Piece 14

As a widow, I’ve found that I now hold this spiritual profundity tied with an increased sensitivity and feeling of empathy toward others. It doesn’t leave you. It stays no matter how long it’s been since you’ve lost your spouse or how you’ve moved forward in your life.

Tonight I laid in bed staring at my ceiling fan and this thought popped into my mind, “You had a husband and he is now dead.” It was a peculiar thought and it made me feel distanced from myself as if I were an apathetic observer just stating the facts rather than the one who endured my experience of Christopher’s loss. It evoked a feeling of surrealism and brought back memories of a once healthy, lively Christopher swimming in the river and making me a nervous wreck as he dove so closely to the rapids. “Whoa.” It is true, Christopher was alive and now he is dead. He is now “was”, not “is”. And I love him so much, even now, even as he is a “was”. I believe that’s why the thought that came to my mind seemed so strange. “Dead” implies that they are no more, they are gone, and it is absolute. Christopher has been absent, but not erased in DEATH, as far as I’m concerned. It’s incredible how in our humanity, we have this ability to connect deeper than the flesh alone and transcend the simple act of living and dying, connecting to a greater, infinite existence. Naturally, in losing someone, I believe we feel this transcendence deeper. Call it a coping mechanism, but I think it’s something more than what we can create in our own minds. It’s bigger than our minds and it’s easier to feel it than to verbalize an understanding of it. Holding this feeling makes me hopeful and less afraid of death, but I also realize the delicate nature of this fleshy life. Now I truly understand how the nature of living is far more than the fleshy parts. It’s not just the memory of Christopher that I love now, it’s still wholly Christopher because our souls transcend the “is” and the “was”. I feel this in everyone who loses a loved one, their continued connection even though their loved one is now physically absent. It’s sorrowful, but simultaneously beautiful.

So yes, I had a husband and now he is dead. However, it’s only his flesh that is now dead. Christopher is still very much alive and I feel it.

I thank Christ for such a gift.

“The Lamentation”

Depicting the body of Christ and the grieving of those who love Him prior to His resurrection.

Piece 13

“I don’t want to be the reason you have a miserable life. I want you to find someone else when I’m gone.”

I responded to those words in anger and pain, heart throbbing at the thought of “betraying” Christopher and at the thought of him being OK with me doing so. Letting me go– as far as I was concerned at the time.

When Christopher was nearing the end of his life, he kept holding on, longer than expected, even though his body was ready for him to go. One evening, a few days before Christopher passed, my priest came to visit us and we chatted at Christopher’s bedside as he slept. I don’t remember how, but we reached the topic of marriage and my intention to live a celibate life, allowing no opportunity to love another person, as I wholeheartedly believed that I had to honor my marriage to C that way. I thought that, as a widow-to-be, it was my duty to drift away on a raft out into a tumultuous sea, adorned in all black, prepared to wait alone until it was my time to die and see C again as his wife. So dramatic, and oh so naive…

“You are right, you will be married to Christopher for eternity. You will share a love with him in eternal life, but you will also share that love with everyone else because we are actually all married to God in love.”

“So, my love shared with Christopher will be different?”

I was beginning to understand that the romantic love I shared with C on earth would live on as a memory, but the love we shared with God would be what truly lives on for eternity and that love is shared with everyone else too. My priest had reassured me that I would not be dishonoring God or Christopher if I were to romantically love another person on earth and I began to reluctantly accept it, still not convinced I would love someone else as I love Christopher.

After my priest left, I went over to Christopher and talked to him for a little bit even though he was no longer able to speak at that point. I explained my revelation with the guidance of my priest, and I told him that I was ready to accept his wish for me to fall in love with another soul on earth after he was gone. It still didn’t make much sense to me, but at least the option was there and I figured that if it was meant to be, it would happen and only then make sense.

“I know you want me to live a full life, so I will allow someone else into my life ONLY if it is being thrown at my face. I will not go searching for anyone, OK? I don’t want to do that. So, if you want me to love again, you and God better help me by making it super freaking obvious.”

I could tell by Christopher’s facial expression that he understood what I said and felt relieved by it. He needed to hear that from me. He kept holding on until I reassured him that I would be OK and would not be alone and miserable forever if I was meant to fall in love with another being on earth. Shortly thereafter, he began to decline further, and a few days later, he passed.


Now, 13 months later, I am wholly in love with another person. T and I met when I had decided to take self-defense classes as a preparation for years of being alone. It was a way for me to work through my grief, punch some stuff, and learn how to defend myself. Three months after I started taking classes, it was brought to our attention that we were falling for each other. I knew I was developing feelings for him, but I buried them deeply in fear that perhaps I was just being too vulnerable and missing the physical connection I once shared with my husband. T was also fighting his feelings knowing I am a widow and trying to protect my emotional state. It wasn’t until other people told us what they observed developing that we began to realize what we were developing was, in fact, honest and real and we should give it a fair chance. It was four months after Christopher’s passing though– I did NOT expect to meet the person I was meant to love next so soon. Therefore, I subsequently spent countless hours researching (as I do) on Google what I should be doing in regards to dating as a widow.

‘Is dating four months after losing a spouse too soon?’

‘Am I a terrible person for falling in love with another person so soon after losing my spouse?’

‘Dating as a widow’

‘Expected time for a widow to wait before loving again’

‘Should I be wearing all black for at least a year after losing a spouse?’

