Showing posts with label 1. Mondays: Grief Issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1. Mondays: Grief Issues. Show all posts

Monday, November 14, 2016

Catching Up With Gayle Roper - WIN HER BOOK!

Ferree with Gayle Roper at Montrose
Christian Writers Conference
Finally! Yes, finally!
I met Gayle Roper at a writers conference in July and am  f - i - n - a - l - l - y  able to introduce her!

She's an award-winning author of some of THE BEST Christian fiction out there, a wonderful person, AND an amazing widow. Read her books and meet her in person at a widows retreat she puts on each March with Sandy Cove Ministries in Maryland. (click here for retreat info). (Click here for her website). If you want to attend the retreat please let me know and I'll consider going too.

You'll also love her book, "A Widow's Journey - Reflections On Walking Alone." I read it immediately after the writers conference and wrote about it in August. I was so impressed with Gayle and her writing I even compared the book to C.S. Lewis's "A Grief Observed." That's a huge compliment to a writer! (Click here for the blog post and see if you agree).

Her husband, Chuck, died July 2, 2010, ten days after their 47th wedding anniversary, and after 3.5 years when a rare cancer of the bile ducts in and around his liver was diagnosed. "God gets to make the choices," is what Gayle told me. She's chosen to be content, and to her that means "agreeing with God that He and what He's provided are sufficient for His purposes for me." Discontentment equals disagreeing and fighting with God.

When asked what she would pass along to new widows, she said,
"It does get better; it's a slow process. The intense sorrow eases; the overwhelming moments become further apart..."
Other tips from Gayle:
  • Develop women's friendships...
  • Enjoy your women friends...
  • Don't rush remarriage...
  • Learn to be single, and learn to live again.
And here are two tips for bookworms and widows from Gayle the bookworm and widow:
  • I take a book along when I'm going out to eat by myself.
  • Fall asleep at night reading lighter stories where things turn out well at the end. Escape with humorous, fun, light-hearted stories and mysteries.
I want to close with three things Gayle has concluded that widows need. She admits it's best if they're in place before widowhood, but if you still implement what you are able of these three things I believe you'll benefit. The following are from pages 70-71 of "A Widow's Journey."
  • "First, we should have something that is ours, something we do that we don't do with our husbands, something that gives us satisfaction and pleasure when we do it..."
  • "Second, we need family and friends to help us mourn..."
  • "And last, we need a strong spiritual base to stand on... No one else is there in the dark of the night. No one else knows our deepest regrets and understands our loneliness. No one else loves us deeply enough to die for us."
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again
and you...will be rebuilt."
Jeremiah 31:3-4

Leave a comment here today (not on Facebook), and you will be entered into a drawing for Gayle's book, "A Widow's Journey." You'll love it, and I'm anxious to pass it along. Comment today! The drawing will be on Friday, November 18, 2016, and the winner announced immediately. It will be up to the winner to email me at [email protected] with her mailing address. Once I get that address the book will be in her hands within a few days!
ferree


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Alone Time---Is It Unhealthy?

I think I'm finally back to blogging--
  • Tom's back to work and recovering well from his motorcycle accident.
  • We made it through our very first hurricane last month. (6 days without electricity, 2 weeks without TV, 3 weeks without Internet) 
  • The week after Hurricane Matthew I enjoyed exhausting myself with my first Book Fair for the school library I work in.
  • Today I plan to vote, and who knows what tomorrow will hold!
On Saturday Tom and I facilitated a grief seminar at our church to help people through the holidays. We briefly touched on Solitude vs. Isolation, so today's post provides a bit more about it. I have much more to catch up on so sign up to receive this blog by email so you don't miss out.
 * * *  
Do you find yourself with a lot of "alone" time now as a widow? Besides dealing with the grief, solitude can be a time of re-collecting oneself, re-structuring yourself and recovering from loss.

But is there such a thing as too much solitude?

Truly, there is. Do some googling about solitude vs. isolation during grief, and consider your own situation. Are you just alone, or are you intentionally hiding? Are you avoiding certain situations and people who would be good for you? Are you afraid to go places simply because you're afraid? Are you building a wall around yourself so you'll never be hurt by grief again?

Although that wall might keep grief out, it will also keep out the growth and love God intends to develop in you.

Once some time has passed and you realize you can't be stuck in your house forever, it's time to make some choices about solitude. Decide whether it's friend or foe. Chances are it's a little bit of both.

When I first moved here, I had lunch with a wise widow I'd met at church  and we touched on this subject. I spent most of that first summer in isolation. I was in a totally new part of the country. I'd had face-to-face conversations with exactly five women here in this town. That's not much happening in three months! Tom worked twelve hours a day, and I had holed up to write and unpack. The beastly heat and humidity kept me indoors too.

But it wasn't good. I'm the sort of person who needs solitude, but I was in isolation. It was very negative.  I asked Brenda, my lunch partner, how she dealt with the silence and the long hours of widowhood. Even though I'm remarried, I knew I could learn a lot from her experience. She said when the walls started to close in on her she headed out to the mall just to be around people. So simple! But I treasured her advice and it really worked!

How about you? Are you benefitting from solitude? Or are you hoarding (and hurting) yourself with isolation? Could you use a change of scenery? Let's urge each other to regain some balance in this area. What are some things you can do to guard against isolation? Share your comments today.

ferree

Monday, August 15, 2016

Christ At The Door

I've written before about this familiar painting of Christ knocking on the door of our heart.

