Friday Favorite: Courage, No Better Friend (early edition)

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston Churchill

____________________________

Courage is an ever-changing, ever faithful friend.

Courage is always admirable, yet sometimes, remains elusive. Its form may change to fit each situation, but if you are dedicated, it’s always a perfect fit.

Courage can be loud. Courage is the tears military wives shed as they send their husbands to unknown parts of the world. Its Rosa Parks on a bus. Courage is the soldier who faces war.  It is the police officer who draws his weapon to protect you. It’s the child who seeks help for a friend. Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Courage isn’t always loud. Sometime is a soft whisper or an inaudible murmur. It’s the struggle to put one foot in front of the other when adversity surrounds you.

Sometimes, life leaves you shattered; courage picks up the pieces so you can move forward. Courage is a child who sits in a hospital bed, sick. It’s the aged person who continues to get out of bed every day even when though they can’t remember whose house they are in. After an awful day, courage is the voice in your head that says, “tomorrow will be better.” Courage, if we are lucky, sits at our side as we hang off the edge of a cliff. Courage is heaven-sent.

Courage can roar or come as a whisper. It comes in all different sizes, shapes, and ages. It knows no color, pay scale, or sexual orientation. Courage, can never be underestimated. Whatever form, you will find no better friend. There are times in our lives that we lose our courage. There are even times when we fall so far down that we don’t care where it went.

You aren’t alone. It happens to the best, and the worst, of us. It’s okay to live in that moment. There will come a time, hopefully sooner than later, when you hear courage knocking at your door. Let it in. It will stay at your side. Courage will hold your hand and give worthwhile advice. Listen. It can re-build your spirit.

When you are ready, courage will help you put one foot in front of the other until  you can do it on your own. It will guide you, back to the person you once were. I know it is hard to hear all the cheery kinds of do-gooder ideas people give you. Don’t worry, they don’t believe it either. It’s just something nice to say when you have no idea what to say. It’s what you tell someone when you have no experience, ideas, or education that can help the situation.

You should know: They are right. It will get better. Eventually, it will be okay. It might never be the perfection you had imagined. It probably isn’t what you deserve, but it is what it is supposed to be, by divine design. And one day, it will be better. It will definitely be different, but different doesn’t mean terrible. It means different.

It doesn’t happen over night and it doesn’t happen as easily as they might make it seem. There is no exact path. No right or wrong direction to travel. You might feel better one day and falling apart the next. It’s okay. It’s all okay. Live in the moment, don’t pass up life because it gets hard. Whatever it is, as much as it hurts, it’s worth living. Your courage, will help you.

Because of courage, you can accomplish anything, even the things that once seemed insurmountable. Please don’t give up. Whether it is money, kids, family, illness, career, or even death of a loved one–it will be better one day. Your friend has your back.

Take a deep breath, and say hello to your best friend, courage.

Seasons of the Heart

Seasons come and seasons go. Summer fades into autumn which finally gives way to winter. Just when you think it will never get warm, spring slowly creeps in and takes over, only to make way for summer. That’s the way nature works. Some part of the world sees more rain and never sees snow. Some places are unbearably hot, others dreadfully cold. No matter where you are in the world, seasons come and go.

Everyone goes through their own private seasons, too. There are times in our lives when there isn’t a cloud anywhere and others when it feels like a rain cloud hangs over your head wherever you go. Grief is worse than a cloud. Losing a loved one makes your heart feel like a bare tree bending in the harsh winter winds. Grief is your winter.

Winter doesn’t be all you know. Just like all seasons, spring will push through and take over. Meet your spring.

A seed lies in the cold, dark ground all alone. Some seeds stay dormant through the winter, some get planted in spring, but they all find the courage to peek through the top of the soil and grow. Let your heart be like that tiny seed. You may be in the harshest, longest winter of your life, but you can let spring in.

This isn’t where you whither a way because life has been hard. This is where you push through that hard surface, so that you can start to feel the sunlight on your face again. That little seed didn’t stay buried and neither should you. Feed and nurture yourself through good habits, eating right, and even counseling (it helps). In time, you will feel more comfortable in your skin. And, eventually, you will grow and flourish, just like that little seed.

