Part II Embracing Widowhood

Physical, emotional and spiritual changes

Part II — The Emotional Changes of Widowhood

Read Part I here.

The death of a spouse is rated as the most stressful yet a normal life event. This loss is 3 times more possible to occur for women than men and leads to twice as many women as men over the age of 65 who live alone. Loneliness is real.

Emotion: a natural instinctive state of mind derived from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. If we would don an Emoji mask and go around showing our feelings right up front, perhaps the insensitive inquisition would stop. Questions like, “How are you doing,” or “Is it getting better yet,” or my personal favorite, “Are you ready to jump back into the game? Six months are passed, don’t you think you should move on?”

Emotions will run high during staggering life events; sometimes for years following them. It is normal for grief to affect all aspects of life. 

Our pain is not the same. My emotions express themselves different than yours. This is because our lives and the relationship we shared with our spouse differed. Our personalities and our environment all play a role in how we process our sorrow. You may undergo a season of helplessness as you face life alone. You question how you can survive the next 10 or 20 years. 

Jesus experienced emotion too. He wept at the death of Lazarus and grieved the death of a wonderful friend. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants.” (Psalm 116:15 NIV) If losing someone moves you to tears, it moved the Son of God to tears too. “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NIV)

I might be dealing with emotions of survivor’s guilt as I bring to mind all the plans we laid out for as a couple. Retirement shone on the horizon, travel to new places, extra time to spend with family, perhaps pursuing a dream held close to your hearts for so many years.

What about the weeping? Those unplanned expressions of sadness which overtake you in an instant. They pour down your face at the least convenient time or place. You can’t control them. We often view tears as a sign of weakness, but they are a symbol of healing. Let them fall. Many of us would never consider crying anywhere but alone. Tears embarrass us. We rather relegate them to our private times, in the basement, the backyard, in the car, while on a walk; never, in front of someone. Goodness, what a lot of pressure we put on ourselves.

Another emotion we deny ourselves while in the state of grief is laughter. We are afraid what others might think if they see us laughing only a few weeks into our widowhood. Don’t let someone else dictate your behavior. Again, we are all different and face differing experiences. 

Your emotions are real. Emptiness can overtake you without warning. Do something to fill the void. Call up a memory which brings a smile, recall a memorable time you shared. Don’t try to escape but allow yourself to embrace them. They are healing and are part of the process of grief.

Are you experiencing the guilt of relief? Perhaps your spouse, a prisoner to his bed, lay ill for a while. You stood by, helpless as he struggled for breath or writhed in pain. They are pain free now and take comfort in this realization. If you shared a common faith in Jesus, now is the time to embrace you faith.

I experienced a special gift during worship one Sunday, not too long ago. I sensed my husband praising and worshiping his Lord and Savior, and I was right there with him. What a gift God gave me. I stood in church, in front of the altar at the foot of the cross of His Son, while a wave of perfect peace washed over me. 

I turn to Him to His Word to receive confirmation that God understands my heart and wants to heal it. He knows you too. Let Him embrace you in His love and mercy. “In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.” Psalm 25:1 (NIV)

Embracing Widowhood

And the Physical, Emotional, and
Spiritual Changes of this new life

Part I – The Physical Changes of Widowhood

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord, your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Almost nine years ago I placed a mark in the box designated, “widow.” I remember taking a deep breath, shocked at the severity of the word. What a nasty tasting pill for sure, and difficult to swallow. For a short season, I took on “widow” as my identify. Now, after some years of healing and prayer, I realize it’s only my marital status.

As widows we are forced to face an empty house. We are alone for the first time in years, the absence of another body in the house is our striking new reality. Our spouse, who once listened, shared, advised, and disagreed with us, is gone. That certain someone we came home to after work, processed life with during dinner, and sat next to at worship on Sunday morning, is not there. 

Widowhood transforms us in many ways, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual. Things change, we don’t always accept these with grace. We did not ask for our lives to be turned upside down, and some of us are barely hanging on. Let’s examine these individually over the next three weeks, starting today with the physical side. 

For me, one of the more stunning physical changes happened in my head. Decisive no longer described me. After I lost my husband, I second-guessed the simplest choice and I would not make any changes I couldn’t undo with ease. As a former take-charge individual, a confident decision maker with the ability to move forward without hesitation, I did not recognize this new woman. The term, “widow’s brain”, was once foreign to me, but now explained the fog I daily moved around in.