COUNTLESS HOURS were spent with “Dr. Google” searching for some kind of answers regarding my feelings and the expectations of society at large. I ended up finding a widow who started a YouTube channel to share her experiences, much like I began my blog. She began dating four months after losing her spouse to cancer and ended up remarrying a little over a year after. She was brave enough to share her story and I am forever grateful because it helped me realize what was best for me.

Here’s the thing too, like I told Christopher before he passed, and like I prayed to God, I was not going to seek love. It would have to be thrown in my face and boy was it ever. I just didn’t realize it would happen so soon. So soon. Sooooo soon. But whose “so soon” is that? Do I own that? Or was that something that society had engraved on me? What I began to realize is that while I was struggling and searching for answers to whether or not I was some terrible person on the trusty interweb (*cough*), I was seeking outwardly. I was asking society to decide whether or not I was being a “bad widow” and I was, by extension, asking society to let me know how I should feel about myself. I didn’t ask myself what I felt about myself. I didn’t ask myself how I felt about falling for T four months after losing Chris. If I had asked myself that first, I would have saved so much time and anxiety because I knew in my heart that this was meant to be. I knew that everything was falling in to place as was intended and I had to let go of the “so soon” that I actually didn’t own for myself.

When T and I officially made it known to everyone that we began dating, it was certainly not met with full acceptance. My family was as accepting as they could be, I mean, they lost Chris too so I can imagine it must be hard for your family to watch you love again. But they too were engraved by society and I will never blame them for that. While I had come to the realization that I was happy and fulfilled in T’s and my decision to love each other, it didn’t erase the “so soon” from everyone else. The words “rebound”, “emotional”, “unstable”, and “so soon” were certainly used. I’ve even heard “that guy” regarding T from an acquaintance. It was really hard at first and it took some getting used to. Being a widow/widower is hard enough and then you have to essentially stand on a stage and justify your romantic decisions to an audience full of questions when the time comes.

I won’t lie, I had the same thoughts regarding other widows prior to my experience as a widow. It’s a really nice high, white horse to be sitting on until you experience widowhood. I now regret my thoughts and completely understand that the widow/widower owns their own romantic choices after losing their spouse. You don’t own it. That is between them, their deceased spouse, God, and their next love. But with the way people treat the romantic lives of widow/widowers, it feels like it’s between you, your deceased spouse, God, your next love, your family, your friends, your acquaintances, your next love’s friends, family, and acquaintances, the clerk at the grocery store you told your story to, and pretty much everyone else.

I do understand that all of it comes from a place of concern, a place of love, and “I care for you”, but in the end, you need to trust the widow/widower and their next love with their own hearts.

So, if you know a widow/widower and they are beginning to date, or they entered into a relationship “so soon”, be supportive and loving and stop throwing terms at them like “rebound” and “unstable”, because, in the end, their heart is theirs and God’s. Your job as their family member, friend, or acquaintance is to be empathetic and accepting. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. It takes only a little trust and observation. Are they joyful? Are they telling you they are fulfilled and feeling well? Why wouldn’t you want that for them? They own their grief and it’s theirs to move through, even if it means they love another while they do it.

I now sit, 13 months later, in my own home shared with T, dogs at my feet, Christopher’s pictures placed lovingly on the piano, writing this blog post with a full heart, bigger than it was before. Our hearts stretch when we fall in love again, not superimposing the love on the first, but making more room just as a mother does as she prepares for the coming of a second child. My family now loves T too. God provided everything that was necessary for life to settle into this wonderful place.

T is truly a blessing from God and the intercessions of my Christopher. I wholeheartedly believe that. He is compassionate, loving, empathetic, and so willing to share my heart with C. I don’t have to hide from my widowhood in my relationship with T. I can live with it and through it and love my C quadrant and my T quadrant of my heart equally. God has been so gracious and forgiving to me. I am so thankful. I am so full of love.

I hope this helps other widow/widowers out there who may be searching frantically on Google, ‘Falling in love so soon after losing a spouse. Am I a terrible person?’, by discovering my blog and realizing that “so soon” doesn’t really exist if we don’t own it for ourselves. Just love.

Love.

Piece 12

Today I sit in silence, drinking a cup of coffee, allowing my heart to feel heavy over news of the loss of a friend. 

This friend was a lovely, kind woman and she has a loving husband and two beautiful, sweet girls. She was always so kind to me and Christopher and she never appeared to be anything but joyous. 

Christ healed her today and she was brought into eternal life. 

I cried heavily when it was confirmed that she had passed. While I was not very close with her, she was still a sister in Christ and she shared in the suffering that my husband endured before he was called to eternal life. I’m also heartbroken for her husband as he now shares in my suffering of such a loss. It hurts me so much to know he must feel the pain now too. 

I was reflecting earlier and realized how much my heart has changed since I’ve endured the loss of my Christopher. While I was an empathetic person before, I believe sharing in sufferings opens a door to a whole new level of empathy and compassion. This thought has become another answer to my ‘why?’ prayers to God when I was beginning my journey through grief. 

“Why did this have to happen? Why to me? Why to Chris? Why did you choose us?”

