We often have the tendency to think that no one shares our situation. This may be especially true after a shattering loss. The truth is, of course, countless people have lost loved ones and struggled with the ongoing pain afterwards. Many still struggle. That’s the main reason I’m writing this blog. Back to an idea that came into my head recently…Don’t Exclude Yourself from the Good Stuff!
I once worked at a plant that made steam boilers, which they shipped all over the country. This was perhaps the most interesting job I’ve ever had. I helped make and revise drawings for the boiler specs. There was a man in our office named Kelly, who had experienced a debilitating accident when he worked on the floor of the plant. Doctors said he would probably never work again. Through courage and perseverance, however, he proved them wrong and became a designer in the office, so his extensive experience was put to excellent use. His motto was “Never say never”!
So, don’t exclude yourself from any good thing. Don’t ever think you are too young, too old, too alone, or too ill for good things to come your way! All things are possible with God.
If you are content the way you are that’s fine, but if you are seeking a companion, take your requests to the Lord. He hears you and he cares. I am learning patience in this, as in all things.
Loneliness goes with the territory when you have a loss. There are temporary helps, like a good book or a chat with a friend on the phone. Television may or may not help. When it comes down to it, you feel alone. When that happens, I find it a comfort to lean on the Lord. In His Word, I find examples of others who cried out to Him and were comforted.
The Grief Share program encourages us to spend some time in solitude to foster healing. I find I can be content when alone if I direct my thoughts toward God. Scripture is great, as are a number of other things that remind me God is near. Thinking about friends and family, cooking a meal to share, watching birds come to my feeder, and rejoicing on how my body works as I take a walk are some of these.
Henry David Thoreau, a 19th century favorite of mine, wrote about the benefits of solitude in Walden. He especially enjoyed his solitude when outdoors and when working outdoors, asserting that he was then never alone. He even called one chapter Solitude. In the very next chapter, “Visitors,” Thoreau states he is “no hermit” and, could outlast any bar patron and shut the place down if “my business called me thither.”
By necessity, I have to spend plenty of time alone, so I try to connect with people every day. Every human encounter becomes important, even an ordinary transaction at the grocery store or at the doctor. I was having some blood drawn the other day. I praised the nurse for finding the vein quickly and then said, “I always try to be kind to my phlebotomist.” So we shared a chuckle.
My friend Steve loved people. Servers and bartenders were not just servers and bartenders, but fellow human beings and potential friends. He insisted to his younger kinfolk that they be careful to tip decently, even for take-out orders! What an attitude. Let people surprise you, let God surprise you, in the present moment.
God sees you in your aloneness and he cares for you. This is a tremendous encouragement to me, and I hope it will encourage you, too.
Earlier I promised to talk about defeating envy. Envy is a canker that eats away at our sense of well being and blinds us to God’s love. I found this out a month or so after Steve died when I was invited to a young friend’s wedding. I really wanted to go, I had known this young lady since her infancy! However, envy was gnawing on me. I was out of sorts as I anticipated witnessing all the freshness and joy and romance, which had so recently been part of my life. Once there, I began to greet friends, and my attitude changed, I was glad to be celebrating among them. This was a ‘sea change’, accomplished by God.
I borrowed that idea from William Shakespeare. In his work “The Tempest” he created Ariel’s song about the physical change the sea had wrought on Ferdinand’s father after he drowned. I studied Shakespeare decades ago, but even today it gives me goose bumps when I recall some of the poetry: “those are pearls that were his eyes”. Okay, that may be just a little creepy, but I believe a sea change is a positive and surprising transformation containing hope.
A sea change has been going on in my life since the loss of my beloved men. I have more compassion now, more inclination to care about others. I am able to see the way ahead. There is Hope and a Future. See more amazing poetry in Jeremiah 29:11, where the prophet encourages God’s people in their despair. He promises to help them, not harm them.
Our personal stories are so important. When I first met Steve he told me he loved his dad’s many stories, and wished he could preserve them. I also shared a story or two, and that helped create a bond.
Listening to stories is important too. This is very nurturing, especially for people who are grieving. It is one way we can show them honor. The Bible says, “outdo one another in showing honor”.
At our first conversation Steve said, “You are very easy to talk to.” That turned out to be significant. He liked me from then on because he really needed someone to listen. Good listeners are rare, it seems, especially on the dating landscape.
My cherished memories are often connected with stories. I remember well the time Steve helped me peel potatoes in my kitchen. He told me a story about how he made a potato gun in his youth that would launch the spud for a quarter mile and it impressed his brother. It was so fun to hear and watch him tell it!
My Howard was a great storyteller, and people loved to be around him. He also had a hearty laugh that was totally engaging. Fun!
I learned much about listening in my GriefShare group. We share stories all the time, and no one interrupts another. This is not a stated rule; it’s just how it works. One of the things I long for periodically now is to tell my story. By this I mean little anecdotes as well as the big events; sometimes these are even more important. And what do I need from a friend? Someone to really listen. Such friends are a great comfort.
If you want to really help someone, give them your full attention. My friend Linda lost her mother after over a year of struggle with a variety of conditions. When she needed to tell me about her mom’s last hours, it was a story of detail and emotion. My job was to give her my full attention. She was honoring me with a story about a very special family time. I needed to listen.
One reason I’m an advocate of journaling is because of stories. Journaling helps us honor or own stories. This also helps us honor the stories of others, so we maintain a vital human connection. I think that’s what healing is all about.