Community and Healing

The unimaginable happened; I became a widow at the age of 42 on June 25, 2011. Kirk left early that morning to get some work caught up at the shop he owned. That day, he died in a workplace accident. Before the day finished, he was gone.
He didn’t answer Emily’s (my daughter) or my call for dinner that evening. Not answering his phone was unusual, so we went to his workplace shop, but we were too late to save him. My husband of 18 years, her dad of nine years, was called Home, to Heaven.
After the funeral services, the events to celebrate life, the well-wishes, people go home. When people start to go back to their own life, that’s when you have to find your new normal. I knew I would need help. I knew my daughter would need help after losing her dad. We both attended counseling through our church. I participated in a grief support group and searched for more resources to help me walk through this profound grief.
Something I utilized as a resource was a Christian Widow’s conference. At the conference, I met some amazing women who joined me on this path, blessing me immensely! Many more amazing people came alongside me to support and encourage; they walked this journey through widowhood with me. God provided these people at a time community was essential. He is so Good, and through community and other resources, He taught me He is with me through every fire, every tear!
During my counseling, we discussed a part of my healing would be to help other widows who had just started their journeys. In the fall of 2016, God gave me an idea to offer “widow bags” to new widows and their children/teenagers. The idea was there, it was a strong desire that I needed to obey, but I had no idea how to make that dream a reality. Through some research, I was pointed to Ann Madison (Executive Director) at Peace Restored. Ann and I met in March of 2017, and we clicked. She loved the idea of the “widow bags.” From that meeting, we planned and met with organizations within the community. Several community organizations loved the idea and helped us make the bag idea into reality. With the “widow bags,” we were able to reach out to new widows and families!
From God laying the “widow bags,” on my heart, to orchestrating Ann and I meeting, to providing help from the community organizations, God did something else! God reminded me of the community He had provided and how vital that was to my healing journey. Ann and I discussed and prayerfully considered what to do with that. Soon after, Peace Restored started a Young Widows Club to provide a built-in community for young widows, a vital part of the healing journey. God grew our group from one person during the late fall of 2017 to over twenty women served through Peace Restored! God has blessed the Young Widows Club in many ways; we still offer those “widows bags” to new widows, we have started annual widows treat, and we can provide continued support for young widows.
Even though this is not a group that we wanted to join, it’s a blessing to find others that share your heartache and loss. Being able to walk beside these wonderful women has blessed me so much. I always say that they bless me more than I could ever bless them. God has richly blessed me, and I give Him all of the glory.
Every day, I pray Gods’ blessings will continue to shine on our women and Peace Restored.

God has truly blessed me.
To Him be all the praise and glory!

A Counselor on Widowhood

“He’s in a better place,”

“Oh honey, everything happens for a reason,”

“God needed another angel,” and last but not least

“Aren’t you over him yet, he’s been gone for a while?”

Most people have the best intentions when using these phrases but these words for the woman, who lost the one she chose to go through life with, often lead to isolation and more despair. Losing a spouse is one of the hardest things we endure in this lifetime. Research reveals that spousal bereavement can open the door to problems such as depression, chronic stress and anxiety, and even a reduced life expectancy if not dealt with in a healthy manner.

We have come to know this devastation as grief. Unfortunately, it leaves widows with difficult and dark emotions that never asked permission to be invited into their lives. Many books have been written on the stages of grief. A popular theory is from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Stages of Grieving, where one goes through each step of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Yet these stages were never meant to take the plight of emotions in a well-organized scheduled manner. Emotions from grief are messy and often leave the widower crippled with pain. We become angry at the person leaving us, mad at ourselves as we could have done things differently, or even angry with God because He could have done something to intervene. We bargain, promising to do things differently in return for easing the pain. All the while, sadness, guilt, and even depression creeps in steeling our mere existence.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

There’s a famous saying in the grief community, “Grief is like a tunnel, to come out of it you must first enter.” Grief requires us to sit with our pain. It asks us to put one foot in front of the other, trusting that this incredible sadness will someday open doors to a new meaning and purpose for this lifetime. Yet so often, we want to hurry the process and numb the pain. Why wouldn’t we? The grief process is laborious, and we have jobs to get back to, children to be healthy for, the list goes on. Yet over time, those feelings accumulate, and if we do not deal with them, they usually have a way of reentering at the most inopportune times.
Significant transformations come in those baby steps, and before you know it, those hundreds of steps bring you to the other side of the tunnel. In the therapeutic world, this is called acceptance. You get to call it what seems most appropriate to you.