In this process, I’ve learned that God doesn’t always heal through medicine and miracles, but death itself thanks to the resurrection of Christ, can serve as a way of healing too. I have learned that there must be a higher and a lower present in order for us to know gratitude for the higher, and sometimes, we are chosen to serve as the lower. And now, I have learned that God may choose us to endure certain sufferings so that we may serve as direct support to others who may need advice and complete understanding. 
I am in a place where I have rationalized my loss and accepted our fate. I have moved forward, worked through my grief, and have come out the other side of the tunnel ready to be present for others who are at the beginning of the tunnel. I will love my husband for all eternity and I will miss him every day for the rest of my life, and now I am able to know that and confidently hold on to that as I continue on and make plans for and thrive in this earthly life. Therefore, I can stand here now with an open heart for others to observe and be able to function as a pillar of strength for those who may need it. The beginning of the tunnel is very dark. It is dark, cold, and the air is so heavy that it weighs down on one’s chest, making it difficult to breath. But, it’s a tunnel, not a hole (so long as we don’t allow it to become a hole) and now that I have made it to the other side, I can shine a light back down its path as a beacon of hope for others. 

I believe Christopher and I are a different kind of team now. We can work together, one on this side and one on the other, for the sake of other beings who are enduring the same suffering. I pray we can be of great service to those in need and fulfill our calling to honor God. 

Happy birthday, sister. As I was relieved for my husband, I am relieved for you too. Please join Christopher in prayers for us as we continue our paths here. 

Piece 11

I believe I am at the phase in my widowhood where I am growing comfortable with taking more and more concrete steps to move forward in my life. I’m proud of myself for doing so, because I could very easily be in bed still, wallowing in my depression. I’m gaining a little confidence again, I’m taking chances again, and I’m accepting my grief. One would think that accepting grief would be to hide in a cave and allow it to just happen to you for months or years, but it’s actually quite the opposite. To accept and allow one’s grief, we must be in a place of control. It’s a spiritual place, a place of grounding. 

How did I get to this point? I’m going to share with you how I am taking control of my grief and taking my steps forward in life. 

1. Cry. As I’ve said before, I absolutely hate to cry. Or perhaps I should say “hated”, because while I still don’t particularly like it, I have grown to accept its importance in the processes of healing. I once read that the body needs to let out tears in order to reduce stress and cope with trauma. I have observed that to be very true as I have been on this journey after such traumatic loss. It’s so important to let yourself cry, and not only that, but let yourself cry in front of anyone and anything. That means you need not hide in a room, but keep moving, and allow “the feels” to come when they come. That may sound counterintuitive given that I was just stating how, to accept grief, we must be in control, but it is in our allowance of “the feels” that we actually have that control. At that point, we need to allow our chemistry to do what is necessary for emotional healing. I’ve cried in grocery stores, in the car (A LOT), at restaurants, while chatting with friends, and while bowling. It’s natural and necessary, and trust me, people don’t mind as much as you think they do. Most people, especially the ones who know your story, will be quite accepting of your random “feels”. So, cry. You need it, really. 

2. Exercise. I know this isn’t anything new. Most of us are told to exercise no matter what problem we face. But it is very beneficial nonetheless, and it’s a great way to build confidence again. You can start off slow. For instance, I began exercising by walking my dogs three times a day, then I started going to the gym with my sister for short trips, then I signed up for martial arts classes and that’s my main source of exercise now. I do highly recommend eventually signing up for some sort of exercise program. My reason for recommending group exercise classes is the fact that you get to meet supportive people who can help you learn and get your mind off wallowing for a bit, and you can have a set schedule for when you need to exercise. It’s a lot easier to put off going to the gym when your only drive is yourself. Connecting with others and following a schedule will get you motivated. For me, martial arts is the perfect fit for my needs. I needed a lot more confidence and a way to battle my fears of being without Chris. Learning how to protect myself by doing Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Jiu-Jitsu​ has made a huge difference. Not to mention, the people I train with are incredible and very supportive. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. 

3. Write. I do a lot of this (obviously). You don’t need to start a blog or make your words public in any way. That’s what I’ve chosen to do, but it can be just as beneficial to write in a private diary. For me, it’s my blog, and it’s a journal I use to write private letters to Chris. I find time to visit Chris’ grave and I read my letters to him. It’s very cathartic and I like to think he can hear me and be with me when I read to him. No matter how you do it, writing is an incredible outlet. I am actually very happy I started my blog. While it makes me quite vulnerable, it helps me cope with how I feel and gives me some joy knowing my words may reach someone who really needs to read them, just as I have searched for and read the words of other widows. When you feel it, write it. 

4. Pray. This is a very important one for me. If you don’t believe in God, my suggestion would be meditation. For me, prayer has served to be the most important part in my grief journey. I won’t say much more than that because it isn’t necessary. Prayer or meditation to you is what it is to you. I’m so thankful to God that I can openly communicate with Him through my spirit. It’s grounding and calming. The same can go for communicating  with your loved one too. I like to talk with Chris. It keeps him alive within me. 

5. Pamper. I take a lot of hot showers and give myself spa treatments. I also use essential oils for aromatherapy​ or supplementation. Making your body feel good is also a way to make your spirit feel good. 

6. Shop. Okay, within reason, but I have found that a little retail therapy can actually do some great emotional healing. That must be why they call it “retail therapy”…

7. Drink. If you don’t drink, indulge in extra dessert here and there. Heck, if you do drink, do both. A little healthy indulgence in a safe environment is never a bad thing. I’m sure our loved ones rather enjoy watching us get silly every once in a while. Ignore the irrational guilt. That may come as you allow yourself to let loose, but it’s important to remember that the person you lost loved you very much and would never want you to deny yourself happiness out of guilt. 