But sometimes he knocks on the back door, doesn't he? The entry we don't want our guests to use--that messy place where we dump the junk and burdens that pile up on a daily basis.

If you're crumpled in a corner today and can't see your way through the piles of problems in your life, God is still out there, still knocking.

He's come around to the back door, like family. But He won't just barge in on you.
And, one more thing, if your door is locked, he has a key. You don't need to get up, just cry out to him. God knows if we cannot fight any longer. He sees us on our knees.

the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow . . .
Psalm 146:8,9
ferree

Monday, August 1, 2016

It's All About Choices

Dear Readers,
When Bruce died, part of me died, too.

I don't think people realize that when God declared in Gen. 2:24 "the two will become one," God really meant it! So when two become one, but one-half dies, many widows say "I felt like I was cut in half." Did you feel that way too?

Widowhood is one of life's hardest challenges. I also felt like I was cut in half; amputated. Like I was  laying on an ambulance gurney-- in shock, helpless and bleeding to death. "Oh God, how could you do this to me?" I cried.

But today as I look back I can honestly say with the writer of "Amazing Grace," . . . I once was lost, but now am found . . . So let me assure of you this: the pain doesn't have to last forever.

I'm don't write this blog because I'm still grieving; I write it as a sacred privilege God has given me to serve and touch you. To tell you that God loves you. He intends for your immense beauty, strength, resilience and character to push up from these ashes. He intends for you to grow and bloom in a unique and wonderful way.

When you're ready, as God gently nudges you along in your own time, I think you'll learn what I've learned about survival and happiness: it's all about choices.

So as I lay on that figurative gurney, feeling like a person cut in half, I had to work through a difficult decision: it could either be a gurney where I was a trauma victim, or it could be an altar of sacrifice as in Romans 12:1. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

There was no changing the fact that I was a widow, but as a new widow, I could choose to be a helpless victim or--perhaps scarier-- I could choose to present myself to God as a living sacrifice, according to Ro. 12:1.

The problem with a living sacrifice, however, is the ability to scramble off the altar! It was hard to allow God to have His way! But over and over again, that's what it boiled down to. I would have preferred my own death, but God was asking me to live; to live without my husband. I finally made the choice to say "OK." That's the best I could muster--OK. Not a single hip hip hooray. But that's all God asks--simple surrender.

Have you made that choice yet? It's a huge struggle, and a long wrestling match made up of many rounds. But sooner or later, in my opinion, there comes a day when you score enough little victories--enough little OK Lord's-- that the outcome is clearly in your favor. Life gets a little easier because you've become a little stronger; you grow, you become whole, a new life begins. It's pretty amazing!

Today I still make choices. The past few years have brought me times of huge grief, struggles, and challenges I never thought imaginable even though I'm now remarried. On those days I always have the choice of crumpling, of giving up in despair, of kicking myself and saying "if only I'd done this or that," or "if only Bruce hadn't died . . ." But I've learned some techniques that I fall back on to help with my choices.

1. When I'm broken, crippled or paralyzed I ask my friends to carry me to Jesus (Luke 2:4,5). I don't expect them to read my mind or sense my pain, I take the initiative and let them know.
2. When I can't pray, I do it anyway. But not with my own words because when I can't pray, I literally can't pray-- I have no words. I'm down to the bone and the simplest becomes the most profound so I read the Lords Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13). I read it out loud and as many times as I have to-- thinking about each word and phrase. I keep reading until I understand that the Spirit intercedes for me with groanings (Romans 8:26) that are beyond words.
3. I ask myself a series of questions that bring me back to reality:
  • does God love me?
  • does God know about this horrible situation?
  • is God in control?
  • is God with me?
No matter what my says to the contrary, the true answer to each of those questions is yes.
  • Yes, God loves me.
  • Yes, God knows.
  • Yes, God is in control.
  • Yes, God is with me.
The reality is this: Jesus wins, God is an expert at resurrections and raising new life, and my life story isn't finished yet.

And then I take a big breath, take a look at my life in light of eternity, and you know what? It's a pretty cool ride.
  • Bruce is safe and secure, he still loves me. I think he cheers me on.
  • I'm not on a hospital gurney: that gurney is a holy altar! (Romans 12:1,2) 
  • God's in control, He never fails or makes mistakes.
  • When there were times I wanted to die, I didn't because God knew He'd make me whole.
What choices do you face today?
ferree

Monday, July 11, 2016

"Out of the Mouth of Babes..."

Dear Readers,
I'm sure many of you have experienced a "grief attack" when you least expect it, right?
So did a widow friend, Susan, in Oklahoma. It happened to her yesterday and she posted it on Facebook. I was so amazed at what else happened to her that I asked her if I could copy it here for you today. She was happy to agree.
Here's what she wrote:

July 10, 2016 · Oklahoma City, OK

My husband has been gone now 16 months and I still have those moments where a memory and grief just knock the breath out of me.

This morning my 6-year-old son and I went to this little diner after church where my husband and I would go when I was pregnant. And, just in an instant I remembered that booth, that morning, with him laughing so hard because my belly was so big. The water works just started pouring. I told my son something had gotten in my eye. We had to go. I could not breathe.
 
Yellow butterflies are kind of our thing. We believe that those are sent from daddy. And, I'm not lying---walked out of the restaurant and one flew right into my face. Never in my life have I been hit by a butterfly. At that moment I could hear him telling me to get myself together.
 
Then, my son turns to me and says, "Mom, don't lie because you miss dad. It's OK to cry. God's promise to us is that we will see him in the future." My 6 year old!!!
 
