I have been a widow for a year and ten days. My late husband’s death was very sudden so I didn’t have a chance to prepare. Not that you can ever prepare for something so earth-shattering as the death of a spouse. I’ve spent the last 375 days working through the grieving process.
Grief is a tricky animal. It’s messy and it changes you whether you’re ready for it or not. You spend a lot of time adjusting to your new normal, whether it be something as simple as a new bedtime, or something as intense as quitting your job and moving across the country to surrender to God’s call on your life.
One of the changes I’ve been experiencing for a year is crying at the drop of a hat. It seems to happen at the most inopportune times. I have gone on two first dates in the last month or two and managed to cry on both of them. I get to talking about Paul, my late husband, and can’t seem to stop the waterworks. I look across the table and see the deer in the headlights look from my date and that just makes me feel worse and makes me want to cry more. That’s when I usually excuse myself from the table so I can have my breakdown in private. Both times I apologized when I got back to the table. They both smiled and politely said it was okay, but I knew better.
But a week ago, I had it happen in the worst scenario thus far. I was in the middle of a phone interview for a job that I really want. I was talking about my story and how Paul’s loss has changed my life and I just lost it. After a brief silence as I tried to stuff the grief down, I finally managed to eek out the words, “I’m sorry” and the interviewer said, “Take your time.” I imagined the same deer in the headlights look on my interviewer’s face that I had seen on my dates’ faces and just wanted to hang up and have a good cry. But that wasn’t an option if I wanted any chance of an additional interview. After what seemed like an eternity, I managed to pull it together and continue. But the tears were out there. I couldn’t take them back and exclaim, “Do over!” I sat down to write my, “Thank you for the interview,” letter with a heavy heart and just gave the outcome to God. He knows my needs and has it covered.
In the last 375 days, I’ve never regretted or apologized for my grieving process. Any apology uttered is more of an, “I’m sorry that you have to be here for this,” than anything else. The reason I don’t have regret about the process is due to some advice I received on the night Paul died. It came from one of my best friends whose first husband had also died.
We had stopped for something to drink at a convenience store that night and at the checkout, there was a ridiculously large cigarette lighter. Seriously, it was as big as my forearm. I showed it to her and started laughing. Laughing! I had just viewed my husband’s body at the emergency room not 20 minutes before. Why on earth was I laughing???
When I apologized to my friend, she told me that I was going to be experiencing a lot of emotions over the coming days, weeks and months. And when those emotions were right on top of me, the best thing I could do is just let them be. If I was happy, I should be happy. If I was sad, just let the tears flow. If I was angry, get good and angry. That’s what I’ve done and I truly believe I’m better for it. I know there’s no crying in baseball, but there’s plenty of crying in grief. And there’s anger. There’s regret. And, strangely enough, there’s joy. No emotion you have is wrong, no matter when you have it.
I know that some of you are right in the middle of your grief. You’re in a valley and can’t see an end to it. I know how that feels. There have been times I didn’t think things were ever going to get better–weeks on end where I have had to exert every bit of energy in my body to just get out of bed; days where it felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.
So how do you get out of the valley? It’s different for everyone, but I will share my experience which might help you.
- Spend time daily with God. I can’t stress this enough. God should be the starting point of your day. Two devotions I recommend to help you with getting a structure in place are, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young and, Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman. Spend time in prayer even if those prayers end up being wailing because you can’t express any words. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in these times of wordless prayers.
- Reach out for help! Trust me when I say I’m preaching to myself when I tell you this. People want to help, but often they don’t know how. They don’t know that you need someone to go to the grocery store or that you need someone to mow your back yard. You’ll be surprised at how quickly people come running!
- Think about talking to a professional. I started seeing a psychologist about a month after Paul died. It was one of the best decisions I made during this time. He helped me to negotiate the grieving process, yes, but he also didn’t allow me to be my own worst critic like I usually am. He showed me how to allow myself some grace in my everyday living.
- Find some grief support resources. There is an organization called GriefShare that provides support groups, daily email encouragement and other resources to help you through the process. The email resources have been invaluable for me. They’re quick reads and give a testimony from someone who has experienced a loss and then also provide a Bible verse for reflection.
- Sometimes it just takes time. This is the most difficult one on the list because it always made me feel so helpless. But honestly, time always seemed to help. Eventually. Remember that grief doesn’t have a timetable. But you’ll find that as you progress, your bad periods won’t last as long and there will be longer periods of good between the bad. You will start to find that you get some distance from your grief and are able to allow God to start to rebuild what has been shattered. King Solomon told us that there’s a time and season for everything, “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
If you’ve tried some of these things and they haven’t worked, that’s okay. One thing I know that works is keeping God at the center of your life. He’s provided me with comfort and peace that I didn’t think was possible. Without God, I can’t say with any certainty where I’d be in my grieving journey, but I don’t think it would be a good place.
I want to leave you with with one of my favorite verses of all time, Isaiah 41:10.
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
For all of you that are grieving, I pray that God will comfort you, that you will depend on God’s strength each day and that his presence would be very real to you today and in the days to come.
What things have you tried while working through your grief? What’s worked best for you? Is there a verse you’ve held onto in the midst of your grief?