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.

Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies

Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies

Ave Maria Press Inc/2000

After the death of her husband, social worker and counselor Marta Felber wrote this book as a companion for those who are struggling to pick up the pieces and somehow move on.  I especially found it to be suitable for those widows who are having trouble reading and comprehending because it is written in short, easy-to-read chapters.

She advises a widow to ignore certain messages you may get from others or even yourself and goes into more detail about each one of the following:

“Time will heal; if you start crying, you may not be able to stop; you need to keep busy to help you forget; people who have faith in God don’t have to grieve the death of a loved one; if you have fun, you are being disrespectful to your loved one; a widowed person is a threat to their friends’ marriages; you should be back to normal by now; be strong for the children; I will avoid pain by not grieving.” 

Visualizing and planning ahead is another thing that Marta talks about that I believe is wonderful advice and have found it to be helpful to me personally.

“As you think ahead to any activity, celebration, anniversary that you shared, visualize how it might be without your loved one.  Play the scene several ways.  Only after you have done this, begin to plan what you can handle and how.  You may choose to run.  The first Christmas without my loved one, I did just that–I traveled to another place, knowing that I could not stay alone in what was our ‘Christmas home.’  You may choose to make smaller changes.  If you bear the responsibility for other family members, include them in your visualization and then make plans together.  Your everyday pain will be intensified on anniversaries and special days.  Make a special effort to plan how you might take care of yourself at those times.  Schedule periods for rest and meditation, treats for yourself, time with a caring friend.”

Marta tells a widow to welcome those unexpected things that trigger our grief and don’t try to avoid them because they can actually help us to slowly let go of the pain we are carrying and allow us to focus on specifics about which to grieve.  Never say “I’m sorry” if you cry in front of someone, but simply say “Thanks for being here with me” after you are finished.  Nothing is more stifling than holding in the pain.

Felder discusses how to take control of fears before they take control of us.  She suggests that we take each fear and ask ourselves the following questions:

Is what I am afraid of happening now?

Is it likely to happen tomorrow?  Next week?  Next month?

What can I do to keep it from happening?

She has great insight on how to share the grief of others without being overwhelmed and developed what she calls a “Listener’s Creed” for her groups.

I am aware of your grief. (I hear you.)

I understand that you are grieving.  (I am there, too.)

I accept your grief–for you. (It is real, but it is yours.)

I allow you to feel your own grief. (It is special to you.)

Thus I honor you and your grief.

I want to thank you, Marta, for sharing with us what you have discovered in your own grief and for reaching out through written words to help us in our grief.

I’m Grieving As Fast As I Can

I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can: How Young Widows and Widowers Can Cope and Heal

How Young Widows and Widowers Can Cope and Heal

New Horizon Press/1994

Although Linda Feinberg is not a widow, she is not only a social worker but the founder and former director of an organization for young widowed people under the age of 50.  Her book is based on her own research and experience counseling young widows and widowers drawing from their real-life experiences.

“There are many ironies when somebody dies.  The person you need most to help you through this experience is the person who died.  Just at the time you need support the most, those around you think you should be all better.  You spend your whole adult life living for Fridays, but after somebody dies, you spend your whole life living for Mondays.”

Some of the topics Linda discusses include how grief is different for men, it matters how the person died, six kinds of guilt, fear and justifiable paranoia, suicidal feelings, returning to work, rings, difficult times/holidays, if you are pregnant, visits to the cemetery, etc.

She shares how most widowed people would like to skip life from November 23 through February 15 and even discusses how the changing of the seasons affect them.

“Let’s analyze a holiday in terms of what it means to a widowed person.  Valentine’s Day is the romantic holiday of the year.  Valentine’s Day for a widow means no one to buy that special card for; no one to buy that special card for you; there is no one to celebrate the day with, not even a reason to celebrate.  No special kiss, no one to make love with, no one to buy you candy, no perfume, and forget jewelry.  Who is going to say you look beautiful?  The observation that everyone else seems to be thrilled about Valentine’s Day may make you feel you are no longer a part of the human race.  No wonder one young widow said, ‘I wish I had a gun so I could shoot down all the Valentine cards on display in the stores.’ …….it becomes shockingly apparent that the loss of a spouse is infinite.”