That was a gift from my husband, and our incredible God! Sorry so long... I just had to share that story! ❤️😇
 
Isn't that amazing???!!! I was reminded of the phrase "out of the mouth of babes..." from the King James Bible. So I looked it up and copied it here for you in the New International Version. God is watching out for you, Susan, and all widows! He's established a stronghold against your enemies with the faith and praise of children and we can trust Him today!
ferree
  Psalm 8:2 New International Version (NIV)
 Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Better Or Bitter?

A widow going on her third year mentioned how each year seemed to present an entirely different set of challenges and it seemed that just as she began to get a handle on one, the calendar page would turn and she'd be looking down the barrel of a whole new ominous cloud.

I could see that the Lord had given her a lot of wisdom though. She realized she had some hard choices to make between the better path and the bitter path . . .

Some of our choices on the long road of widowhood popped up in a sermon I heard on suffering at about the same time I was corresponding with my widow friend. Don't you love the way God brings things together? Here's what I jotted down from the sermon to share with my friend:

"Most friends will not continue to sympathize with you---be tolerant of them anyway . . ."

"God will often be silent and seem very distant to you--- trust Him anyway . . ."

"There's a big difference between God's silence and His absence . . ."

And here were the main points:
  • Accept your experience as a test
  • Repeat the spiritual disciplines even though they seem empty at times
  • Be realistic--you may be in for the long haul. So dig in.
  • Remember that God promises to reward those who endure
I wish I could formulate this sermon into a pill and take one every day! Many thanks to my pastor back in Ohio, Cornelious Hancock at Springboro Baptist!

What are some of the quotes and ideas that have helped you the most?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Taps for Memorial Day

Dear Reader,

I hope today finds you getting a reprieve from your mourning-- maybe a picnic, or a day at the beach. Or time with friends and family who know your story and are willing to walk this journey with you through the highs and lows, the tears (obviously) and the laughs. Yes, widows do laugh!  

But there's often that current of sorrow right beneath the surface. Eventually we learn that joy and sorrow can co-exist. We don't need to choose just one. I can't help but think Memorial Day illustrates such an existence out for us. We parade and picnic and swim and travel. And we also pay our respects.

Perhaps today is meant to convey that an entire nation can feel grief with you in one way or another. If we grieve much because we loved much, then today's a day that it will shine from sea to sea. Today's a day of national mourning. A day to be solemn, to go to the cemetery, but then-- to barbeque! Because another way to show our respect for our departed loved ones is to fully live!  To laugh and run barefoot, burn marshmallows in a campfire and lick melted chocolate off your fingers.

How can we do that? Because no matter how long a shadow grief casts over life, our good Lord is bigger and we are not alone.

So when you hear a soldier playing "Taps" today remember the last line, "God is nigh." Say a prayer to thank God for His presence and the freedom we have to acknowledge Him. And then thank a soldier or veteran you see today--thank him not only for his own efforts, but because he's a representative of the ones that you can't see who are in Arlington and countless other graves all over the world.

Thank their wives and widows, too.

And then grill an extra hotdog with all the trimmings.

Blessings on you and prayers for the world,
ferree

Monday, May 16, 2016

Are You Exhausted?

The Exhaustion of Grief
Do you feel a heavy weariness, like you’ve been running a rugged trail with no end in sight? Do you frequently or involuntarily let out a deep sigh, or catch yourself staring blankly into space, your mind stalled?
 
Grief is work. Hard work. It's emotionally and physically exhausting. You’ve rocketed into an unfamiliar and harsh new sphere without your lifetime friend and support.
 
All decisions are up to you, and at a time when it’s hard to decide what shoe goes on what foot, the decisions you face are far more important and complex than what shoe? what foot?
 
The most crucial decision we can make, however, is to acknowledge the exhaustion, the weakness, the draining neediness and vulnerability. It's great if you have friends you can talk to, but there's a certain something that happens when you tell God how you feel.
II Corinthians 12:9
". . . My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness . . ."
 
It's almost like God is attracted to weakness and neediness. When I'm low--Boom--He is there, waiting to energize me. When I'm tired, frightened, weak, uncertain, insecure, drained, discouraged, anxious, heartsick or broken He is at my side (and yours) with the sufficient opposite grace to transform the need into an opportunity to experience His strength.
 
Sometimes it's hard to recognize when God's grace is sufficient and His power is perfect, but my prayer for you is that this week your eyes are opened to His work in your life.
 
What weakness might God want to counteract with His grace in your life this week?
 
Talk to Him about it and be open to accepting His grace in the infinite variety of forms it may take this week . . .
  • maybe it's just getting this blog post for this day
  • maybe it's seeing a persistent dandelion poke up through a crack in the sidewalk (they never give up!)
  • maybe a tangible need is fulfilled unexpectedly . . .
  • or maybe you can hang on for one more sunrise . . .
In any case, if you're on the verge of exhaustion, you're on the verge of God's grace. It's coming, it's coming! Let me know how I can pray for you. [email protected]
ferree

Monday, May 9, 2016

Do You Feel Like You're Living In A Bad Dream?

Dear Reader,     
                                                                                   
I think the following letter describes how we've all probably felt--wishing we could wake up and find everything back the way it was . . . It's important to share these feelings.

Something about bringing them out into the open helps enlarge our souls to encompass and absorb the pain. By telling our own story and hearing the stories of others, the shock and trauma slowly becomes manageable.

