My local church hosted a Blue Christmas service this year. I was asked to give a testimony…
I lost my husband 14 months ago. Wow! It still shocks me when I say that out loud. This past year has been the hardest year of my life. I came to know the Lord as a teenager, and to be honest, faith has always been easy for me. I found it easy to trust God. Until I lost Jon. Losing my husband rocked my faith in a way that surprised me. After Jon died, I wanted to believe God for heaven. But I was numb. And scared. And I found myself asking, What if none of it’s true? I so desperately wanted to believe God, but I didn’t even know if I could trust him anymore. Your grief may look different, but I found it hard to read my Bible. But I started reading lots of books. Stacks of books. Books about creation and books about heaven and books about science. I thought if I could believe God for creation, then I could trust him for heaven.
And in all that reading, I found so much help from others who had walked this journey before me.
One book summed up perfectly what I was going through with these words,
I continue to ask my whys and hows and receive no answer. I yell and scream at God for doing this to me. I refuse to walk with him. I tell him I don’t believe in him anymore. Of course, the irony is that the whole time, I’m still talking to him. And he lets me. — The Louder Song, Aubrey Sampson
What I came to realize is that God wasn’t worried about my doubts. He wasn’t threatened by my questions. In fact, he welcomed them. He knew if I continued to seek the answers, I’d find my way right back to him.
A couple of months after Jon passed away, I had to drop off some documents at a local business. The woman who took the papers talked to me for a bit, and then tears rolled down her cheeks. She said, “Jon would come into the office and walk back to my desk. He was always so friendly, and we’d just talk for a while. I just realized he isn’t going to do that anymore.” She then apologized because I began to cry as well. I walked away from that conversation, weeks after Jon’s death, feeling grateful and encouraged. I thought about that woman several times during the day and the simple story she gave me.
Another time, a former Pastor called to check up on me. I started off with just short answers, but he kept asking more questions and more questions. An hour later, he said, “Connie what can I do for you.?” And I said, Pastor, you have just spent an hour holding my pain and witnessing my grief. Thank you. I don’t need anything else right now.”
I have found, over the past year, that one of best ways people can help me move forward is to take a few minutes to witness my grief. It’s hard for me to jump into a conversation about everyday things…because everything has changed.
In his book, Finding Meaning, David Kessler writes,
In native villages in Australia, on the night that someone dies, everyone in the village moves a piece of furniture or something else into their yard. The next day, when the bereaved family wakes up and looks outside, they see that everything has changed since their loved one died — not just for them but for everyone. That’s how these communities witness, and mirror, grief. They are showing in a tangible way that someone’s death matters. The loss is made visible. — Finding Meaning, David Kessler
Everything has changed.
After a few months, people started saying to me, “you’re young, what are you going to do with the 10,15, maybe even 30 years?” That question always made me instantly tear up. Thinking of going through all that time without Jon added heartache upon an already broken heart. I didn’t want to answer the question and I didn’t want to face all those years without him. An author challenged me with these words,
Once I stopped asking “Why me?” and began asking, “What now? What will I do with what I’ve been given?” I was able to move forward. — The Choice, Edith Eger
Something in my spirit said, “Well Connie, what about the rest of the year? Can we just talk about that?” And I decided I did want to answer that question. How could I honor my husband and glorify God over the next six months? Who did I want to be by the end of 2021? I started putting a few “next steps” into my journal every day. I jotted down things I was passionate about .. because I have determined the rest of my days will not be wasted on anything less.
And now… I’ve gotten to the end of the year 2021. One day at a time. One step at a time.
And every morning I ask myself, What will I do with what I’ve been given?