Sitting in the drive-thru at the coffee shop, a guy with brown hair and a blue plaid button-up, like one of Josh's, walked behind my car into the entrance. I instinctively turned around. I couldn't help it. Josh? My mind questioned, "Was that him?" My mind knows the answer, yet I still reflexively do a double-take anyway.
I have heard about this happening, even experienced before, but this was the first time that I looked for my spouse. The moment launched me into a new angle of grief to start the day. I won't see Josh wear that shirt again or enter that coffee shop. One of my favorite memories was meeting him for coffee at this same place or swinging by to pick up a drink he had preordered for me – my very own personal drive-thru service.
When missing someone, it's a million little things that equal the big loss. It's a million little pieces that trigger the heartache. This morning's surprise had me feeling sad for few minutes but moments later, I was laughing because a song came on by an artist we had renamed "Snuffleupagus," because I never could say his name right. Josh even made me a CD several years ago and labeled it, "The Snuffleupagus CD." The memory lightened my heart as I laughed and continued on with the day.
Each day is different. Each moment or memory could easily lead to smiles, laughter or tears. It seems grief often makes me feel "crazy" with the shifting sea of thoughts and feelings. The journey triggers both good memories and sad ones. No matter how I am feeling though, there is thread of thankfulness that links these memories. I am thankful for the many moments we shared together - even if these same memories today, bring a mixed bag of emotional outcomes.
This is my worst nightmare. No wait. That already happened. This is a new problem. Integrating back into life. Realizing that our storyline, my storyline, has been altered.
Tonight, I went to a church event where some pastors introduced themselves, their families, wives, etc. They shared about the importance of small groups and the importance of the big C - Church. I agreed with what they shared completely, but couldn’t focus on it. All I could think was, “This should be Josh.” I should be the supportive wife watching it happen, smiling at seeing him in his element, meeting and greeting people, helping clean up, etc.
But that wasn’t the night's view. Instead, I was a participant with a new perspective. And I am crushed.
We were suppose to do life and ministry together for many more years.
While I held it together during the event, I cried the whole way home. Attending maybe wasn’t the best idea? It was step though. I thought I’d be okay — it was just information, right? (Fooled myself, again).
I didn’t expect that I would be so reminded of the life that isn’t reality. I don’t get to walk alongside Pastor Josh as he loves and cares for people and invites them to be part of community. I am a stranger in space. I'm in new role - which is weird.
You see, I've lived life as a ministry wife for over a decade. I've experienced the joys and heartaches of that role. And even today, I still longed for it to be part of my story. Of course, ministry still is part of my story, but it looks way different.
There much grief and emotion in walking through this realization, in recognizing the different path God now has me on. It’s another part of the layers and layers of grief work that I am continuing to do. And I don’t have answers.
I strive to cling to God’s hope for the future and know that there is more ahead; more ministry to be part of but I can’t say I am “all in.” Because I don't know what I am all in for or what is next. I am all in for trusting God as he walks with me but that's about it (which still is a lot).
All of this makes me very sad though. I’m sad because the life I imagined with Josh is different. We aren’t growing old with our friends around us and spending years in ministry as a couple. We are planning church events, messages or next steps.
Accepting the different is heavy and hard. Lord, help me.
For those of you with the opportunity to still serve in ministry - maybe even alongside your husband - Cherish it. It's a special role. It's not always easy, but it is place where you can make such a difference. Keep praying for your husband as he leads – even on the hardest days.
A few more recent ministry photos including hosting events, preaching and encouraging other young couples through counseling and marriage.
I couldn’t do it.
I filled out all the information. I hit submit but didn't get the answer I expected. Instead, I received a notice that I needed to take the car in to have it looked at before I could get a cash offer. Okay, not a big deal. That sounds easy, right? No.
I went outside to start up the old Rav4, that's become a monument in the driveway these past few months, but couldn’t go through with it. Of course, it didn’t help that the car battery was dead because it's been sitting outside all winter and I haven’t started it, but still, sitting in that all to familiar seat - my mind slightly drifted to our adventures, and I began to cry. I can’t sell this car. I'm just not ready.
Instead, I am going to loan it to some friends so they can drive it as their extra car. Then it’s still around. It's not going off to some unknown car lot only to be sold to someone else or used for parts. Seriously, I just want to turn it into a playhouse or something, but that’s very silly. I know hanging on to this car doesn’t bring Josh back but maybe it lets me hold tight to some of those treasured memories a little more.
How can I be so emotionally tied to a car? I feel like this is ridiculous? 12 years of memories and over 250,000 miles of adventures, that's how. Of course, I also haven’t gotten rid of any of Josh shirts or sweaters but that is something else for another day too.
I tried processing the car change months ago when I bought my new car - before Josh passed away but the story had a hint of more joy because I could share about the new car with him. This is different - it's another piece of letting go. But I still don't want to. I want all the shirts, all the cars, all the things that remind me of Josh.