The skies will turn gray and rain will fall sometimes–that is okay. We have to know that not everyday will be sunshine and roses. We also have to know that no matter how big the storm, we can find away back. Start the journey towards letting springtime back in your heart.

365 Days of Motivation

I like to read, but often the only time I have to read is in the bathtub. I have 5 children (and a husband with a house to take care of), I help with my grandparents, I do this blog and some freelance writing, and I am trying to take better care of myself.  I don’t have time to sleep, much less read. I try to read books. Books on writing, books of poetry, The Holy Bible, and even novels. I never succeed. I might read a few pages, or a passage, and then I’m out like a light. So, on occasionally, I read books that are meant to be read one day at a time, like daily devotional books. That way I get my Jesus and some common sense real life application.

As I was laying in the tub reading a Joel Osteen daily devotional book, it hit me: Why isn’t there something like this for widows? There probably is something out there that I haven’t seen, but why haven’t I seen it? Day to Day is what is hard for a widow. Those moments when the kids are in bed and the world is quiet–that’s when a widow doubts, gets lonely, and begs for a different way. Devotionals are typically Bible verses, which I love now, but if someone would have handed me a book about how much God loved me when I was a new widow, I would have shoved it in a drawer. I was still struggling with how a loving God could make me and my children suffer like that. I wanted these devotionals to be wise quotes that really spoke to someone grieving and struggling their way back to living.

Some of these will be from the Bible, because I can’t and won’t deny my faith. I also think in a time when absolutely nothing makes sense, faith is all we have–sometimes we just have to believe things will be better.

Beginning now, I will be doing regular blog posts as well as “365 Days of Motivation for Widows”. The motivational (instead of devotional) posts will have 3 specific tags on each posts so they can easily be searched from the homepage. The tags are:  ‘365 Days’, ‘Devotional for Widows’, and day of the devotion (like today is day 1, so would be tagged with a 1). Each post will be less than 200 words and will include a quote that I have identified with. They should be a very quick read that hopefully will stick with you through the day. They won’t make everything ‘all better’, but I do hope they help you get through one more day and closer to being able to live again.

It’s All About You…

I started this site because I wanted to help other widows/widowers, younger ones especially. It turns out widows/widowers aren’t the only ones who can relate to my experiences. People grieving other types of losses are also able to relate. From those grieving their children to those grieving the loss of a marriage because of divorce.

I have heard from many of you. Many of you say the words are helpful. Most often it’s because you are experiencing the same thing or because you have had questions and knowing how I handled something answered some of your questions. Sometimes it is because you weren’t sure if you were doing the right things and hearing what I did reassured you in some small way.

That got me thinking (I’m a thinker by nature), what am I not answering?

I had a million questions as I was grieving, especially that first year or year and a half. My counselor answered as best she could, using her education, experience, and knowledge from how her sister handled it. That’s what I really wanted to know. How did another widow handle what I was going through? Sometimes I had so many questions, I wasn’t even sure where to start. I want to answer those questions for you, but there is so much to tell.

This process has been eleven years in the making. There were some things that touched me so deeply, they are still vividly playing in my brain. Those things are probably what I have written about first. There is so much more to say, but what if you are wondering something I haven’t mentioned. You are all at different stages of rebuilding from the storm. I bet you all have your own questions. Maybe some of you are wishing I would talk about X topic or wonder if I have ever experienced Y.
Here is your chance. Let me know. What questions are weighing you down? What problems do you wish you had solutions to? What do you wonder about? What would help you to know more about? Ask away. I would love to help you, if I can. Don’t feel stupid. There is no reason to. This is hard and it’s something that makes people so uncomfortable they don’t talk about it. Death really is the elephant in the room sometimes.  Don’t feel like I won’t know because no one else is going through it. Chances are that isn’t true. One thing this journey of blogging has taught me, we are all the same (well, close). There are definitely things you all have written in your blogs that I have not touched on and I read yours and completely relate to what you are saying–down to the exact words. It really is amazing.