8. Create. I have found painting to be an enjoyable outlet. Drawing, painting, photography, story writing, pottery, etc. are all good things to take up when working through grief. Creativity allows for release and alternative expression. So, find something creative that you can enjoy. You can even combine this with #7 and let all sorts of magic happen. Own something uniquely you. 

9. Therapy. Don’t be ashamed. I’m actually a big time advocate of mental health care. I think it is a vital field and we should stop allowing there to be stigma attached to it. I have a referral to see a psychologist and I will soon make my appointment. People who have studied your needs professionally can be such a big help and a gateway to resources you didn’t even know you needed. I will most likely be sharing what I learn from my psychologist in future posts. 

10. Love. This is last, but certainly one of the most important things I have been practicing. As I said in my last post, someone wise once told me that true freedom comes to us by serving the other. By serving others, we serve God, we serve our loved one, and we serve ourself. It’s a magical thing. It’s a healing thing. No matter how you choose to do it, and I’ll leave that up to you, find opportunities everyday to spread love. 

I have a long road ahead of me. Grieving the loss of a spouse is not a fleeting journey. It’s, perhaps, a lifelong one. Therefore, it’s very important to find healthy outlets, things that work best in aiding your practice of personal control of your grief. 

Stay strong. You are strong. (I say to myself and I say to you.)

Piece 10

It has taken me some time to write again because I’ve had to do some reflecting. I want to preface this piece by reminding the reader that everyone grieves differently and when I write on the topic of grief, it is my journey through grief I am referencing. My hope is that I may help others understand their grief better as I continue to learn through my own. 

I have discovered that there is a healthy way to grieve and then a not so healthy way to grieve. While we all grieve differently, there is still that one commonality. The presence of good and bad energy and our choice of which we will allow into our grieving process. Picture that angel and devil sitting on your shoulders that you often see depicted in cartoon shows. Our angel leads us to grieve with humility, rationally, and our devil leads us to grieve in an irrational, egotistical manner. We need to be very careful how we choose the energy behind our grief. It is easy to fall into misguided judgement due to a disconnect with our own spirituality and by that, allowing the devil to whisper louder in our ear. 

I do need to forgive myself for being human in the sense that I sometimes lose touch with my spirituality. Isn’t that interesting about us humans? We can get so caught up in our flesh that we lose sight of truth so easily and quickly. The bright side to that is the patience God shows for us and we can always go back to connecting our spirit with our body. Our entire being is like an instrument that needs tuning. Not one way of tuning is better than others. The way I tune my instrument is through my faith in Christ. Thusly, I have needed to pray often and remind myself of our true purpose here by listening closely to God’s word and trying to practice wholly in my faith. It’s not easy to do, though. That devil sits patiently on my shoulders, awaiting a moment of weakness and sometimes it is difficult to fight him. 

What is this weakness? We live in a world where human beings prefer to molly coddle themselves and others through justification of feelings and actions that really aren’t the healthiest. We think, “Well, we aren’t perfect, so it must be OK to think this way or act this way.” I struggle trying to explain this because I want to do it tactfully, but it can be challenging because there is a fine line between proper justification and improper justification. I mean, have you been keeping up with politics these days? The struggle exists because of that fact.  So, I will share an example. This is an issue I’ve had with attitude in my grief. I’ve felt angry and annoyed often because I, perhaps, feel an injustice toward the relationship I shared with my husband if I observe other couples taking each other for granted or being upset with each other for what I feel are ridiculous reasons. I’ve noticed that my ego gets the best of me and I judge those people harshly, thinking it’s somehow my right now to stand in-between them and wag my finger saying, “Oh, you haven’t gone through what I have, so you can’t possibly understand the sacrifice my husband and I made and just how lucky you are right now to even be fighting with your spouse.” Doesn’t that sound obnoxious?! I’ve had to really reflect on this one because while it’s obviously not right to do, people are so quick to justify my stupidity with the excuse that I’m just dealing with my grief this way. No, I’m not. I’m just being grumpy and prideful. So there’s that devil sitting on my shoulder saying, “You’ve been through so much and these people can never understand, so you need to make it known that you’re somehow superior.” After some prayers and reflection, I’m learning what my angel would be telling me. Of course these couples can’t understand what I’ve been through because of the simple fact that they didn’t go through what Chris and I went through, but it doesn’t make me superior in any way. What purpose does being an obnoxious brat serve in my grief? There is no growth in that. I once wrote about how my friend shared an incredibly insightful C.S. Lewis quote with me; “The higher does not stand without the lower.” By letting my pride get to me, I am forgetting the true purpose of serving as the lower in this case. My experience alone won’t help the higher stand, it is humility, compassion, and understanding that will help others. Did Chris and I not fight over petty things when he was alive? Oh yes we did! So, as I remind myself to choose positive energy in my grief, I am more capable of showing compassion and understanding toward the people in my life who may need my input. Therefore, I have learned to not allow people, even though I know they mean well, to molly coddle me by justifying my negative actions, chalking it up to my grief. Yes, it’s my grief, but it isn’t healthy grief. Like I said, there’s no growth in that. 

