In My Time Away……

It’s been almost a year since I have written anything on my blog. In this time away I have tried to focus less on grief, but discovered that the loss of a spouse is something that changes you deeply and affects every area of your life. You are not the same person that you were.

Priorities change. What was seemingly most important before becomes meaningless. Things you never thought about become forefront in your mind. Your thinking takes on a deepness that was not there prior to the death of your husband.

Sensitivities become more pronounced. You simply look at things differently. What may not have bothered you before can now make you sit up at attention. For example, you hear a wife complaining that her husband never picks up his sock and how much that irritates her. You want to shake her and say, “Do you not realize how little an issue that really is and just how very blessed you are to have your husband alive, well, and here with you?!”

If you have a personal relationship with God, that changes. Either you tell Him you are done with Him or you for the first time become really REAL with God. You honestly tell Him how you are feeling. If you are angry, you tell Him. If you are overwhelmed, you say so. If you are full of anxiety and fear, you cry out and let Him know. If you don’t know how you can live life alone, you express that. After all, He knows all of these things already because God knows our thoughts and our heart. You aren’t the first widow God has ever dealt with. I am a firstborn child, a people pleaser and a caretaker. So, I thought by voicing my true feelings after the death of my husband that I would be disappointing God. It wasn’t until my Christian psychologist told me that God is big enough to take whatever I could say to Him and still love me that I was able to finally be really REAL with God.

Friendships change. The death of your husband can bring fear to others. They realize the possibility that they, too, could lose their husbands and you are a constant reminder of that. Others aren’t able to see how as a single widowed woman you can now fit into their couples world. Some just need to move on and make new friends.

Responsibilities are totally different. If you have children still living at home, you become the sole financial provider. There is no husband to help carry the load, take care of the house and car maintenance, make financial decisions, balance the checkbook, tweak the monthly budget, etc. You are now in charge of everything alone. A widow living alone is totally and completely in charge of every part of her life.

Your emotional life is depleted. There’s no husband with whom to share your deepest thoughts, new ideas or dreams. Your love life is gone. There is no one to tell you every day that they love you; no one to pray with you about your deepest needs that you would never dare share with anyone else; no one to encourage you and just boost your spirit; no one to put their arm around you and tell you what a great job you are doing and how much they appreciate all that you do for them and for your family.

There are just way too many secondary losses to even name here. Yet, there are new things that you gain after the loss of a husband…..good things.

  1. Newfound confidence that you ARE capable of making good and wise decisions
  2. A renewed and closer relationship with God on a much deeper soul level.
  3. The reality that God is truly right here right now and will never ever leave you.
  4. Ability to look at life from a whole new viewpoint.
  5. A sense that there IS a purpose for you as a widow……a new purpose.
  6. A tenderized heart that now takes time to sense the needs of others.
  7. Ears that listen in a new way and hear more easily the heart of others.
  8. Patience.
  9. A gentleness toward others that you may not have had before.
  10. New strengths that rise up out of the ashes of grief and pain.
  11. Courage to let go of people in your life who don’t want to be a part of it, who aren’t good for you, or are no longer needed.
  12. Courage to let go of things in your life that no longer serve a purpose.
  13. Acceptance of new people and possibilities that God brings into your life.
  14. Wisdom in new areas of your life.
  15. Faith to take the next breath and the next step.

What about you? Perhaps you are newly widowed. I offer HOPE to you. You CAN get through the loss of a spouse. It’s not something that you can run through quickly. You have to have the courage and intentionality to face your grief and take whatever time you need to process through it. Make the decision to be a consistent widow. If it has been several years since the loss of your spouse, determine to take time to retreat, get quiet and simply look for the positive things that have come into your life. Write them down. Think about how very proud your husband would be of how far you have come and what you have been able to accomplish. If you have chosen to be in a personal relationship with God, thank Him for all that He’s brought you through and comfort yourself with the truth that He will never ever leave you or forsake you. He’s in this with you. He’s got your back, front, and both sides. You are not alone.

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Fighting Forward

One thing that I find very affirming and healing is to read books written by Christian widows and some widowers. To this date I have read over fifty and have found that there are several books that are my top three. One such book is a new one called Fighting Forward written by a remarried widow Jan Owen from Alabama. For those widows who find themselves struggling greatly with their shattered faith, people who have lost a loved one or someone who wants to understand the grief that their friend is going through, this book is a must read.

