resentment, the depression, the fear, grief, loneliness and anything or anybody that would hinder her from moving forward.

Third Stage: Pupa (Chrysalis)
During the Pupa or Chrysalis stage, the Caterpillar has come into maturity, reaching its fullest length and weight. They become so full that it is now required for them to build a protective “shell” called a cocoon so that they can prepare for the next phase of life. There are times in the life of a widow when she has to “shut in” and go into a “cocoon” in order to hear from God. That secret dwelling place is where we find shelter, strength, comfort, healing and deliverance. Our spiritual “cocoon” is a place where God takes all of those things that we have shed and replaces them with His word, His creative works, His Holy Spirit and His love.

Interesting fact: About a day before the adult butterfly emerges, the chrysalis (of most species) becomes transparent.
Personal note*  A widow not only has to shed layers and layers of her former self, but God may require her to become transparent so that she can be a living example to other widows.

Fourth Stage: Adult Butterfly
Inside of the cocoon, the caterpillar goes through a major transformation called “metamorphosis.” As many of you already know, a butterfly in appearance is quite different from a caterpillar, growing wings that are often colorful and beautiful, taking on a whole new shape and form. As the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, its wings are slightly soft and still pressed up against the body. The new creature may not quite be used to its new form and may not even realize that it can fly right away. As the blood begins to pump into the wings, suddenly, the butterfly realizes its capabilities and within hours it will master flying and take off.  So, too, will the time come when a widow has come to the end of her grief/growth walk and it is time for her to break forth from that cocoon and soar to higher heights.  At this point it’s time for her to pour back into the earth, sow seeds into another widow or mentor/minister to other widows. At this phase stories are shared, ministries are born,  and books are birthed.

Interesting fact: There are approximately 28000 species of butterflies worldwide.

Personal Note* We are all uniquely designed, fearfully and wonderfully made, handcrafted by the Master’s hands, varying in gifts, talents and abilities. There is no need for a widow to covet someone else’s “wings” when God has purpose for each and every widow. We all have to work hard to find our new identities and purposes.

Put Your Head Down

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“Whatever task comes your way to do, do it with all your strength..” Ecclesiates 9:10a CJB

Football was one of my husband’s loves.  Every Monday night and weekend the sounds of the games filled our home.  It was a comforting sound to me and one that I had grown up with in a house with my dad and three male siblings.

Last night I heard the statement “Just put your head down and give it all you’ve got”.  It reminded me of the way men play the game of football and the way my husband played the game of life.  It did not matter what he encountered in this life.  He always put his head down and gave it all he had even to the end.

Four months into my grief walk I decided that it was time for me to do the same.  I knew that I needed help to do this and through an online computer search, I found a Christian psychologist with a heart for widows along with a ministry called Widow’s Walk.  Through their guidance, I now have my head down giving it all I’ve got to get through this time in my life.

There have been so many new things that I have had to deal with – things that I never dreamed that I would ever have to deal with alone.  Daily there are strong emotions .  My life has become a moment by moment, day by day existence.

God tells me in Ecclesiates that whatever comes my way, I am to deal with it with all of my strength.  The King James version of the Bible uses the word “might” instead of “strength”.  That word “might” talks about not only human strength but God’s strength.  I know that my strength alone in this grief walk is weak and it is only God’s strength in me that has gotten me through the last 23 months.   I know that I could never walk this journey completely alone.

I know that if my husband could say something to me, it would be, “Just put your head down and give it all you’ve got, Candy!”

What Widows Wish Others Knew

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Christina Cassidy, founder and director of Widow’s Walk, shares what a widow wishes others knew about her.

1.   A widow can’t be rushed.  Grieving is a process, it takes time.  Please be patient with me.

2.   A widow can’t take a “vacation” from grief.  Please don’t ask me to “act happy”, so others won’t feel uncomfortable being around me.

3.   A widow needs you to listen.  Please don’t be so ready to offer advice as to, “What you think I should do.”; help me process what I feel I should do.

4.   A widow needs company.  Widowhood isn’t contagious, please don’t isolate me.  Invite me to dinner, a movie, suggest we buy tickets to a play, sit with me in church.  Although it may be a painful reminder of what I have lost, it’s good for me to be with people who are enjoying life.

