6 Discernable Stages of Loss

My daughter Annissa asked me to listen to the first message Rick Warren recently gave to his congregation four months after the loss of his son.  He talked about the 6 discernable stages of loss that he has been experiencing.

1.  SHOCK –  A human emotion

2.  SORROW/GRIEF –  A Godly emotion that is a good thing and the way that we get through the transitions of life.  Jesus wept.

3.  STRUGGLE – Where you ask the “WHY?!” questions that you won’t get the answers to, but it’s okay to ask them.  The test of your faith is what you do when you don’t get the answers because you aren’t going to get them.

4.  SURRENDER – Is where you stop asking the “Why?!” questions and start surrendering, submitting and accepting.  Surrender is the only path to peace.

5.  SANCTIFICATION – When God starts bringing good out of the bad.  When God starts making changes in you.  When your personality and character starts being transformed like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.  It’s when God makes you more Godly.

6.  SERVICE – Where God takes your greatest pain and turns it into your life message.  He wants to use your mess for a message.  He wants to use your test for a testimony.  The very thing you want to least talk about is the very thing God wants to use most in your life to help other people.  Your ministry comes out of your pain.

One statement that Rick made just really hit me in my heart:

“I would rather walk with God with none of my questions answered than to walk through life without Him and know all of the answers because when in pain, explanations don’t help.  You need the comfort of God.  You need the presence of God.”

To hear the entire message  entitled “How Do You Get Through What You’re Going Through” where both he and his wife talked about how they are getting through their grief, click on the link below.

http://www.saddleback.com/mc/Archives/

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Can you say, “YOU are good”?

“YOU are good, God.”

It’s taken me a long time – literally years – since the death of my husband to be able to say those words and truly mean them from my heart.  Whenever I would hear someone say them it would literally feel like a dagger had been plunged into my heart and inside I would scream at the top of my lungs, “COULD YOU SAY THAT IF YOUR HUSBAND DIED???!!!!

The loss of my husband so shattered my heart that the truths I knew from God’s Word were there in my head, but my sorrow covered them in my heart.  This sorrow was so deep and so dark that nothing else mattered for awhile.  It was so overwhelming that for a long time I didn’t even care how anything went.  My loss of the control I thought I had of everything in my life left me saying in my heart, “God is in control and He’s going to do what He wants to do regardless of my prayers.  So, why even pray.”

You see, grief has a way of bringing out all that is in your heart – even the weaknesses that you didn’t know where hidden inside.  It strips you of all pretenses and masks.  In time, IF you are brave enough to face grief head on, it will allow you to begin taking careful inventory of everything that you believed all of your life and start throwing away those things that really weren’t true.  You find that some of those beliefs weren’t beliefs at all.  They might be personal preferences or even man’s ideas about God and His ways that you’ve heard preached….things that really don’t match up with the truth.

Maybe you were so very desperate to believe certain things that you truly believed were true that you didn’t stop to consider the whole portion of scripture in context.  When the rug gets pulled out from under you, you are left empty and full of questions and accusations.

After the anger over your loss and the situation and circumstances God has “left” you in begins to cool, your mind begins to go back perhaps all the way to the beginning of your relationship with God, unpack it and then process through everything thoroughly.

This is exactly what I am doing and the process isn’t finished.  I can tell you that it is a very painful process that is not for the faint of heart.  Not only has my life begun all over again now as a widow, but I am rebuilding my relationship with God.  And I don’t view this as a bad thing whatsoever.  I have been given the opportunity to discover just who this woman Candy really is and who God truly designed me to be – not as a daughter, a wife, or a mother, but the woman that God created with a specific purpose and plan.

More importantly I am rediscovering who God really is from a whole different life perspective.

Perhaps you are the type person like me who has been shocked when your true feelings were revealed after the loss of your husband.  Maybe like me you were such a people pleaser that you feared how much you were disappointing God with your thoughts and reactions to your grief.

