Saturday, January 28, 2012

Denial in Grief: Catch Me if You Can!

Once the shock and numbness wore off after my husband's death, it felt like adrenaline began pumping through my body at an accelerated speed. It wasn't time to accept what happened. Nor was it time to feel the pain...because it was going to be explosive. And I wasn't sure I could handle it. So I had to run from it!

So what would make me feel good and forget my pain for a while? For some widows, it might be shopping or working. For me, it was going on road trips to visit family and friends. It had been 2 months that I had become a young widow. I HATED THAT WORD! We had lived in California prior to living in Florida so my intent was to visit my friends I hadn't seen for a few years. It started out as an innocent summer trip, cross country, from Florida to California, with my 2 daughters.

The more friends I reunited with on our trip, the more joy I felt. I quickly realized, this numbed my pain. When I began to slow down, I'd feel an ache. This made me run faster. I began to overindulge in drinking, eating, and gambling. We also drove to Las Vegas to visit family. After unlimited rum and cokes one evening, and not remembering how much money from sympathy cards I had spent on slot machines, I was running at full speed and had no intentions of slowing down.

Once we left Las Vegas, and were returning to California for one more week, I felt like I was on a Merry-Go-Round and couldn't get off. I knew I was running out of control, but I couldn't stop. If I stopped, I knew I'd feel the pain. The faster I ran, the harder it was for me to stop. I was on a high while seeing friends, eating good food, and drinking to numb any kind of pain that was trying to surface. I tried to convince myself that I could keep up the pace, and grief would never catch up.

But probably everyone knew, including me deep down, that grief would eventually catch up. It usually does. I couldn't run forever. I could only take so many trips. Money would run out. I did have to buy new clothes after summer because I gained 20 lbs.! And I didn't like the way hangovers felt. So at the end of that summer it all came to a stop. With God's help, I believe He pushed me off my ride and showed me that it was time to open my heart and grieve.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

SHOCK! Safe in God's Cocoon

I glanced up toward the hospital ceiling, "Can you see me? Do you know that you died? Are you hovering over me, or did you go towards the light?"

I believed my husband's death marked a time to rejoice. I felt that we'd all be in heaven one day and see our family and friends again. Why should we cry? What's so sad about death? My only sadness was for my fatherless children.

As I settled in for the first night as a widow, I lay staring at the ceiling. "Nelson, where are you? Can you hear me? I wish I'd die, too, so we could go to heaven together." My thoughts raced back and forth all night between imagining my husband's adventure to heaven and planning his memorial service. The joy I felt came from knowing he no longer lived in pain but in eternal peace. I kept thinking, "How cool is that! Isn't that where we all hope to be one day if we're Christians?"

I tried to stay in this spiritual realm for as long as possible. I felt happy, safe, and peaceful. Besides, it looked so dreadful how family and friends were mourning. I wanted to stay in my happy place and be happy for my husband. Because of my faith, I knew that he was ok. I realized that my family and friends needed to grieve in their own ways, even if I didn't understand. Probably many of them couldn't comprehend God's cocoon I was living in that sheltered me from the pain.

"Cindy, I've watched you today," said Fran, a friend from church. "You're a tremendous witness for God. I see how He's filled you with strength and peace. I noticed how you shared your faith, hope and beliefs to others."

For a month, God did fill me with His strength and peace. I could not have done it on my own. I only wished I could have stayed in His cocoon forever!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2 Widow's Pursuits Down- 1 More to Go

About 2 years into widowhood, 1997, I began to accept the fact, that my husband was no longer my husband, and the dreams and goals I had for us no longer existed. So I had to formulate new goals. These were my top 3:

1) Raising my daughters (Completed)
2) Going back to school for a second career (Completed)
3) Writing a book that there's more to life than grief  (In Process)

I enjoyed being a hairdresser, but the job required more nights and weekends than I was willing to work as a single parent. As I healed from grief, I realized that I wanted to help others with their struggles so I went back to school to become a social worker. I completed my first pursuit in 2010. Yes, it took 13 yrs to complete my master's degree and pass my LMSW exam! This past year in 2011, I began my social work career as a medical social worker in a home health agency. I love it!

Now for raising my daughters!! I'm not sure which pursuit required more sacrifices! I read that children took on the average, 4 and a half years to grieve the loss of a parent. In our 3rd year, when my daughters were 8 and 9 years old, we moved to Puerto Rico and lived with my in-laws for a year. I wanted them to have a strong bond with their father's family. I moved for them. Not that I didn't enjoy living on an island for a year, but I had to place other goals on hold that I wanted to pursue.

Then there were the rebellious and teenage years! Ahhh!! On several occasions my oldest daughter ran away from home. And on several occasions I threatened her that I would send her back to live in Puerto Rico. Many times, I counted the days until my youngest would turn 18 years old. I thought on that magic day, my parental responsibilities would end. My friends told me this wasn't true. They were right. It took my girls to be 22 and 24 years old, before I could say I was done!

I believe that one of my purposes here on earth, having been blessed to have children, is to raise them and prepare them for God's kingdom. It took until last week, January 8, 2012, for the last of my 2 children to go to church, ON THEIR OWN, and finally realize the importance of a relationship with Jesus. My second pursuit completed! Whew! That wasn't an easy one!!

Now I'm working on my last pursuit. I have the desire to share my story with other widows. It hasn't been an easy journey, but with God's help and guidance, there was so much more hope for my future. I've written my book, now I'm in the publication process. Our sermon last week, from Andy Stanley, pastor from North Point Community Church couldn't have said it better. He asked us what our "One Thing in 2012" was, that we should not be distracted from completing. A verse he quoted from the Bible to help us focus was from Nehemiah 6:3..."I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

When Prayers are Not Answered Our Way

I believe in prayer. I believe in miracles. But what if prayers don't get answered the way we want? Do we still believe?

I had a fairy tale life. I married my first husband, Nelson, in 1983. We waited a few years before having children so we could have our time. Our first daughter, Jessica, was born in 1987, and then, Nicole, in 1989. We were a happy family living our dreams!

So in 1990, when my husband was in a bad car accident that put him on disability for a year with back problems, life got a little shaky. There came a point when the doctor refused to give him any more pain meds and said he needed back surgery. He could barely get off the couch because of the pain. We were scared! And 22 years ago, surgery was riskier! So I began to pray!! I prayed in the shower, doing daily chores, while my daughters were napping, on my knees beside my bed, whenever I had the chance.

I became a prayer warrior. And as days, weeks, and months, went by, each day Nelson told me he felt a little better. He was eventually released to go back to work. Now that was a miracle from God!!

So fast forward to 1995. Nelson ends up in the hospital with pneumonia. More complications arise and he's put on a respirator. Well, the prayer warrior in me starts again. I believed, without a doubt, that God could heal him again. He did it once, so why wouldn't he do it this time? God had to heal him!

I continued to hold onto hope throughout the 3 weeks that Nelson was in the hospital. Up to the last day, I knew that if God wanted to, He could heal him. But He didn't. Nelson died after his lungs collapsed. My hope was gone, my dreams were shattered. God didn't answer my prayers the way I expected Him to. Why not?  Dazed and numb, I couldn't understand God's answer at the time.

As I began to learn through the years, as a widow, God gives, and God takes away. I've grown to realize that nothing is permanent in this life. I still believe in prayer and in miracles. But if my father in heaven takes it away, it's ok because he also gives me joy in this life, too.