I grew up in a Christian family, going to church on Sunday mornings, sometimes Sunday nights and attended youth group on Wednesday’s then as we started our family our children were dedicated and we attended church regularly. I continued to grow closer to God though I still wouldn’t say I felt his presence in my life regularly or had a deep relationship with him. Then our world came crashing down in 2009 when Mike was diagnosed with cancer for the 3rd time and we learned that the Melanoma had spread to his brain. That was the day that my faith went from something “out there” to something I relied upon and sought refuge within during the dark days and celebrated with during the bright days. I cannot explain what changed though what I do know is that God was present in our lives and he was with us throughout each treatment, test and result.
Throughout Mike’s 27 month battle with cancer I prayed contiously for God to heal Mike, and as he got sicker in those last few months I prayed God would work a miracle in our lives so my children could have their father as they grew up. I know we had all of our family and friends praying for this same miracle. Though God didn’t answer this prayer in the way we all wanted and Mike died September 7, 2011. God didn’t answer my prayers though my faith was not shaken; in all honesty it was strengthened and I fell into God’s loving arms and reassurance each day when the tears wouldn’t stop falling or when I wasn’t sure if I could go another step. I know this might not be true for you; you may have prayed for a miraculous healing, prayed your spouse wouldn’t die and like me God didn’t answer your prayers which caused you to fall away from God and lose your trust within your faith. I am praying that God continues to work in your life and you will draw closer to him in the coming year and feel the encouragement and strength.
God didn’t perform a miracle for my family at that moment though he has worked miracles in our lives before and many after. It was a miracle that Mike lived 27 months when many others will a similar diagnosis were gone within 6 months. I know that God made our path straighter for us throughout Mike’s treatment especially when it came to our finances. We both worked for some amazing companies that supported us emotionally and financially throughout treatment and me following Mike’s death. This was a miracle because I have seen people struggle through treatment financially. I also know that when Mike died God wasn’t even close to done with me yet so he gave me the courage, resilience and strength to lean into life, mentor widows and to find love again. This is a beautiful answer to my prayer even it if wasn’t the miracle I was praying for. Many times the miracle we are seeking is not the one we need. I am grateful to have the beautiful life that was born out of my loss; an amazing husband that loves me and I almost cannot put into words the depth of love I have for him, 3 additional children who test my resolve some days though my life would be dull without them and a life I am proud to call my own each day. I stood in church today and could raise my hands in praise because I have a God that sees my whole life and story even when I cannot and always answers my prayers in his own time and way.
What miracle are you praying for? How have you seen God move in your life even if it wasn’t the miracle you prayed for? I look forward to hearing from you and if I can pray for you during this time please connect with me.
True gratitude takes place when we can love the life we have been given even when it isn’t the life that we had planned.
My first Thanksgiving of widowhood was extremely hard. I had 3 little kids excited about Christmas and family time and I had just “celebrated” my 11th wedding anniversary alone. I clearly remember sitting around my grandmothers table and thinking of our first Thanksgiving without my grandpa. She was a poised and resilient widow and I knew if she did it all those years before me then I could too. She’s been gone for 2 years now and I wish I would have told her how much her strength in her widow journey meant to me. She taught me how to be a beautifully resilient and to gratefully grieve long before I realized I needed to know it all.
My level of gratitude has grown over the years though it didn’t come without tears and mindfulness. The experiences throughout the years have been hard though each time I face what seems insurmountable I stop, listen to my heart because I know God is right there meeting me where I am at and giving me the strength and guidance to find my way through it. These moments and experiences have helped me to believe this is the life I was meant to live and I am grateful I was chosen to be given the gift no one wants.
We get to choose each moment, each day if we let our circumstances dictate our response or if we respond to our circumstances in gratefulness.
Will you choose to grieve gratefully?
It started last week the soft ache that begins deep in my soul. It’s so faint I almost don’t notice it except during the quiet still moments. My heart know all these years later even before my brain does. This was the last week, these were the last days. Over the days the ache grows into the peak today; with a deep soul wrenching pain that only be honored and sat with. This pain cannot be moved on from and when tried it only deepens and threatens the future. Over the years I have learned for myself that I must honor the ache that began days ago to be able to live and love fully the other days of the year. I take this day for self care and I do whatever my heart and soul needs to honor what was and what was lost along with being thankful for what is present and what was born out of what was lost. I think of Mike everyday in some way – some days more than others though at this point I smile when I think of him and rarely are there tears with these memories. I am blessed with a beautiful life and I am grateful for everything that God has given me. Today even though there is gratefulness and happiness in my soul I honor the pain and ache that also resides there as I remember Mike.
I bring up this duality of loss to show that if you are grieving the loss of a loved one it is possible to find happiness in your life and honor those you love and lost. Also the range of emotions you have are completely okay. Don’t ever be ashamed to show your pain or your joy. If you support a widow in your life use this as a reminder that the pain and grief never goes away. It ebbs and flows over the days, weeks and years. Even as we learn to lean back into life we carry our loss with us and believe me we never forget. We are strong because God gives us that strength and honestly I wasn’t given the choice in the beginning to be anything but strong. Now I choose to show strength and resilience most days because I am raising amazing children who I want to remember their dad and live fully the life they have before them.
As I honor an amazing man today and allow the ache in my soul to be present I encourage you to love those in your life a little more. Bless a widow in your life with your presence.
Turning your grief into gratitude is not something that happens overnight. It takes mindfulness to find the gratitude in the grieving.