It took me time to realize that God knew my thoughts way back before I even thought them.  And, you know what?  He has not turned His back on me nor stopped loving me.  He didn’t stomp His foot in frustration and say, “CANDY!  How could you even think this way after all the things known and unknown that I have done for you your entire life!”  No. God has been so very patient with me allowing me the time I needed just to sit in His lap as He rocked me for awhile in my grief until I could find the strength to begin sifting very slowly and gradually through the tiny fragile pieces of my crushed heart.  There are times when I still need to go back and just sit in His lap and rock.

It’s because of this one-on-one time that God is giving me, I can now say from my heart, “You are good, God.”

“Somewhere Beyond the Moon”

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Long ago and far away

Before the laws of time and space

A loving God prepared a place

Somewhere beyond the moon.

High above this world’s facade

A perfect realm where angels trod

A hope of man, the home of God

Somewhere beyond the moon.

(Chorus)

Somewhere beyond all doubt and fear

Beyond the reach of sorrow’s tears

Where broken hearts run strong and free

Where every child of God will be.

Somewhere tonight, someone will pray

“Lord, you are the truth, the way”

Down streets of gold we’ll celebrate

Somewhere beyond the moon.

(Chorus)

Somewhere beyond all doubt and fear

Beyond the reach of sorrow’s tears

Where broken hearts run strong and free

Where every child of God will be.

(Bridge)

Every heart that will believe God’s promises are true.

There is a place called heaven He’s prepared for you.

And as sure as there’s a morning sun and stars up in the sky

One day we will see Jesus.

Listen  now. Can’t you hear

The voice of God and His calling clear.

Saying, “Don’t lose heart for the time is near

And we’ll be going soon

Somewhere beyond the moon.

Introducing Widow Rachel Moore

Rachel Moore

Rachel Moore became a widow July19, 2012.  She and her husband Gary and their two children Nathaniel and Bethany were missionaries in Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico, when Gary died suddenly of a heart attack.  In this first year, Rachel has given away many of their earthly possessions, packed and shipped the rest of their things to the US, made an international move, lived in a family owned apartment for several months to help them transition back to States living, and now has moved into their own personal rental home.  At this time she is studying to get her real estate license in order to make a living for herself and her children.  With Rachel’s permission, I am sharing something that she has written in her grief journey because I believe it so wonderfully paints a word picture of something that goes on in the heart of a widow.

Beautiful again…..

Today most of our furniture was sold and picked up. We’re down to the extreme bare essentials. I’m feeling very raw today. It’s like more and more of Gary dying as our family furniture disappears. The desk that he prepared for sermons; the bed that we slept in; and the table that we ate together as a family and had so many celebrations with our friends here in Mexico. Everything that we shared together is now gone and my heart is breaking in two. Even the things that we are keeping that remind me of him, such as my Kitchen-Aid mixer that he bought for me, are now packed away in boxes. Our house is empty. It’s empty of things and it’s desolate and void without Gary.

It’s weird, sometimes I forget what his voice sounded like and I get afraid of memories slipping from my consciousness. The pain of loss is deeper than any pain I’ve ever experienced. It’s more real and more intense than childbirth. It can grab me at unexpected times with gut wrenching sobs and a force of pain that I’ve never known before in my life.

And then other times, I fear that I’ll forget how to love. I don’t mean that I won’t remember how to love my children, or my friends, or my God but that I’ll forget what it’s like to love a man. Walking with my fingers intertwined in his was so natural, caressing his ring while we prayed together, and kissing him was such a part of every day life. It’s all starting to feel foreign to me and that is terrifying.

I want to love again but I don’t want to be a teenager again! Gary and I had mature love, we had comfortable love, we had secure love. What would it be like to start all over again? What comfort there is in feeling exuberantly in love and being free to express that love in a multitude of ways within the security and comfort of marriage. There’s no pressure to say the “right” thing because I am already loved and accepted. There isn’t any wondering if I should hold back or dive in, because in either situation the dance of marriage was beautiful.

