We were all around him, my sisters, my mom and I. Just waiting for the inevitable. His eyes were closed and his breathing was slowing down. That was the night I experienced the loss of my dad.
It has been six years since that night. He was ready, but we weren’t. That night, we were starting our grieving process.
People say that time cures grieving hearts. The truth though, is that you learn to cope. You learn to live and to keep going. Hard days come and go, but the loss of a loved one is never cured, simply adapted to. It only becomes part of who you are. It becomes part of your story.
Chelsea is not only my friend, she is a sister. She is an example of strength and compassion. She will be our mentor mom for today. She will share with us what she has learned in the midst of her greatest sorrow and what life has been like after the loss of her husband at 23 years old.
How do you cope with grief around your family?
Being the only one in my immediate family and household to grieve the loss of my husband has been hard.
I can’t look to them to share in my pain or always “get” what I’m feeling.
With my current husband Cory, I’ve learned to communicate to him what I am needing. If I leave it up to the guessing game, we both end up losing.
So in the hard times, I’m open and tell him, and ask for what I’m needing- whether that’s a hug, a run to Dairy Queen, some flowers, a chat, etc.
I know this also takes away some anxiety for him. He doesn’t have to try to figure me out, which, let’s be honest, can be hard for even me to do sometimes. (#HotMess Central Right Here…)
Kids are tough though. Coping has grown and changed as my kids have grown and become more aware.
It’s important to know that I’m a “heart on my sleeve” person, so those of you like me can relate. If you’re more prone to keeping your feelings inside, this may not seem as helpful. Or, maybe it will challenge you to open up more? We all do what feels right at that time, for good or bad.
I found that it’s been healthy, both for my kids and myself, to let them see me cry and hurt, over grief especially.
What I have seen is that empathy can be taught by example very young, and our own circumstances are oftentimes the best teachers.
The way my kids take care of me and comfort me when I hurt is God at work in their hearts, no doubt. I’ve often cried and felt “sorry” for my family, because they don’t have a “normal” mom. (tears flood the eyes here) What I feel God whispering to me though is that I am exactly what my family needs.
So, I choose to let my grief and my pain soften my family’s hearts, and I have no doubt they’ll be equipped to help other hurting souls they encounter on each of our journeys in this bittersweet life.
What have you found to be helpful when you are feeling like falling apart?
I went to counseling after I lost my husband, Kyle. One truth spoken to me in that time that has gotten me through countless “falling apart” moments has been a simple “do what you need to do.”
Sometimes this means venturing off alone to the memorial park and sobbing from the depths of my soul.
Sometimes it means strolling TJMaxx, Starbucks in hand, to let my mind take a break.
Sometimes it’s falling into the arms of my closest people and crying together about how hard life can be.
Most often, it’s running to my Jesus. Music is so soothing to my soul and I’ll put on the songs calling to my heart and sit and rest in the arms of my savior. He has never ever left me in pieces.
What would you tell a grieving mom that is just starting her process?
Oh mama, give yourself so much grace.
Let yourself grieve. Let your kids see you grieve, and grieve with you if they too feel the pain of the loss.
You don’t have to “be strong” for anyone. Feeling your feelings and never quitting in spite of the torture you’re experiencing is strong enough.
It will be a better example to them than shoving it down and trying to carry on “as normal.”
Pain has become your new normal for this season, and shoving that pain down will only harm you and your relationships.
Cling to your kids, let others step in and help you (seriously, let them!), and never lose hope. There is life to live past the beginning of this darkness, so don’t give up!
What are the best ways to support a grieving friend?
There are so many things people grieve, so this is a hard one to answer right away, but I think what comes to mind first is empathy.
Try to put yourself in their shoes as best you can, just to let yourself feel some of how scary/painful what they are going through feels.
Not to think of what you would do differently or judge their decisions, but to really feel the weight of what their heart is going through.
Just a tiny bit.
It is terrifying to let yourself do, but it will open your heart to really understand them.
Don’t jump in their pit fully, because they’ll need your help to climb out of the pit of despair…eventually, but let that be in their timing.
Then choose to be there however you can be. Pray and ask God to use you and give you words to say, and close your mouth and hug them when you don’t know what to say.
I truly believe that God helped those that love me to support me in their own individual ways through loss. They just had to have love and understand through the hills and valleys alongside me.
The ones that stuck around, even when it was hard to be “un-needed” by me at times are the ones that are now my true friends for life. It forged an unbreakable bond. I’m forever thankful for those that chose to love me through my loss, not try to fix me.
What is your grief like these days?
Grief is like the tides flowing in and out, the currents sweeping this way and that. Just when you think you’ve got it down, it knocks you down and drags you out to sea again.
If there is one thing grief is, it is ever-changing. One thing it is not and never will be this side of heaven, is over.
I will never stop grieving and it will always be shifting. It’s hard to grow older without the one you pledged to take care of for life.
So many circumstances come up that bring back the pain, countless, endless reminders, anniversaries every year, birthdays, etc.
It is just plain hard and painful.
If I’m honest, and that seems that’s more of my style these days, I would say my grief has become more open. I find comfort in sharing my heart and allowing God to use it for good.
None of this struggle is in vain, and after 9 years, I can finally say I find myself gearing up for the rest of this race of life more often than wanting to quit it.
I grieve, but I don’t grieve without hope.