Feinberg gives some advantages of joining a support group:

1. Gives you permission for intimacy in your conversation

2. Lessens the feelings of isolation

3.  Ability to make new friends to help fill the void in your life

4. Learn how to improve your communication skills

5. Forces you to set aside time to think and grieve with people who genuinely understand what you are going through

6.  Allows you to discuss your husband or wife openly serving as a mini-memorial service to your spouse

7.  Aids you in overcoming your denial of the death

8.  You will be applauded for your accomplishments

For someone who has not lost a spouse, Linda does a great job of saying what needs to be said.  I am thankful to her for her willingness to spend time with those widows and widowers who are grieving in order to not only get an understanding of what they are experiencing in their grief journey, but to help them through that time in their lives.


When There Are No Words

Pathfinder Publishing/1996

Charlie Walton wrote this book some time after the tragic deaths of two of his three sons and begins by saying, “Someone who loves you a lot wants desperately to lesson your pain.  They are yearning for some magic words..for a few concise, over-the-counter phrases…that can encapsulate all of human wisdom and explain away the pain you are feeling since part of you has been ripped away without benefit of anesthesia. But….there are no words.

He shares that saying “I am so sorry” is the truth and it’s direct, but it makes the speaker feel as if what they said is not effective.  What someone who has not been in your shoes does not realize is that their words don’t register in your mind anyway.  What is most important to the ones who are grieving is that they came.  No words are necessary and all that needs to be said can be communicated in the presence of the comforter, the look, the touch, and yes, the shared silence.

To the one who is grieving a loss Charlie writes, “You might as well know that you’re going to have to carry the full weight of this load.  There is a sense in which others will do what they can to bear your burden….but you are the only person on the earth who can carry this one.  You’re the only one who is going to deal with it twenty-four hours a day.  When the others have cried themselves to sleep, you’ll still be awake.  When they are beginning to sigh and shake their heads and return to their lives, you’ll still be searching for someone in charge……” You have to carry the whole load.  The straps on this pack fit your shoulders only.  You are going to have to carry your burden the full distance.  No short cuts.  No magic slogans from posters or bumper stickers to suddenly ‘snap you out of it’ “.

One of the things that I read in this book that was very, very freeing to me was that my natural response to grief is the right response for me.  It doesn’t matter what other people are thinking about the way that I am grieving.  It’s my grief and my grief alone and whatever works for me is right. I don’t have to try to do what others expect of me or what others would considerate appropriate.

Charlie talks about the invisible hands of grief that hang a pair of invisible blocks on your shoulders that make it possible to breathe, but not to breathe deeply.  Your legs and your lungs are heavy and you tire easily.

The author encourages you to allow people to do things for you because there really are no words that they can say.  They need to be busy doing something for you.  He discusses how the most blessed assignment people and even family members were given generations ago was to go to the cemetery and dig the grave and how very healing that was.

Chapter seven deals with the dumb things that people say to us not realizing how those words affect us – especially the group who rush forward with spiritual advice and cliches – “….it is insensitive and unrealistic for a well-wisher to propose to a grieving person that..because God is all powerful…they should not continue to grieve.  Sadness, despair, rage, loneliness–even moments of vengeful fantasies–are as natural as God’s creation.  The best thing you can do for yourself..and for your long-term relationship with those who seek to comfort…is to turn off the sound…..consciously decide to hear what they were trying to communicate…rather than what they say.”

One method of communication that worked the best with Charlie during his time of grief was the hug.  Several people gave him big, long hugs that totally engulfed him and let him know that they knew there were no words to say, but they wanted him to know how very deeply they felt for him in his grief.

There are so many more great things in this book, but it ends with the several things the author prays for the reader: “that you will be honest with yourself…letting out what is within you..and refusing to govern your ways of grieving by what you think others might be expecting that you ought to do; that you will allow your loved ones the same right to their own ways of grieving…never assuming that they should want to cry when you feel like crying…or talk when you feel like talking…or sit and stare when you want to, etc.”

I would have to say that this is one of the best guide books for those who want to comfort those who are grieving as well as for those who are going through their own grief journey.  It’s very concise, yet easy to read when you are in that grief fog.

Thank you, Charlie, for saying what I haven’t been able to say to others and for sharing your own grief with us.