Yep - it’s the crazy side of grief I wanted to share in today’s post. I have more to share about a fun weekend with friends, ball games, the Chiefs going to the Super Bowl and how that intersects with Josh's story – but those are posts for another time.
Today - it’s another entangled web of holding on to things that, in a logical mind, are better to sell.
But grief isn't always logical - that's okay too.
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
– Psalms 143:10 (NASB)
Level ground, what does that look like? What does that feel like?
In general, life doesn't feel level. But as I read this verse today, God’s Word moves me forward. At some point, I hope the ground will begin to steady. Days will occur when I won't feel like I'm still sliding down a valley or stumbling over sharp, painful rocks. The interesting thing is, there's beauty in the rocky terrain, but it is often unsteady and painful (especially in bare feet or barefoot emotions - we really aren't Hobbits).
Taking these words, and this prayer of David to heart for myself this week means:
Asking, Proclaiming and Trust the Let
I am marinating on these thoughts today, in what feels like an up, down and sideways type of week.
I pressed into GriefShare yesterday , cried an annoying amount all week, leaned into the light and spent a lot of time thinking and praying.
It's all part of my grieving-on story.
And part of the ongoing adventure of Josh AND especially Jenn.
Thanks always for following along and your encouragement on the way.
More Rocky Ground Photos - see it's pretty!!
What a week! I don't what it is that has me so emotionally crazy this week. The obvious answer is, "It's just grief!" But still I feel a lot more up and down than usual. I'm really missing everything about Josh and I've had to do some paperwork clean up lately that means I have to repeat what happened a few months ago. It's a new year, and I want a clean slate but that's not really possible. There's still a lot to figure out.
Tonight, I decided to take a big step and go to GriefShare. I know it's good for me to do. I know being around a community of people also grieving is good, and I know the material will help give me additional support in the process. Knowing all of these things, doesn't make it easy and in lots of ways, I still didn't want to show up. Yet, that is part of the process.
I have so often talked about grief being a community effort that it would be opposite encouragement to recommend avoiding GriefShare - so I won't. But, to provide some more honesty and perspective, here's an perspective of my experience. In bold are my main thoughts, followed by more details.
What do I say when it's my turn to introduce myself and my reason for being there?"
I thought I would be able to say more but only got out the words, "Hi, I'm Jennifer and my husband passed away in September ....." - then I began to cry so I was done talking. I did say more later in the group discussion but that first question really got me!!
People are grieving a lot of different kinds of relationships here (not just spouses)
I knew this would be the case, but I found I wanted to connect with people who have also lost a spouse because that is unique for me right now. Yes, I have walked through the loss of a mother, brother and grandfather and step-grandmother, but the one that's really rooted deep right now is my spouse.
The material was simple, but good
There were several things I connected with in the curriculum and in the video testimonials. But these were also so rapid fire, it was almost too much to soak in. I wrote down phrases that stood out like, "It felt like I was looking at life through jello," and "There's no timeline on grief." One line they used was "do the next right thing!" which immediately had me thinking about Frozen II and the blog post I wrote titled, "Grief on the Big Screen."
I am in this season, step by step. The next right thing for me this week included attending GriefShare.
More people should do GriefShare sooner
In the group, there were people who had fresh grief and grief that has been tucked away for years. That is the hard part of the group. In in some ways want to help the people who are just now dealing with it after many years of business and continued sorrow. The challenge is that I am attending seeing encouragement for my current story. Yes, I can help others in the process but how navigating this is a new kind of tricky.
I need ice cream
Although, I am on a diet. The moment I got in the car, I thought, "I need ice cream." So I went and got some. Maybe not a great choice but it tasted real good! Maybe it was like a reward, maybe it was just a weird way to cope with two hours of sitting in a room of emotion. But I am giving myself permission to not stress over that decision here and now.
I guess, I'll go again
I talked briefly to another lady who lost her husband even more recently. I even gave her a hug - which is not normal for me and said, "See you next week." I'm going to commit to trying this for the next few weeks - at least. It would be easy to not go back but better for me, and others, to keep trying to keep engaging in this grief process.
Today, as I navigated a new conversation I felt a sense of peace rise up.
Sitting on my cozy porch tonight with lanterns lit and dogs snuggling at my feet, I breathed in the cool night air. My sorrow from yesterday still weighing heavy, entwined with this calmness. I could feel God’s peace washing over me. It was good.
“Thanks God for shining some light into the darkness,” I shared to the night sky.
As I sat in this space, a verse I memorized as a kid came to mind.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” - Psalms 119:105 NIV
This version from The Message also paints a strong visual: “By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.”
Each day is interesting in this grief journey and it is beautiful to see how God reminds me that he sees me still and has more in store for my future.
I need all the reminders I can get as it easily to begin thinking that my new identity is simple “a grieving widow” but that isn’t true. Yes it’s part of my story now but God and others see much more.
This is the truth and beam of light I must cling too on the darker days and even in the brighter ones.
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.