That's what this blog is all about, by God's grace---its a safe place to grow through this, to figure it out, and to find support from the Lord and other widows. And then, one day, a bit of hope and new life begins to sprout out of the darkness and bad dream. 
"I have been really struggling the past few weeks. I am finding myself so totally overwhelmed by the responsibility of all this—the kids, the house, the finances. My husband and I always shared all of this and it is so hard to not have someone to talk everything over with. I think the hardest thing for me is not being alone so much as being lonely. I know that there are numerous people out there to help me and who are willing to help, but it’s having that one person who knows what you are thinking before you speak, knows everything about you and lets you be totally yourself that I miss the most.

I find myself crying more now than before– did that happen to you? Maybe the shock has finally worn off? I feel like I am living a dream and the phone will ring and it will be my husband calling from South Africa or someplace. He traveled for 3 to 4 weeks at a time so being here alone isn’t that strange, but not having the e-mails and phone calls breaks my heart. Every time I go into my e-mail I want to see his address there with a message. I want to drive to the airport and pick him up from a very long trip but I know that’s not possible and I struggle with that.

I keep trying to find blessings in all of this . . . But it’s so hard to let go of all our dreams and plans and try to imagine a life on my own. I didn’t plan or want to be a single person or parent but I guess God had other plans for me. I’m just so unsure what they are.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to be totally honest with those close to me. I am trying to do that, but I don’t want to be a burden to them. I don’t want to intrude on people’s lives and add more to what they themselves are already dealing with. And I know they struggle with not really understanding what this is like—I know I never did until I reached this place myself. There are no words to describe the pain and grief or the intensity of it."


What do you relate to most in this letter? Please add your comment below. Sharing can be hard, but you'll help yourself and help others if you do. This bad dream chapter of your life won't last forever, so take heart and hope, my friend.
"... Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning."
Psalm 30:5b

Monday, May 2, 2016

This Time It's Personal

"Call me as soon as you get this," is what the voice mail said last Sunday afternoon. But you should have heard her voice--- wooden, and flat, nothing like the vivacious, loving friend I knew. She sounded crushed, robotic, and broken. I called back immediately but I already knew. "He's gone," was all she said, recognizing my number. "No, no, no, no, no..." was all I could cry, knowing how close they were, what a godly man he was, and what a widowed vacuum she would face.

Throughout last week I frequently teared up. I just couldn't believe it. I should have dressed in my version of sackcloth and ashes---a pair of truly hideous black stirrup stretch pants from the '80's and a super huge sweatshirt of Bruce's, now 16 years old. Not "holy" clothes, but certainly hole-y!

I muttered words from the book trailer of Sandra Aldrich's "Will I Ever Be Whole Again" where she asks why God would take her young, very needed husband and father of their two children when she could have easily pointed out 5 or 6 other men He should have taken instead! I too could point out many other men God should have taken instead of my friend's husband!

I also experienced life on the other side of the clergy fishbowl. You see, like in my first marriage, my friend's husband was a pastor. Similarly, my friend's husband died unexpectedly and instantly. She was walking where I'd walked when my husband Bruce died; a curious drama unfolded for me as I  examined my own emotions and responses and I began to realize how the people around me had felt and grieved when I was widowed. I heard myself say one of the same things they did---"The world needed him so much! This is a horrible loss for the whole world!"

And I almost had to take back a phrase I had believed back then. After I was first widowed, when people would look at me with that pity in their eyes and comment on my great loss, I insisted on saying, "My life is not diminished, it's just different." What I meant by that phrase was that God had not changed at all. His grace was lavish to me, his faithfulness was great, his mercies were new every morning, my life was blessed with every spiritual blessing in Him, I was chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven and justified! God was with me, and for me, I had nothing to fear; He would graciously give me all things.

I could believe that for myself, but last week I could not believe it for my friend because I was so focused on her loss and the way my heart ached for her. The truth is the same though. God has not changed at all. Her life is not diminished, it's just different. I think she already knows that. She knows God, she knows He ordained all her days (and her husband's days). She will get through this. She will survive, and eventually she will thrive.

On Friday night I drove 150 miles and stayed with some gracious friends of hers so I could attend the funeral the next day. Her voice was no longer flat, her spirit encouraged, her children a circle of strength and love, the funeral was beautiful. But as we all know, that's just the beginning of this chapter in her life called widowhood.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:16

 

Monday, April 25, 2016

GRIEF: for widows it involves rebuilding

There's grief, and then there's widowhood. Is there a difference between the two?

Obviously, many people experience grief, but only a widow (or widower) experiences widowhood. Do you think the grief of widowhood is different than grief in general?

I sure do! A major difference I've observed (and personally experienced) is that while people grieve over losing a loved one, and grieve deeply, when that loved one was your spouse you are left with the task of not only grieving but also the task of rebuilding your life in a major way.

I'm going to let that sink in a bit.

Do you agree? Do you face an unknown future? Have your plans and dreams pretty much turned to ash? Do you feel lost and like half of you is missing? Do you wonder what next step to take? When we have to deal with any of these questions, it's because we need to begin to rebuild.

Now that's a huge topic, and differs widely amongst widows, but I've found an Old Testament man who could show us a thing or two about starting over. If you feel far from home, surrounded by possible dangers, unwelcomed, or overwhelmed at times, read on about this guy named Nehemiah.

Nehemiah was far from home, exiled to the land of Babylon, employed as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. When he heard how Jerusalem was trampled and the walls needed to be rebuilt, his heart broke. He bravely requested leave of the king to serve his homeland.