But the most important thing to remember is that this is your story and your story matters. Healing comes when we engage in our story. God is coauthoring your epic storyline.

We at Peace Restored would love to hear it!

As we (Peace Restored) continue discussing the topic of widowhood, we want to offer another
a resource to those who may find themselves grieving:
A book titled, “From One Widow to Another” By Miriam Neff.
From one widow to another or from one story to another, we believe this book is filled with practical help and encouragement in the face of profound loss.
Here’s the link if you or a friend could use this: https://amzn.to/2USuSWF

Author

My Journey To Victory


Grief is never singular; it’s always multifaceted. I never fully grasped the depth of this concept until I walked through it myself.

I met my husband about two years into his journey with illness; we got married despite the risks because our love made it all worth it. But the journey itself was life-changing for both of us. I can honestly say that it was the hardest 13 years of my life. I can also honestly say that I would walk through it all again, to learn and experience what I have about my Lord Jesus.

My husband, Steve, spent 15 years fighting to survive and striving for some quality of life, undergoing 21 surgeries in the process, and enduring one complication after another. Countless times, the doctors told him he would not survive. Countless times, God miraculously pulled him through.

After Steve went to Heaven in January of 2013, my grief became complicated by so many emotions.I had prayed for years for God to heal him here on earth, but toward the end, I prayed for God to end his suffering, even if it meant taking him to heaven. I was to the point that I would rather be without him than continue to watch him suffer and deteriorate. But we also had a daughter together…praying for God to take him home meant she would suffer without her daddy.

However, pain changes people. Sickness and meds change people. Steve went through a period of three years, where the meds made him mean and abusive. During that time, I completely shut down emotionally to survive and to keep the household functioning for my daughter. In my heart, I hated him for the pain he was causing my daughter and me, and I hated myself for the way I felt. I just wanted my husband back. So, I prayed for God to either fix him or take him.

Then Steve went through another surgery; the doctor changed his meds and the man I fell in love with gradually came back to me…to an extent. The man that came back to me was a much older version of himself as if he had aged 30 years. My husband went from being a God-loving, kind, passionate young man to a manipulative monster, to a gentle, fragile grandfather. He loved our daughter, but couldn’t remember to brush his teeth, turn off the gas burner on the stove, or stop at the red traffic lights.

So needless to say, after Steve went home to be with the Lord, my grief was all over the place. My overwhelming emptiness and internal deadness accompanied by 2-ton guilt; I asked God to heal him, then take the monster away, bring his youth back, take dementia away, and finally, to rescue him from this world.

I had prayed an emotional rollercoaster of prayers about the father of my precious child who worshipped the ground he walked on. She was living without her father after I had prayed for God to take him. All the while, I wanted him to come back to me, to us. God had the power to heal him but chose not to. God didn’t owe me anything, but I wanted him to give us this one. He didn’t, and yet I was supposed to trust Him with my heart.

In the months after Steve went to heaven, I felt empty. I felt GUILTY. I felt dead inside. I felt grateful that God had ended his suffering and angry at God for not keeping him here. I felt furious at myself for asking God to take Bekah’s daddy away. I felt so overwhelmingly sad. I felt free from the horror of watching him suffer from the danger his dementia would put us in. I felt GUILTY about feeling free.

I also felt scared. How was I supposed to do life without my husband? How was I supposed to raise this beautiful child by myself? How was I supposed to maintain a house and 10 acres without help? How was I supposed to support us financially? How could I ever feel joy again with so much emptiness in my heart? Why did no one understand? Why couldn’t I find one friend who gets it?