Another thing I have struggled with is the feeling of guilt or fear of judgement if I do anything that could make me joyful, confident, or if I need to hide out and be alone for a while. The thing about that is it’s a very egotistical, disconnected way to think. Nobody else shares in my grief because it’s my grief, so I have learned to be a little more accepting with myself and let go of my fears of what others may be thinking. There isn’t a timeline that everyone must live by in this process. If you feel like you need to lay in bed all day and you have the opportunity to do so, then there is nothing wrong with showing yourself patience and giving in to that need. It’s also very important to know that not being consistently sad is OK too. In fact, it’s healthier. If you need to go out to a bar, drink, dance, and forget about your sorrows, then there should be nothing wrong with that either as long as you stay safe. It doesn’t mean I miss Chris less when I seek joy. It doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t ache when I look at photos of Chris, or when I want to roll over in bed and cuddle into his chest though I can’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t cry when I hold his things and know he won’t ever touch them again. Seeking joy and confidence again is growth and it does not lessen the loss of your spouse. In fact, it honors them. Once you realize your guilt is irrational, you can seek the joy your spouse would want for you. Christopher would be so upset with me if I didn’t find any joy in life again. In fact, he would be pissed. Before he passed, he would continually try to drive that into my mind. It was in part for his peace of mind knowing that he wouldn’t be the cause of a darkened life for me and also his pure love for me. So, don’t let your ego or irrationality drive your grief. I truly believe we have a greater purpose here and that my husband, though I miss him terribly, is safe with Christ now and waiting for me. I’ll be with him again. 

Someone wise once told me that freedom is to serve the other. We can seek freedom from unhealthy grief by doing so. Even in our weakest times and greatest heartbreak, we must remember that we share in all of this as the human experience. We should try to not allow ourselves to crawl back into our own being and hide there from the pain, or think ourselves superior in some way given the conflict and pain we’ve faced that many others haven’t. Instead, we need to open up and serve others, use our pain as a driving force, because with all the bad does come wisdom and that is the silver lining. I now strive to live my best life, in honor of my husband, by serving others with the means that I do have, humility, and the wisdom I have gained through this experience. Also, by accepting what cannot be changed and learning to work positively in every aspect of my life. 

Listen to your angel. 

Piece 9

Recently, I purchased a VR headset to go with my new phone. I wanted to experience the excitement of virtual reality that people keep talking about. I have to say, my favorite app is YouTube because people can post 360 degree videos now. You can be anywhere in the world and the only senses that are missing out are touch, taste, and smell. (Hmmm, smellavision, anyone?) 

Last night, I entered the 360 world on YouTube and decided to begin with a dolphin video. I was floating at the bottom of clear, bright blue water and all of a sudden, a pod of dolphins began swimming toward me and then continued to play around me. I began to cry uncontrollably. Imagine me sitting on my bed with a big mask strapped to my face, stretching my arms out to nothing and sobbing like a baby. I’m sure it was quite a sight. I then continued my adventure to a field of elephants and, not surprisingly, began crying again as the elephants stretched their trunks out toward me. It was so incredible, heartwarming, and beautiful.

I think we tend to forget how beautiful the world really is when we are in our isolating, dark caves of grief. At one point recently, I was crying to God to allow me to die too so I could just finish this life already. It seems pointless without Chris most days. I was questioning my purpose now that I have lost him. Really though, what is my purpose now? My purpose was to love and care for my husband. It was to build a life with Chris and serve God through the love and partnership we shared. Now I feel like I have no purpose. I’m just floating on, untethered and unemployed, sad and confused. Experiencing what I did in virtual reality at least reminded me of what this world can bring. The beauty that it really is and the hope that it shares. I obviously still don’t know my new purpose, but I am feeling a little less morbid and pessimistic. I know Chris is with God, safe and sound, and he would want me to live out my days here in the most loving, incredible ways I can. He loved the beauty of this world and found so much joy in exploring it and experiencing what he had the means to. I want him to be proud of me as I move forward and seek joy again. For now, I take it day by day, feeling, smelling, tasting, seeing, hearing, wholly experiencing what I can. Perhaps my new path will present itself when I am finally at peace with this world again. I’m still here. I am present. 

Piece 8

I am lonely. 
That may sound a bit silly to the people who know me. I am surrounded by people all the time. I am currently living with my parents and sisters as I figure out how to get on my two feet again and I have good friends in my church community and in/out of state. Through the eyes of an observer, there should be no way I could be lonely. But I am. Perhaps it is a different kind of lonely though.

Like I mentioned before, Chris and I were dissolved into each other. We blended together in love, thus we were whole in a new way, together. When you lose a spouse, the pieces of you that blended into that person go too and it feels like one must live on broken, missing some pieces, like an amputee in a metaphorical sense. 

I was sitting alone for lunch yesterday at a sushi restaurant. As I sat there and sipped my green tea, I observed my surroundings and realized how out of place I feel in the world now. Before Chris, I was perfectly comfortable to eat at a restaurant or catch a movie alone. Now, it just feels wrong.

I was whole before I met my husband, but I became whole in a completely new way with him and I have now lost those pieces that were dissolved into him as I lost him. 

I miss him so much. I miss his commentary. I miss the gallons of knowledge that would ooze out of him uncontrollably. I miss his touch and being able to reach out across the table to hold his hand. I miss his support and understanding. I miss running home to him, eager to tell him what I was excited about. I miss turning to him in sadness. He was my person. All of that is lost now and I am a bit lost too. 