This post may get a hundred responses or none. Either is okay. I just want to give you the opportunity. If you want to respond, do so in the comments. Just let me know the topic you’d like to talk about or the questions you would like answered. I will answer them in a post dedicated to just that topic or question. This offer never expires. The opportunity is always open.

 

Courage: No Better Friend

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston Churchill

____________________________

Courage is an ever-changing, ever faithful friend.

Courage is always admirable, yet sometimes, remains elusive. Its form may change to fit each situation, but if you are dedicated, it’s always a perfect fit.

Courage can be loud. Courage is the tears military wives shed as they send their husbands to unknown parts of the world. Its Rosa Parks on a bus. Courage is the soldier who faces war.  It is the police officer who draws his weapon to protect you. It’s the child who seeks help for a friend. Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Courage isn’t always loud. Sometime is a soft whisper or an inaudible murmur. It’s the struggle to put one foot in front of the other when adversity surrounds you.

Sometimes, life leaves you shattered; courage picks up the pieces so you can move forward. Courage is a child who sits in a hospital bed, sick. It’s the aged person who continues to get out of bed every day even when though they can’t remember whose house they are in. After an awful day, courage is the voice in your head that says, “tomorrow will be better.” Courage, if we are lucky, sits at our side as we hang off the edge of a cliff. Courage is heaven-sent.

Courage can roar or come as a whisper. It comes in all different sizes, shapes, and ages. It knows no color, pay scale, or sexual orientation. Courage, can never be underestimated. Whatever form, you will find no better friend. There are times in our lives that we lose our courage. There are even times when we fall so far down that we don’t care where it went.

You aren’t alone. It happens to the best, and the worst, of us. It’s okay to live in that moment. There will come a time, hopefully sooner than later, when you hear courage knocking at your door. Let it in. It will stay at your side. Courage will hold your hand and give worthwhile advice. Listen. It can re-build your spirit.

When you are ready, courage will help you put one foot in front of the other until  you can do it on your own. It will guide you, back to the person you once were. I know it is hard to hear all the cheery kinds of do-gooder ideas people give you. Don’t worry, they don’t believe it either. It’s just something nice to say when you have no idea what to say. It’s what you tell someone when you have no experience, ideas, or education that can help the situation.

You should know: They are right. It will get better. Eventually, it will be okay. It might never be the perfection you had imagined. It probably isn’t what you deserve, but it is what it is supposed to be, by divine design. And one day, it will be better. It will definitely be different, but different doesn’t mean terrible. It means different.

It doesn’t happen over night and it doesn’t happen as easily as they might make it seem. There is no exact path. No right or wrong direction to travel. You might feel better one day and falling apart the next. It’s okay. It’s all okay. Live in the moment, don’t pass up life because it gets hard. Whatever it is, as much as it hurts, it’s worth living. Your courage, will help you.

Because of courage, you can accomplish anything, even the things that once seemed insurmountable. Please don’t give up. Whether it is money, kids, family, illness, career, or even death of a loved one–it will be better one day. Your friend has your back.

Take a deep breath, and say hello to your best friend, courage.

Tears of Men

Life is a series of moments. Moments shape our lives. Some moments more than others. Randy’s death unleashed moment after moment after defining moment. As hard as death is, there is a certain inevitable grace and beauty that comes in the process of healing.

If you would have told me that in those first days or months after Randy’s death, I never would have believed you.  It’s hard, unbearable at times, to walk the path of a widow, or to walk through any storm. Moments created in grief, uplifted my soul and carried me through to a time when I could stand on my own to feet.

Some of those moments are unexpected. When I arrived at the funeral home for Randy’s visitation, I was broken. The anticipation of walking through those doors was torture. The thought of seeing him and the final goodbyes were more than I could comprehend. Every step closer to the doors made the tears fall faster. By the time I arrived at the casket, I was almost inconsolable. Then something happened that I had never imagined.

