Saturday, June 30, 2012

Moments of Comfort in Grief

There were dreams, and then there were dreams that brought me comfort. Dreams where I'd see my former husband, Nelson, and know without a doubt that he was close by. I dreamt one night that I could see what he was doing in heaven, and that he was happy, healthy, and youthful. Other times, I'd cry to God for a sign. God never let me down. Nelson would come to me in a dream and wrap his arms around me. I'd know it was him by his embrace.

These moments of comfort kept my hope for eternal life alive. As the one year anniversary of Nelson's death approached, there seemed to be more moments of final comfort along with higher anxiety levels. These moments of comfort and anxiety were magnified in my life.

About 2 months before this monumental event of completing my first year of widowhood, my youngest daughter, Nicole, would be celebrating her seventh birthday. It would be the first birthday party I'd have to throw for one of my daughters by myself. Nelson always loved throwing the girls' birthday parties but now it was all up to me.  I didn't like it one bit. But it was time to suck it up and make it a memorable day for my seven year old.

We celebrated Nicole's birthday at the bowling alley, the day before her birthday. All of Nicole's friends showed up along with many of mine and Nelson's. The presence and support of my husband's friends emphasized Nelson's absence but also brought me peace to know how much we were loved. 

The comfort came the following morning. Nicole woke up on her birthday in a daze. "Mom!" Nicole's eyes opened wide. "I had a dream of Daddy! I was surfing at the beach. A huge wave came crashing over me and then Daddy came. He wrapped his arms around me and saved me! I felt him holding me, Mommy, he really hugged me. I could feel it!" Joy burst into my heart. Nicole felt a moment of comfort, too. And what better day but her birthday!

I believed that her father could have come to her and held her even if no one else believed it was real. The dream comforted us and helped us to go on. My children had their own grief journeys they were on and deserved to have their moments of comfort, too! Do you believe that dreams in grief are real, too?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tossed Back and Forth in Time

How can it feel like it happened yesterday, but then seem so long ago? I'd been a widow through the first year of holidays, summer vacations, birthdays and our would have been 12 year anniversary. In one way I felt like a conqueror but also anxious for the year to be over. I felt like a year marker would be some sort of a relief. Like, "I DID IT! I made it through one year!"

I reached the point in my grief where it was time to put away the rest of the sympathy cards. As I read each card again, it brought me back to yesterday (10 months ago). It still seemed hard to grasp. Felt like it happened just the other day. Where did the time go? I knew it was time to let go if I wanted to move forward. I put the cards with the others in the funeral book.

I looked around the house; time had taken its toll. I realized I had to maintain it by myself now. "Do you and your husband want all the carpets cleaned?" the carpet cleaner man asked me as he brought his cleaning machine into the house. "Actually, I'm a widow." After a pause and some embarrassment, we shared a few stories and laughs. It felt like ages since my husband had died.

I wasn't ready by any stretch of the imagination for a relationship. In fact, I still had my mind made up that I wasn't even going to date. It was just nice to have some casual conversation and a few laughs with a male. How I missed laughing with Nelson. It felt like just the other day I was having laughs with my best friend. Now I'm laughing with another male in my home.

It wasn't time to let go of the comfort from thinking about my former spouse. He brought smiles to my heart. He was still a part of my life and my heart still felt connected to his. I would always remain faithful to him. I would wait until we were together again. It wouldn't be long. The ten months that went by, was like a day. Like it had just been yesterday.

And so was my life for a while. Feeling like he had just passed yesterday and then feeling as if it had been so long ago. When it was yesterday....I'd feel his closeness. I relished the memories that were so close that I could practically touch them. And when it felt so long ago, I'd look to the heavens and see where God would lead me next. There was a sadness in that time of letting go, but there was also an element of curiosity. What is the plan for my life now?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When Widows Should Heed Their Friends' Advice

During my first year of widowhood, most of my friends had no idea what I was going through but they had more common sense than I did. I did know I was crazy for awhile. I realized I was feeling and behaving in ways that were so out of my character. For the most part, I did what I wanted to do, went where I wanted to go, and seldom considered the consequences. And for the majority of the time, my friends stuck with me and just let me be me.

So when a time came when I was on the verge of possibly making a huge mistake for my family, my friends, being friends, gave me some advice. When my former husband died, we lived in a single family home, in a neighborhood with many friends. I had promised my daughters that we would continue to live there. Nine months or so into my widowhood, I felt as if being tossed back and forth. I knew I had to let go of the past, accept what happened, and move forward.