Miraculously, the king granted leave to Nehemiah, and he traveled hundreds of miles to Jerusalem at great cost.

But did he receive a warm welcome when he arrived carrying his building supplies? No! Enemies of Jerusalem stirred up conspiracies of jealousy and murder threats. Nehemiah's every step became complicated, every move was subject to sabotage.

Do you ever have days like that? Some widows come close when employers try to weasel them out of due benefits, or relatives circle the estate like sharks. For others, health problems, bills, a washing machine overflow, car repairs, or the kids getting sassy and disrespectful are problems enough to relate to Nehemiah. Does it seem like the cares of life are cresting against you, too?

Here was Nehemiah’s solution: “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” (Neh. 4:9)

I’m reminded that whether we’re rebuilding walls, or rebuilding a life after loss, we, too, have enemies.

“Guard your hearts” says Proverbs 4:23 in agreement with Nehemiah.

When you are occupied and concentrating on the good work of rebuilding, like Nehemiah, you need to post a guard. Ask your family, church family, friends, neighbors, widows group, pastors, etc to help guard you with their prayers and watchfulness. You're not asking for rescue, you're only asking them to stay alert for you, to faithfully pray for you like they were your personal bodyguard, and to let you know when they see dangers, threats, and things that ought not to be in your life. Is that too much to ask? You have enough to do with rebuilding! But be a guard for your own widowed friends while they, too, rebuild.

Be alert and keep rebuilding. Do you have some examples, questions, ideas or suggestions about guarding and rebuilding? Let's talk about this more with your comments today. 

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1-3
ferree

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Real Love Song

A Love Song for You


(Photo credit: A Love Letter
Originally uploaded by sheknitsone)
The best philosophy in the world is also the simplest and applies to all days of our lives, the good ones and the sad. It's summed up in this old, sweet song:

Jesus loves me
This I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak
But He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus love me
The Bible tells me so.

Little one, may your heart be lifted to rest in this simple truth today.
ferree

I will be away from the Internet for the next two weeks, but you'll find there are plenty of helpful articles, uplifting videos and links to widows' blogs and resources right here at your fingertips. Please explore, and use this time of sorrow and pain to glean the wisdom of God's Word. He will never leave you nor forsake you, and he's especially close to the brokenhearted.  

If you receive this blog by email just click the title to get to the blog itself where you can gain access to everything. For those who'd like to receive email notifications, just enter your email in the box in the sidebar and you won't have to worry about missing the latest posts. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Joy? Happiness? Contentment? But This Is Widowhood! Are They Allowed?

Dear Reader,
On Mondays we cover grief topics, and today is no different. Can you imagine that Joy, Happiness and Contentment could be a part and product of the grieving process? Maybe you can see that, or maybe you say, "No way." In any case, here's part of a fascinating conversation my friend, Carol, hosted on her Facebook group. I originally posted it in 2012, but the topic is so timely. Please chime in with your comments too.

CAROL OK my friends--- Here goes! I am going to throw this out to you. Some will embrace it, some will throw it back, some will let it lie there until they are ready. I've been in prayer and talks with a couple of widow friends about this topic, and I think today is the day ---are you ready for it? JOY. HAPPINESS. CONTENTMENT.
We can have all of these things, even on this journey!! I cannot tell you how excited I felt the moment I realized (just a couple of months ago) that there was more to this. That maybe God had a bigger purpose.
Now, let me just say-- everyone's situation is different. Keep that in mind. But losing my husband is not the worse thing that could happen to me. There, I said it. The worst thing I can think of is NOT having an intimate relationship with the Lord; the worst thing would be standing before Him and hearing, “I know you not. What did you do with the talents I gave you?” No way; I do NOT want to hear that!
So I've been wondering, what IF God called me to this journey? Yep----what IF He ALLOWED all of this to happen because He has great plans for me? I loved my husband very much. I STILL miss him. I STILL shed tears over certain situations, but I've "learned to be content in whatever state I'm in." (Philippians 4:11-paraphrased)
Deciding to surrender the situation to the Lord, letting Him do the work He has started in me, and learning to be content---that was the hardest 3-step process I've ever done. But it worked! I'm so thankful to be on this journey! I'm so thankful that my relationship with the Lord is the best its ever been and I'm EXCITED about what He has in store for me!!

 
KELLY YES YES YES!!! I am here to say "AMEN" to all of that. The joy of the Lord never really left me after John died - I could go to church and fully worship and feel blessed. Happiness was elusive, however, but has returned. Contentment... now THAT is a biggie. But it returned to me as well.
I am sure it sounds almost blasphemous to agree with Carol in saying the death of my husband was not the worst thing that could happen to me. And I also agree with her when she says the worst thing would have been to lose or walk away from my relationship with Christ. He has to be my everything now - He has to guide my choices and my path. And I have to let Him.

 
MYRA  Amen, sister! I have tried to explain this to other people that are in a different place in their journeys, but they are not yet ready to hear it. You've got it, girl!
 