Those first few weeks were an experience I would not like to relive anytime time soon. My days consisted of getting up, getting the kids ready for school/daycare, dropping them off and then going back to bed till about Noon. I was off work and had no focus or direction other than the kids. When the kids were home, my world revolved around them, and I honestly have no idea what we really did each day… though likely it was extremely boring.
I was given as much time as I needed for bereavement leave (which was a blessing on its own) though after about 3 weeks, I was starting to go a little stir crazy at home. I realized that I needed to find my focus again. But how? Going back to work was a start. This is also when I started a gratitude journal. The 1st page in the journal was so simple and basic though at the time, these were BIG things in my life.
I was grateful that I got up and got my kids to school/daycare on time that day. The dog was well behaved and everyone went to bed nicely.
Those are the things that I was grateful for on that very day in late September 2011. Finding gratitude for the small and simple things is necessary in beginning of loss and they are still necessary now. There are still days like yesterday when I made 5 round-trips about 3 hours from my home to various kid’s events in town. On days like this, I am still exceptionally grateful for the little things including that everyone got dinner at a reasonable time.
As I moved through my journal in review for this piece I could see how my evolution of gratitude changed greatly over the months following Mike’s death. I started to notice I was grateful for larger and larger things in my life. I even found my entry from December 4th which was the 2nd/3rd date with the man who is now my second husband.
My #1 thing that I was grateful for on that day was to have spent time with a man who wanted to know me, know my story, know my hopes and dreams and allowed me to be the woman I was and was becoming with him.
I was also grateful that my kids went to bed without a fuss that night too though as you can see my gratitude evolved as I grew into the woman I was meant to become following my loss. Now my journal still consists of the simple things though it also focuses on the amazing beautiful things that I have been blessed with in this life including my MWC sisters. I would not have met the amazing women I host in my home each month had it not been for my loss. It was not something I could see then, though now I can see how I treasure those friendships, relationships and the deep understand more than ever now.
Harnessing my energy to focus on those seemingly small things made it easier for me to put energy into the big things in life. When we start to focus our energy on what we have and what we are grateful for it is much harder to put energy and mindfulness into the things we don’t have or what we are missing at that time. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t miss Mike or that I didn’t long for him to be back in our lives though I knew in my soul that he was gone and that my life had to move forward; becoming as beautiful and wonderful as it should be.
Grief and gratitude is like a river, ever flowing and ever changing. I encourage you as we move through this holiday season, to face your life and the world around you with a grateful heart. It truly will change your life if you allow yourself to find gratitude in the small and big.
I sat around a table full of women in February and on my way home I recalled a time when I sat in my home office in the week after Mike had passed; all of the family and friends had gone home it was just me and the kids. I recalled the feeling of intense loneliness; I felt as if I was the only 33 year old widow in the world and I was so alone. The tears almost overwhelm me now thinking about those feelings and how alone I felt during that time. I was not alone really, I had tons of friends, family and people who were circling around to help and support us; though none of them could really understand what young widowhood looked like. I am grateful for a friend who reached out to a widow they knew who then had that widow reach out to me – we live hundreds of miles away from each other but she was the beginning of the expansion of my tribe.
Over that first year my tribe began to slowly grow by connecting with other widows on-line which now seems obvious though in 2011 it wasn’t the 1st place to look for support. In my searching for other widows I found Modern Widows Club and Carolyn Moor. She is my friend and mentor and has helped me personally reach some of my goals which included starting my own MWC Chapter in Waconia; I am watching my tribe grow and grow each month. This is the tribe of women that sit around my dining room table each month; we connect, grow, love and support each other. They remind me that I need them as much now as I did all those years ago sitting in my home office. Yesterday as I sat around that table with those beautiful women it reminded me why I keep reaching out to widows within our community and reaching out to organizations that can help support widows.
My tribe now consists of widows and non-widows who support and love widows; my life is fuller because of each of them. Expanding and growing your tribe is one of the first steps in leaning into life in widowhood.
The list goes on and on of how women use the word widow all over the place to explain how their spouse is off doing something they enjoy and they are left behind for…”gasp”…a few days.
Please don’t confuse your “widowhood” that includes shopping, sales and spas with my real life widowhood!”
I am no saint for sure and I likely used the word nonchalantly prior to being a real Widow. I realized though real life loss that I would take Mike back in a heartbeat even if it meant I didn’t see him much on the weekends in the fall and spring as I was a “Farm Widow”.
I pray for the women that sound like they are complaining about their “widow” status that they never experience real widowhood.
If you are reading this you know at least 1 Widow in your life – ME. If you have ever used this word and you are not truly a widow please consider how it might make the Widow in your life feel; when you try to compare your weekend without your spouse to her lifetime without her spouse.
Ponder that for a while and while many here in Minnesota get closer to what is referred to “hunting widows weekend” think about what you could do for a Widow that you know and how you could possibly make her full-time Widow status easier. On a side note that just because your friend is dating/remarried or has been widowed for many years doesn’t mean she “Revokes her Widow Card“.
Here are a few ideas from my friend and mentor Carolyn Moor, Founder of Modern Widows Club.
- Donate to Modern Widows Club – We serve to empower widows to lean into life, build resilience and make a positive difference in society. We do so on-line and within 15 cities hosting social hours each month.
- Offer to babysit her kids so she can run errands in peace, get a massage or grab a coffee uninterrupted.
- Bring her a meal
- If you’re a handyman offer to fix that broken door handle, tune up her snow blower, put away her patio furniture – the list here could go on and on….
- My personal favorite is offer to spend Friday or Saturday night with her! Bring a bottle of wine, a great movie, snacks and enjoy her company.
Widows are the busiest and loneliest women that I know.