By 4:00pm, the scheduled time for the viewing to begin, the room was full. Not only was the chapel full, but  I was getting reports from people in the line that it was wound down the hall, back up the other side, through the other chapel, outside to the steps, through the parking lot, and down the sidewalk for more than a block. The chapel was full of flowers. In fact, the flowers, gifts, and statues also overflowed our chapel into the next.  A response I could never have expected. I heard the wait time to see me was about an hour and a half.

Person after person entered that room, made their way patiently to the front of the chapel to greet me. Each one played a special role in his life, my life, or a family members life. The longer I stood there and the more people I met seemed to push my tears further and further away. It wasn’t that I was happy or even relieved. I was astonished. I felt loved. I felt supported. And more than anything, I was completely amazed at the number of people who wanted to be a part of this day.

I stood at the front of that room, without moving, and greeted people for close to five hours! I could look down the line of people and see the constant wiping of tears and dabbing of noses. The room filled with the muffled sound of soft conversations and quiet sniffling. I looked up to greet the next person, and instead I saw an empty space. I saw a church friend partially bent over, holding onto a chair. He was sobbing. The rest of the room fell rather silent. People were trying to act as if they weren’t watching, but they couldn’t help it. His chest heaving and tears streaming from his eyes, he fell to his knees. Randy’s dad leaned on one knee to console him. Together they stood. I watched, speechless. Tears silently fell down my cheek. The pair gradually made it to me. Our friend could barely speak through his tears. I hugged him as he wept. I wanted to help him. I rubbed his shoulder and softly said, “You don’t have to say anything; I know its hard. I’m just glad you are here.”

He was the first person to just weep. He was the first man I had ever seen cry like that. He was the first of many men I saw weep just as deeply that evening. And with each one, I cried. I didn’t cry because I felt their grief, although I did feel it. I cried because it touched me. It touched me in a way that nothing else could have. The honesty shared through the tears of men was beautiful. That instant, that moment in time, shaped my healing process. It carved my path. I believe God was showing me what I needed to see to move forward with life.

We get caught up in ‘me, myself, and I’. Where I want to work. How much money I want to make. How big my house is. My car is better than your car. My husband works harder. My kids are smarter. What you can do for me. It’s all garbage and all of that garbage, in time, fades away.

Sometimes, we forget about other people. We forget that maybe money, houses, and cars aren’t the real blessings in life. We forget that we all set out to do the best we can, and some of us might need help learning how to achieve it. Everyone’s husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, friends, and children mean just as much to them as yours do to you–even when they aren’t perfect. Maybe, we should focus on what I can do for you and not what you can do for me. That is where the blessing is.

None of us will be here forever. And, as life with Randy showed me, some of us are gone way too soon. The things people remembered about Randy wasn’t our pitiful house, or the fact we did things backwards by getting pregnant and then married. They remembered he was young, smart, and dedicated. He was a good father and worked hard to support his young, ever-growing family. He loved Jesus, his family, sleep, hunting, and sports (in that order). He followed the rules and expected others to do the same. He helped and protected people and animals alike. He was a friend to everyone and an enemy of none.

Seeing tears of men shaped my life.

I walked into that building feeling broken and defeated. I left that building knowing that life is important and amazing. I went home knowing that everyone’s life is connected and affects others on a scale impossible to fathom. That night proved to me that life really is about something bigger than me. The instant our friend fell to his knees, helped me put away the ‘why is this happening to me?’ question and start asking, ‘why should it have happened to someone else? Why do I think someone else should suffer instead of me?’ Had I not experienced that night, those little moments, I’m not sure I would have healed, ever. That instant made me realize how much of an impact I have on others, especially my children.

I think about that night fairly often. I’m not stuck in that moment, but it still means so much to me. Sometimes, when life is pulling me down and I’m not sure how I am going to climb back out, that night comes back to me. It reminds me what really matters in life.

A Letter

Dear Reader,

I hope this letter finds you well. I know things haven’t been easy for you. That’s probably an understatement. I have thought about you often. I have worried and wondered how you are doing. I never wanted you to think you were alone. I had to wait for you to find me. The important thing is you are here now. And, you definitely are not alone.

