Tag Archives: grief

Guilt.

When my husband died I fell to pieces. I missed him with every fibre of every one of those pieces. My true love was gone and l was beyond devastated. I couldn’t see a way to fit those pieces back together to form any kind of a life. There were parts missing, like an old jigsaw from last Christmas carelessly tossed into the box without all the pieces . The picture could never look like it was supposed to. It would never be right.

What about the ugly pieces? Our fights, our struggles, the really hard stuff. Those bits I didn’t want to find, hidden under the lounge, I didn’t miss those.

I didn’t miss the disease. I didn’t miss the strain created between being with my husband in hospital and missing the kids. I didn’t miss the hard times it put on our finances and I didn’t miss the struggles we had in our marriage after 20 years…does that make me a bad person? It doesn’t sound loving or caring. It sounds selfish. It certainly made me feel bad, and that made me feel guilty and that made me sad all over again.

Initially I had rose coloured glasses on and I couldn’t think of a single bad thing he had ever done. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it was just a reflection of my love for him. That was real. But as the fog of grief lifted a little I began to see that life needed to be different. It had to be. I no longer had his pieces to fit with mine to complete the picture.

I had to live, parent, and work on my own. As my independence grew I began to discover things that I loved that I had either forgotten, given up on in compromise, or were new. I found laughter again, but it was different and often felt wrong, it felt like I was forgetting and that too felt like guilt. I didn’t want his family or friends to see me enjoying life, that heightened the guilt. Not because they wanted me to stay miserable or feel guilt, please know that, it was all internal. It was my perception of a life that still wasn’t quite making sense.

I think I gave too much, to my own detriment. I didn’t look after myself all the time and when I felt exhausted I chose the couch over the treadmill. I resented some of “our” choices and didn’t let go fast enough. I have a pretty tough exterior and I know I can find it hard to bend sometimes. That’s tough on a marriage. They are some of my faults, because I’m here and I can defend myself. Of course as a normal human being he had faults and made choices, some of them hurt me deeply, but he is not here, so I choose not to make a list of them.

Those hurts are hard to deal with, I can’t talk them through with him, I can’t yell at him, I can’t let him know how bruised I was, even when I pretended not to be. He will never know how I sat in the car park before work and cried. He will never know how I blamed myself and felt like I wasn’t enough. At least not to the full extent that only retrospect affords me. It makes me feel guilty to even think about, it feeds my grief.

Guilt and grief are not synonymous. One is a natural feeling after loss, the other leads to the decay of our heart. Guilt is a heaviness that seeks out our deepest frailties and plunges our emotions into darkness. It tells us lies about new happiness and whispers darkness into your soul. It is very real and it can destroy the goodness that you have found.

So what then? Can I hold him to account? Is there any point in bringing it up? Does it help me find pieces to complete the jigsaw? Actually yes, I think it does. If he was alive, we would say his mistakes were his to deal to deal with, not mine. The same is still true, it is not my guilt to take up now, I cannot own someone else’s mistakes. I know, I have tried it that way, it’s only another pathway to guilt. These things are not easy to do, not easy to overcome. Little by little I needed to let myself off the hook. I slowly came to see that I needed to let go of his mistakes, or I would not heal. He was a good man, but I needed to grieve the whole marriage, not just the good parts. A jigsaw has the pretty colourful bits everyone loves to find but it also has the pieces that look ordinary and plain,  you need both for the whole picture.

I needed to let him know how I felt. I wrote to him, letters that I threw to him in the ocean, as if sent of to him. It was for my benefit. About how I felt about what he did, not about what he actually did . He can’t change anything and even though he tried often, he couldn’t boost my self esteem above the level my own internal dialogue dictated. That’s up to me and my own beliefs. I believe God can do the impossible, move mountains etc But He can’t change what I won’t let go of.

I had to find a way through, to let go. It wasn’t pretty, it was painful. But there is freedom in letting it go, in facing it. To stare at the ugliness of guilt, what caused it and decide not to be caught in its grip any longer. To understand that I was the one instigating the guilt and holding back happiness. Whatever he had done, forgiveness was my decision and the key to letting it go. And when I didn’t have strength to forgive, the God of all forgiveness could help, wanted to help, I just had to ask.

Grief is forever, you don’t just forget one day. But happiness is forever as well. They can coincide as part of a new life… if I let grace rule over guilt.

If I let myself off the guilt hook. 