SANDY AMEN! My daughter-in-law and I were just talking about this very subject this morning! God is AWESOME! I cannot image my life without Christ; not only when Steve was killed, but also 5 months later when losing my mom. How anyone goes through these trials without God I just don't know! He IS my Rock and my Redeemer, my Savior and my friend!
I had someone I love dearly say I couldn't have loved Steve because I went on with my life. This absolutely crushed me. But I KNOW I love Steve and my life was complete with him. But God had a different plan for me. And I have gone on and I am content. IF God ever brings someone into my life then so be it. But if He chooses for me to be alone that's ok too. It will be two years on March 5th that Steve went home. Yes, I've gone on with my life with Christ by my side. And that is what I'll continue to do till He takes me home!
Well, my friend, what would you add to this conversation? Let's keep it rolling by adding your comments below. If you receive this by email please click the title at the top of the email to get to the blog where you can comment, and be sure to use your computer, not your phone. Do you agree? Disagree? We want to hear from YOU. Check back on Wednesday for Part 2.
ferree


Monday, January 11, 2016

Joey+Rory - When I'm Gone

Please pray for musicians Joey and Rory as this video they made in 2012 becomes a reality...
Read Rory's blog about his wife Joey singing this song here: This Life I Live
...and that's about all I can say today, my heart is heavy but I know the peace that passes understanding has, does, and will guard them.
ferree
 
Let your gentle spirit known to all men. The Lord is near... And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5,7 (NASB)


 

PS. If this blog post arrived in your email and the video does not appear, please click the title at the top of the page to go directly to the blog where you may view it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Each Widow Is Unique

Widows are like snowflakes. The general public might perceive widows as a united group with the same interests and needs. But like snowflakes, each widow is unique: even among my readers it's easy to see a wide range of differences:
  • They range in age from 20's to 80's.
  • Their marriage lasted from a few weeks to over 50 years.
  • Their lives changed forever-in-an-instant when their husbands died in an accident, medical emergency, suicide, murder or war.
  • Or their lives changed over a period time: from a few days to several years as their husbands health deteriorated.
  • When their husband died their household income was cut by 60% or more, and many were forced to sell their home or go bankrupt; or they're self supporting or have been adequately provided for if they're careful with their finances.
  • They might be in shock and the raw pain of early grief; they might be experiencing a range of anger--- from irritability, to bitterness, to resentment and rage; they might be desperate or depressed; or they've pretty much come to terms with their situation and are looking to guage how they're doing; some are even looking for ways to help other widows.
But my readers do have a few things in common:
  • They're hanging on to hope and have a determined sort of faith, even if it's as small as a mustard seed.  
  • They're willing to work through their grief and find out what God is doing with their life.
  • Whether they're newly widowed, or they've been widowed for years they are welcome here, and greatly relieved to find a place of listening and understanding.
Here's how WCP (this blog) can help:
  • I offer 3 venues of help for widows. 1). This blog which posts 2 or 3 times/week. 2). My book, Postcards from the Widows' Path. It's based on the book of Ruth from the Bible and you'll be amazed at the remarkable similarities between Ruth, Naomi and Orpah (not Oprah--big difference!), to your own life. 3). Free support groups on Facebook.
  • Helpful information, inspiration and prayers in the archives. 
  • A Memorial Wall. Click the Memorial Wall tab at the top of this page. Around the first of every month it is featured so each widow may be prayed for.  
  • Tell your story. It's therapeutic when you express yourself and know that you're being heard. This is a place where others WANT to hear about YOU! This is a place where we learn from each other. Email me for writers guidelines at [email protected]
  • Share your prayer needs with me by email. I do not share your email address with others.
  • Ask questions. "Is this normal? Am I going crazy? Did this happen to anyone else? Does anyone else feel like this? Where's God?" are perfectly acceptable. Don't be afraid to ask in the comment area at the bottom of each post.
  • Meet new friends. I can connect you to my private Lifeboat groups on Facebook, or plan now to attend a widows conference coming up in 2016. If you're interested in starting a local widows group click the tab at the top of this blog.
Please tell your pastor and others about WCP, and use it freely throughout your grief journey. You won't belong to this blog forever--God has a bright future and plan for you! It's my privilege to walk you through this chapter of your life and to help you head into God's direction.

ferree

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Different Kind of Gift for A Different Kind of Christmas

Here's a Christmas gift you may open early this year, even today. It's found in Romans 8:32 (NIV) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all---how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

This verse was one of my anchor points. Days and months marched on past my husband's homegoing and kind folks continued to sympathize and shake their heads at the shock of it all. I suppose maybe Bruce being a pastor, and such an instantaneous death made it an event embraced by a larger, more public community than I would have had otherwise; it was kind of a ripple effect, touching new sets of people time and time again. Over and over again I'd meet more people who'd be 'so sorry for my loss.' And really, that was the right thing, the polite thing, to say.

But I really needed to hear that although my life was different from what I had expected and wanted--God, who did not spare his own Son for me--would graciously give me all things. That was the truth: my life was different but it was not diminished. I had no husband, but I had "all things." Grace, friendships and help poured in. God's love, help and watchfulness was at every turn. That doesn't mean it was easy or that I was happy. But evidence of God's providence filled my notebooks as much as loneliness filled my heart. My needs were God's way of leading me. My anguish was his call to find my all in him. My pain held promise and hope.

And so, my dear sister in sorrow, will you accept this gift of grace today-- the gift of God's riches at Christ's expense? Talk to the Lord about it and accept the gift of this truth: He freely gave his only Son for you, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
 
. . neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38, 39 NIV)

I'll be praying for you especially this week. ferree

Monday, November 30, 2015

Not Sitting Home Alone This Christmas

Here's an inspiring note from a reader about surviving the holidays. I can't think of a better outlook and * truth that transforms * than what this "honey" of a widow had to say. Thanks for letting me share this Honey Bee!
Hello Ferree,

I have found it absolutely necessary for me to have a plan for Christmas. The first Christmas after David's death, I spent alone. We had no family. Not a good idea. Neither was sharing with other families. I felt like a fifth wheel, or a charity case, although folks meant well.

