Daily we hear of so many tragic events that occur around the world.Recently,a woman at a gas pump was randomly hit and killed by car; people at an airport were shot and killed indiscriminately by a disturbed individual.Daily men and women lose children, parents, spouses and siblings. Sometimes people lose their whole family as a result of various accidents, and other tragic occurrences, often without warning.
How does one get past these losses, losses that occur with random regularity?I know from my own experience it is not easy. Unless individuals have gone through the experience of losing a loved one and dealt with the aftermath, no one can possibly know what the family members face.
My husband was ill with cancer that awful period coinciding with Barack Obama’s campaign that was built on hope. That one word became my daily mantra as I prayed and hoped for a miracle. I remained steadfast in my commitment to the care of my husband and never gave up the hope that he could miraculously pull through.
One of the things that sustained me was what people around me said and more importantly,what they didn’t say. During this time, all sorts of folks, colleagues, friends, acquaintances shared with me their own stories of having dealt with the illness,specifically pancreatic cancer, of a loved one.But they always stopped short of sharing the inevitable outcome – death.And no one told me that my husband would ultimately leave this earth, never to be seen again.
I believe that through God’s goodness and grace, I was shielded from hearing things that would weaken my resolve which would have consequently caused me to lose faith. The hope that I clung to like a lifeline, kept me going until I knew that my husband’s “soul (was) sliding down to die”. (My Father’s Eyes – Eric Clapton)
After he was gone, I became almost catatonic as I numbly prepared for Chuck’s funeral. I knew that this was my new normal, not feeling, not being present, dealing with anxiety and panic feeling nervous and shaken. Although I didn’t appear this way to the outside world, this was my inner state and the beginning of a new life without my beloved.
How did I get past this stage?
I decided to face the music. The temptation to hide under the covers until who knew when was great, but my need to survive was greater. I fought the strong urge to run in place, delay the work that needed to be done. Instead I dove right in, crying, weeping, railing at God, sorting, donating, rearranging my home and my life. I wanted to blur the edges of my life with Chuck as I entered into the unknown. Little did I know that this was the start of my new beginning.
As the eighth anniversary of my husband’s death approaches, I’m reminded of the time when everything in my life was changing.New business and residential development in my neighborhood,new friends, new work, new home. I had this feeling of hope throughout the year I cared for Chuck and that optimism, though buried within the shadow of my grief, would years later slowly emerge as I began to live my new life.
As I look back on it all I recall that I never took on the burden of “having to be strong”.For whom would I be doing this; to show somebody, what? I didn’t have small children that I had to be there for; I had only myself.When I look back on all I’ve accomplished since my husband’s death, I know that it’s this profound loss that has propelled and strengthened me.
My strength is not superficial,worn for the comfort of others. My strength is in the rebuilding of my spirit and my belief in the ultimate goodness of humanity, life ,love and the hope of finding joy again.
When you have lost a spouse, you must know in your soul, that you are not bound by the expectations of others. Some will tell you to be strong, you’ll get over it, you’ll be okay, but none of these words will mean anything to you. They are mere words from those who wish to help.
Finally,you can choose to ride the grief wave however you wish. You can swim parallel to it you can go with the ebb and flow of the wave, or you can dive right in, it’s all up to you. I would suggest that you succumb to your brokenness, feel the weakness that accompanies grief.Feel the pain and cry, cry, cry; do not hold it in. The grief journey is a life changing experience and it is meant to be. But, eventually, you will become stronger because of it as it will become the bedrock of your new beginning.
Loss will transform you and you will come out on the other side strengthened by your ability to have gotten through this journey and you will be emboldened by the knowledge that you can now face your new beginning.
Read more about grief and recovery after loss in Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all other e-booksellers.