Roots in the Darkness

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that you being rooted and grounded in love might be filled with all the fullness of God…….. and grow up into Him in all thing which is the head of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17, 19

Unless narcissus bulbs are kept a long time in the dark, they spring up at once, have no roots, are weak, and the flowers are imperfect.  When those same bulbs are kept in the dark until a strong network of roots grows around the pebbles, they grow and bloom perfectly.

The grief journey of a widow is a place of great darkness.   The results of that journey are determined by how we go through that journey.  We can either stuff our grief and move through it as quickly as we can stuffing our emotions and moving on with life the way that others want us to or we can be consistent in our grief – turning around and meeting it head on staying in that dark place until we have dealt with it.

No woman wants to be a widow.  In fact, I would venture to say that most widows never dreamed that they would ever be a widow.  Most of our dreams were of growing old together with our husbands.  The thought of our husband  leaving us to fend for ourselves on this earth probably never entered our minds for that kind of thought is much too painful and unimaginable.

But, I believe that if a husband of a widow could say something to her now, he would say, “Don’t give up!  Don’t just curl up in a corner with a blanket over your head  and allow your life to become a ruin!  Sink your roots down deeply in Christ during this dark grief journey!

There is nothing more desolate than an incompleted ruin.  It stands a decaying, hollow mockery of its rich promise of victory and achievements.   Even more desolate is the hollow ruin of a life of great possibilities.

“God had one Son without sin; He has none without sorrow.”

Unknown

My Struggle

One of the things that I have personally struggled with for the last 2 years is the thought that I am displeasing God because of my questions and my doubts.  You see, I have always been the good girl that follows the rules and instructions to the letter.  Bob used to say that if someone told me to jump, I’d ask “How high?”  It has always been my nature to be obedient – especially to God.  Questioning God’s ways or not believing that something He is doing in my life is not good was simply out of the question.

After Bob died, I felt so very betrayed by God.  It was as if the heavens were brass and He had not been hearing my/our prayers during those last 4 months.  I knew in my heart that there was no known sin in our lives and nothing between us and God.  In fact, we were the closest to God spiritually in those last months than we had both ever been in our lives.  So, why had this happened?  Why had the rug literally been pulled out from under me leaving me on my face flat on the floor with a pile of rocks on top of me?  There was no way that THIS could be God’s best for me.  NO WAY whatsoever!

Several weeks later my mother told me that she was asking God to take her home even though she knew it wasn’t a good time for me.  She was just so very exhausted from fighting to live.  Where was God in all of this?  Those people who loved me the most were leaving me one by one and my heart cried out, “What kind of love is THIS, God?!!

Two weeks after Mama died my dad began to quickly go downhill.  He would sit there in his chair oblivious to me and pray aloud, “God, please take me home!  PLEASE take me home!” over and over and over.  Seeing how brokenhearted he was and listening to him pray that day in and day out became completely unbearable and inside I screamed, “Where are You, God?!!!  Can’t You see what is going on down here?  Why are You doing this to me?  How CAN You do this to me?  Can’t you see that I am down for the count now and this is just more than I can bear?  Daddy simply couldn’t live without my mother and joined her 2 months after she went to heaven.  Oh, how he and Bob and Mama must have rejoiced together, but oh howutterly broken I was to be left here without them.

I’ve figured out that once I get to heaven, I won’t want to know the answers to all of my whys  and how could You’s because it won’t even matter then.  I know in my head that God sees the bigger picture of my life, but I am still struggling to “get that” in my heart.  I will also be honest with you and tell you that at this point in my grief journey almost 25 months later, I still feel abandoned by God.  I still cannot see how He is working everything out for good in my life and I have no idea what my purpose is now. I wonder how there can ever be real joy again in my life.

Several days ago I listened to a Bible study online that was given by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach that convinced me that I am not a disappointment to God and that there is a reason and a purpose for my ongoing struggles.  He said the following:

Righteousness in Judaism is not defined by perfection.  It’s defined by struggle.  It’s the man or woman who wrestles to do better in the midst of an imperfect nature who is to be praised.  Every time we fight with the dark side – every time we engage it – even if we fall sometimes, it’s the fact that we are ready to fight for what’s important that the glory of God goes higher and higher.  It is she who wrestles to do the right thing that is truly righteous.

I am wrestling to do the right thing.  I know that my faith needs to be stronger and I need to be able to fully and completely trust that God IS working everything out for my good.  I need to trust that He is going to be my husband now and is going to take care of me completely for the rest of my life.  I need to trust that He has not abandoned me and loves me with a much greater love than my husband and my parents had for me.  I need to take my hand off of the controls and allow Him to have complete and utter control.  This is the raging battle that I am in and somehow because I am willing to fight to get to that place of faith the glory of God in my life will go higher and higher.  I cannot tell you how this will happen, but in my heart I know that Rabbi Shmuley’s statement is true because my heart burned within me when I heard those words.