With bi-polar feelings, there were still days I'd wallow in tears. I knew I couldn't go back but I cried for the memories. Then, on possibly the very next day, I'd be looking forward to and planning what my next move would entail. My parents and only sibling lived in the Carolinas. Living in Florida, I felt further away than I wanted to be from my family. I came up with what I thought was a logical idea to move to North Carolina where my family lived and have a support system.

My friends came to my rescue. There's a saying for the widow..."Don't do any big moves in the first year!". Some widows don't have a choice but to move. However, in my situation the cons for moving outweighed the pros. My support system were my friends. They were like sisters to me. My daughters were happy in their school, in their neighborhood, and involved with dance and gymnastics. A lot of people in our community knew our situation, and that alone was comforting.

I listened and considered my friends' advice not to move for at least a year. Well, I thought, that's only 3 or 4 more months. I can wait it out. And as the last couple months of the first year winded down,  I realized how much it didn't make sense to move at this time. It didn't mean at all that I didn't love my family. It meant why would I uproot my daughters and myself when we were surrounded by people that already loved us. Why would I subject my family to another change so soon?

When a year was up, the last thing I wanted to do was move. I believe one purpose for having friends in grief is listening to their advice because they have more sense than the grieving widow. I was still in a fog and couldn't see the whole picture. So in my case it was true, I wasn't ready to make any big decisions until a year had passed. My friends knew that and loved me enough to tell me. That's what friends are for!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lesson Learned From Widowed Friends

As a widow or not, we all have different groups of friends. I have school friends from grade school through grad school. I have coworker friends from different jobs as well as neighborhood friends I've made throughout the country. I have my Christian friends and church friends to feed my soul along with my special friends that are with me for the long haul. I can't forget about my Facebook and Twitter friends. And last but not widow friends.

Now all my friends hold a very special place in my heart. And each one has a purpose in my life. Soon after my late husband died, I consciously looked for any of my widow friends to find out what life was going to be like. Now days, there are widow blogs and other social networking means to find a multitude of widows. Back in the day, I only had a few widow friends that I could talk to.

It made a world of difference to talk with others that have been on that road. It was a common bond of widowhood. It felt healing to share each other's experiences and recognize that life goes on. Reading other widows' stories helped me to understand some of my crazy feelings and unhealthy behaviors. Grief makes you do crazy stuff. So when you hear other widows that have gone wild, then you don't feel as crazy. I guess it's a little comforting to know that we're all looney!

There was one huge lesson I learned, from other young widows. It was easy for some of them to get involved, almost immediately, into a new relationship. For some it worked out but for others, it was a mistake. I understood very quickly how widows could easily fill their void with other men instead of living through the pain that's necessary for healing. I made up my mind, our healing would come first.

I lived single for another 14 years as I raised my children. My two daughters were 6 and 7 when their father died. Though I was totally against getting remarried for quite a while, God did bring another wonderful man into my life that I couldn't resist. However, this man was wise and he waited until my girls were adults before he proposed. And I believe that because my girls had their time to grieve with much of my undivided love and attention, they are now happy young ladies.

I understand that each widow's journey is different. I know some widows that are very happy and never remarried. I think the majority of widows do remarry because God made us to be relational. The lesson I learned here was when was my family's grieving period over so that I was ready to remarry.  Because I pursued God's will, I remained single and loved my children first. Now they are happy and on their own, and I'm happily remarried!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

No Fear After Death

When death took my loved one, my whole life was turned upside down. In the first 6 months of widowhood, I could have cared less if I died, so I could be with my loved one. I lived with little fear. I wasn't fearful of flying in planes or the approaching hurricane I lived through while visiting Puerto Rico. I had a calm inside me that gave me freedom. I was free to experience life without being afraid of anything.

Then little by little as the years went by, fear slipped into my life again. I believe this was healthy. It meant that I was living life again after accepting my loss and I didn't want to die anymore. I was hanging on to life and feared what could possibly happen. But I really don't like to live in fear and I try to fight any fears I do have.

So when my daughter gave me a Christmas gift to go skydiving with her, how could I resist! I'm not a big fan of flying in airplanes, but I love amusement park rides and the thrill of riding on motorcycles. I fought the fears inside and took a leap of faith (out the airplane door). It was an experience I'll never forget!

Yes, it was crazy! AND INSANE! But a lot of fun and I'm happy to still be alive. We might as well live life now with as little fear as possible and enjoy it. Because eternal life might be here before we know it!