A bit restless tonight I sat outside staring at the moon wondering what the view is like from heaven? Where is heaven exactly, anyway? I seem to automatically think it is somewhere up, outside this earth, in the sky - although I don’t know why? So, I gaze at the moon past midnight wondering if Josh (and others in heaven) can see the same moon that I do now.
Theologically, I know heaven is about a lot more than having a cooler view of the moon, but still I grasp for something that would bring those I love, who are no longer here on earth, close to me again.
Wishing for another conversation magically by moonbeam, I wonder what I would ask Josh if we could talk about my current circumstance? As my best friend, I would want to ask how to navigate life here and now? More specifically, I’d ask, “How do I let another person love and care about me in this new reality? How do I open up my heart and mind to care for someone else? Can I love someone the same as you or even more?”
Grief is really complicated and when blending in the idea of new love and relationships - it’s even more so.
So far, during the process of dating as a widow, two questions have caused me to stumble. One, from a friend who asked me months ago, “Do you believe you can be loved again?” And the other, more recent from someone currently navigating a relationship with me, “Can you let me love you?”
Both questions create a tension. Yes, I want to be loved again. And, yes I want to love deeply again. But sometimes the want and the how-to seem quite tricky to navigate. I wonder, “Is love even more complicated than grief?” Perhaps? Maybe, it’s not so much a comparison but an acknowledgement that trying to trust in love (again) as a person still grieving is quite challenging. It's hard to know what is even real and which emotions to trust.
Loving and being loved again is also risky - even as I try and remember that it is also rewarding - that my loss and grief wouldn’t cut so deep if I hadn’t loved so grand in the first place.
Entering the beginning of my second year (post loss), I believe more than anything that my late husband would want me to experience joy, love and relationship again, but as I do consider this, I must create space for this possibility. This means, letting any new relationship have its own story and narrative. This is not a do-over or a duplicate relationship — no matter how similar it may look at times. The new relationship is a very, very different thing with its own set of adventure opportunities as well as challenges.
In grieving on, I’ll keep trying to answer the questions above while trusting that the risk is worth it. Personally, it seems super weird to write about and embrace the emotions that come with it all - but it is also part of the healing process within my grief.
Recently, another blog I follow called Young, Widowed and Dating shared a guide of top questions related to dating. It is so accurate and helpful. For those out there in this season, or curious, here is a link to the e-book, "What the Widowed Community Wants You to Know - Dating Edition.
I made it! One year! I have to admit, in some ways it does feel like I completed something, yet I am not quite sure what it is, exactly.
This October 1 feels very, very different than last year when the grief was so, so near. I was at a loss - months of caretaking had ended and there was a void so large. Some things from that first week I remember, many things are still a blur. This same can be said really of the whole past year. There was a lot of movement and emotional waves.
Here and now, my mind continues to process - all the things. While driving late tonight on my way to Dallas for a quick visit, I encountered a construction zone. The road narrowed, got pretty winding, and then suddenly concrete partitions appeared on both sides - seemingly too close. (To me, this makes driving quite stressful.) As I cautiously navigated this scene in the dark - there came a sign that said, “Use caution, water on the roadway!” I actually said outloud, “What! - like this is not already dangerous enough!” Seriously! Narrow curvy roads, in the dark, with barricades and now water on the roadway?
As I spoke aloud, I thought about how the scene so much parallels the grief process. At times, you can be cruising along the grief highway navigating somewhat ok, but then you encounter a construction (or reconstruction) zone where you have to work hard to get your heart and mind somewhat back in order or stable - then the emotions plow in and amplify everything even more - making for a very tenuous situation. The work keeps going from day one to day 365 and beyond. From my experience, so far, I know the roadway does open up again for easier cruising - but navigating the hard parts still takes patience and grace.
Heading into year 2, there's still a lot of work to be done in my heart, mind and soul. There will be challenges, maybe some set backs, but hopefully a lot of opportunity to grow and trust in what's next. There is a lot of good in this.
If I have learned anything this past year, it is that God is with me - no matter how tricky the road gets at times. At the end of a hard year, I still believe God is faithful. I still wish for a different story at times but I know that God is still at work within this chapter.
Let's keep drivin'!