I always had a talent for creating romance in our marriage. No matter how tired we both were or how stressful life was, I could always create the perfect setting for a relaxing and beautiful evening together. It was the delight of my life to anticipate my beloved’s needs and disappointments in his busy day and orchestrate an evening accordingly.

So yes, I suppose I’m feeling very alone right now and afraid of the future. I am a complex person. I have a “flaming extrovert” side to my personality. I am also a strong leader and can overcome incredible obstacles. But I also have a very introverted, shy and quiet side. In marriage I was able to be a complete person and shared all the aspects of my personality with Gary. I could sing and cook and invite the neighborhood in for dinner but I also  needed to sit quietly with my husband and snuggle in without needing or wanting to face any other person other than my husband. It’s in those more introverted times when I miss him the most. The times when I want to let down my hair and not worry about how I look, what my voice sounds like, or what people will think. I’m my beloved’s and he is mine and his banner over me was love. Gary covered me with a protective banner of love. and now at times I feel very naked, exposed and alone. I miss being emotionally carried and comfortable in his arms.

The weird part about all of these emotions is that I must let go of Gary and let the love that we shared rest in the past before I can welcome all these beautiful things back into my life again in the future. We humans do not like pain. We run from it, we flee from it and we abuse chemicals to numb it. Yet, facing the emotional pain of loss is what frees us up move on in our life and to embrace the future.

I believe that Gary’s and my relationship was incredible because we made it incredible. First and foremost we both knew without any doubt that God was calling us to get married. Not just “allowing” us to get married but we felt the mandate to get married! Secondly, we worked hard together to make our marriage a Godly and loving one. This was not an easy journey. We were both strong willed and opinionated people with a truck load of baggage from our past. Yet, we were diligent to work through these things in order to have a wonderful and strong marriage. And that we did! The result was an intimacy that was unparalleled in those around us. We were diligent to become one, in body, soul, and spirit and the resulting marriage was fantastic!

Because of the effort that went into our marriage, I believe that most great marriages come from sacrifice and yielding to God to become a servant to each other. Great marriages don’t just happen, they are created! Gary and I weren’t handed a “story book marriage”, our story was written through the fiery trials of life. We had a marriage filled with diligence, effort and Godliness and the fruit of that was absolutely astounding!

I typically think in analogies so please indulge me with this one:

Let’s say that Great Uncle Hubert died and left our family a perfect mansion that was the epitome of all of our dreams. We lived in this house and loved this home incredibly! But then a storm came, a terrible storm and a tornado force wind drove it’s fury right through the middle of this beautiful house that had been given to us. We were terribly saddened but assumed that Great Uncle Hubert must have taken out a large insurance policy on such a house. Yet, our sadness turned to despair when we realized that the insurance policy had expired. Our home was gone and our dreams had died. We despaired even of life itself!

On the other hand, let’s assume that Great Uncle Hubert willed us a run down old historic house that was falling apart at the seems. “Gee thanks Uncle Hubert!, thanks a bunch!” But instead of wallowing in our complaints we began to clean, paint and restore this old junk heap of a house. Within a year’s time we had a beautiful home that had the creativity of our family all over it. The warmth of the home had our personal tastes, styles and our hard working finger prints as its heart and soul. This wasn’t “Uncle Hubert’s” run down house anymore, this was our family home that was lovingly established by every drop of sweat, every tear of frustration and every paint stained t-shirt in our closet of well worn work clothes!

What if a tornado hit the second house???? We would weep, wail and mourn deeply because the second house had more intimate value in our life. The second house had become part of our very being. We had invested our very lives in the second house and we had become “one” with her. But after our terrible season of grief what would we do??? We would be willing to invest our lives into another home should God bring one into our lives. We did it once and it was incredible, we can certainly start over with another house and restore it beautifully! The second house may be an English Tutor home rather than a farm house. The resulting beauty would be vastly different but it would be incredible just the same!