The next year I went to Nashville with a tour group and had a great time. The following year I went with a tour group to New Hampshire's White Mountains. Another fabulous time. Last year all I could find was New York City, so to NYC I went and had an amazing time. This year I'm booked to go to Frankenmuth, MI, a lovely Bavarian Village.

It doesn't matter where I go, as long as I'm not sitting home alone.

The bus tours work well for me. They do all the work and the planning. I just show up. Because I have had Stage 3 Cancer and then Congestive Heart Failure after my husband died, my strength is so limited, but I can still have a wonderful life, making new friends, getting "out there", and making sure I am constantly building community in my life "one conversation at a time".

This week one of the baristas at the Starbucks I frequent almost daily said, "You have an exciting life." Yes, I do. * God is good. He opens doors, and the more doors I walk through, the more doors seem to open. It's all documented in my stack of Gratitude Journals.*

I love the encouragement you provide here, Ferree. Yours was one of the first websites I discovered as a new widow. Thank you from my heart.

God bless you and all who visit here.
Honey Bee

Monday, November 23, 2015

Turkey Tears of Widowhood

(Flickr photo credit: by Mac(3) )
I call it “a little grief storm.” You know. There you are standing in the grocery store meat department, looking at the turkeys because you ALWAYS have to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. Then it hits you. You hate turkey. You always bought it for HIM. And now he’s gone. That empty chair in the kitchen will always be empty. You don’t ever have to eat turkey again if you don't want to. You'd eat a truckload of it if that would bring him back!

And there you are, tears streaming down your face as you scramble through your purse looking for a Kleenex in front of the stupid turkeys. Of course you don’t have a tissue and now your nose has started to run, too, and then there’s a nudge on your elbow. A meat department employee hands you a paper towel. “I’m sorry we just can’t keep these prices down, ma’am.”

We live in a world that doesn’t understand tears. Sometimes we don’t understand them ourselves. They just happen. And always at the worst of times. Always at the holidays.

Kelly, a widow and dear WCP and Facebook friend, shared some things with me about tears that I’d like to share with you.
***
”God gave us the gift of tears, and if it didn't serve any purpose He would not have given it to us.

There are three types of tears. Basal tears are the ones in our eyes that keep them moist and protected on a daily basis. Irritant tears are the ones that come when it's windy, or when something irritates your eyes, like onions!

Then there are emotional tears, the third type. It is a scientific fact that humans are the only species that shed emotional tears. Emotional tears contain much more, maybe 25% more, than basal or irritant tears of a certain important ingredient: proteins.

The proteins found in emotional tears are hormones that build up to very high levels when the body withstands emotional stress. It we didn't cry or sweat, those hormones would build up to levels that would weaken our immune system and other biological processes.

See? Tears are God’s gift, and we should use that gift as often as necessary. I thank the Lord every day for providing me with so many non-material gifts.

So cry when your heart is aching, because short of allowing your husband to come down and comfort you, tears are God's way of easing you through this life.”
***
I’m glad Kelly shared this with me. Tears are nothing to be ashamed of, even if they're over a silly old turkey; in fact, they’re a healthy release!

She got her information off this college website of student papers:
http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1825

Kelly says, “You can see by reading the whole article that the writer believes it is an "evolutionary" thing that we have this ability to shed emotional tears, and there is no mention of God whatsoever. But sometimes is it good to know there is scientific fact behind something we believe is from God, because it makes Him even more all-knowing and AWESOME.”
ferree

Monday, November 16, 2015

Songs of Hope, Songs of Surrender...

I've been thinking a lot lately about God's gift of music. I wonder if familiar songs and hymns affect you the same way they affected me in the early days of grief? Are you able to sing and listen to music in the same way you did before your husband died?

In my book, Postcards from the Widows' Path, I wrote about music along these lines:

"In the early weeks of widowhood, music was especially painful for me. I literally choked on the words. Songs like “Great is Thy Faithfulness” meant far more than I could physically express. But the songs of surrender and sacrifice were the hardest. As I listened to the singing in church on Sunday mornings I wondered—how could anyone turn such hard truths into pretty tunes and sing them without a care in the world?

You people have no idea what you’re singing about, I thought. They were too young, too naïve, and they knew little of loss or suffering. They were mouthing the words, just playing a chorus, oblivious of the day they would need to make those very words their own.

When the psalms and hymns are not our experience, the repetition, memorization, and mouthing of them in music are our primer. They prepare us for days to come, hard days when we’ll need to put them into practice. Spiritual songs suspend God’s doctrine of personal surrender like medicine in an intravenous solution. They inject healing truth into the soul and help begin to fill our emptiness." Other widows have told me similar thoughts:

There is something about praise music and hymns that have always touched my heart. This is so much more so since my husband's death. Sometimes the song's words have been difficult, but they are also such a comfort and blessing. Spiritual music has a way of connecting us with God which I think is something we all so desire. - Sharon
 
For me the hymns I grew up with and "mumbled" through in my younger days became salve to my wounded heart and touched my soul deeply. I so appreciate them now, more than I ever did before. I do enjoy praise songs, but the hymns bring peace and depth to my soul. - Beth
At first, after my husband "moved to heaven" I couldn't bring myself to listen to any music; however, as the weeks turned into months, I find peace, comfort and solace in listening to hymns, music he loved and songs of hope. - Carol
How about you? Has music had a healing and helpful effect upon you? Does it sometimes catch you unaware, and send a storm of emotion rushing upon you? What is it about music that affects us so much? Let's talk about it this week. Share your thoughts, mention favorite song titles and anything else you'd like to say about music's affect on you. ferree
 