NOTE : If you are stuck you might need to talk to someone who understands, and if that means paying a counselor/Psychologist, DO IT. Do it sooner rather than later. I cannot recommend that strongly enough. They are trained to deal with the level of emotion you are feeling and are not personally involved so they are completely objective.

You are not defective if you need to talk to someone, you are normal.


No last words

We didn’t hear any last words. No words of wisdom. No declarations of everlasting love. None.

Cancer robbed us of those moments, there should have been more. There should have been time, but God had decided his time was done, he should go Home.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but I’ll never know. I had imagined it would have made it better but looking back through reason I don’t see how. How any words, no matter how heroic, loving or true could have made the moments after any more enduring. Not many I can think of.

I’ve written of this before, one entry about your hardest moment however, is not enough. No matter the amount of words, it would never be enough. Is there a word for “don’t worry, you won’t die from grief although it seems you might” or are there words when said together form some kind of magic as to take away the pain? From what I know, no there is not. Nor will there ever ever be.

I know from words spoken in life that he loved us, that he cared and didn’t want us to hurt. But when he was gone I wanted to hear them again. I have letters, I have cards and they have many loving words on them. So much so that reading them can bring tears as they help me remember their meaning. But words on a page, on this page, don’t bring anyone back to life.

Grief; a great sorrow caused by a loss. It’s not grief if there was nothing to lose. It only hurts because I loved and lost. Finding love again is wonderful, and truly a gift I never expected. But receiving a new gift, a new love, does not take all the pain of losing the other. It comes some of the way but the echoes from the crevasse can still haunt at times. Images of his pain, of my pain, of my kids’ can still sound out from the deepest places.

I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I know I can still love him, and at the same time love again. I do find comfort from other words, often those from my faith. Words that seep love, comfort and wisdom I could never dream up. Words beyond who I am, and beyond who my husband was. They help me. Within them I find an understanding, not of what I have lost, but for the pain and sadness. I find comfort in that. Loss is loss though and sometimes it just bites.

Today I was bitten when reminded. But these words help, it’s my therapy. I cried so many tears that seemed empty, but somehow this here on this page does not seem quite so empty. Nothing fills the whole gap, I am wounded. But it helps.

“For I am persuaded beyond doubt that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭AMPC‬‬


Still Believing

I am speaking to my own heart today, I am telling it to listen carefully, don’t shut down heart, don’t tune out this time. I’m yet not sure it’s listening, but I’m giving it a go. It wants to shy away, to sit in the back, to not be noticed as it wonders why. Why?

Why?

A long time after grief began, I found a smile on my face and I felt a sigh. It was a deep, relief filled sigh that I had indeed found hope again. Stress and anxiety lifted slowly, gratefulness for this hope grew and a respect for life heightened.

But I forgot a very important fact… Life still goes on and it’s not all happy. It’s not always as it should be, grief returns, people get sick, and hard, hard days are still part of life. It’s as if there’s some arthritis from the wound, it’s healed, I can walk, but it left some decay behind. So when conditions aren’t right, I feel it again. Agony. Cancer shouldn’t be able to touch my loved ones again, but it does. The agony of losing should be a thing of the past, but it’s not. My heart should not have to feel this again, but that’s just not realistic. Life, the good and the bad still march on whether I am prepared for it or not.

But why? 

Is God still good?

Is He a carer of my soul?

Is He really all powerful?

Can I trust Him?

Does He really want the best for me?

Is He even listening?  

I’ve learnt to answer “Yes” and yes there is sickness and death and horrid things that should never happen. Yes it doesn’t seem fair (don’t even get me started on that one!). But I still believe it through pain and when it’s hard. Why?

Why?

It’s nothing to do with a survey, it’s not a feeling, but a discipline of belief I can be sure of. Doubt surfaces for sure, and many questions race around my brain but at the end of the day I know there’s a whisper inside that knows hope will still come around the corner. There is a “however” on the end of the sentence that invites my heart to know there is something more.

There is more to death than grief, there is an eternity spent pain free in a better place. There is another side to hard times as we pull together and unite around common concern. There is another side to loss if I choose it. I can choose to add new people, new family, new love…if I choose. It’s not what I imagined in the beginning but it’s still good if I choose it.

I know by now that there are many, many questions in life that cannot be answered, won’t be answered, I don’t like that. That those “why’s” are not answered how I would like them to be and some days are just plain hard. If I make my heart listen it might bleed. If I summon it out of the fog it will need to go through reality before it can see hope. I cannot hear the whisper if I ignore the reason for hearing it. I cannot feel the relief until I know the pain.