5.   A widow needs:  My home and car require the same maintenance as yours.  If you are changing your furnace filter, please change mine  If you are winterizing your home, please call me.  Please make sure my car is in good working order, it’s important for me to feel safe.  It’s so hard for me to ask for your help, please offer.

6.   A widow doesn’t forget.  Please share your memories with me, and make note of my important dates; wedding anniversary, birthday(s), death date; it helps to know you remember my husband too.

7.   A widow gets tired.  If I have children, please take them for a night, an evening alone does wonders for a weary widow.

8.   A widow gets lonely.  Please call and/or visit; I can go days between having contact with others.

9.   A widow is useful.  Please use my time and talents for church and/or community projects, I have much to offer and a lot to give.

10. A widow changes.  The death of my spouse has changed me forever, please don’t expect me to be “the same”,   I am forced daily to accept a “new normalcy”, I need your love, support, and encouragement while I learn to embrace my “new normal”.

11. A widow is an individual.  Please remember I am “me”, what worked for another may not work for me.  Every journey is different, every pain unique.

12. A widow is strong.  Please remind me of how far I’ve come, and how well I am doing.  I can’t always see my own progress, it helps when others remind me of my strength and accomplishments.

13. A widow needs love.  Love me, show me you care, let me know you are there.

14. A widow belongs to Him.  Please help me remember who I am in Jesus (defended, protected, loved), and of my favor in His sight.  It’s easy for me to forget who I am, and to whom I belong while battling grief.

Coping with Grief During the Holidays

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One of the hardest things for a widow is facing the holidays without her spouse.  Martha M. Tousley has some good suggestions on how to cope with grief during the holidays.

Have a family meeting.  List all the things you ordinarily do for the holidays:

1.  Sending greeting cards
2.  Decorating the house
3.  Stringing outdoor lights
4.  Putting up a tree
5.  Holiday baking
6.  Entertaining business associates
7. Buying something special to wear
8.  Going to parties
9.  Visiting friends
10  Exchanging gifts
11. Preparing a big meal
12.  Etc. ______________________

Decide together what’s important to each of you, what you want to do this year, what you can let go of, and what you can do differently. For each task on the list, ask yourself these questions:

Would the holidays be the holidays without doing this?

Is this something I really want to do?

Do I do it freely, or out of habit or tradition?

Is it a one-person job, or can it be a group effort?

Who’s responsible for getting it done?

Do I really like doing it?

Do some things differently this year.  Trying to recreate the past may remind you all the more that your loved one is missing. This year, try celebrating the holidays in a totally different way. Nothing is the same as it used to be anyway. Go to a restaurant. Visit relatives or friends. Travel somewhere you’ve never gone before. If you decide to put up a tree, put it in a different location and make or buy different decorations for it. Hang a stocking in your loved one’s memory, and ask each family member to express their thoughts and feelings by writing a note to, from or about your loved one, and place the notes in that special stocking for everyone to read. Buy a poinsettia for your home as a living memorial to your loved one for the holiday season.

Do other things more simply. You don’t have to discard all your old traditions forevermore, but you can choose to observe the holidays on a smaller scale this year.

Take good care of yourself.  Build time in your day to relax, even if you’re having trouble sleeping. Eat nourishing, healthy meals, and if you’ve lost your appetite, eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. (Sweet, sugary foods are everywhere, from Halloween until Easter, but too much sugar will deplete what little energy you have.) Get some daily exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block. Avoid drinking alcohol, which intensifies depression and disrupts normal sleep.

Just do it.  We all know that we ought to think positively, eat right, exercise more and get enough rest — but grief by its very nature robs us of the energy we need to do all those good and healthy things. Accept that in spite of what we know, it’s often very hard to do what’s good for us — then do it anyway.  Don’t wait until you feel like doing it.

Pay attention to yourself.  Notice what you’re feeling and what it is you need. Feelings demand expression, and when we acknowledge them and let them out, they go away. Feelings that are “stuffed” don’t go anywhere; they just fester and get worse. If you need help from others, don’t expect them to read your mind. It’s okay to ask for what you need. Besides, doing a favor for you during the holidays may make them feel better, too. Be patient and gentle with yourself and with others as well.

