I have been doing a lot of reflecting and processing for the last few weeks. Yesterday a book I had ordered arrived in my mailbox. It is written by widow Julie Yarbrough and is called INSIDE THE BROKEN HEART. One of her chapters is entitled “Attitude”.
“When the heart is intractable, hardened by the pain of death, our grief is well described as ignorance, futility of thinking, darkness of understanding, and separation from God. To put off our old self and be made new in the attitude of our mind is the endeavor of grief. Our old self may be a weary, emotionally tattered half-person, as familiar and comfortable as an old bathrobe. What happens to our old self when our husband or wife dies? As we assimilate grief we discover that we are becoming different people. Never again will we be the person we once were.
To be made new in the attitude of our mind is to find a new self. We choose whether we put on our new self and wear it gladly, or whether we shrug into it with reluctance. We try it on for size and make adjustments before we are satisfied with the fit. Grief enlarges us to accommodate a new self–a different self, a better self.
In her novel ADAM BEDE, George Eliot wrote these poignant words:
For Adam…had not outlived his sorrow–had not felt it slip from him as a temporary burden, and leave him the same man again. Do any of us? God forbid. It would be a poor result of all our anguish and our wrestling, if we won nothing but our old selves at the end of it–if we could return to the same blind loves, the same self-confident blame, the same light thoughts of human suffering, the same frivolous gossip over blighted human lives, the same feeble sense of that Unknown towards which we have sent forth irrepressible cries in our loneliness. Let us rather be thankful that sorrow lives in us as an indestructible force, only changing its form, as forces do, and passing from pain into sympathy–the one poor word which includes all our best insight and our best love.
The attitude that defines our new self is directed by gratitude for the one we have lost and gratitude for what we have left.”
I am guilty of shrugging with reluctance into this new self that I have been thrown into. In fact, I was thrust into it kicking and screaming. Now, being stubborn and strong-willed can be good in some areas of life, but in this area, it’s detrimental to me. In fact, it’s causing me to struggle against this place that God has put me. It’s an attitude problem that I must deal with.
Where are you in your attitude towards the loss of your husband?
My husband died 2 1/2 years ago, after 34 years of marriage. I’ll always wish we’d had double the years together that we had here, but am thankful for what we did have. While so painful at first, I’ve now accepted his temporary loss here, knowing he’s happy and well in Heaven, and knowing that someday we’ll have all eternity to spend time together again. I believe God still has much good in store for me for the remainder of my days here (I’ve already seen some of it), and look forward to seeing more of it unfold.
That’s wonderful, Patty! Thank you for reading and responding today.
Pas I travel this path, I realize more and more that it is full of winds and switchbacks. I miss my husband in different ways. I can see how God has sheltered, loved and protected me. I can usually talk about my situation without becoming a basket case. Then just when I think that I have reached a good plateau, some dark foreboding will reassertion itself and I will grieve anew. I am learning to embrace these times. I also remember my sweet man with more humor and affection, not just loss. Hw would be so proud of me and our children and so ready to welcome us home. I know Eddie is with Jesus. I know I am a widow but I wear my widowhood proudly, knowing I have a Husband of my soul drawing me closer. I have struggled but I am embracing this deeper relationship than I ever dreamed possible. Again, Candy you will never know how much I cherish your blog! I love you, my sister and some day I am going to come meet you in person. Blessings to you and your girls!
“I wear my widowhood proudly”……..I feel the same way, Apryl. I would never have chosen that title, but I was chosen for it. Thank you for your sweet words. I’ll look forward to meeting you in person some day….if not on this side then on the other.
Candy- I am like you…. thrust into this kicking and screaming. I function each day, I can laugh and seem happy to others but there is so little joy and I wonder if it will ever return. Life is such a burden at times and i have no one to assume half of that burden. I have no one to put his arms around me and tell me that it’ll all be alright. I have no one to lean on down this difficult road. And, I really don’t want to change- haven’t gotten to that point yet. I still fight the fact that God has different plans for me.
I do go up and down and I guess that this is a “down” time for me.
Your words ring true in my heart as well. I want to hear and follow what God has for me, but, I too, feel like I’ve been thrust into this widow status, kicking and screaming. I don’t want this. I don’t want these feelings of loneliness, missing Al so badly I can hardly concentrate on anything else. I read christian books that have been very helpful, as long as I’m reading. Seems once I put it down, I’m back in the throws of grief and loneliness. I feel I cannot go on like this. Am I one of those stories of women who have to be brought completely down to be built back up? Just when I think I’m doing okay, BAM! here it comes again. Al passed to glory land on Jan 6, 2013. We were married 33 years. How does one ‘find a new life’? I know the answer is God. I’m waiting on Him to direct my life. I just feel stuck in this life; the one I’ve only known, with Al, more than half my life. God Bless.