When I walk with a limp I protect my wound, my broken limb, my pain from the blows of the world. When my heart hurts I protect it too. I put on my brave face, I distract conversation away from the pain and I keep in the shallows away from the deep stirrings that probe too much. I still don’t like the pain. I’m still a person. So I’m trying “however” on the end of lifes’ sentences. However, the treatment might be good. However, we are loved. However, there is yet hope. I’m hoping God is there in the however, planted firmly in between the pain and the hope that lies beyond. I’m not looking for new answers to all the hard questions, I’m choosing to keep believing what I began believing before grief began.

I’m praying my and my loved ones hearts understand. Understand we are loved, understand we know it hurts and understand we are all in this together. I’m praying we hear the whispers of hope over the noise of the why’s.

I’m praying. 

Hope.

MI Rainbow blessings getty


A Wonderful Life

After cancer, after death, after a bottomless pit of grief, it really can be a wonderful life.

I have been silent for a while because my life has shifted again. This time for better. I laugh, I love, I work, I play and really truly live.

At 43 I thought my life was done, I knew I would continue to breathe in and out and keep moving through my existence, but I really thought that was it. My partner had died, my kids dad was gone, I was alone, scared, and sad.

So what caused the change?

For the first 8 months I was a train wreck. Pure and simple. It was just hard, I survived hour to hour, day to day. Then I had to face the reality, he wasn’t coming back, I really was in this alone. Kids grow up and move on, as they should, and in a few short years it would be me and the cat. So I had to ask myself the big questions, face the reality head on and get help.

The big questions were answerless. No answer to why my husband died of cancer and the rat bag down the road gets to live forever. No answer to what my life would look like now. No answer to why I felt picked on by God and why He decided to destroy my family. But I had to move forward regardless. Answers or not. I decided to let the questions go. To stop demanding “why” because it was draining me of life. That’s not what Paul would have wanted. I chose to step into a new world and trust that God knew my footsteps before I took them. And you know what? He did.

Beyond that I stopped shutting the world out and began once again to accept love and friendship around me. From my kids, family, friends, and a church family that demanded nothing of me but encouraged me endlessly to bask in grace and believe solidly that God who truly loved me offered new mercies daily. I believe my faith grew up a lot. Now I just know that I know He loves and cares for me. Despite circumstances. My reciprocation of that love is not always without doubt or fear, but it’s there.

I desperately needed comrades for the journey, and I usually needed them in the middle of the night. So I looked online for women, brave women, who had lost and had begun to live again. Their stories, their inspiration, and even their sadness helped me. I was done with pity, I needed real grit and real guts, these women had it.  I wasn’t alone in this; others survived this wreck, so maybe I could too. Some practical sites that helped in some very, very, very dark moments were as follows.

http://www.onefitwidow.com/

http://www.widowschristianplace.com/

http://www.secondfirsts.com/

https://anewseason.net/

Sometimes just reading helped, but through these sites I found new friends from all over the world and we pushed each other along. I am forever grateful.

There is one more reason for happiness, one more joy in my life that is new. I felt a whisper deep inside to keep my heart open and to believe that I could once more experience the greatest gift one person can give another… love. The odds weren’t good. Then 44, 3 kids, and a whole lot of complication to offer, I didn’t like my chances. But God doesn’t gamble, it was all there in His plan, a man that loves me and I love him. Not a secondary kind of love, not someone else’s leftovers, but a man I daydream about, can’t wait to be with and have to pinch myself sometimes to remember it’s all true. I feel adored, honoured, and embraced. I really thought those days were over, it is the greatest gift I could ever receive. He is wonderful and I love him deeply.

Of course I still have moments and ache because my kids lost a good dad, but I also know that goodness and life are true things and not just theoretical concepts. Life can turn around, hearts can heal and love can be felt again.

It really, truly is a wonderful life.


A New Pair of Shoes

new shoes

Girls like shoes. Girls like new shoes…and clothes and well you know everything!

I am a girl and I like them too, but I don’t like shopping. That’s a dilemma. You can’t get new if you don’t go out to get new. (Yes I know you can shop online but that doesn’t fit the analogy…just go with it).

Recently I have lost weight, no not from grief, that’s how I gained most of it, I ate my feelings. Over and over, there were a lot of feelings! I was frumpy, unfit and unhappy. I made a very conscious decision to change all that and am glad to say its’ working. So I have a pile of fat clothes and a dwindling amount of things that actually fit properly. But I hate shopping.