Expect to feel some pain.  Plan on feeling sad at certain moments, and let the feelings come. Experience the pain and tears, deal with them, and then let them go. Have faith that you’ll get through this and that you will survive.

Seek support from others.  Grieving is hard work, and it shouldn’t be done alone. You need to share your experience with someone who understands the pain of your loss. If your spouse, relative or friend cannot be the source of that support, you can find it elsewhere.

Give something of yourself to others.  As alone as you may feel in your grief, one of the most healing things you can do for yourself is to be with other people, especially during the holidays. Caring for and giving to others will nourish and sustain you, and help you to feel better about yourself. If you can bring yourself to do so, visit someone in a hospice or nursing home, or volunteer your time at your church or synagogue, serving at your local homeless shelter, at the local humane society or animal shelter. Do whatever you can, and let it be enough.


Differences in the Ways People/Personalities Grieve

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Martha M. Tousley writes that different people and different personalities all grieve different ways.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

How does a family usually react when one of its members dies?

Everyone in the family mourns their own personal loss in their own unique way. Roles and responsibilities shift, relationships change, and communication and mutual support among members may suffer.

Over time, the family must identify the roles and functions of the lost member, decide who will execute those duties now, and learn how to compensate for their absence.

Do differences in age and gender really matter? Men, women and children are very different from each other, not just in personality patterns that affect how they think, feel and behave, but also in how they grieve. When someone dies, they do not experience or express their reactions in the same way. Failure to understand and accept these different ways of mourning can result in hurt feelings and conflict between partners and among family members during a very difficult time. Although there is grief work to be done, behaviors can be misinterpreted, needs may be misunderstood, and expectations may not be met. Children and grown-ups are all very different, with their own unique needs for expression and support.

What about differences in personality?

Differing personality patterns among family members will affect how each one individually expresses, experiences and deals with grief. While we all have the capacity to react to loss in a variety of ways, recent personality research shows that there are three basic styles or patterns of mourning: instrumental, intuitive and dissonant.  Typically a person trusts and prefers one pattern of response over the other two, and will behave accordingly.

1. Instrumental mourners experience and speak of their grief intellectually and physically. They‘re most comfortable with seeking accurate information, analyzing facts, making informed decisions and taking action to solve problems. Remaining strong, dispassionate and detached in the face of powerful emotions, they may speak of their grief in an intellectual way, appearing to others as cold and uncaring, and without feeling.

2. Intuitive mourners experience a full, rich range of emotions in response to grief. Comfortable with strong emotions and tears, they are sensitive to their own feelings and to the feelings of others as well. Since they feel strong emotions so deeply, they‘re less able to rationalize and intellectualize the pain of grief, and more likely to appear overwhelmed and devastated by it.

3. Dissonant mourners encounter a conflict between the way they experience their grief internally and the way they express it outwardly, which produces a persistent discomfort and lack of harmony. The “dissonance” or conflict may be due to family, cultural or social traditions. Although their grief may be prolonged and profoundly felt, they struggle to hide their true feelings, in order to preserve the image they wish to project to the public. Others may condemn themselves and feel very guilty for not feeling whatever they think is expected of them to feel.

Do “real men” mourn? Men are more often instrumental mourners. They tend to put their feelings into action, experiencing their grief physically rather than emotionally. They deal with their loss by focusing on goal-oriented activities that activate thinking, doing and acting. Rather than endlessly talking about or crying over the person who died, for example, a man may throw himself into time-limited tasks such as planting a memorial garden or writing a poem or eulogy. Such activities give a man not only a sense of potency and accomplishment as he enters his grief, but also a means of escaping it when the task is done. If a man relates the details of his loss to his closest male friends, it‘s likely to be around activities they hold in common, like hunting, fishing, sporting events and card games. Although a man may let himself cry in his grief, he‘ll usually do so alone, in secret or in the dark, which may lead some to conclude that he must not be grieving at all.

What about women? Women, on the other hand, tend to be intuitive mourners. They have been socialized to be more open with their feelings. They may feel a greater need to talk with others who are comfortable with strong emotions and willing to listen without judgment. Unfortunately, while it may be more acceptable for women in our culture to be expressive and emotional, all too often in grief they‘re criticized for being too sentimental or overly sensitive.