Mundane and everyday tasks challenged me. An avid reader, I always loved to spend free time with a book or my Bible. When I became a widow, more than a year passed before my concentration returned and I finished a chapter without starting over. At the time I worried I would never be able to enjoy these things again.

The absence of physical touch is a biggie. The first time I went to get my hair done following my husband’s death, I fought off tears. I sat in front of the mirror and remembered that for years, I cut his hair. Those sweet memories I cherished turned into lighter moments in our life together. We joked and enjoyed this time. He would taunt me about something, and I would remind him of the scissors I held in my hand. 

Besides the loss of our intimate mate, as widows we must do without the simple touches of comfort, impromptu hugs, and strolls through the neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine never experiencing this companionship again. One day I realized I couldn’t remember what my husband’s voice sounded like. I wondered if I would soon forget other things about him. I watched a video of my husband and heard him speak. I listened and I recalled thinking his voice didn’t sound familiar. Was I forgetting him? 

Enough years are cinched under my belt and I can say I am leaning into the reality of my life. I am physically healthier, due in part to the fact I am the one responsible for getting the yard work done, walking the dog, and cleaning the gutters. I understand I must stay healthy and take care of myself. I don’t consider me a victim, or a vulnerable widow. Rather, a strong and confident believer, who knows God is always with her. I face my new normal with a sense of “God’s got my back.” He loves me and is watching out for me.

I know God’s plan for me and for the rest of my life is perfect. He brought me this far by healing my heart in so many ways that now I feel a compassion for others who are on this same journey. There is wisdom in their experiences, and I treasure meeting with them. 

Again, I can hear Him encouraging me with the words…“Be strong and courageous.” 


Note: Come back to this blog the next few weeks to read about the emotional and finally the spiritual changes we might experience when we invite God to move in our lives.

God is so good.

Time to Get On With It

I don’t like winter. I don’t like cold weather, ice or snow. But then, I am also the first one to complain about the heat and humidity in the summer. I recognize there are advantages and disadvantages to every season, as they all offer opportunity to grumble and complain, or approve and applaud.

Eight years ago I entered the winter of my life when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. A fierce storm took over and in a short 77 days, everything changed. Fast forward to February 2019 and more change is coming. I plan to retire. There, I said it out loud. As scary as giving up a steady paycheck is, there is excitement ahead as I pursue my next season.

Each season we enter, is a step toward another season until that day when Jesus calls us home. God called my husband, and one day He will call me. But, until then, life goes on. During my preparation for this next season, besides creating a new budget, I realize that I must sell my home. This is a major step for me and something I dreaded for some time now…until this morning. 

The first hour of my day is spent sitting in my family room sipping coffee, reading my Bible, and writing in my journal. Today, as I sat pouring my heart out to God, I asked the Holy Spirit to impart wisdom and discernment regarding a few decisions I needed make. Peace covered me. 

As an introvert, I relish my alone time and I love the warm sensation of early morning silence coupled with God’s Word. This verse stood out as I read from scripture, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) I went on discussing my situation with Jesus and reminded Him that I really did not want to sell my home, I loved it. I asked for peace about this.

I looked around the room, acknowledging how safe and content I felt. After praying more, a definite calm accompanied this thought. “Lord, is there another person or family who needs the contentment found here? Is it time to share the peace Your Presence provided me during all the trials, trouble, and life lived here throughout the years? Is it time for me to get on with living?”

The words for this post did not come easily. I wrote, I edited, and then erased many times. I couldn’t understand why I experienced such difficulty while formulating my feelings and getting them down on paper. 

I initially I started this blog for widows, to offer an outlet for our pain. I wanted to let all widows know that the feelings we were experiencing were normal, and nothing we will get over any time soon. I am coming to understand that I no longer want to keep hashing over the loss. I want to speak the words to free us up to move forward. I came to give life with joy and abundance.” (Voice)

After eight years of widowhood, God spoke such words to me today. 

Okay Google

screenI want to share with you about a new relationship in my life. I have a crazy, new best friend who is helpful and wants to please me. If you are at all like me, you need help, but you also want to take care of yourself. How wonderful to learn I only need to speak a few words to receive instruction and even visual direction for all that puzzles me. These precious words are, “OK Google, how do I …?” Continue reading “Okay Google”

Lost in the Weeds

Faith sustained me and brought me full circle; from a single young woman to a married lady of 41 years, to a widow of 7 years. This circle of life brought me through good times and rough challenges. I accomplished things on my own I never dreamed possible nor ever wanted to explore. And God continues to uphold and strengthen me.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)

Life is a puzzle. Some days it’s a crap shoot; a combination of uncertainty and risk. Some view life as a challenge – oh, those extroverts! Taking a chance on the unknown, requires lots of prayer and faith. I find this to be truer for me as a widow. At least before, when I got myself in a jam, I had help getting out of the mess. Not any longer, I am on my own, but I know God is with me.