So I can stay in my fat clothes, or make the effort to get new ones.   I face a few of these dilemmas nowadays.   Buying new clothes is not a big dilemma. But what about my house, do I move house or stay, who am I alone, what church do I attend now, how do I parent alone?? All have been big questions for me, but they are all figured out the same way. By asking myself “what is the best thing in order to keep moving forward. “

The fact is I need a whole new wardrobe. My clothes had to change to a new size, a no-more-husband-size, its different now. But my shoes still fit, my feet didn’t get fat! So do I need new shoes too?

New clothes need new shoes to match. A new life needs a new attitude. The old things just don’t match anymore. It’s not the same. I cannot move forward holding onto the past. Is my husband only in my past, no! He will forever occupy a room in my heart; he will forever be my kids’ dad and if there is ever anyone new to love in my life they will need to accept that. But my life is different now. If I keep looking backwards I can’t see where I am going, I trip and I fall.

I need to look to happiness, to love, to life, to a future. I need new things that fit my new life. I need to step out of the house and back into the world.

I need new shoes to match the outfit.

“No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.” Mat 9:17 (The Message)


Prickle Underfoot

I’ve had a setback.

But that’s just life I have decided. Rocky roads and prickly ground does not signal the end of happiness.

It was a hard week. I was really down, I felt let down by a friend, it accentuated my aloneness and it hurt. So I decided to take my mind of it with a girly pampering afternoon…but it didn’t work. While being girlied up one of my kids had an accident (reserving details because it’s not just my story), this couldn’t be happening.

On my way to the accident scene I switched into crazy-mumma-fix-it-get-everything-done mode and powered through the rest of the day which included hours at hospital and police reporting. By the time we got home I was exhausted. I tossed all night long and woke early for work and to juggle the next round of accident related needs.

I chose to ignore the fact that I didn’t yet have enough emotional resilience for all of this. That was a big mistake. 24 hours later my world became unstable. I felt flung back into the depths of grief, and it felt permanent. Like an old enemy had sprung up ready to shoot me down.

When asked I was “fine thanks” when help was offered I honestly didn’t know what to ask for. Except… I really just wanted a hug, but found it hard to ask for one!! Do you do that? Or is that just me?

Whilst going for a walk a couple of days later I trod on some prickles, and then some more prickles. They weren’t life threatening, but for that moment they took my breath away and for the next few steps I could still feel the pain. Of course I am fine now, no prickles can be felt. But it highlighted my previous couple of days. They had been the same. They took my breath away and I have had a little limp ever since, but I know I will recover.

Prickles are just part of life. A well-tended lawn may not seem to have any, but an unexpected prickle can still spike you when you least expect it. Grief is like that. Life is like that. All is well then a couple of prickles move your attention again to pain. But it’s not a permanent injury.

It’s just a prickle.

A few deep breaths the pain is gone, life can resume. I will keep reminding myself of that. Life will resume. My child is OK, I am OK.

It was just a prickle.


The Upside of Death

light in the dark

What is it about death that causes you to stand up and pay attention to life?

I used to be a very content home body. Happy being wife and mum, in fact, I felt it was my highest calling. I know I’m supposed to go on about how women can have it all these days, but for me, it was having it all. Oftentimes that calling was exhausting and time alone at home was a rare prize. But I loved it. Now I can hardly contain the need to get out and live.

I guess living becomes more deliberate, more on purpose; after all it is precious and finite. I know that now. I think the living helps the loss to shrink. It pushes grief out of the way, like light chasing away the shadows and illuminating a path to hope I was convinced I’d never see again. Not denial, I certainly know it happened, that empty space beside me screams it, I am fully aware of what I have lost.

I also feel a responsibility to show the kids life goes on, even after our darkest days. I’m it, the only parent left so I better be fit, healthy and living a full and happy life. I can do this, and so can they. Of course, realistically, I still have grief moments that interrupt the living, but they are part of the remembering and that’s OK, as long as the living is resumed.

Loving kids, family and friends have been crucial, I would not have made it on my own.  But I can see now that my faith has been a huge influence. Even when I blamed God and couldn’t understand how He was loving and just in letting Paul die, even then, I felt His hand in the small of my back nudging me on, willing me to live. A patient Gentlemen who never swore back at me, even in the coldness of my accusations. I am eternally grateful.

So I guess this is an upside of grief…that seems so wrong to write, but surely I deserve an upside, a silver lining, a rainbow after the storm?? Life is the upside.  A determined spotlight on living.

The contrast between life and death is massive, like the difference between light and dark. Once the light hits the darkness it just isn’t dark anymore.


%d bloggers like this: