So I had a completely different blog intended for today, but like many things in life, God spoke and changed the direction.
Today I want to talk about grief, and in particular widow’s grief. I think most people out there have heard the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
In my experience, with widow’s grief those can often times be mixed in together. And with a widow who went through a long cancer battle and long periods of hospice, the time lines are even more skewed.
When I first started out in widowhood, I was asked (and still get asked) a lot, how I could be handling all this so well. When asked this, I told them a couple things: I have been preparing for this time since Jeff went on Hospice in September (it’s hard to believe we are less than a month away from the anniversary of the first day of hospice) & the other thing I would tell them was God has been doing miraculous things in my heart to prepare me for such a time is this.
So then as time went on I began to think that I really believe I started grieving in the summer of 2016 when Jeff started his decline and we were in and out of the hospital 9 times in 5 months.
But as I spoke with a dear friend over dinner recently, she told me she believed I started my grief when we were told it was an incurable cancer and his life would be cut very short.
So for those who don’t know, in April of 2014 when Jeff was diagnosed and we finally got to put him on chemo, the doctor informed us that there was no cure, and no true long term treatment. The first type of chemo would last at most 7 years, the next 5, and the last 3. That would still have him only surviving to about 47. Jeff never got put on the 2nd form.. After less than 2 1/2 years on chemo, his body stopped responding & expert opinions said that no other chemos we had planned to switch to would work. Talk about a huge blow.
So back to the conversation with my friend… she told me she saw the gradual change in me and the realization that I would become a young widow, because truth is, even if he lived to full capacity of the chemos, I would still be 40 and widowed. That to me, made complete sense.
So now, for the 5 stages… denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance… Jeff & I both went through a period with the chemo where he was doing so well for a couple years and feeling great… we thought “surely he will heal from this, it will go away“…. DENIAL. Now it’s not to say that God couldn’t or wouldn’t heal Jeff, but there was a time when we both were so convinced we would get to grow old and grey with each other, that why would God deny us of our plans?
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9
I don’t know that I would say I have ever felt the need to bargain with God, but that’s possibly because growing up in a God fearing home, I know this does not work with God because we cannot earn His favor, it is given through accepting the gift of Christ.
Anger, Depression & Acceptance however, I feel as though I go through those simultaneously on a regular basis. One of the things I have learned with Widow’s grief in particular is our own stages with these 3 particular emotions. For the first 2-3 months, I felt like crying ALL THE TIME… I hid it often times, especially in work life, because let’s be real… I need to be professional and can’t be blubbering all over my bosses and our customers… and for the most part I think I’ve done fairly well around friends to not just break down all the time, but to know when and who I can break down on. Thank you by the way for those who let me do that!
This last month & a half, the grief has been more in the form of exhaustion. Now part of that is because this summer has been CRAZY busy, and we have had a completely different routine than we ever had before & in a week we will have a whole new routine to get used to! But also, the simplest things have made me just soooooo tired. Like yesterday, I intended to make eggs, bacon and biscuits for dinner… we love breakfast for dinner in our house!! I did not however get all of that done. I pulled out a can of biscuits from the fridge, popped them in, took them out, put jelly and butter on it, and that was dinner. I didn’t have the energy for eggs and bacon! Two very simple foods. That’s just how it is sometimes.
The reality of it is, I didn’t just become a single mom… I became a widow. Please don’t misunderstand me… being a single parent is hard, so hard… I’m not knocking that & I’m not saying you don’t have your own griefs you go through with being a single parent, because I know you do! I have a few friends out there who are beasting and owning their calling as a single parent. But when you simultaneously are dealing with handling everything by yourself & grieving the death of your spouse, that is a whole other ball park folks.
I don’t say all this to gain sympathy or empathy, that’s not what this post is about. I say all this to shed a little bit more light on our situation as widows, specifically young widowed mothers. We deal with on a daily basis not knowing if we are going to break down into tears in the middle of the grocery store, we deal with going from having someone to share the workload with to doing it all for ourselves, we deal with grieving children who just wish they could hold daddy/mommy one more time & trying not to break down with them every time they get upset, we deal with having to be the good guy AND the bad guy with discipline when we were so used to sharing that role, we deal with suddenly having to be both bread winner and home maker (which being a stay at home mom until my kids were older was a big dream of mine that I had to let go of…. another loss I suffered) but probably the biggest thing of all is we deal with no longer having your biggest supporter there when you need to lean on them or to curl up with them when you’ve had a bad day. And the realization of these things only makes you more upset in those hard moments.
I thank God all the time for my friends and family who are there for me and offer a helping hand whenever I need. I truly don’t know how I would have gotten through all these months without their help. I am especially thankful to my widow friends who I get to share in this journey with. Y’all are amazing!! And of course I thank God for being there me anytime I need Him, He is the biggest supporter of all.
I’m putting a page break here because this is not the end, but I’m going to switch directions on you. All of the above is about the grief I have gone through with this journey, but y’all, there be been some great things to come out of it!!!
Because of my gradual grief journey over the years, even though I’m only 4 1/2 months out, I feel way more happiness and excitement than I thought I would these days! I get to experience early, a hope that there are better earthly (as well as Heavenly) days ahead! I hope to one day, when God’s timing is revealed to find (what we call in my young widows support groups) a Chapter 2 in love. Maybe more children are in my future (oh how the Lord knows this is a great desire of my heart!)… but I can’t promise a baseball or basketball team mom & dad (haha)! I have seen many people go through depression who don’t want to go out and enjoy life with friends… this is not my case at all! In fact, I would much rather be out (or in) hanging with friends than at home alone! I have seen God do great things through my testimony as well as through Jeff’s!!! So when someone asks me how I am able to be handling all this so well… I won’t give them this whole blog schpeel (that’s just for you lucky ones), I will keep telling them: “I’ve been going through this journey for some time now, God is good & faithful to be with me in all my circumstances, and I do still struggle, even though it may not always show, so I will always take a hug, a call or some hang time!” Just remember friends, each grief looks different, acts different, sounds different, but we all need love.