I am suddenly more willing to try some things. The years mount up, and I realize I don’t want the rest of my life to pass me by. I begin to dream a bit more. Perhaps I can step into a few of these dreams; at least put my toe into the water to determine if the temperature is okay. So much uncertainty.

This past weekend I spent a few hours working in my yard. I love this type of work and find therapeutic value is priceless. Often, I am lost in my thoughts while digging in the dirt. My mind will take me to places my husband and I dreamed of going. Too often reality sets in and I cancel those mental plans.

Sweat pours down while on my hands and knees pulling weeds. How do these unwanted entities thrive? I must admit, their tenacity fascinates, and I envy their ability to grow and flourish during drought or abundance. The hot and humid weather causes the grass to brown early and I doubt the lawn will green up again this season, but the weeds, that’s another story. They can be found tucked into every nook and cranny, basking in the oppressive sunshine and relaxing in the shaded corners. This kind of resiliency during the harsh seasons of life is a wonder.

CavSpotting a volunteer tomato plant peeking out from under my baby’s breath, I think I want that kind of faith, of courage, of steadfastness. I dream of packing up A.J. my faithful yellow lab and hitting the road. Of course, once again reality makes an appearance and shuts me down.

One day real soon, I will behave with abandon. I will screw up my courage, like the volunteer tomato plant and put down a few roots in a place unknown to me now. Wouldn’t it be wild to try something new without thinking it to death?

Is now is time to venture out, shake off the mantle called widowhood? To explore new territory and have the best time of my life? Why not? God is with me!

20180716_072100Note from Judy: I plan to post at least once a week from now on. I have a new outlook on life and widowhood and will share some of these thoughts and plans and yes, dreams with you. I do hope you find this helpful and that you will share yours with me and other readers so we can move forward together, with God’s help.

 

Turning Dreams into Memories

camera-photos-photograph-paper-prints-46794This month marks the 7th anniversary of the end of Dave’s earthly life. It marks many other things too – the loss of a friend, a brother, father, and husband. While Dave’s life has begun again in Glory with Jesus, those left behind still must go on. Until that day we are reunited, we have pain. Our loved one does not.

Seven years is a short while, and yet a long time. Dreams that once were, are no more; but new dreams have replaced the old. I have done so much dreaming over the years that I felt stuck, in the same old story.

Recently I heard this statement, and it stuck with men it is now the tune I sing.  Make memories of your dreams and they will last a lifetime. This is brilliant and I am moving forward singing this song. For years I have been reaching for the stars, my personal stars, only to stop short of attaining them. I have chased after the dream to write since I was a teen. So much so, that I think my friends are tired of hearing it.

I know I have a passion for writing, and a gift – at least enough of one to learn the rest. So, from this day forward, no more living in the past, chasing dreams from years gone by.  No, from now on I have every reason and ability to make memories out of my dreams.

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart
                                                                      (Psalm 37:4)

Change: Don’t want to live with it, can’t live without it!

Tomorrow is a word I contemplate more often than many would say is healthy. I know I should stay in the moment, grounded in the here and now, but it is difficult to do this when so much of my past was focused on what tomorrow would bring.

As a newly-wed, tomorrow was filled with exciting new destinations. Time moved forward once our girls were born, and as a young mother, tomorrow contained a picture of raising children. They moved through grade school and into high school and included all the milestones in between. School sports, plays, awards, musicals and the myriad of friendships. The high drama of first boyfriends, break-ups and then engagements and weddings.

Life was full. There were times it was moving too fast and I just wanted it to stop, if only for a day or two. Our family of two which blossomed into four remained that way for about 20 years. Then change happened.  Change is certain and necessary. Without it we are stuck in place. Without seasons, nothing grows properly, no one moves forward.

Change is healthy if not inevitable. It doesn’t do anyone any good to stay stuck in the moment. But, that is not what is meant by living one day at time. No, one day at a time means to me, that I must not get ahead of God. I need not borrow trouble from tomorrow, just deal with today and keep focus on now. God has tomorrow covered.

The words from Isaiah 43:19 speak into my heart, “See, I am doing a new thing.”

Change is hard to swallow sometimes, heartbreaking many times, but it is what it is. I know that God will never change and will always be at my side, ready to hold me up when I need to lean into Him.