Grieving with Grace

The title of this blog, Widowhood – so much more than grief, suggests there are many facets of grief.  Each one of us experiences grief differently and we walk through this haze with varying degrees of angst.  The variation comes in the way we grieve, the memories we have stockpiled over the years and the experiences we shared.  Differing personalities come in to play as do family dynamics.  Moreover, we don’t grieve alone.  Our friends, co-workers and family members also grieve our loss.

The widows group I mentioned in my last blog post has been a great source of comfort.  choose joyThe comfort comes from knowing we are not alone in our grief. We share an understanding, a common bond which gives us the right to let the tears flow when we are together. This group is learning to laugh again and even speak of the laughter that used to be part of living.  We also talk about the guilt we feel because we fear what others think.

The reality is people watch us.  Some scrutinize with a critical eye, deciding on their own when enough should be enough.  Some tell of conversations with friends who admonish our behavior saying, “It is time you get over it. He’s been dead a year already.  Besides, you know he is in a better place.”  Nods of agreement around the room confirm this.  We have all been assaulted with this type of comment.

On the other side of the coin there are those who think our memory of our spouse is fading too fast.  We are smiling too quickly. Even going out to dinner and a movie with friends offends them. It isn’t easy, but to everyone who has an opinion about how I grieve I say boldly, “Mind your own business. If the day comes you are in this situation, come to me and we’ll have a conversation.”

It is so good to come together each week and just talk.  We have no particular agenda, we simply share our lives.  Memories will arise, tears will fall, and always the Grace of God fills the room. His presence is apparent when hugs from Heaven are experienced within the arms of one another.

Each of us understands that life is different now.  When grief is fresh, we cannot see a future with any joy.  By spending time with others who have walked this road for a few years, we know there is hope that tomorrow will be better.  Today smells of stale winter air, but there is a fresh fragrance almost within reach.  Spring is nearing. Get ready to throw open the windows!

John 16:20 (NIV) I tell you the truth; you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.

Grace ‘n Grins,

Judy

Strength in Numbers

strength in numbersI belong to a support group for widows called New Beginnings.  The purpose of this group isn’t to sit around and bemoan our mutual loss, but to talk out loud those things others don’t want to hear.  We admit to being part of an elite group, a group no one wants to be a member of, but once joined, are thankful for each other’s company.

For some it is the first time in a long time laughter found its way into our voices. By the end of the hour meeting we realize how good it is to laugh again. It is said that misery loves company and maybe this is true.  The camaraderie found in a group of this sort is irreplaceable. We draw strength from our common bond and are encouraged by the stories shared.

One of the things widows fear, is that things will never be the same again.  We not only grieve the loss of a partner and soul-mate, but we mourn other things that death took away.  Our friends will sometimes fade into the back ground.  Not knowing how to relate to us any longer they leave us alone.  Some tell about the relationships they had as a couple disappear, almost as if they were afraid of ‘catching’ something.

Another loss is financial stability. Most of the women in my group had their partner at their side for 10, 30 and even 60 years.  Difficult times were faced together.  Trouble had to take on both of them together, there was a safety in numbers.  Not so any more.  But, those of us who have more than a year under our belts are just starting to see that perhaps there can be a future.

hair partWhen I first thought of forming this exclusive group, I was thinking it needed to be focused on change.  I was looking in the mirror one morning and trying to get my hair to do what I wanted it to do.  All of a sudden I was inspired to part my hair on the other side.  Later that day thought occurred to me that this is just what I am looking for in the widows group.  We are all facing new normal’s in our life and just maybe it is time to ‘part our hair on the other side.’

It is time for me to change things up again. It is almost three three years since my husband died, so it is indeed time for me to see things from a new perspective. Life may be different, but it is still good.  Perhaps I should say ‘good once more.’  During the past three years I spent more time talking out loud in my home.  The silence was too much for me to live with so I began talking to God.  Okay, some days my dogs think I am talking to them, but my vocal conversations are really me talking things over with God.

