Saturday, November 26, 2011

Surviving the Holidays

Yes, they're coming! We can't hide, it's inevitable. The holidays are here!

Although my young children were grieving in their own ways, they looked forward to Christmas, presents, decorations, and celebrations. My oldest daughter was in second grade and my youngest was in kindergarten. This was the first year of holidays without their father. They participated in all their class activities for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that year. In their grief, these special days in school appeared to give them relief, joy, and laughter.

For me, in my first year of widowhood, I despised the holidays coming. I wasn't looking forward to any of them! The holidays were my husband's favorite time of year. He not only loved shopping but he did most of the wrapping and decorating. He was also the life of the parties! So I knew exactly what to expect. I'd be depressed while shopping, wrapping, decorating, and celebrating that year. I couldn't do it. Not even for my daughters. I'd have to plan something different. Somehow, I'd have to figure out, how to survive the holidays!

I decided that a trip would make the most sense. (If I had any sense that was!) For one thing, this would get me out of decorating the house. Planning a trip would also keep my mind busy to make sure things were done in a timely manner. I anticipated the joyful reunions ahead, knowing that I'd see family and friends that I hadn't seen in many years. This pulled me through the days I had to shop and wrap my daughters' gifts, to take with us.

As we pulled out of our FL driveway for a 4 week holiday road trip to NC, NJ, NY, PA, IL, MI, and SC, excitement went with us. Our first stop was Christmas in NC with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and niece. Joy and pain coexisted that year for the holidays. But better to have both, than to suffer with pain the entire time. I know many people thought I was crazy to take this road trip not only in the winter, but we ended up driving through a northern blizzard that year. I didn't care what anyone thought, I trusted that God would protect us and only give us what we could handle!

Bottom line....we survived the holidays!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanks for the Memories

Another year of holidays is upon us. I smile when I think of my loved one now. I remember there was a time in my life when I had no idea what grief even meant. At that time, we were a happy family of four. Thanksgiving meant celebration with either family or friends with food, drink, music and laughs.

In my first year of widowhood, I grieved not only for my loved one, but I grieved that I was certain that I'd never have joyful holidays again. My daughters were 6 and 7. It was now up to me to have some kind of holiday spirit for their sake. My parents came to stay with us for the first Thanksgiving. I didn’t feel thankful for much. I actually felt bad for my parents because I was not a joy to be around.

I knew that Christmas would be worse so I planned some traveling over the holiday break. It soothed my pain to a certain degree to see family and friends that I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I even went back to Piscataway, New Jersey, where I grew up and had lunch with my neighbors after many years. I began to feel that life was more than my married life and I was now making new memories. 

So year after year, the three of us made new memories. We continued taking trips when possible and drew joy from the love of family and friends. Holidays were not so painful anymore. There was pain AND joy! Much better than just pain!! Soon the pain lessened on those holidays. I began to remember them with a joyful heart. I can now think about past holidays when we were a young couple with 2 young children and smile. It was a good time.

But life now is good, too. I’m looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with my second husband, my parents, my mother-in-law, my 2 daughters, my step-daughter, my hopefully one day, son-in-law, and my grandbaby.  Although, we’ll be making new memories, we’ll never forget our prior memories. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Top 10 Lessons I Learned from Grief

#10  I didn't care what anyone thought about how I grieved:
        Grief made me go crazy for a while. I was selfish and self-centered. Thankfully, my family and friends supported me through and took care of my children until I came to my senses.

#9  I prayed:
      I soon realized that I couldn't do it on my own. I needed God's help. (Sounds like a 12 step program!)In my prayers, I not only talked to God, but I learned how to listen to Him and heed His advice.

#8 I had to rethink my priorities:
     Grief taught me what was most important in my life. God became my number one priority. I then treasured my family and relationships that I still had here. My two daughters were my main concern.

#7 Time doesn't heal all wounds:
     It's not about time. There are people who are still living in grief 17 yrs. later. Unless you do the grief work, with God's help, you'll continue to grieve. God is our healer who helps to heal our wounds.

#6  My loved one was only part of my life, not my whole life:
      Traveling to visit family and friends brought me my first moments of joy. Many I knew before I even knew my loved one. I realized there was a lot more to my life than just my married life.

#5  Joy and pain coexist:
      As I found myself feeling more joyful, a special day would bring back the pain. A birthday, a holiday, an anniversary day, my daughters' dance recitals, my daughters' graduations. It's OK. The pain makes me remember the beautiful memories.

#4  God uses suffering for good to help us grow:
      God has used me as a witness to bring others to Christ through my grief.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

#3  Life is temporary here:
      Some day, I will lose another loved one. I will grieve again. But I have faith that my eternal home will be in Heaven. It will be a permanent place to reunite with my loved ones that have gone before.

#2  God is in control:
      I've surrendered my life over. God's in control of everything anyway. There's no "What ifs...?" My life and everyone else's life is in His hands. I trust He knows best. He'll always have the last word!

And the #1 lesson I've learned from grief is:

# 1  It's time to serve others and pass on the comfort that I received:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Are there more lessons anyone wants to add??

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Unique Journey Through Grief

I've been widowed and you may have been widowed. But my journey will be different than your journey. There are similarities we can talk about....the empty chair at the dinner table, lonely nights and weekends, holidays and anniversaries, becoming head of the household and making ALL the decisions, and of course...what to do with my life now!?

Grief is kind of like figuring out how to get from one place to another. Say, from the East Coast to the West Coast. The most logical way would be to fly or drive and find a straight route to get there as quick as possible. But for everyone that makes the trip, no two trips will be exactly the same. Some people will take different routes, stay at different motels, eat at different restaurants along the way. Then some may never make it across at all. They'll get lost on their journey and end up somewhere they don't want to be. These are all variations of grief journeys.

So how did our family celebrate the first year of holidays without daddy? My daughters and I took a 4 week road trip to visit family and friends within 7 states. Reuniting with loved ones gave us joy that softened our pain. As I hear others tell their stories, I heard as many variations as there were widows. Each one had a different and unique way of getting through the holidays. Such is the life of grief!!

So what do we see when we reach our destination? Hopefully, if we completed our grief successfully, we will have reaped what we sowed and know we made a purposefilled journey. Life is good again and joy returns!

What's something that makes your grief so unique?