But like an amputee, one must muster the courage to move forward in a new condition. I must find my figurative prosthetic and learn to walk my life in a different way. It won’t be anything comparable to the completeness I felt with my husband, but I pray I can move forward with strength. 

Of course I am speaking for myself, but I am sure other widow/widowers feel this way too. The type of solitude that one feels from the loss of a spouse is what feels to be of the highest magnitude. I am thankful for the support of the friends and family surrounding me, but the only person I want is the person I can’t have. My other half is missing now and life feels so off balance. I hope I can find balance again. I don’t know if the loneliness in missing a spouse ever really goes away. But, like the stretch of my soul trying to reach Chris who is now a bit further away, perhaps the pain of loneliness will lessen a little with practice as I strengthen the parts of me that are still here. Only with God, though. Only with God. 

Piece 7

“The Lord is more discerning than the sun: He sees the approaching end of those still alive on earth, and sees the beginning of life for those who have entered into rest. For Him who created the earth from nothing, and man’s body from the earth, there is no difference between the earth’s, or his body’s, being a man’s grave. Grain lying in the field or stored in a granary – what difference does this make to the householder, who is thinking in both cases of the grain, and not of the straw or the granary? Whether men are in the body or in the earth – what difference does this make to the Householder of men’s souls?” – St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrrh-Bearing Women,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

God has received my husband in eternal life. He isn’t swayed by sin any longer, he isn’t suffering in his flesh any longer, the perils of this world can no longer touch him. So what life did he not live if he is now experiencing the life eternal of which we all seek? All of this is not to say that the pain and sorrow one feels in the grieving process is not valid. Even Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. 

So, why do we experience grief? 

“Grief itself is something of a mystery, for there doesn’t seem to be any obvious adaptive value to it in an evolutionary sense. It does not appear to increase an individual’s reproductive success. Whatever its value is, grief is the price of commitment, that wellspring of both happiness and sorrow.” -Marc Bekoff, PhD , Grief in animals: It’s arrogant to think we’re the only animals who mourn, Psychology Today

There may not be much evolutionary advantage to grief, but there must be a reason we grieve our loved ones when they leave us even when we know that they are made better in eternal life. I have felt the need to explore this as I navigate my own grief. From a Christian standpoint, I believe that death did not exist before sin. It was after sin that we experienced suffering and death. Only through Christ who, as the ultimate sacrifice for us, conquered death, can we experience eternal life without suffering and sorrow. 

“The Lord Jesus, though, shed all His tears for His children, to the last drop – and all His blood to the last drop. Never, O sinner, will more precious tears be shed for you, neither living nor dead. Never will a mother, or wife, or children, or homeland, pay more for you than Christ the Saviour paid.” – St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrrh-Bearing Women,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

So as I believe that death did not exist before sin, perhaps grief has its place now as a way to ultimately express sorrow over sin itself. Like Jesus, we cry over the fall of humanity. Death was not supposed to be natural to us. It is because of the existence of sin that my husband suffered from cancer and passed away. It is because of sin that we experience pain and sickness and death. However, I should not be sorrowful for my husband or for myself. By God’s love for humanity, in Christ’s resurrection, Chris is now in a place of repose, and I while I miss him and my life with him, his support, and his love, I can’t forget to keep my trust in God and seek His support and love for me as I am left here on this earthly journey, before I am called too. 

While I believe grief is a way creation laments over the existence of sin and death, I also believe it is a strange process of adaptation to the existence of our loved one that is no longer. In our humanity, we develop physical and emotional attachment, and dependence when we are with our spouse. We are creatures of habit and live in a linear world, so we grieve as we are essentially pitying ourselves and the hole that was created in our life when our loved one left us. This is the part I have struggled with greatly. The pain, the searing pain that cuts through me when I am reminded Chris can no longer return to me. What is this, though? The rational part of my being knows that I do not have to fear for Chris anymore. God called him and that in itself is enough for me to accept his passing. But the love we share here is a gift from God too, and that is something we should allow ourselves to grieve when it is lost.

 
My priest wrote me recently and I have read his words over and over.

 “‘I miss the me I was, before I lost you…’ Saw this quote earlier today and it made me think of you and Christopher. It made me think how much it affirms the wholeness of one flesh that two people become when they are truly dissolved  into each other. Some people are not dissolved and fully mixed in. Some folks are thrown together but they don’t mix and it’s easy to pull apart the bits that make them up. When two are truly dissolved into each other, there is no un-dissolving and the loss of one key ingredient makes what’s left unrecognizable as what it was before. That’s how to identify real, enduring, mature, and deeply rooted love. Yes, two folks in a marriage are distinct enough to be able to describe separately but when one is lost, then you take away the context [of the remaining spouse], and their identity is sort of lost. That is a sign of true love that reflects the perfect love of the Holy Trinity. We can speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit individually but there is no context for that identity outside of their perfect union which illuminated their distinctness.”

I see the truth in this. Through God, Chris and I loved and were made whole. We were made one with God and as a human being, in my flesh, I feel the pain of having to adapt to a life without Chris. But just like God allowed for our love and oneness, he also allowed for us to be saved in Christ’s resurrection and that is what I need to focus on. Sin and death may have ripped my husband away from me, but by the grace of God, he was called to Him.