I know you are a strong, capable person. I am confident you can handle anything that comes your way. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know you don’t have to do it alone. It feels good to know you have someone to walk along side you. I wish had answers. I wish I could tell you how to make it hurt less or how to make it all go away. Unfortunately, that’s something no one can do.

People will try to solve your problems, or at least make you feel better. There are many reasons they do this. Most of them care about you deeply. The rest, well, they are probably carrying their own pain. Your pain and their pain may be too much for them to bear. They will tell you all those clichés people say to each other during hard times. You know the ones I am talking about. Try to be patient with them. Try to remember they do care about you, even if it isn’t in the way you need them to.

Firsts. Oh, there are going to be many of these. Usually we view firsts as exhilarating. They make us nervous, anxious, and excited all at once. The firsts you have now will probably bring you little more than apprehension, sorrow, and pain. Even the simplest task might make you weep. At least, that’s how it felt to me. Firsts are hard for another reason. They don’t all happen in a certain time frame. It might be 10 years down the line and you might experience a first. And, just so you know, it doesn’t feel any better than the first time you slept in your bed without him. Those are things that always bring you back to the pain.

The first dance our daughter went to, I cried. He was supposed to be there. The first baseball game our son ever played, I wept like a baby. The first time our youngest won a swim meet sent me to a room where I sat in tears. Those moments were all firsts for me, even though they were years later.  And they hurt just as bad as if they had happened right after his death.

Now you know; time does not heal all wounds. It does make it easier. It’s easier for a lot of reasons. Those moments that bring you to your knees come less often. And when you find yourself on the ground, getting up isn’t as difficult. And most importantly, time allows you to be happy more often than you are sad. It allows you to find yourself again. It allows you to sleep at night. It allows you to love and be loved once again. Time is a beautiful thing, and it does help.  Just don’t expect too much. It will not separate you from your past. It cannot build a wall between you and pain.

Time is only as good as its accomplice—you. It won’t happen overnight, or even over a month. It will happen. It will happen when you are ready for it to happen. There is no rule book. No one can tell you to do it this way or that. There are tricks and tips that can help you walk through the process, but nothing that can replace.

I can tell you what I went through and I can tell you how I got through. You might find comfort in knowing though, our experiences are different, many of our feelings are the same. Perhaps you will want to try some of my tips and hopefully they will work for you. I should tell you, I didn’t do this alone either.

I found a grief counselor. I never thought I would be a person to share my pain with someone so openly. I have to say, not only did I share with a stranger, but I’m not sure what I would have done without her. I used my husband’s Employer Assistance Plan to help me find the one I used. It’s something to consider.

Please don’t let fear inhibit your healing. I remember being terrified. I was afraid of forgetting him. What he sounded like. Afraid of not remembering his voice, or the way held me at night. I never dreamed that healing actually allowed me to remember him better. Randy is never a closed subject here. Sometimes it still brings tears, but those tears are sweet tears. I can think of him, talk about him, and still be okay. That is what time and healing can do for you. It isn’t the way I had imagined our lives together, but it is all I have. I feel thankful to have that. It’s a good feeling.

I am so proud of the path you are on. You have already made great strides towards recovery. There is a lot of road left to travel, but please don’t be discouraged. Like I said before, you are strong and capable. And, when you feel like you are not strong enough to take one more step, ask for a hand. If we walk this path together, we can learn from each other. We can lean on each other. We are not alone.

I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, please, take care of yourself.

Your new friend,

Sara

Panic!

Randy was killed in a car wreck. About a month after his death I found myself having small episodes. They didn’t feel small until they were over. The were scary as hell while they were happening. I didn’t know why I was having them or what was causing them. I felt on the edge of sanity for much of the time anyway, so when I started having these episodes, I thought I might have dropped off the edge of the cliff!

I would be driving, or watching TV, or even trying to nap when all of a sudden, my heart would race, I’d sweat and shake, and all I could see was visions of Randy in various stages of the wreck, rescue, and hospital. It lasted for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably about a couple of minutes.

All I knew was that it was extremely unsettling, very scary, and probably unsafe. They happened on the couch, in the car, in the store, at my daughter’s school and without warning.

