There are things I love because of you.
A well cooked burger, the city of Republic and the smell of fresh mowed grass when driving on windy country roads on a Missouri evening.
I can almost hear you saying the words, “I just love that smell...” as I cruise with the windows down. It was phrase you often repeated.
There are other things I love because of us, because our stories collided and became one. These are things we both loved, music, evening drives and more.
Mixed with this, is your family that has also become mine over the years. Without you, I would have never known them to the level I do today. And I can’t imagine my life without them.
Tonight, sitting across the table from my mother-in-law (your mom) and my niece and nephews, the thought hit me that I am able to love them and know them because of you. How very special this is!
Of course, your absence is felt, but even as you are gone, they remain part of my life and heart here and now — and as far as I am concerned, forever.
Your brother, sister, mom and their families are part of me now too. How truly special this is.
As I navigate grief and wonder what the future for me looks like, I am curious to know how new people mixing in could work. There’s a lot of time to process that whole topic - for sure - but I can’t help wonder.
Today, my heart is simply grateful for the things I love because you loved them and for the people I love because my story blended with your story and became grander.
Life, even in its complications and heartache, can be still filled with nights of laughter, love and even bike rides. ❤️
It is wonderful to enjoy the moments that could be described as a blend of joy and sorrow almost perfectly.
Come What May
I can’t help but think of these words with the realization of this new month.
May is special for me as within this month lands what would have been our 18th wedding anniversary – on, in fact, the 18th. I expect I’ll write about this again, but even hitting May 1 triggers many thoughts and emotions. One of which, being the words to the epic Moulin Rouge song sung at our wedding. A song that I also can't quite listen to yet (I just tried and only made it 10 seconds in before saying, "Nope."
Yet, even without trying, the lyrics rest in my mind like a brick:
Seasons may change, winter to spring
But I love you until the end of time
Come what may
Come what may
I will love you until my dying day
We both loved this song and movie from the day it was released and sang the duet often to each other. How weird to imagine that in some cinematic twist of real life that I might still be singing this song from the perspective of the writer left behind. (Ugh, yea!)
Yet I am . . .
I can’t fully explain the amount of grief processing and work that has happened this past month, but I can say that April was packed with new layers of grief exploration. Within this processing, I continue to work through the idea of change.
What does my life look like today? Who I am? What do I want? etc., etc. My life and role has changed, even as many things about my character, likes and dislikes, are similar. In this new season, my perspective and how I do life, process relationships, make decisions, etc., is quite different and the change ongoing and active. It's not that Josh won't always be a treasured part of my heart and life but that I am seeing my life now as more independent.
I am still figuring out many things, like houses - that’s more complicated. But one big change I am making is to my online presence, switching from Josh & Jenn Adventures to Jenn Brown Adventures.
I began considering this idea over a week ago but found out quickly that it wasn't so easy to erase the words Josh & Jenn from the title of my website. With my finger on the delete button, I wrestled with the action MANY times before finally hitting the delete key 11 times, then typing in Jenn Brown and pressing the publish button. I know it's simply a webpage title and I could change it back, but to me it represents a lot. Of course, the content is still there but the overall title of the home page today is new.
I will continue writing about my grief journey and adventures in real and honest way because I think there's room for this dialogue in our world. But what you might see is the domain name change and more blogs posted from the Grieving On site (still a work in progress).
As I trust that God is continuing to unveil his beautiful story in my life, I strive to hold onto this faith I have come to know well. I have no idea where I am going, but I know that this chapter is not so much about Josh AND Jenn adventuring together now, but about my adventures. Hopefully, I'm not sounding completely self-absorbed in this thinking (there are a lot of I's in this post).
Of course, I carry Josh with me in many ways and could continue to share hundreds of Josh & Jenn adventure stories. We had many wonderful ones. There are still many creative ideas I am considering. Yet, as I work through my grief, I also want to leave room for what God may have next, and want to continue to hope for the future because God is a God of hope.
My grief work is still very active — an ongoing narrative of self review, some fun experiments, hope, doubt and trust – lots of trust. I share in hopes of helping people see behind the scenes of grief. It can be a lonely process for anyone, no matter who or what you are grieving.
Thank you for following along with our Josh & Jenn story and my continued adventures of Jenn Brown.
Looking back at last year’s MayDay post: I still feel the same need for God’s comfort today but in a whole new way.