Without a struggle, there can be no progress.

Frederick Douglas

Reflections of a Grieving Spouse

Harvest House Publishers/2009

Noted grief and trauma counselor Norman Wright experienced the depths of grief himself when his wife Joy passed away September 15, 2007.  This is the book that he never planned or ever wanted to write.

“The loss of a beloved partner who has been by your side for a short time or for almost half a century, as in my case, creates a Grand Canyon-sized hole in your life.  The present and future are changed drastically.  ‘I do’.  Two words.  But they signify the beginning of a committed relationship designed to last throughout life on earth.  They are much anticipated words, and their expression to one another is filled with joy. Two little words….but very significant. 

Now, in place of all the words of joy, there are others. ‘Good-bye’ is a constant, whether I verbalize it or not.  There is so much to say goodbye to.  It seems endless.  ‘Not here.’  ‘Never again.’  The most difficult couplet.”

Norman goes on to share that grieving is a very disorderly process that you have no control over and you can’t schedule every aspect of its expression.  We are used to living by schedules, but grief knows no schedule and will not fit into your appointment book.

“The past and future seem to collapse together.  The future is hard to fathom.  Are you wondering if there is a future?  I did.  The future has changed.  We tend to believe it’s never ending.  But grief drops a curtain over that belief.  It’s difficult to imagine the future when you’re trapped in a fog.  To envision a future you need to make some forward progress and avoid being permanently stuck in a quagmire.  The clarity and anticipation of a future has faded into uncertainty.  Your mind tells you many messages:  ‘He (or she) is with the Lord, and you’ll be all right.’  ‘You will heal in time’.  ‘You can do it.’  But your heart says something different and grief short-circuits your mind and heart’s attempt to work together.   At such a challenging time, we need to be patient with the chaos we are now enduring inside us and around us.”

Some of the chapter titles in this book include:  Am I Normal?, The Other Anniversaries, Why?, Changing “We” to “I”, Relearning Your Life, Not Quite Myself, The Choice of Recovery, When You Seem Stuck, Letting Go, Remembrance.  Each chapter is short and easy to read.  At the end of each of the chapters are a few questions to help the reader ask his or herself several questions to help that particular chapter sink in.  I found those questions to be particularly helpful during the early months of my own grief fog.  They helped me to think as best I could.

The writer gives the best 4 reasons of why we go through grief – what is the purpose of grief.

1.  Through grief you express your feelings about your loss.  And you invite others to walk through it with you.

2.  Through grief you express your protest at the loss as well as your desire to change what happened.

3.  Through grief you express the effects you have experienced from the devastating impact of the loss.

4.  Through grief you may experience God in a new way that will change your life.  Job said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”  (Job 42:5)

Norman also goes on to tell the reader what we need to know about grief.

Your grief will take longer than most people think.

Your grief will take more energy than you ever imagine.

Your grief will involved many changes and will continue to develop.

Your grief will show in all spheres of your life.

Your grief will depend on how you perceive the loss.

You will grieve for many things symbolic and tangible, not just for the death alone.

You will grieve for what you have lost already, and for what you’ve lost for the future.

Your grief will entail mourning, not only for the person you lost, but also for the hopes, dreams, and unfulfilled expectations you held for and with that person and for the unmet needs because of the death.

Your grief will involve a wide variety of feelings and reactions–more than just the general ones often depicted, such as depression and sadness.

Your loss will resurrect old issues, feelings, and  unresolved conflicts from the past.

You may have a combination of anger and depression, exhibited as irritability, frustration, annoyance, and intolerance.

Your will feel some anger and guilt–or at least some manifestation of these emotions.

You may experience grief spasms–acute upsurges of grief that occur without warning.

You will have trouble thinking about memories, handling organizational tasks, intellectually processing information, and making decisions.

You may feel like you are going crazy.

You may be obsessed with death and preoccupied with the deceased.

You may find yourself acting socially in ways that are different than before.

You may find yourself having a number of physical reactions.

Others may have unrealistic expectations about your mourning and may respond inappropriately to you.

I want to thank the author for his willingness to share his most raw emotions and allowing us to see his own vulnerability during his grief journey.  This is one of the best books on grieving that I have read and even though it is written from a male’s perspective, it is excellent for a widow to read.

Trusting When He’s Least Trust-Worthy

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During a time when He dealt me a blow that sent me reeling on my heels, He was also there to catch me as no one else could have.  But I had to trust Him when He seemed least trust-worthyDuring my emotional tumble, I held tighter and listened more intently to God than I ever had before.  Like a child with his face pressed up against a window, I sought to find God in the midst of my confusion and understand what He was seeing.