In a desperate attempt to survive and heal, I ran to God’s Word; I clung to Him with every breath, just like I did when Steve was at death’s door over and over again.

I had a daily ritual of praying this necessary prayer before the start of every day:

“Lord, this is Your day…You created it, and because all my days were written by You since before I was born, You already know what this day will hold for us. You know everything we need to survive today. So Lord, be King over this day; may Your will be done, no matter what that looks like. Don’t let anything come into our day that is outside Your will.”

This prayer was the one thing that gave me peace. My motto had become, “God’s Got This.”

After Steve passed, I went back to this prayer again. Laying everything in God’s hands had calmed my anxiety and brought me peace before Steve died, and so it would again. I clung to God and surrendered to His authority every day. I knew that as long as I was securely in His hands, and He was in control of my days, Bekah and I would be OK.

And we were OK…and we still are. After 7-1/2 years of widowhood, after losing seven more loved ones in just a few years, after walking through the throws of grief, Bekah and I are still OK. God always has us in the palm of His hand, and He is healing us through His Word and His care, one day at a time.

Not that it’s easy. Satan still tries his best to defeat us, but God is bigger. Satan tries to beat us down by lying to our hearts. He loves to tell me, “You’re never going to find love again; you’re too old and have too much baggage for anyone to want you. You’re never going to be enough all on your own. You’re incomplete, and so is Bekah. She’s going to grow up with tons of holes in her life without her daddy; she’s going to become a statistic. Life has been too much for you; you should give up now.”

Satan does his best to convince us, but he doesn’t get to win. To combat the lies, I went back to what I have always done—clinging to His truth. The promises that tell me that God is my provider, He’s my (and Bekah’s) Father, God is my protector, He is my caretaker, God loves me, He knows me thoroughly, God will work all things for our good, He is my counselor, He is sovereign over my life. God is always good.

The truth of God’s Word wins over the lies of Satan EVERY. TIME. So I wash Satan’s deceptions from the walls of my heart and paint God’s truth over them, as many times per day, as is needed to gain victory over that day.

A victorious life is the accumulation of many victorious days. That is how I survive widowhood. One day, one hour, one moment, one battle at a time. One foot in front of the other, trusting God with everything, letting Him lead.

Pandora’s Box

Domestic violence comes in unique packages, often missed by the naked eye.
I had no idea how rapidly my life was about to change. I had taken a new job at a hospital across town. As a single mom for ten years, I was independent, successful, and content. Shortly after, a colleague suddenly stopped me saying, “Girl, I know the man you’d make a perfect suitor for- he is a doctor.” The colleague’s name? Pandora. Perhaps that should have been my first clue. In Greek mythology, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus, the king of the gods, took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus. Pandora opened a box, left in her care, containing sickness, death, and countless other evils released into the world.

I initiated, and we met. We had a lot in common, but he was not a Christian, so the relationship came to a halt. He, however, pursued a spiritual interest, asking if he could go to church with me, confessed he was missing something in his life. He honored every one of my boundaries, kept an emotional distance, and began attending church, meeting folks, and within several months, confessed he got “saved.”

We married, and shortly after conceived a son. He no longer wanted me to work, but to live my dream of staying home with the children. Everything seemed like a fairytale. Then it began. Women called the home phone, asking to speak to my husband by his first name. He reassured me these were women who didn’t know he had married. Yet, I thought, they had my landline number. Playboy magazines began to arrive in the mail. He had a subscription and would cancel it. I realized as honest as he said he was, he was hiding habits.

It wasn’t long until conflict broke out between him and my children. He began pitting one person against another. Then, child porn was found on the home computer with his name attached to a PayPal site. He blamed my children, rationalizing he was a man, not a child, that this was their problem. Then, one day out of the blue, he said, “I need to get out of this town; let’s move.” He was now eight years out of his first bankruptcy and filed another.

I began to get sick, my hair was falling out, and we didn’t have insurance. My husband told me I could go to the health store, but not a doctor. He was yelling all the time. I became withdrawn. As the years went by, his conflict with the children grew. I heard him in the garage, yelling at my 14-year-old daughter. She screamed in terror; the door swung open as she raced up the stairs; he was just behind her with a baseball bat, shouting. I ran up those stairs, grabbed that bat, and told him to leave. He would not.