Do children grieve just as deeply as adults? Most certainly they do, but depending on their cognitive and emotional development, they experience and express their grief differently from the grown-ups around them. Moving in and out of grief is natural for them, and their response depends on the knowledge and skills available to them at the time of the loss. More than anything else, children need their parents to be honest with them. They need accurate, factual information, freedom to ask questions and express their feelings, and inclusion in decisions, discussions and family commemorative rituals. Children need stable, consistent attention from their caretakers, and time to explore and come to terms with the meaning of their loss. The way we grieve is as individual as we are, and our own gender biases may influence how we ―read‖ another gender’s mourning. Some females may be instrumental in pattern and style, and will grieve in traditionally “masculine” ways, and some males may be more intuitive by nature, and therefore will grieve in traditionally “feminine” ways. Although men, women and children grieve differently, none of those ways is inappropriate. And it is never helpful to take sides, supporting one way of grieving over another.

Closing Thoughts Regardless of differences in personality, gender and age, the pressures of grief are still present for all family members. The tasks of mourning are the same: to confront, endure and work through the emotional effects of the death so the loss can be dealt with successfully. Grief must be expressed and released in order to be resolved, and all family members need encouragement to identify and release emotions, to talk about and share their thoughts, and to accept help and support from others.

For even more information on this, go to  http://www.griefhealing.com/column-different-grief-patterns.htm

Letter to Loneliness

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Loneliness,

I thought I had been lonely before, but now I know that feeling was not loneliness at all.  Loneliness is this empty place that cannot be filled with anyone but the one that you are grieving for.  Family and some friends may try to fill that void for you occasionally and they do give you someone to talk to about the person that you are grieving for.  And you may find that for a few minutes, they can take your mind away from that empty place, but then you go back to it.

Loneliness is going to your daughter’s house and playing with your grandchildren and then getting into your car to go home alone again.  It is walking into the house that was once filled with all the love of your husband and finding he is no longer there.

Loneliness is making out the grocery list for one, going to the grocery store to buy for just one,  cooking a meal for just one, and sitting down to eat alone.

Loneliness is going to a restaurant and seeing people eating together in couples or in families and finding yourself sitting in an empty booth ordering for just one.

Loneliness is finding yourself seated next to an older couple on the plane, watching them talk and laugh together and thinking, “That was supposed to be US!”

Loneliness is trying to move a piece of furniture by yourself.  It is needing an oil change in your car knowing that this is something that he always did for you.

Loneliness is going to the gas station to pump gas and seeing the man at the next pump over putting gas in his car while his wife waits inside.

Loneliness is seeing a couple walking hand in hand at the mall and wanting to stop them and say, “Do you KNOW how very blessed you are to have your spouse?!”

Loneliness is buying a body pillow to sleep next to because your bed is so empty now.

Loneliness is going to the cemetery alone to visit your parents’ graves.

Loneliness is waiting for a phone call that never comes from friends,  someone in your husband’s family, your pastor, or someone from the church.

Loneliness is planning a vacation for one.

Loneliness is going everywhere alone.

Loneliness is putting your house up for sale and finding another home for one.  It is packing all those boxes by yourself and then unpacking them when you finally get moved.

Loneliness is hearing the sounds of the door shutting at your next door neighbor’s house knowing that there are two people living in that home.

Loneliness is that empty, hollow sound in your home when there used to be the sounds of a couple talking over their day, soft snoring during the night, the sound of water as he showered in the morning getting ready to go to work, hearing the engine roar to life as the truck starts up , and then him walking in the back door in the evening as you welcomed him home.

Loneliness is buying a 3 foot teddy bear to put in a chair your bedroom so that you feel like you have someone with you.

Loneliness is reading your Bible and praying alone.

Loneliness is that deep aching feeling in your heart that just will not leave you.  It is all the tears that sit on the surface just waiting for anything to trigger them.

Loneliness is  knowing that he is really gone and he is never coming back.  It is knowing that you have to make your way in this world all by yourself.

Loneliness is wondering who is going to take care of you should you ever need care.

Loneliness, this is just a few of the things that you are.  You are so very hard to live with and at times seem unbearable.  The only comfort is in knowing and trying to believe God is here with me whether I can see Him or not.  One of these days I hope that I will grow to be comfortable in my loneliness.

