To the Widowed & the Wounded

 
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Grief doesn’t come with a handbook.
#100WidowStrong, Entry #2

Join me for a raw look at part of my journey from the months immediately following the loss of my precious husband, Ben, last September. One of our three missions with NaSHEville is awareness and advocacy for women of all ages that have lost their spouses. Take a look inside my story, and please consider supporting our partner, Modern Widows Club, and the incredible work they do to promote education, empowerment, and healing for widows in Nashville and all across the country.


Grief doesn’t come with a handbook. If you’ve lost someone dear to you, this mantra has either offered you great comfort in the topsy-turvy of emotions, fears, and gut wrenching changes; or, it is the callous thorn in your already wounded flesh that reminds you, day after day, you can’t fix it, you can’t define it, and you sure as hell can’t defer it.

There are guidelines, of course. Clinical scales of denial, anger, acceptance, and a few others. But the truth is, grief invokes chaos, shuffling these “steps” and “phases” out of chronology and into a painful pendulum – from pain to hope to fear to emptiness. Swing as you will, the momentum is a mystery. What is pointedly clear, however, is that all control of our lives – the tight, self-preserving grip we held on our dear one, on our treasures – it is also six feet under.

For some of us, that may feel a relief. After months or years of sickness, you’re finally absolved from being the caretaker of an illness or an injury you couldn’t control to begin with. They’re no longer in pain, and you’re released. For others this paralyzing wake up call to our own inept mortality crashes like tidal waves over all the other compartments of life that we now know so poignantly we can’t control. I’d like to tell you I am of the former camp. But I am a woman that I can lie. I’m an enneagram 3. Surrender is not in my DNA. 

But the point is this. We all have different stories, struggles, fears, and feelings.

We all stand at different points in faith, if even in faith at all. Some of us are years of tears and trial past the day that shattered and reframed our lives. For some of us, the loss is so fresh, we can’t remember what it’s like not to feel raw. 

So with no one story the same and no handbook for grief, what are we to do? Relinquish hope, weep alone, numb the pain and resist our lives moving forward in a desperate attempt to keep their presence alive? That, my friends, is the enemy’s dream. Paradise for the evil one in which God’s broken children sit still, alone, and abandoned by the Almighty who could have stopped it all. Could have saved their loved one’s life. A betrayed, self-enlisted army of the wounded, grieving in spiritual insurrection against God for the miracle He didn’t deliver.  We play right into his welcoming, conniving hands because God didn’t play into ours. Nothing feels more vindicating, does it? I’ll show you God! But refusing chemotherapy because you’re angry you have cancer does as little to heal sickness as rejecting the Lord does to heal grief. A debilitating and fruitless fight.

Mattie and Ben’s wedding day, October 2017.

Mattie and Ben’s wedding day, October 2017.

The truth is, I didn’t get the miracle I wanted.

I prayed and sang songs and praised God even after I was told my husband was brain dead, and He still let Ben go. And you know what, God wept that day too. Over death and over His grieving daughter, wrecked by pain that any Father who lost a Son knows all too well. Our God knows the deepest caverns of sorrow. He didn’t offer bodily healing to my Ben any more than He did for His Son left hanging on a cross.

God gets it. He hates it. But He loves us, to depths that earthly affection can’t fully comprehend. Please allow Him to heal us in all the ways we can’t heal ourselves. The only “how-to” I’ve found on grief is how to rest in the Lord. He saved the world from universal sin. He can save us from this. We’ve already admitted – control is gone. Who better to take the driver’s seat and carry us through the chaos?

Much like the apostle Paul admits to the Corinthians in his first letter, I am not coming to you “with eloquence or superior wisdom.” I am coming to you “in weakness and fear and with much trembling.” If you are looking for an expert on grief, a warrior PhD with arsenals of intellect to disarm loss and sorrow, stop reading.

The truth is, I’m 28 years old. I lost my husband three weeks before our first anniversary, and I lost a lot of myself with him.

My nature (again, enneagram 3) is to study, fight, and to enact goals and strategies for success. I even walked into my first therapy session demanding a timeline. My counselor was kind not to refuse treatment right then. But somewhere after kicking the illusion that I could conquer loss with lists, I surrendered. I accepted the chaos, put my name atop the list of those for whom I would have grace, and I gave it to God. Not in a bible study on struggle or a group recovery meeting kind of way, I literally threw up my hands, threw down the grief books, and said, You have it. Hold me, restore me, and make me your miracle. And one day at a time – some glorious and some agonizingly tender – He has.

So I’m not here to offer sage how-to’s or steps or solutions. I’m not here to motivate or preach (okay, a little). I’m here to be honest about my walk through this most harrowing valley. I’m here to plead with you – grasp for the light; don’t fear the darkness; and don’t for one minute despair that God’s time clock on a miracle has run out.

Our stories may differ, our sorrow is much, but our Savior, He is the same. Please oh please, let’s lock arms, dear sisters, be kind to our broken selves, and tell the whole truth about our pain. Never discount the hurt. But let’s not stop living. Let’s celebrate that joy and pain are not mutually exclusive. And let’s surrender our hurt to the one Source who can truly heal.

Whether you’re facing widowhood and any other grave struggle, I sincerely hope you find bits of peace and hope through my story, and I pray that the God of all healing keep making a miracle out of yours.