“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”- Isaiah 41:10
I remember riding home from the funeral and staring out the window. I saw people mowing their yards, walking, talking with others, and laughing. How dare they! There I sat so raw and empty inside, eyes swollen from crying non-stop for days, and my heart heavily burdened with sadness. How could life keep moving while I was stuck in this vacuum of grief, anguish, distress, and sorrow? There would be years of experiencing immense pain with the sudden loss of my husband, but with time to process and the support of God, family, and friends, it became manageable. I would like to share a few choices I made early in my grief journey which transitioned me from mourning to finding purpose and joy in my life.
My personality dictated my process for grieving. I demanded immediate answers to the questions swirling in my mind. I wanted to equip myself and “handle” my grief. Part of this drive for knowledge led me to a grief support group at my church. The group met weekly and I attended just two weeks after my husband died. The first month I would go sit with the group, and listen to the lesson-crying the entire time. Each week the facilitator would ask, “Kelsey would you like to share anything?” I would shake my head no. For me, just attending a group with other people who lost a loved one was comforting, and I gradually found the courage to start opening up about my own grief story. I continued with the group for over a year. It was invaluable in my journey, and I eventually became a volunteer and facilitator for the same group. The first lesson learned: Grief takes time. Grief progresses naturally whether I wanted to “hurry it along” or conduct it by my rules.
I also joined an online chat group for those who had lost a spouse. I could relate to their stories and what they were experiencing. I chatted with a widower in another state who had lost his wife the same week I lost my husband. We were both in the same stages of mourning, and it was a relief to know I was not alone in my thoughts and emotions. I was able to conquer the fear of not being alone in this walk. Others have gone before me and many will follow. The second lesson learned: I was not alone. I may feel lonely, but even God has walked through grief.
Another important part of my journey early on was finding time for me. Being a single parent to three small children was overwhelming. But, I realized in order to function as a parent; I had to take timeouts in order to prevent having a meltdown. It could be something as simple as taking a walk without the kids, going to lunch with a friend, praying late at night, or crying while driving home from work. I would make a note to myself this was ME time and it was necessary and deserved. The third lesson learned: Take care of me. I had to focus on my physical, emotional and spiritual pieces in order to support, love, and raise my children.
I look around now and wonder is there someone out there who feels like I did on the first days so long ago? If you feel this way, please know you are not alone. Give yourself permission to grieve. I pray for God to uphold you as He did me, in His righteous hand, and to guide and protect you as you mourn and live through the first days.