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.
Shawna is a country girl who has a love for animals and nature, but as a widow and homeschool mama, her deepest passion is reserved for the Lord and her 16-year-old daughter. Shawna has experienced many losses and hardships in her lifetime, but God has faithfully carried her through every trial and has used every struggle to shape her into the woman she is today. Her deepest desire is to allow God to use her story and her life to encourage, strengthen, heal, and empower women in every difficulty and walk of life.
Shawna has written and taught women’s Bible studies for many years and also does public speaking for women’s events. She enjoys sharing with others the many testimonies of God’s unending faithfulness and grace. She has a passion for the Bible and for bringing others to the saving love of Jesus Christ.