Carol, thank you for being so open about your feelings. I find myself vascillating back and forth between accepting God’s plan for me now and not accepting it. Change and transition is very hard for most widows. I am learning that it’s not something that just suddenly happens. It’s a long, hard process that we must go through that I am hoping will mold me into a woman more like my Savior. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing with the rest of us how you are feeling.
Thank you, Candy for your recent post/email. I will print it out and keep among my other inspirational readings to reread and reflect to when I need the strength to go thru the day or hour by hour. I’m struggling to move on to the next life God has planned for me. I feel like I have one foot in the ‘new life’ and one foot in my old life with my husband, Al, of 33 years. If I could do it without feeling the guilt of ‘leaving him behind’..moving forward without him, seems almost impossible to me. Only the Lord can get me thru this terrible fog I have been thrown in kicking and screaming. I want my old life back. I want my husband back. There, I’ve said it. Now you know my heart. I’m not ready to let go, but I can’t go back. I can’t go forward. I’m just stuck. With God’s help, sites like yours and prayer of other christian widows, my church, friends and my sons, I pray I can move forward soon. This stage is the worst thing I’ve ever been in..not through, because I don’t feel I’m getting through it. I feel I’m stuck in it. Are these feelings on target with other widows? Surely, they are. God bless.
Thank you all for your responses to my comment. Billie and Candy, you showed me that I’m not alone in my feelings. I will continue to do my best each day, pray and wait for God to move me further along in this journey. God bless….
What tender and vulnerable things are expressed here bringing it all back fresh into my mind. After John moved to Heaven, I spent that first year in that same place and hearing from some of you who are so freshly being initiated into this journey, and others on this journey filled with switchbacks, all described so eloquently and emotionally. I found myself describing grief as a “stalker.” Just when I thought I was moving into a healed place, out it would jump from nowhere and take me down again. As I cared for John during the years of his dementia, I would be suddenly overtaken with panic as I thought “I will never recover from this.” And then Jesus spoke to me one day and simply assured me, “There is life after dementia.” After he was gone, in my grief, fearing I would never recover, feeling that half of me was gone, ripped off of me exposing every vulnerable unprotected part of me, I again heard Jesus speak: “There is life after death.” John is alive–he never really died, he just passed over into that dimension where I couldn’t follow, so in that respect there is life after death. But for me, there was also life after death, and Jesus is showing me again that you never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have. He is filling up those empty places vacated by John’s leaving, with Himself, and with others who know and love Him. He is using the tears he stores in His bottle to spill out fresh when a new woman joins this reluctant path, pouring out His living water of encouragement. The very tears He has stored in His bottle are the tears that now heal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. I remember asking God to please manage my grief for me. I knew that I wanted to grieve in a healthy way, and I didn’t know how to do that. He has managed it–I didn’t have to, I just woke up each morning and let Him manage it for me. At times I cried until there couldn’t possibly be any more tears, and other times I would feel completely ok. He let me gush out everything like a pressure cooker, and then He closed the valve so that I would not be completely overcome. I still cry now, but as one of you said, I also can now laugh over our good memories and so thankful to God that He has replaced the hard dementia years with memories of the good and happy years. He is good that way.
God’s richest blessings be upon all who write here.
Such beautiful words, so eloquently written, it blesses my broken heart. “Jesus is showing me again that you never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” Those words are such a comfort. I will wake each morning and ask God to manage my grief, as well. I have the same ‘swings’ of emotions; up and happy, busy one day and down and out, crying on the couch the next day. I do know when I stay in his word, reading and studying, my grief is put to the side for a time. Then, when ‘life’ gets in the way; memories (good or bad) come to mind, I struggle to keep above water. I pray and ask God to deliver me from this anguish or take me out of this world without my Al; let me be with him. We were never apart this long (two months, one week and 3 days), since we met 32+ years ago. That in itself is hard to get my mind around let alone thinking he will never walk through the door again; never say ‘good morning, hon’ and all the other things we did together. Thank you, Jesus for your comfort, your promise and reassurance I will be with Al again someday. Thank you again, Kathleen for your words of wisdom through this journey of widowhood. God bless!
Thank you so much for sharing, Kathleen. We can all learn so much from each other.