My marriage to Gary was not handed to me on a silver platter. We worked hard for what we had and our marriage was truly amazing! It wasn’t a once in a lifetime chance at happiness but something that we learned to do and learned to do it very well! 🙂 It is the realization that we worked hard to create something incredible that gives me the strength and hope to press onward to the future. Our marriage wasn’t handed to us on a silver platter but the effort involved showed us that Godliness and servant hood really does bring amazing fruit.

I don’t know what kind of plans God has for me in the future but I do know that as I yield my whole heart continually to His sovereign plan, life will be beautiful again!

So I’m faced with this dance of pain. Do I face the pain head-on in order to heal thoroughly and become whole and healed in Jesus? Or do I run from the pain and get stuck in a never ending cycle of sadness, grief, and regret? As difficult as it is I am face to face with grief and dealing with it deeply, as I walk side-by-side with my savior. I am committed to allowing Him to conform me more and more into the image of Christ and to mold my heart more closely to His own. Therefore, I set my eyes on Christ and on Christ alone as I press onwards the future! He will make a way for life to be beautiful again!

“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

The Word “Widow”

Recently I was in a store looking for an item to give to several new widows.  The store had exactly what I wanted, but they didn’t have the number of items that I needed.  I walked up to the sales counter where two sales ladies were standing, showed them what I wanted and asked if more could be ordered.  As one sales lady began checking into that, another sales lady asked, “Are you buying these for a wedding or a party?”  When I shook my head and said, “No. They are for Widows“, she looked shocked and quietly replied, “I’m sorry“.

What is it about the word “Widow” that seems to suck the oxygen right out of the air?  It is one of those words that jars people to the core and makes them stop and realize that life can be short or pass by too quickly.  It makes them think “This could be me!”  It is a word that scares us as humans.  After all, how many times have you heard anyone standing around making conversation about death?

A “Widow is a woman who has endured the greatest pain that any woman can know.  She is someone who is grieving – not just for days or months, but literally for years. People tell her that she’ll be okay, but the truth is she never gets over the loss of her husband.  She just learns how to live with that loss.  Most people think of a widow as an elderly lady with white hair, but the truth is that a widow can be any age from her teens, her twenties, thirties, forties, fifties and up.

What adjectives come to mind when you hear the word “Widow“?  FOGGY BRAINED    ALONE     BROKEN     LEFT BEHIND (not by the choice of her husband)     SILENT(there’s a deep solitude that comes from losing a husband)    FOREVER CHANGED     DEPRESSED    UNSURE

The truth is that there are some very positive adjectives that describe a widow.  STRONG    FUNCTIONING    COURAGEOUS  DETERMINED    PERSISTENT    CARING    CAPABLE    WISE    BOLD

I looked up the meaning of the word “Widow” and was surprised at some of the definitions I found.

Widowa woman who has lost her husband by death and who has not remarried

Widow (pertaining to printing)a short last line of a paragraph, especially one less than half of the full measure or one consisting of only a single word; the last line of a paragraph when it is carried over to the top of the following page away from the rest of the paragraph

Widow (used as a verb) – to deprive of anything cherished or needed

Even though the word “Widow” pertaining to printing has nothing to do with the woman who has become a widow, it so perfectly describes the widow – one less than half of the full measure or only a single word; the last line of a paragraph carried over to the top of the following page away from the rest of the paragraph. A widow is half of what was a whole.  She’s single. The death of her husband and their life together is the last line of their story.  Her life is carried over to the top of the following page of her story away from the last line of the paragraph left on the page before that. She has been deprived of her husband that she cherished and needed.

God is not afraid of the word “Widow“.  In fact, God draws close to the widow wanting to heal her broken heart. Psalm 68:5 says that He is the protector of widows (Psalm 68:5).  He maintains the boundaries of the widow (Proverbs 15:25). The Lord upholds the widow (Psalm 149:6).  Exodus 22:22-24 says that if someone mistreats a widow and the widow cries out to God, He will hear their cry.  No one ever wants to be a widow, but a widow as well as her children have a very special place in God’s heart.