“When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” - Psalm 86:7
I am thankful for a God who answers, come what may.
p.s. You probably should not watch Moulin Rouge if you are sad and grieving. Unless you are just really needing a good cry then go for it and have some tissues nearby.
I admit, I am not much of a gardener, nor someone who has say, "a green thumb." I get the general idea and appreciate people who do this well but so far, personally, I have not succeeded in this area. Maybe someday this will captivate me more, but I'd be surprised and for now would rather just go outside and explore places where nature does its thing.
Still, I find myself currently thinking of gardening terms in relation to my grief journey. Specifically, the word that comes to mind this week is "tilling." This is a term for "turning over and breaking up the soil" to prepare for what's next. If looking at a gardening guide, tilling is described as something that is needed when mixing amendments or new things into the soil.
This seems to be what's happening in my life lately. As I near the end of seven months of processing my husband's absence, and a year of living with the fact that he had brain cancer, I find myself digging deeper into my grief journey, processing new layers almost daily.
I am by no means an expert on all things grief, but have explored a lot of the emotional space from feeling lost and alone in my own home, to taking time to recover and enjoy life, to sorting through boxes and closets filled with memories and so much more.
This spring, I find myself exploring new areas of life, friendships and leaning into my "new status" as a widow. It is often a very confusing time - where my emotions and thoughts battle with how to keep moving forward while wanting to hold tight to so much good that has been part of my story. I keep trying to "figure out" how to live in a dual reality of loving what was but considering what could be.
As someone who typically lands in the optimistic camp of life, genuinely acknowledging grief for both the good and very hard, can be a tricky balance. I see the good that God is doing and has done in my life and heart this year and I am thankful for his faithfulness and comfort. Yet, my heart is still hurt - and that healing takes time. It takes time and even a lot of grace as I till through the emotions and messy layers. I don't really like that it takes time. (Patience . . . ugh!)
How long will I be in this tilling process? Who knows, but it's the concept for now. I know there is good that takes root and grows out of these seasons - in both the fun, silly, weird, confusing and hard parts of it.
Life and grief is definitely interesting.
There are many references to soil in the Bible, but for today I find encouragement in the words below which remind me again that God's story is way bigger than my story:
"For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." – Isaiah 61:11
After months of wrestling, I still find myself confronted with the question of "Why?"
Why did this event have to happen? What is the purpose of this pain? The pain that is in my heart; the pain found within my grief. The pain that is associated with the specific event of losing my spouse, my love.
I've been able to move forward and navigate life gently, I think, somewhat successfully. I still find great joy in the little things: birds flittering in the sky, waterfalls, shoes, adventures, etc. And the big things: deep friendships, writing, my job, what God is doing within me, etc. But even an optimistic person such as myself can still get sideswiped by the pain and hurt that weaves within a grief journey.
Over the past few months, I've learned how to predict the grief patterns within my emotions, much like a seasoned weatherman specializing in grief storms. This makes it easier sometimes, yet still some storms hit with little warning. For example, just yesterday, when sorting through books, I found both a sweet card Josh wrote me years ago and notes to the last sermon he shared in March last year (listen online).
This particular discovery floored me as his hand-written "big idea" stated, "How far will we go?" And although it was from John, it was pasted in Job of all places! Ugh!
Settling in for church online today with a fresh bout of grief lingering still, I laughed slightly at the message that seemed perfectly timed, yet still hard to hear. The title: "There's Purpose in Your Pain."
In my grief processing yesterday, I asked God this very question, "What is the reason for all of this? I just can't see it."
I so badly want to find the purpose, thinking at times if I can identify the purpose, it will help me feel better. But would finding the purpose take away my pain? Probably not, but a piece of me hopes so and therefore strives to solve a problem I can't solve. I am tired of tear-stained pillows and emotional storms blasting into my life. Bleh.
What's the solution? What do I do?
In a way, the answer is: nothing. But really, it isn't nothing; it's everything. The answer is to keep trusting and keep taking steps forward in my relationship with God. Easy right?
As I continued to wrestling with this concept throughout the day. I paused for a few minutes beside a beautiful flowing stream and honestly shared with God that "I want there to be a purpose to this pain."
His response: "It's not your job to find the purpose. It's your job to trust me."
Continuously, in my grief, the theme of trusting God and his timing shows up. I want to buck up against it but at the same time, I cannot move forward without it. If I circle back to the hand-written words from Josh's message, the question of "How far will I go?" lingers.
