Lonliness

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.

Sea Change

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.

Story

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.

The Problem of Time

in the context of grief and healing

Our years and days fall into cycles. The seasons repeat these cycles and human celebrations follow them. This circumstance can be very troubling for a person who is grieving. It has been for me. After experiencing the pain of remembrance that came with certain times of year, I developed a strategy. I told myself I would visualize my life as a forward trajectory of days, similar but different. Like siblings or cousins, these days would bear some resemblance to other days, but they would be unique.
For example, my church celebrates Halloween by inviting our community to a Trunk or Treat event during the day. Last year I participated and looked forward to seeing Steve afterward. This year he was gone. I thought about opting out. However someone needed help with a costume. He wished to be a door with the 95 Theses posted on it! (Lutherans celebrate the Reformation during this season.) He asked for my help, especially with the document. This would certainly be different. I had not attempted gothic lettering in decades, but decided to do it. I bought a flat ¾ inch brush and practiced. What fun! I practiced some more at church, creating a document that could stand for the 95 Theses in German. Not nearly as long as the original, and surely not in German, but at least it looked medieval, and I had the fun of creation.
I still mourn and weep, sometimes, but I also work on living in the present. This allows me to be open to hopeful messages from God (Sometimes these make me weep too, and that is good). For instance, yesterday I found a crimson bloom on an impatience plant I’d brought inside in the fall. I was surprised and encouraged to see this flower open in January of one of the coldest winters we have had in years.
God will surprise you. He may give you an opportunity to travel. He may cause someone to cross your path you haven’t seen in years. As you open your eyes and ears and drink it in, you will likely be blessed in the present moment.

Brief Note

Hello Folks, I am obviously new at blogging. The formatting tools are foreign to me, so I’m setting them aside for now. Another mystery is the sequencing. I thought my first entry would appear first in the lineup. It doesn’t, my first post appears last. The thing is, I wrote most of these over a year ago. I had lots of thoughts but wasn’t ready to jump on the technical part.
Anyway, bear with me! I think you will still be glad you did.
Sue

Frugal

Before I write anymore I need to let folks know that the healing steps I’ve mentioned so far did not spring forth without a lot of struggle and reflection. Most of all, these are God’s ideas. They were pretty much given to me.
By frugal I mean it’s important to recognize what I can and cannot afford, emotionally and practically.
For example, I cannot afford
– To be forever sad and down in my socks
to stay cooped up in the house. Isolation leads to depression. I won’t have it.
– To imagine I am the only one in the world to experience mind-numbing sadness
to indulge in envy. That doesn’t mean I don’t experience it, just that I can’t afford to stay in it. If I did that I would miss out on God’s good gifts for me right now.
– To go off at people I love just because they don’t respond the way I want. Not only is that rude but it damages precious relationships.
– To acknowledge the date with great sadness every single year. There are many significant dates that creep up and try to ambush me with joys remembered, forever gone (it would seem). Songwriters call these moments bittersweet, and that’s about right. I cannot afford to dwell on them, so I recall God’s promise in 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never ends”. I am certain we will see our loved ones again.

God helps us. Trusting Him is difficult in the beginning, but He always comes through. I keep on seeking Him, just like Job did. I believe that God loves us and wants us to have full access to Him. He gives us Himself in His Word and also in His presence during quiet times. I strive to “Fear not, only believe.”

Next I will reflect on the Problem of Time

Create

I believe creating helps us get outside ourselves. When my spirit feels very low, stuffed down inside myself, it helps to create something. That’s how writing helps me.
There are times, however, when certain kinds of creating are painful. Then I have to figure out something else. In the past I did a good deal of art, mostly watercolor. Last spring I stumbled on the idea of collage. This seemed to fit the abstract nature of a photo that interested me. I shopped for interesting papers and began to cut and paste. Steve saw the start of my effort. Five days later he died. I put that project away and didn’t look at it for weeks. Even just remembering I had those colored and textured papers in my canvas tote made me sad.
Weeks earlier a friend at church had asked me to help with crafts in her young Sunday school class. I decided to make good on that. She said the kids loved to cut and paste, perfect! I brought my papers in to them and let them work. Children are natural designers, I didn’t teach them much except how to cut on a fold. Their joy was contagious. We still do this today.

Journalling

After my husband Howard died, I looked for a book that would help me with grieving, that would give me comfort and direction. I found nothing that helped much. These books never mentioned God’s work in our lives. I needed a strategy on how to cope that included God. Later on, after the second loss, I did find a great book, “Grieving God’s Way” by Margaret Brownley. I recommend this one!
I needed an outlet, though, so I took up journalling again. The act of writing made me feel more in control. It also helped me identify my raging emotions.
For me, thinking and writing go together. And praying. I feel better when I record my thoughts. I feel creative. Looking back through my posts of a year or two ago I am amazed to see that I am teaching myself to cope. Writing has helped me grow. That’s why I call it prayer.
I used to think journalling was kind of silly, since I already knew what I’d done that day. That was before I came up against certain challenges that helped me see how productive and healing it can be.
Try journalling, and remember, the journal is your space. There are no rules. You write when you need to and only what you want to. ▲

Hope and a Future

I wish to write a message for anyone who is grieving. If you have lost someone dear this may be something that will help you. I have walked this way too. My husband died just over 5 years ago. I was accepting the hole in my life and adjusting, more or less, when I met a new love, a gentleman who had also lost his partner. We hit it off almost immediately and began dating. After ten months, my friend died suddenly. I am still reeling from the shock and loss, but by God’s grace have begun developing strategies for healing.

I also hope to entertain you. I know how hard it is to focus, how it is to experience the constant need for distractions from the pain. If my ramblings help even a little I will be very pleased.

I know something of the devastation you are feeling. I can never fully know your grief, but I do know some grief. And I care, so I am writing to let you know there is hope and it is real. No one should have to face grief alone. Don’t assume you do.