It wouldn’t be long before his anger would spill out on me. As I sought to confront him on his sociopathic behaviors, he responded, well, like a sociopath. He grabbed me by both arms, leaving marks. He shoved me against the wall and, spittle flying, told me he hated me. The night he spent in jail did more to unsettle me than it did him. Therein may be the most insidious thing about domestic violence, that tip of the spear where the mental and the physical come together- fear of violence coupled with a fear that it is the victim’s fault.
I forgave. I trudged on. I stood by this man through more infidelities, more betrayals, more acts of violence, more crimes, more character assassination. I sought help from my church that tossed us both aside as hindrances to the image the church wished to maintain. In the end, he left, and in his trail was all the destruction that had poured forth from Pandora’s Box.
But God.

Depressed Belief


I’m depressed. I say that as a way to help someone understand that depression is hard, it’s debilitating. Depression has made me not want to accept what’s ahead for my life; it’s caused me to halt. I’m unable to do things I did because fear has crippled me. Thankfully, this has started to change, and I’ve started to settle into a new normal. The roots of depression entangle me on more occasions than I care to admit.

Someone close to me became ill in the last few years, and I’ve had to adjust to a new normal of the routine they need and caring for them while still trying to take care of myself. Since this began, I have struggled with purpose, not my intention but Gods’. I have often wondered, what is the point of all this sickness? It seemed as conditions worsened; all I heard were painful stories from others. I started to question the Lord, is your plan perfect? If your plan is perfect, how could this be happening? How can I feel this way? But even in my questioning, I never stopped believing in God; He saved me, and I can’t forget that.

I began to cry out, asking God to lift the sickness and the depression. I pray these things with the understanding that He may not, and that’s scary. Sometimes, I think, maybe I’m praying the wrong thing. I want to pray Gods’ will be done, and at the same time, that prayer is terrifying for my current reality. I know I should trust the Lord, but this depression over me has started to overtake what I feel, everything I think becomes corrupted by this. It makes me question trusting our Sovereign Lord, and that scares me! When I sit and think about these things, I get lost in how I feel. I know how blessed I am, and I feel so guilty for feeling my feelings. When the Lord first saved my life, all I wanted was to be with Him! When the sickness began, my attitude and relationships changed. I desperately wanted normal again. But God has changed my routine, and I’m reluctantly learning to accept that.

I thought it would help me to adjust if I developed a better understanding of His purpose. To do so, I turned to trusted friends and some family. If I’m honest, reaching out to them made me feel as if I were a burden. I repeated the same mantra of caretaker and depression. I irritated myself by discussing it too much or not enough. Every time I shared my struggle, I became reassured that I wasn’t a burden, and I wasn’t sharing too much or not enough; it was what I needed. These people made me feel as if sharing was okay. I needed that reassurance each time to keep going, and I’m thankful for people who don’t write you off when you’re not over your circumstance. These trusted friends gave useful and encouraging advice on caring for that person and walking with Jesus. The advice didn’t lift the depression, but it made everything a little lighter, the burden a little less, and forced me to think about what those encouragers said. I often thought about, how I could serve the ill person in my life more, what is something I could make myself do for a sense of normalcy, and what is something positive I can be doing? Of course, these weren’t end-all solutions; the depression still entangles me.

The depression may still have a hold on me, but God lovingly calls me out on my motives. Are my reasons for serving this person to make myself feel better, or are they indeed with love? He continually reminds me to do these things with trust and love for Him. Sometimes, doing these things with the right motivations is all the energy I have, it’s hard and scary. It’s been hard to adjust to life with depression and becoming a caretaker to someone so close to me. My depression has a root cause so that I can pinpoint the source. Knowing the source doesn’t make it easier. As someone who believes in Jesus, I fight the battle almost daily between depression and clinging to the truths of God. On any given day, either side can win. Sometimes, the depression side wins so often, I feel hopeless, but God always rescues me, no matter how many times I lose in my daily battle.