I did not do these things right all the time, but each time I chose to press into the Right One, the evidence of His power mounted.  I am convinced that if psychiatrists could harness the contentment I found by pressing into God, that it would be their most prescribed drug.  But it is not as easy as swallowing a pill.  It is a day to day struggle to overcome our own flesh and seek God.

Patti M. Broderick

Endless Hallelujah

I never used to think much about heaven, but now I find myself thinking about it every day and actually yearning for it.  I am thankful today that I KNOW where my husband and parents are now and that they are the happiest they have ever been in their existence.

Oh, how much I miss you, Bob!  Thank you for showing me true unconditional love and for being my picture of Christ.  I love you!

Thank you, God, for giving me a husband like that and for being my husband now.  I love you!

Letter from My Husband to Our Daughters

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Dear Girls,

Remember all the things we’ve read in the Bible about heaven?  I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is all true!  It’s even better than we thought it would be!   And I want you to know that it was worth it all when I saw Jesus!  It was worth it ALL!

You girls were the greatest gifts that God gave to me beside your mother.  As each one of you came into my life, you blessed me and the more of you that there were, the more I was blessed.

Leah, remember all those math lessons and how you cried when I was trying to teach you?  That wasn’t fun for me either,  but look at you now!  You are homeschooling my grandchildren and teaching them math in much better ways than I knew how to teach you.  I am so proud of the woman that you have become.  Thank you for helping your mother and I through those last 6 months of my life.  All we had to do was call you and you were there for us.  Thank you for that, Leah.  Thank you for loving me.  I love you so much!

Annissa, I was so proud of your talent on the piano.  It gave me so much joy to hear you play.  We had great fun watching sports together, too.  You were the only one that enjoyed them as much as I did.  Thank you for coming to spend all those weeks with me during my last 4 months, Anna.  Thank you for giving me those shots at home when your mother just couldn’t do it.  Thank you for being so matter of fact about everything.  It helped bring things into perspective.  Thank you for loving me, Annissa.  I love you so much!

Charity, I loved to hear you sing!  I wasn’t a music person, but you always touched my heart when you sang.  It meant so much to me and I was so proud of you.  Thank you for sitting in the hospital with me and for bringing the boys up to see me on Halloween so that I could see them and give them some candy.  Thank you for that last song that I heard you sing via the internet.  It meant so much to me for I could see God in your face and hear Him in your voice.  Thank you for loving me, Charity.  I love you so much!

Tshanina, you were always the sunshine in my life.  You light up a room whenever you walk into it and you always made me feel better when you were around.   I was so proud of you when you faced some very difficult heartbreaking times in your life.  You were such a strong young woman to get through that with God’s help.  You didn’t turn your back on Him and I was so glad that you didn’t.  Thank you for all those nights you spent in the hospital with me trying to get me to play games and just smile.  You were so good to me.  Thank you for loving me, Tshanina.  I love you so much!

All of you girls are so loving and faithful to your husbands and the ones of you who have children are such good mothers.  You are all such good money managers and don’t truly realize what a relief and blessing that is to your husbands.  You are such good examples not only to your family but to others.

You girls are all beautiful not only on the outside, but more importantly,  you are beautiful on the inside because of your relationship with the Lord.  Always take time to cultivate and nurture that relationship because when it comes right down to where the rubber meets the road, your relationship with the Lord is all that you have in this world.  Nothing else matters.  NOTHING else matters.  THAT is THE most important thing in your life.  I can testify to that.

When it came down to the end of this life for me, God was there.  He showed Himself to me there at the end, took me by the hand, and introduced me to heaven.  OH, what a glorious thing that was!

So, give it all you’ve got.  Raise your children to really KNOW God.  I know it’s a decision that they each have to make on their own, but do all that you know how to do to point them in the right direction.

Be there for your mom.  She’s having such a hard time right now and you’ve been so good to her.  I knew that I could count on you all to take care of her and I left her in your very capable hands.  You are being so patient with her.  You are listening to her and encouraging her in her journey alone now without me and her parents.  We didn’t all plan to leave her so closely together and this has been devastating for her.  Keep on loving her and being understanding.  Give her time to become the woman that God wants for her to become now.  Be there for her, girls.  Be there for her the best that you can.  It’s not your responsibility to be everything to her just like it wasn’t my responsibility to be everything for her.  But, be who God wants you to be in her life and He will bless you for that.

I love you, Leah, Annissa, Charity, and Tshanina!  I love you!  I’ll see you again soon and I guarantee you that when you get here, you, too, will see that it was worth it all!

Love,

Dad

Surrender

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In order to make it through each day,  a widow who is a follower of Christ must be able to surrender to each moment and be willing to say whether she can see it or understand it or not, “Thank you, God, that you ARE working every thing out for my good.”