So the next time you hear the word “Widow” think about these things.  If you are a widow, remember that God is not surprised that you are in this place in your life.  He loves you and cherishes you and wants to heal your broken heart.

Say Yes to New Life

In great loss, life as we have known it can never be again.  The day must come when we leave behind the old and reach for the new.

* Begin a list of things you know you must let go as you become aware of them.

 * What do you feel about the “tomorrows” to come–dread, fear, wonder, hope, anticipation, anxiety, trust, despair, confidence, apathy, belief . . .?

 * Pray for and look toward the day you once again say “yes” to life.

To reach for our tomorrows is to leave the familiar and dare to adventure into life not yet formed, holding tightly to the hand that has led us thus far.

Verdell Davis – Let Me Grieve But Not Forever

 

LaTanya Law’s Widow Story

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LaTanya became a widow 3 years after her husband Demetrius was diagnosed with brain cancer.  She and Miriam Neff share some of her widow story and talks about some things to consider before dating again and possibly remarrying on Chris Fabry Live radio broadcast on Moody Radio.  LaTanya did remarry some years later after dating her new husband Michael for 3 years. You can listen to the broadcast here:

http://www.moodyradio.org/radioplayer.aspx?episode=113906&hour=2

New Widows of Hotshot Firefighters

My heart has been very heavy with sorrow for the 10 young widows of the Prescott, AZ Hotshot Firefighters.  All of these ladies are in their 20’s and early 30’s. The above was yesterday’s scene as each of their husbands were being transported from Phoenix back to Prescott.  It’s been a week since these men lost their lives and their wives have yet to lay their bodies to rest.  We as widows know some of the emotions that they are feeling whether it be complete numbness or disbelief.  Yet, there are other emotions that we may not know because of the way that they died and how they all died together.  Not only have these ladies lost their husbands, but they lost all of their husbands’ closest friends and firemen family.

I am going to list the names of each of these new widows and would like for my widow readers to take a name and make a commitment to pray specifically for that particular lady.

Claire Caldwell (husband Robert) – Just got married November 2012; 5 year old step-son

Amanda Marsh (husband Eric) – No children

Stephanie Turbyfill (husband Travis) – 2 little girls that adored their Daddy

Roxanne Warneke (husband Billy) – Roxanne is expecting their first child in December

Juliann Ashcraft (husband Andrew) – 3 young sons and one little daughter

Desiree Steed (husband Jesse) – 1 young son and one little daughter

Marsena Thurston (husband Joe) – 2 young sons

Kristi Witted (husband Clayton) – no children

Krista Carter (husband Travis) – 1 young son and one little daughter

There are 4 other special ladies who need your prayers as well:

Tiffany (Girlfriend of Anthony Rose) – Pregnant with his daughter and due in October)

Leah Fine (Engaged to Grant McKee)

Alicia Owens (engaged to Wade Parker)

Heather Kennedy (Scott Norris’s girlfriend)

To read each firefighter’s story, you can go to http://www.azcentral.com/news/arizona/articles/20130705yarnell-fire-andrew-ashcraft-obit.html?nclick_check=1

The following 3 people need much prayer as they have been and will be the ones to continue ministering to each and every one of the widows long after people go back to their normal lives:

Darrell and Judy Willis – Darrell is the Fire Chief of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  He trained many of these brave young men.  He and Judy thought of them as their own children throughout the years.  Darrell was one of those who spent the night with the bodies and prayed for them through that first night.  He is going to be speaking tomorrow at their Memorial Service which will be televised from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. MST.  Darrell’s wife Judy has been assigned to work with the widows of the firefighters.

Kathy Beard – Kathy became a widow almost 5 years ago and is the author of the book INTO THE MIST which tells her widow story.  Six of the Hotshot firefighters attended her church there in Prescott.  Kathy has a heart for widows and is best friends with Darrell and Judy Willis.  She will be helping to minister as well.