How far will I go when it comes to trusting that God does indeed have purpose for this pain?
How far am I willing to go with this whole trust thing?
It's hard to talk about our grief.
To REALLY talk about it, to name it. To identify the feelings that layer upon each other so delicately.
Today, I found myself verbalizing my own grief experience at different times with different people in different ways.
It was good to share but also exhausting and even weird feeling. And, at the end of a full day of much grief discussion, I found I wanted ice cream, again. (It's official; I now associate grief and ice cream together – I guess it could be worse.)
This journey of grief discussion covered feelings about this past Easter weekend, the general month of April, and even forward-thinking as I acknowledge what's coming next — what would have been our 18th wedding anniversary in May.
One avenue of grief processing, of course, is thinking about it and processing it internally. Another is processing it externally through journaling or other creative outlets. But often, the hardest way means verbally discussing our grief with others – this is the process of giving voice to our thoughts and emotions. I participated in this activity and even witnessed it as part of our online GriefShare discussion tonight.
It can be hard to label our grief with words or determine the right words to express such deep emotions that reside within. Stating even obvious pieces of our story feels vulnerable and perhaps icky. Yet, there is good that comes from giving an audible voice to these thoughts and feelings – to truly acknowledge them.
I, of course, am still learning how this works. And even though it may seem like I am more comfortable discussing my grief, it's still really tough to speak about it. Yet, I keep practicing this exercise because I believe there is good in it.
Each time I verbalize these thoughts, there is an opportunity to acknowledge more truth in my story - the good, the hard, the complicated. There is an opportunity to trust that God is right here, listening to these very moments when sharing becomes even more vulnerable than expected. There is another opportunity to trust that God sees the complicated layers of this season and, of course, doesn't find them complicated, but instead perfect.
At times, I admit the truth seems a bit murky and I wonder why this is the plan or path God has laid out for me. Why am I even here talking about grief! Isn't this all a bit ridiculous!?
I voice my concerns honestly to God often and therefore often hear his truth echoing back. It's not always the same words, but typically involves something about me trusting him and familiar verses like Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
So if you are still trying to give voice to your grief. Hang in there, start small and see what happens next.
There is good, even in this.
Thoughts flooded my mind a first-light this Easter morning. A quick check of my phone highlighted the date: Sunday, April 12. This triggered memories of April 12, 22 years ago. Visiting my mom in the hospital after church and saying a tearful goodbye a few hours later as a family.
As I reflected, I looked up at the photo of Josh, still hanging by my bed. (I mean what are you supposed to do with an oversized photo of your late husband? I know it won't hang by my bed forever, but today it does.) Seeing it makes me wish all the more that he was not a photo representing a moment in time we shared, but that instead he was the face I could wake up to on this very day. I wish we would tackle Easter 2020 together.
Turning to God's Word for clarity (or something), I read John's account of visiting the empty tomb early Easter morning. I read how Peter and John didn't understand what was happening that morning. Where had Jesus' body gone? They didn't understand the story at that point (much like I don't always understand my story at times now).
It wasn't until much later in the evening that they understood and saw the real truth of the situation – that in fact, Jesus had risen from the dead, changing the course of history.
Today, there will be no sudden reappearance on earth of people I love, who have passed away. Those stories are still the same. Even still, I find hope and peace in knowing that I will see them again. There is a bit of wonder that also swells in me as I think about what heaven might look like on Easter Sunday -- what a gathering and celebration it must be.
There is joy in the morning. There is joy that comes from sorrow. There is joy because of Jesus.
Before my mom passed away, I wrote a song for her that still resonates today. Below are the words and maybe I'll actually record it to share another way, but for today, I'll share it as another piece of my story even though it feels a bit more vulnerable as songwriting captures a different piece of my heart:
Continuing on, as I celebrate Easter 2020 and reflect on SO much, I lift my eyes to Jesus who not only comforts but is the source of hope. A hope that brings joy today within my current, active earthly circumstance and hope that goes beyond explanation.
The Gospel of John ends with what feels like a cliffhanger . . . there's always more to the story.
"Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for books that would be written." - John 21:25
This, in many ways fills me with more wonder and excitement. God is continuing to write stories of hope here today in 2020.
So, Happy Easter friends - may today be filled with moments of wonder and great joy.
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.