The insight and faith I have gained during these little talks beefed up my trust in my Savior. He and I have a new relationship; I complain and He encourages me.  I question and He reassures me.  I cry out to Him and He comforts me.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Grace ‘n Grins,

Judy

A Season of Change

changeOne windy winter day, I found myself dreaming of spring with all its shades of color. I began planning my annual flower garden in my mind, envisioning numerous species soon to border my backyard.  I visualized the beauty and I felt the warmth of a spring day and longed for a season filled with promise.The polar vortex but a memory.

What fun to dream and decide about next spring and the amazing plants to grace my yard. No matter how cold or bitter today may be, the sun will usher in new life soon.

As the 3rd anniversary of my husband’s death nears, I am sitting here writing and staring out the same window that framed his world those final 77 days. I remember thinking about winter and spring and how they parallel life.  Dave’s passing from this world to the next during winter, made me wonder what spring would be like.

Every year I find myself waiting for winter to pass and I anticipate how perfect spring will be.  This year is no different, except I have a peace I have not had for many months.  So much change surrounds us when we lose a spouse that it is overwhelming.  Even now, almost three years into this state of widowhood, I am stunned by how much my life has changed. But, by employing prayer I now live with a peace-filled heart.

I am astonished at the immense feelings associated with change. This is not how it was supposed to be. We were meant to walk into the sunset together.  We worked our entire life and planned for our senior stroll, hand-in-hand.  Alone was never part of the picture, not even close.  “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b)

Do you find you are stronger now, as you move through life as a single?  Has the journey taught you to cope, to do things you never dreamed you would do?  Or, are you not there yet?  It is wise to recognize that where ever we find ourselves today, it is okay.  God is working and He is moving in our lives. The next time you pick up your Bible and read a passage that you were lead to read, ask yourself two questions.  “What is God saying to me today?  What am I going to do about it?

Please share what you are hearing from the LORD.  We could all use some eternal encouragement.

Sail On

ImageI mentioned in a prior post about using a WORD each month to contemplate, study and embrace. Part of this process is talking it over with God, asking for His guidance and wisdom to reveal the one word I need to study for a season.  A number of years ago my word was perseverance and you can imagine where God took me with that one.  But I am grateful I had that word during that time in my life because it helped me to see that everything worth having is worth waiting for.

Perseverance was the title of a devotion I read this morning. The text referred to Christopher Columbus and his tenacity in the face of all sorts of trouble. He and his crew encountered storms, experienced hunger, faced deprivation and extreme discouragement while sailing to find new paths to other lands.  The account of his journey, the words written in the ships log repeatedly voiced the sentiment, “Today, we sailed on.”

That is perseverance, the ability to face the storms of life, to lean into the winds of opposition and still declare, today we sailed on.  These words struck me as I prayed and wrote in my journal today, the first day of a new year; the first day of the rest of my life. This past year brought with it a major attitude adjustment for this writer.  I recognized the value of dropping to my knees in prayer.  I know that prayer works in any posture, but for me, on my knees is a visual of submission.  Total submission to God changed my life.

As a widow, each day is a different challenge, a fresh outlook with new outcomes ahead. Where are you on this journey?  How long have you been in the midst of your future without your spouse in the picture?  What are you feeling today, New Year’s Day?  Regret?  Doubt?  Fear?  I want to hear from you?  Is there something you want me to address in this blog?  Please share your thoughts with me.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)  The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

If you don’t want to comment in the section below, send me an email at judithannie.webb@yahoo.com

Grace ‘n Grins in the New Year

Judy

It’s Okay!

its okayIt is already December 23, can you believe it?  For some of us, it can’t go by too quickly to suit us, for others, we have had such a difficult time getting our act together that we are crying out for the clock to stop ticking.  If you find yourself in either camp, it is okay.  It is all okay, and that is my mantra this holiday season.  Don’t worry, don’t stress, just do what you can when you can.  If others have a problem with that, it is their problem, not yours, not mine.

To be honest, this, my third Christmas Season as a widow, is easier than I expected.  The second one was the most difficult and many will say the same thing.  The second year is the toughest. That said, there are times when memories will assail our thoughts and happiness will fade for a few minutes or hours; even days for that matter. But, all in all, this third year brought the return of joy.

I wrote about memories in the last post and just wanted to say a little bit more about this.  Our memories are likely to overtake our mood at some point during this season.  Just go with it.  Memories are good, they remind us that we are still alive and they keep us from going into denial.