We may be of the flesh, but we also have a mind made in the image and likeness of God, and with that, we can strive to push through our grief in peace knowing that we have eternal life to look forward to, and there, we will reunite with our loved ones. Chris and I will be together again, in a more perfect wholeness, and even more dissolved into each other. 

So why do we grieve? I believe we grieve to show the world our sorrow over sin and death, and to adapt to an earthly life without the presence of our loved one. But knowing of the greater purpose of this life, we can push through as rational beings, as God intended, and strengthen our spiritual bond with God, and by that, our new spiritual bond with our loved one. 

The pain of the stretch lessens as I remember that. 

Piece 6

I feel as though I am wearing many layers in my grief. An infinite amount of layers.

I stand alone and naked, lifeless in my being, trying to tear the layers from my body. 

I grow frustrated as I find the layers are endless. 

I don’t want to feel. Leave me alone.

They grasp harder as I continue my attempts to peel them away.

Their fibers wind deeper into my skin, my soul. 

I pull harder, screaming, clawing at myself, at the layers.

I fall to the ground, winded, and defeated.

I am feeling emotionally exhausted lately. The exhaustion even has an effect on my memory. I have read of “widow/widower’s fog” and I assume that is what I am experiencing. It’s not only a mental exhaustion, but perhaps a spiritual exhaustion too. 
I’m not where I want to be, but I don’t know where I want to go and where I want to be is no longer possible. It is no longer in existence. 

I’m still angry he had to leave me. I may be accepting God’s will, but that doesn’t mean I am not angry about it. I miss our life together. I was not only ripped from the one I love, but ripped from our life too. Our things are hiding in boxes and I miss seeing his mess in his office. His mind worked so quickly that he left a trail of thoughts and work in things all over his space. I miss that. I miss him walking into the room in his Dickies and flannel shirt with a green beanie on his head. He was my mountain man. I miss seeing him in nature, in which he thrived, tying up a hammock or pitching a homemade tent. He brought me back to the natural world which had longed for my presence for many years. 

He loved the river and would take me there to explore and swim. I would watch him, king of the river, dive and float. He would go under and disappear, giving me a near heart attack, and then re-emerge smiling like he knew. 

He was playful. He knew how to get my goat too, but I loved it. He was also very logical and analytical. He didn’t accept nonsense when he was passionate about something. He stood by his research. 

I remember waking up at 4 in the morning and realizing he still wasn’t in bed. I would walk to his office in my haze and see him sitting behind his screen, soaking in whatever knowledge he quested to find that night. He would almost require a white paper for any argument. I needed to do my research before I fought for my case. He made me think more. I feel my opinions, I don’t often think them. He helped me explore subjects on a deeper level, seeking the truth. 

I miss the moments he would take to come up behind me and wrap his arms around me. He would often tell me that I was beautiful. “You’re so beautiful, love.” I would roll my eyes, smile, and give him a kiss. He is the only person who helped me believe I could be beautiful. 

Yesterday, it snowed. I hate snow. I hate the cold and the work required to deal with the snow. Chris loved snow though. He would teach me, enthusiastically, how to outfit myself properly so I didn’t feel the cold. It worked. Perhaps the snow wasn’t so bad when he was with me. I somewhat enjoyed it with him. We could spend days, just he and I, trapped in our apartment as snow fell heavily outside our window. It wasn’t so boring with him and he made the experience joyful. We would play, build forts, hold each other, and cook together. I just laid in bed yesterday, holding on to our snow day memories. 

I hope he enjoyed watching the pups frolicking in the yard. I hope he was with us. I even smiled a bit, giggled a bit, watching them leap and tackle each other in the snow. Blaze likes to eat the snow and then he emerges with a white beard like an old man. And I know Chris would have loved to see Yuki in the snow. He didn’t get the chance to before he passed. He would have thoroughly enjoyed seeing her in her element. She looked so beautiful. 

I carry so many layers and it hurts. 

As I writhe on the ground, they sink in even deeper.

They don’t want to leave.

I fight, but to no avail. 

I slowly begin to accept their presence.

And as they reach for every crevice of my internal being, I grow heavier.

I feel the weight.

But with the weight, I don’t float away.

Piece 5

“Why is she marrying him if he is going to die?”

Those words were muttered on our wedding day. When I learned of that, I must be honest, I was thoroughly offended. How could someone be so superficial and cold? I was upset that was something people were actually thinking about on a day that was supposed to be a celebration of our love and oneness. I let it get to me and began thinking I needed to validate our love to everyone. I felt I had to prove that what we had is real. It was real and has always been real. Chris and I never questioned it, so it surprised me that others did.

I have since had a change of heart regarding my upset over that comment. I realize now that maybe the individual had some insight to the pain I would inevitably feel and the stigma I would have as a young widow. Maybe they knew how difficult our road would be and how heartbreaking it is to watch one’s spouse suffer with such a terrible disease.
What this person may not have considered, however, is that Chris and I were not simply making a choice to love each other wholly, we were fulfilling what God had intended, what we were being called to do.
Love isn’t always the same story. We can hope we live out our days together, have children, grandchildren, and then die in each other’s arms Notebook style, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. I dreamed of that with Chris. I naively hoped he would survive many years and we could live a full life together. I begged God all the time for that outcome. What I didn’t realize, though, was that I was just falling into the ideal we have created for love. I had the idea of love just sitting pretty on a pedestal in my brain surrounded by a white picket fence.
Through Chris, God taught me how to truly love and that experiencing the fullness of love doesn’t have to be over the course of 30 or more years.