Jan’s story sharing what life has felt like to her after the loss of her husband is one that is very raw. She chooses not to sugar-coat her words in order to just be real. There are those Christian widows who may not feel that they can ever take off their mask during grief thus giving others the impression that they are doing alright. Jan rips off her mask and allows herself to become openly vulnerable. As a result, she lost some friends.

Her intent in writing this book is to let others know that it is okay to share your grief in totality from the deepest parts of your heart. In fact, it’s very healing. After all, God created us and knows exactly how we are going to react when we lose our spouse. You cannot hide all that your are feeling from Him. As my Christian psychologist Dr. Dan Trathen always told me, “This is not God’s first rodeo.” God is not surprised or taken aback at our rage or anger towards Him. Our questions don’t cause Him to be disappointed in Him. Instead, He uses those questions to draw us into a much different and much closer relationship to Him if we allow it.

Choosing to live when I’d rather not is the bravest thing I’ve ever done”, says Jan. When my husband first died, I wanted to curl up in a corner with a blanket over my head and never move again. Closing down is always an option for a new widow or even one further down the road, but it is never a healthy one. It’s far harder to stand up, take that blanket off our head, put on your boxing gloves and begin to purposely take one step forward at a time. There are times when we’ll find ourselves taking a few steps backwards and that is normal. Those backward steps come when a grief trigger hits or when we just become so very tired in our journey that a rest stop is needed. The key is to never stay in that backward spot. It takes more guts to fight forward and God gives us the strength to do that.

God can and will use that deep, deep soul pain that you go through after the loss of your spouse. Whether it is to walk alongside another widow and encourage them in their journey, gathering names of new widows throughout the year and then sending each of them a special box for Christmas, sending out widow resources to new widows that you hear about or going to grad school to become a grief counseling specialist such as Jan is doing, your grief will not be without a purpose.

Have you chosen to fight forward? Or are you still lying on the mat struggling? No matter what your answer is, this book is one that will help you and allow you to know that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to fight forward! You can find more information about Jan and her book on her Facebook page called Fighting Forward.

The Castle of My Heart

“Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for He guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 97:10 NIV

One of the most heartbreaking things in the life of a widow is no longer being special, no longer belonging especially to someone, no longer being loved by someone in human form, and no longer having her spouse to guard and protect her. You may have family and friends in your life, but really and truly it’s just you and God now.

Have you ever given any thought about how God is guarding your life as a widow? Yesterday I began reading a new book entitled Guarded by Christ: Knowing the God Who Rescues and Keeps Us that just became available during this month. Author Heather Holleman struggled with depression and anxiety, but found that using mental word pictures to daily focus on the truths of scripture began to help her break down those strongholds in her life.

I am a visual person and as I began to think about what word picture would help me to most understand that God is guarding me, the picture of HighClere Castle, whose massive stone walls stand strong and erect out in the  countryside of Newbury, England, popped into my mind. Because that particular castle was used in the filming of the PBS series Downton Abbey, I knew that I could order an inexpensive replica of it to put on the window sill over my kitchen sink to serve as my daily reminder that I am in the castle where God is standing guard over me.

The location of my castle was especially important to me. Wide open spaces bring a feeling of peace. It’s a place where I can just breathe and feel the muscles in my body begin to relax. Jesus and I are strolling the grounds outside my magnificent castle as I pour out my heart to Him and share with Him all of my fears, concerns and deepest feelings. He quietly listens and then tells me how much He loves me and that I am His own. He puts His arms around me and points back to the protection of the castle walls assuring me that He’s got my back now.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6 NIV

Inside the castle I imagine myself seated with Jesus at a table for two. Flowers sit in the center of the table with their sweet aroma filling our intimate space. There are floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the outdoors flooding the room with warm sunlight that never ceases to uplift my spirits. During the fall and winter months a bright, cheery fire burns in a fireplace close to our table warming us as we sit together in close fellowship. The firelight lights up the gold gilded walls and painted frescoes on the ceiling. Love radiates from the face of my Jesus warming my heart. He reaches across the table and holds my hands letting me know that He’s got this widow life and will never ever leave me alone.

Early this morning as I began to come to consciousness the words and music to a song that my four daughters used to sing as children began to play in my mind. I haven’t thought of this song in years, but how relevant it is to my new word pictures as I meditate on being in the castle  with Jesus as He now guards my heart. Perhaps you will find that word pictures are helpful to you as a widow. When you think of some that are different than the ones I have shared here, please share them with us. How thankful I am that I am not doing widow life alone and that God’s got my back.