Monday, November 9, 2015

How to Prepare for A Widow's First Christmas

Tidings of Comfort and Joy?
Facing the holidays after bereavement

When you’re grieving the death of a family member or friend, you may dread the holiday season. Thoughts of social gatherings, family traditions and obligations leave you anxious and overwhelmed. Your sadness can seem unbearable. You may wish you could skip these next two months and go straight to the routine of the next year—but you can’t. What can you do to lessen your stress and loneliness?
Holidays trigger tough emotions
           You can start by learning what emotions are normal and to be expected when facing the holidays without your loved one. “If you’re feeling overwhelmed as this holiday season approaches, that’s very normal,” advised psychologist Dr. Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge, whose first husband died. “You’re probably wondering how you’re going to handle this and are unsure of what course to take. I want to assure you that you can get through these holidays, and hopefully you can even find moments of joy.”
            When you know what to expect, you won’t be rendered helpless as holiday events trigger unexpected emotions. Make a point to spend time talking with people who have experienced a past loss and have already been through a holiday season without their loved one. They can help you have an idea of typical emotions and emotional triggers to expect. These people can also provide much-needed comfort and support.
Creating a holiday plan will help
            Another important step in surviving the holidays is to create a healthy plan for the coming season. “Planning does help you to have a little control, even when you feel totally out of control,” said Dr. Zonnebelt-Smeenge. A healthy plan involves making decisions in advance about traditions, meals, time spent with others, holiday decorating, gift-giving and commitments.
            You will likely not have the energy or the interest in doing as much as you have in past years. Decide ahead of time which invitations you’ll accept, and let the host or family member know that you might leave early. Consider whether your decorating will be different this year: perhaps a smaller tree or simpler ornaments. If you cook or bake, cut back.
            Make a list of every holiday tradition you can think of, from music to presents to outings. Then decide which traditions will be too difficult without your deceased loved one, which traditions you’d like to maintain, and what new traditions you can start this year.
Communicating with family and friends
             What’s also helpful in facing the holidays is to communicate your specific concerns and needs with your family and friends. People in grief are often tempted to put on a mask and pretend things are fine, especially over the holidays. “I didn’t want to put on a damper on anyone else’s joy,” shared Mardie. “So I put on a happy face and tried to be the sister, the daughter, the aunt, that everybody wanted to see. Putting on that happy face was a heavier burden than I was emotionally able to carry at the time.”
             Your friends may want you to “cheer up” and “have fun,” when that’s the last thing you want. Others will avoid you because they don’t know what to say and don’t want to make you feel worse. Some family members will give you wrong advice in a misguided attempt to help. All of these people likely mean well, but will only end up hurting you if you don’t communicate what you truly need from them.
            As difficult as this may be, it’s important to tell people what they can do to help and what they are doing that isn’t helping. And if you don’t have the energy or inclination to talk to people face-to-face, then write your thoughts, concerns and needs in a letter or email. What’s important is that you are being honest and gracious in your communication.
            In describing the first holiday dinner after she was widowed, Dr. Zonnebelt-Smeenge said, “It seemed like no one wanted to talk about my husband. I kept waiting for somebody to bring up [his name]. After a while I couldn’t stand it anymore. I excused myself and left and bawled all the way home. Later I decided maybe they were waiting for me to decide if it was okay to talk about him; maybe they were afraid if they said anything, they’d make me feel worse. From that time on when I went to an event, I found a way to let people know I wanted to talk about him and I wanted to hear their stories.”
            So where can you find out what emotions to expect over the holidays, how to create a healthy plan and how to communicate with family and friends these coming weeks?
Attend a Surviving the Holidays seminar.
            A GriefShare Surviving the Holidays seminar offers practical, actionable strategies for making it through the holiday season. At this two-hour seminar, you’ll view a video featuring advice from people in grief who’ve faced the holidays after their loss. You’ll hear insights from respected Christian counselors, pastors and psychologists. You’ll receive a Holiday Survival Guide with over 30 encouraging readings, helpful charts and tips to manage the holiday season during this difficult time.
            At GriefShare Surviving the Holidays, you’ll meet with other grieving people who have an understanding of what you’re going through. They won’t judge you or force you to share, but will accept you where you are and will offer comfort and support. “When I went to GriefShare,” said Marion, “I realized there are different ways to grieve.”
           Your holiday season won’t be easy; your emotions may ambush you and suck you under at times. But you can choose to walk through this season in a way that honors your loved one and puts you on the path of health and healing.
           To register or find out more about GriefShare Surviving the Holidays, google their website today and enter your zipcode to find one near you.
Source: GriefShare

Another excellent help for grief during the holiday season is a newer ministry called Grief Care Fellowship. My husband and I will lead a seminar using their "Grieving Through the Holidays." It is very similar to Surviving the Holidays, but we'll have more time for discussion and interaction since we won't use an entire video. If you're in the Florence, SC area, please register with Kent Kendall at [email protected]. "Grieving Through the Holidays" will be held at Florence Baptist Temple, Saturday, November 14 from 10 - 11:30 a.m. and is free of charge. Each attendee will be provided with a student notebook filled with practical helps, ideas and plans to help navigate through the holidays. Please let me know if you plan to come so I can be sure to meet you. Thanks!