It didn’t take long to figure out the triggers. My favorite show at the time (ER) triggered it every time. Helicopters flying over also triggered them. The most common of the triggers, ambulances.

After several weeks of therapy with my grief counselor, I finally was brave enough to mention it. She knew immediately what it was. To my relief, it wasn’t insanity. I was simply having panic attacks. It didn’t feel like a simple anything. They were terrifying!

She assured me we could get through it. I had been through a significant trauma and my brain was trying to protect me. Funny thing, it didn’t feel like protection. It felt like an attack! I trusted my counselor. We did work through it together.

I worked on deep breathing while slowly counting. And, eventually, the panic attacks subsided. Luckily for me, I didn’t need medicine. Everyone is different though, don’t feel like less of a person if it takes medicine to help you move past it. It doesn’t really matter how we get through this, it just matters that we do get through. We need to do it as safely and efficiently as possible. Rushing through just to say you are better is probably not the answer. Feeling like you are on the edge of a cliff is never a fun feeling. I’d rather feel like I am on the edge of a cliff than pretend I’m not and fall off the cliff.

Just know, what you are feeling, someone else has felt. In fact, someone is probably feeling that way now. You are never alone. As I have said before, there are those who have walked before you, those who will walk after you, and those who walk along you. There is little comfort where you are now. Let there be comfort in knowing you can heal. It takes work, it takes time, and it’s never perfect, but it can happen.

Another widow sharing her story. Proof that our stories are different, but they share so many components.

And Now for Something Completely Different

The Goodbye

It was time.  I walked in, your wife, your best friend, your lover.  You had been cleaned up, tubes removed, hair combed, fresh gown.  I was able to hold you and kiss you, to say goodbye.  To ask your forgiveness for letting you go.  To tell you how much I loved you and always would.  To tell you about everything good and wonderful we had together, and to talk of all we had done, and what we had meant to each other.  I did all the talking; I don’t know if you were aware of my voice or were able to hear what I said, or even know I was there and feel my arms around you and be aware of my presence.  Were you present or were you already gone to whatever next plane of existence does, or does not, exist?  An hour went by, the longest…

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April 12, 2002: Eight Months After My World Quit Turning.

This is a journal entry that I kept online after Randy died. It is as it was when I wrote it. Mistakes, passion, and at times unintelligible blabbering all included. It isn’t pretty. It was real, though. This was a vent. If you haven’t been where I was during the time I wrote this, then don’t judge. If you have been in this state… then, you completely understand.

April 12, 2002

I am so tired of being by myself. I am tired of having little conversation outside of this house and the only communication inside the house consisting of direction to my children. I am tired of everyone depending on me to come up with the best answers. I am tired of it being me alone that cleans up everyone’s messes all the time. I am tired of falling asleep to the cold pillow on my face. I am tired of having no one to depend on for the type of support I need. I am tired of not being hugged or kissed. They say that it is proven to be necessary for people to thrive. While the kids give all kinds of them to me, there are feelings between a man and a woman that no family member can offer. I want those feelings. I need those feelings, and without them, I am just one heap of sludge. If the sludge doesn’t show, it is only because no one wants to see it. I am angry. I am oh so lonely. I miss Randy so much. I miss the talks, hugs, and even aggravation.

I am making it, but I am tired of trying. I am tired of never having down time. I am anything but energized and happy.  I find times that make me smile. Often I can hide how distraught I am by the whole ordeal. I can even keep trudging through, but how I would love to have some type of the peace that I long for. Just a few moments of an ant free house, no kids yelling, time to breathe and not have to clean house at the same time. I need a vacation from life, but I don’t know where to find one.

I am going to stop somewhere and take a break. I am going to smell the roses, I am going to breathe. I am going to catch up on everything I need to catch up on. I want to find myself …

I want to know who I am. Before I can find anyone that I want, or who will want me. I have to know what I want and who I am.  I have to know what I want and who I want. I have to find the laugh that I used to have and the time I used to have and the fun that I know that lies deep within me. I need that piece of me that calms me when the world is in complete chaos.

I need my life back. So, how do I do that?