The day hung on me like a millstone. I could feel it pulling me deeper and deeper into memories and feelings.
It was the one year anniversary of when I was to remarry to Ruth Blake. Most observers called it a “GOD” connection and in just eight months our love for each other threw our lives into visions of hope, inspired our faith, and provoked so much laughter. We felt like teenagers and were so happy. Emphasis on the word ‘was’.
If you are new to my story, Ruth died just 26 days before our wedding day also from cancer. This slid me onto a downward trajectory emotionally, physically, spiritually. It was inexplicable. How could I possibly face this twice in my life? It rocked me to the depths of my soul, leaving me feeling unbalanced, and plunging me into a deep dark place in search of how I could possibly live my life again.
As I shared in my previous post, I have experienced a remarkable healing and a new perspective on all of this. I didn’t drown in my sorrows – although I was certainly sorrowful. Losing a wife to cancer after 40 years of relationship then losing a fiancé of eight months – inconceivable! (I know, you cannot read that word without ‘hearing’ the voice of Vizzini from Princess Bride).
I have talked to other widowers in the past year who cannot believe I am still standing. Yet here I am, able to only in Christ alone. But being able to stand does not mean that the anniversary of our wedding day did not linger on me . It was after all, the death of a dream.
Memory Muscle Cramps
The night before our ‘anniversary’ I had friends over for supper. I enjoyed the cooking and great conversations around the table. But as I was cleaning the kitchen and putting away dishes, my mind-traffic was all about how nice it would be to be entertaining and cleaning up with Ruth. We had dreams of how we would entertain regularly, inviting others into our home. I thought of how she would have loved the young adults gathered here – young adults were her passion and her ministry. Those memories are like experiencing a muscle cramp, a reminder of the death of a dream.
Loss involves pain, and that is unavoidable. Our pain is proportionate to our love, so if you love someone deeply it is going to be more painful should they die. While I have experienced a lot of pain this past year I’ve also learned a great deal. Here are some of my reflections:
Learnings on Grief and Loss
- Death is a reality of life. The most precious commodity we have now is our time, and we can give that to others as a gift. When we do, be fully present, and let them know they have been heard.
- I realize that true love transcends all things physical and is what sustains us through our lives, with or without our loved ones.
- Many people journey through their own sometimes brutal and perplexing life issues. Each day forward provides an opportunity to do at least one good thing for those around me. I can choose to live each day, loving and encouraging others.
- Multiple losses creates an opportunity to re-evaluate: Faith, grace, friendships, family, how we spend time, what we invest in. Don’t waste that. Set some time in your planning for reflection and being intentional.
- Men suffer more from being bereaved. In a 2001 study by psychologists Wolfgang and Margaret Stroebe they found that men actually suffer more from death of a loved one. So men stop trying to be stoic, admit you are suffering and enter into the healing that follows.
- Find some time to laugh. I have seen how laughter is healing. When I’m together with my sons and we get telling stories about their Mom we often end up in joyous laughter at the memories. Even though we still miss Brenda, her influence and life lives on through the joy of her life.
- Lean into the pain. We oscillate a great deal on this journey. Some hours avoiding the grief because it hurts, other times wanting to talk about it and draw near. Stay with it until you sense God’s presence with you.
- Death of a loved one gives you the opportunity to unzip your soul and let the pain do its work. Do this with a few trusted friends or family. Keep them up to date on how you are journeying and when it hurts. Trust them and allow them in – they will benefit as much or maybe even more than you will. The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.
- I am a pastor, a mentor of Christian leaders but through this season of loss in my life I have a new understanding of what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Over the past year, I have come to know that I can: experience grief but without despair; sorrow but without defeat; sadness but without hopelessness. As Christ followers, we grieve genuinely but hopefully because our grief is temporary. Our grief will come to an end and we (Brenda and Ruth and myself) will be reunited before the Lord together – forever.
The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.
My mother loved pearls. Brenda loved pearls and was seldom seen without them. So I got looking into them one time and found that ‘pearl divers’ are a real thing. It’s a job! They have this amazing ability to swim for a long time underwater with no equipment. They scour rocks and sea bottom for bi-valve mollusks like oysters that just may have a pearl inside. The most valuable pearls in the world are found in the wild, and are often at the deepest depth for these divers.
To help the divers stay deeper they put on weights like a belt enabling them to sink down faster and deeper. There they are then able to stay on the bottom longer extending their search – and that is where they find pearls of great price.
This is like a metaphor for me as I feel like God strapped some weights to me last year causing me to sink to the bottom, but while there I have discovered some pearls.
So the next time you sink to the bottom in life, take a look around. God is there with you and he will reveal to you more of his splendour, grace and love.
Have you had an experience when you hit rock bottom, but then discovered there was some treasure of great price to be found?
What are some of your reflections on loss in your life?