It was a quiet night and I was finishing some laundry at the laundromat. I went home and began folding my clothes. It wasn’t long before I heard Chris coming through the back door. He was out of town for a little while and I wasn’t expecting him back so soon. I immediately ran to him and nestled myself in his chest. He hugged me differently that time. He held me a little tighter and longer. He stood up straighter, almost to make himself bigger so he could completely cover me with his hug, protect me.
That night, he told me the doctors found cancer in his lung. We weren’t aware of more information than that, but I spent the night sobbing in his arms. At that point, we had been dating for about 4 months. And at that point, we were already completely in love.
Not long after that night, we sat in an exam room anxiously awaiting results regarding the extent of his cancer. The doctor entered the room and explained to us that Chris had lung cancer that had already metastasized to his bones. He also explained that his mutation was very rare and could not be cured. He was terminal.
My world came crashing down on me. Chris and I were already planning a life together and in the blink of an eye, it was shattered. My body felt like a bag of rocks, much like it does now. Shattered and lost… Chris was more accepting though. He trusted God’s will probably more than any other human being I know. He was accepting of whatever God laid before him. I, however, was a complete emotional mess and I suppose you can say I was a mess for the both of us. I had more difficulty accepting God’s will.
“It’s just not fair!”, I would often yell, and Chris would look at me and say, “there is no such thing as ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’. It just is.”
His faith taught me so much. He was a no nonsense guy and that’s what made him even more special to me. While he was sad to leave me, he knew it was for a greater purpose. One that we maybe don’t understand right now. He just trusted God. He “gave into the call” – Sia- My Love
We knew our life had changed that day upon his diagnosis of terminal cancer. What we didn’t know was that our love will change too, for the better.

“Maybe, I think, love is another dimension because it is reflective. Predicated on really seeing the other. The seeing externalizes the other’s inner self and makes it real. Love makes us more real.” – Rachel Jamison Webster – Widowed – TEDxMuskegon

Our love morphed into something that went much deeper than before his diagnosis. Perhaps we were forced to reach the point in our love that healthy couples eventually reach after 50 years. We took each other as is. We saw the inner light of our hearts rather than our hearts alone. It was complete selflessness and sacrifice that became the foundation of our relationship. We never stopped serving the other. Even on his deathbed, my husband wanted me to sleep in the hospital bed and he on the window bench I had been sleeping on because he wanted me to be more comfortable. The care and love that man showed for me has changed me forever. I thank God so much for our love. I learned what self-sacrifice really is too. I never wanted my husband to be uncomfortable either. I bathed him, wiped him when he went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, trimmed his nails (which I would never do for any other human being), cleaned up his vomit, cleaned up his diarrhea, went to the store the minute he mentioned he had a craving for something specific, and labored in the kitchen until I made something he would want to eat. I kept our life moving as his body slowed down and he kept me humble and grounded as we faced the most difficult time of our existence. We pushed past the superficial things quickly and truly saw the other. We saw each other fully and unconditionally, and we brought each other closer to God. We were blessed in a very devastating way, but it was still a blessing.
“Why is she marrying him if he is going to die?” In other words, why would I risk feeling the pain of loss knowing my love will leave me soon? Why would I commit to a dying man? Even Chris told me, a few months after his diagnosis, that he didn’t want me to feel the pain when he left me and I should leave him while I could. He didn’t want me to feel the pain, so he preferred to sacrifice himself, to endure the pain he would feel alone. I responded, maybe a little offended, but I understand now, “I will never leave you. You are my love and I am yours and I will be with you until the very end.” He accepted my decision and later admitted that he never really wanted me to leave, but felt he had to say it at least once so I would know he didn’t want to leave me here alone.
We married because we loved. We loved because we were called to love. We were also called to learn, and we were called to teach.
“the highest does not stand without the lowest” – C.S. Lewis A friend of mine, who is also widowed, shared that quote with me. She explained, “[that quote] is one of the few things that keeps me from feeling too sorry for myself. Sickness stands in opposition to health. We know what beauty is when juxtaposed with ugliness. When I walk into a room and I hear people whisper, ‘that’s the lady who lost her husband’, I see couples stand a little bit closer together. Maybe I imagine it but I even think that my walking in the room has stopped quarrels in mid-sentence between spouses. The higher thing is two people living in love. But the higher does not stand without the lower. The pain of loss is the lower thing, but it supports the higher thing. Is this comforting- not really- not like a comfy blanket… it does help me feel less like it’s ‘not fair.’ There is no ‘fair’ and ‘not fair’. There is the ‘higher thing and the lower thing.'”
Again, like Chris would say, “there is no such thing as ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’. It just is.” I believe God gave him the insight he needed to teach me from spiraling down into a pit of self-pity. My friend solidified that too.
Chris and I made the ultimate sacrifice to serve as the lower in this case. By this, we loved wholly, learned humbly, and will teach with great humility. We were and remain blessed in many other ways though. We don’t carry the lower in every aspect of our life.
The mystery of God will continue to be unknown to us, but with faith, we can accept His will and follow the truth.
That, my friend, is why I married him.