Erratic Thought Life

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“Taking charge of my thoughts continued to be a constant struggle.  Things ran through my mind which seemed irreverent, unfaithful, disloyal, selfish, frightening and even ridiculous…after Mark’s death…thoughts that I was embarrassed to have, much less share with anyone else.  But I found it comforting to know that God knew my thoughts completely.

It seemed prudent to me that, if I were having thoughts that made me uncomfortable, then rather than try to ignore or run from them, I ought consciously to give them to the One who understands my thoughts, my motivations, and my discomfort.  I often said, ‘God, You know I just had this thought.  I can not hide anything from You.  But I do not know why I am having this thought, or what to do with it, so I want to give it to You.  Please align my heart with Yours.’

Some of the thoughts were just logical concerns for a woman whose tangible love, security and identity had just been ripped from her.  Everything I thought to be true about my future was now in question.  So, question I did.”

Patty M. Broderick

He Said Press

He Said

Bethany Press/2007

On January 26, 1995 Patti Broderick became a widow after her husband Mark, a military pilot,  was killed in a training accident.  This book tells about her journey as she tried to get off the throne and allow God to be God and to free Him to work in her life as only He can do.

Patti shares how she felt after Mark died – “When he died, what I missed the most was the emotional anchoring I felt from a man who knew me better than anyone else did and loved me anyway.  I was faced with not just having Mark in my day to day life, but missing Mark in my dreams of the future.  Having lost Mark, fears for my children’s lives and my own life inevitably began to encircle me.  I began questioning God and the ways in which He cares for me.”

On becoming a single mother, she shares the best advice that she was given by her mother-in-law who told her not to try to be both a mother and father to her children because she simply could not be both.  Patti had to make sure that there were men in her children’s lives who cared about them and would teach them some of the things that only a man can.

Patti’s thoughts on hope – “My hope needed to be reconstructed, and I knew from my civil engineering background that any remodeling job is a messy, painful process.  When one is remodeling even one small room, the entire house is affected.  Even rooms that are closed off and are seemingly immune from the mess get dusty.  There was that kind of ripple effect in my life when Mark died.  Areas I thought would remain “normal” became messy as well.  What God needed to accomplish was an emotional paradigm shift.  And what I needed to do was to let Him have free reign in making that shift.  Hanging on to my former hope would not help that.  My hope and my joy must come from God and the future He had prepared for me even before my birth.

On the subject of doubts, Patti writes, “..,…doubt sweeps over me more often than I would care to admit.  I have found admitting these doubts to God helps me know my relationship with Him is real.  This is how I think of my doubts about God; just admitting them to Him alone shows I have faith that He heard them.”

The last word that Mark spoke over his radio was, “PRESS”Patti used that word to press in to God to find real, practical faith and to press up to see her loss from God’s eyes so that she didn’t miss all He had planned for her through her grief.

Thank you, Patti, for opening your wounded heart to us and imparting all that God has taught you during the lowest point in your life.

Name Your Pain

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AWARENESS is one of the key words in grieving.  Pains left unnamed lodge inside and become blocks to healing.  Left too long, a kind of emotional scar tissue begins to form.  Our pains deserve our best attention for healing.

* Read, write, talk them out until you have names for the pains that accompany your journey.

*There are always “attendant losses” that come with major loss.  Begin a list of things that have changed with this loss in your life and add to it as you become aware of others, i.e., role, identity, relationships, financial security, companionship, dreams, friendships, physical condition…..

* A.W. Tozer said that “body, mind, and spirit are so closely linked together that what happens to one happens to the other.”  The complexity of our emotions, physical reactions, very much like four intertwining circles–what is going on in one affects the other.  Draw four intertwining circles; label them “physical,” “mental,” “emotional,” “spiritual.”  Then list feelings and thoughts in each.  Notice how one affects the other.  Share these with your group or journeymate.

REMEMBER:  Healing only comes from the inside out.

Verdell Davis – Let Me Grieve But Not Forever

The Struggle to Believe

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The struggle to believe is possibly the mightiest conflict known to the soul of man.  Faith does not always come from quiet contemplation or meditation.  It is sometimes born among the raging of questions with no answers, pain with no relief, hope that has no reason to exist.  

Glenn Owen, foreword, The Gift of Life by Randy Becton