One memory I will deal with this Christmas Eve, and probably every other one from here on out, is the fact that it was Christmas Eve when we called upon Hospice for help. There was finality as well as relief in this act.  I am sure many of you can relate.

You have your thoughts on this topic and I would love to hear them.  What is the most difficult thing about observing the Christmas Season?  What is the blessing you have experienced?  Jesus is the reason for the season, and while this saying might be over-used it is still true.  Just think of the memories Jesus’ mother ‘pondered’ each year on her Son’s birthday.  I leave you with these words.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14)  

Merry Christmas
Grace ‘n Grins,

Judy

Sweet and Sour

photoI could hardly write about my thoughts and experiences as a widow without visiting the topic of memories and holidays.  The first year is filled with firsts; first birthday, first anniversary, first Thanksgiving and first Christmas, to mention the obvious. There are other ‘firsts’ we all experience, but that is for another post.

This Christmas season memories are everywhere.  Regardless if this is your first Christmas without your spouse, or your fifth or twenty-fifth, moments of sadness will creep in to dampen your mood.  I am learning that this is not only normal, it is good.  It keeps us out of denial and helps us to face today with fond memories, even if garnished with a tear here and there.  It is all okay. Memories are good; they keep the loved one alive in our hearts.

Christmas was a favorite holiday for my husband, so I feel it is important to keep that spirit alive.  We knew the real reason for the season was to celebrate Jesus’ birth and our salvation.  It is also important to understand that Jesus wants us to party on His birthday.  He wants us to sing and to enjoy one another, and that is just what we do. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

One Christmas our family took a vacation to Hawaii.  We remember that Christmas each year, as one of our most memorable times together as family.  To this day it stands out as a great Christmas, for so many reasons.  There are also some memories not so sweet, some might even say they were sour, but such is the way of life.

This holiday, don’t allow the memories to dampen the festivities, use them to bring joy to the moments.  Because Jesus’ birth means salvation to those who believe, we have every reason to party on!  We have so much reason to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”

Grace ‘n Grins,

Judy

Trials and Blessings

hopeEach morning I start my day with a cup of coffee, my Bible, journal, a devotional book, and of course an assortment of colored pens.  Did I ever mention I have a “type A” personality?  I love to have my ducks in a row. Give me a spreadsheet, color-code the tabs and I am prepared to fearlessly face any situation.

The daily devotional book I use most days is Streams in the Desert.  This mighty little book, written many years ago and revised a few times, is a wonderful start to any day.  I have recommended it to a number of friends who were looking for something to get their day off right.

I can’t begin to tell you how often God has used this, used a Scripture from a given day, to reach me, to teach me, to prepare me and comfort me.  I have written personal comments on many of the pages; notes of crying out to God for answers, observations of His answers and a memo here and there affirming God’s presence, His love and His care.

This little book and I have been through much together.  I’m not sure when I started reading it but I began making notes in the margins in 2007.  I can pull out a journal from that year and match it up to a margin note and remember just what was happening in my life that day.  As you can imagine, there are some things I don’t really want to remember that often, but what a blessing it is to see how God has been there, working in the background of my life until I pulled Him up and into the center.  I have found that God doesn’t force His way in, He will wait until invited; but once you let Him in life will never be the same!

There was a time in our married life when Dave and I did not really believe in much of anything.  We knew who God was and had heard of Jesus, but it didn’t mean anything to us.  For years we plodded through life like this. We experienced a moment of happiness here and there, but not endless joy.  There was a glimmer of a good life sprinkled about, but no hope for tomorrow.

We didn’t know we were missing anything. Through a series of changes in our life, we moved to Ohio, met a few new people; were exposed to church through an invitation by the mother of one of our daughters. It took many years, but we finally grew in our faith – together.  That is the key; that is what makes the loss bearable.  We grew together.  If I did not know that my husband of 40+ years knew Jesus like he did I could not have said goodbye with joy and hope.

The November 23rd reading in Streams in the Desert had these words for me: “the trials of life are sent to make us, not break us.” It was trials that brought Dave and me to Jesus.  It was those same trials that grew us in faith, and kept us together.

Psalm 61:3-4 (NIV)  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Grace and Grins,

Judy