I intentionally took off work on Sept. 30 because it was a special day and I wasn’t sure what it would feel like. I spent the day kayaking down a beautiful Missouri River (the Niangua) with a friend who lets me be honest with my grief in such a caring way - and then wrapped up the afternoon surrounded with longtime friends on a rooftop patio watching the sunset over Springfield. Even on a day, that has a hard memory tied to it - I found so much peace, joy and hope for my own future and a depth of gratitude for my life here and now.
If I could create one of those "Monday’s be like ..." memes today - it would be one with a very weird, crazy face (maybe even goofy like this photo of Josh, but weirder because this one actually makes me laugh).
I knew going into this week, that it would be tough - as the official date anniversary of Josh’s passing is on Wednesday (Sept. 30). But what I didn’t expect was to get hit early with the realization that indeed it was a Monday when Josh passed away. The last Monday in September one year ago.
The thought hit me early Monday morning as I grabbed coffee at a local cafe, where I also spotted someone dressed in a similar style as Josh - a red puffy vest, brown hair and glasses. I knew it wasn’t him but contextually, the setting and attire still had me doing more than a double-take.
My heart and mind still wants to argue with the reality that he is no longer here on earth.
I know the truth too well. On Sunday, I even watched a banquet video honoring whole body donors, including Josh who participated in this program -- (You can watch it here if interested). Yet still, in grief, we fight to find a way to protect our own hearts from the pain we feel.
The challenge with grief is how easy it can be triggered - with the simplest things, like it being a Monday. Even when someone makes a goofy, seemingly innocent comment like "I'd rather die than ..." it can feel like a dagger to the heart of someone who has lost big. Joking with friends at a work event tonight, I had to step away several times because there were little reminders of what it was like to care for someone at the end of life. It’s complex and challenging in ways that many people don’t see or imagine.
Mixed within this, there IS hope and joy in realizing how truly blessed we are to witness another sunset, moon rising, Andy’s custard bite or even Chiefs' victory. . . but still, some days and weeks are harder than hard.
As I grieve on, there are days when I feel like I am back at day 1 - like I have lost Josh all over again. That IT IS indeed THAT Monday. To be full-out honest, it really sucks. And it hurts, deeply - even still - and comes with a stupid amount of tissues and tears.
This doesn’t mean I am going backwards in my grief process, but that I am still healing. This takes time and grace from others and ourselves (as grievers). It takes support and encouragement from those around that love us unconditionally.
Right in the middle of this healing, is a God and Savior that knows me (us) and with me (us) in my (our) pain. Christ offers grace even in our messy grief and is a source of strength for another messy day (or week, etc...) This is good news, even on a messy, emotive Monday.
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him." –- Exodus 15:2
This week, (a week before the one year anniversary) I’ve been sorting through a range of feelings. From remembrance, to freedom to something I can’t quite put my finger on...Is it survivors guilt? I don’t know. But within the last five days, the contrast between this year and last year has magnified.
Last year, at this time, my world was heavy. I slept little, often on the couch next to Josh, checking on him constantly to see if he was ok - did he needed anything. I told him I loved him often and checked in with the hospice nurse about growing concerns. I rarely wanted to leave his side not knowing the time table that life still offered but feeling like there was not much time left.
One year later, as the anniversary approaches, I find that I am filled with peace. I can paddle around an Ozarks' river enjoying every little detail without worrying that I need to get back or do something. I can soak in the beauty of creation and praise God in an even deeper way. I can breath in deep.
Being able to do this, doesn’t erase the fact that I miss Josh’s presence in life greatly, but I know he would be proud that I am continuing on and still being “me” - even if this version of me feels like an alternative version at times.
Would Josh be surprised that I bought a camper or a kayak or a house in Springfield? Maybe, but probably not.
As I glide through this new season, thoughts of self-doubt rise up and I wonder, “Am I really going to make it? Will I fall apart at some moment? Is this a fake it ‘til you make it situation? Am I faking it or actually making it? Where am I making it to? After all, I still am not sure there is a grief finish line.”
Don’t worry, as my fellow reader you don’t have to answer these questions for me - they are merely musings of my mind. (It gets messy in there!)
What I do know is that here today, God is guiding me in the waters of peace. It is beautiful - even if there is some icky stuff in the murky water.
There are new pathways to navigate and still pools of tears that reflect my fragile heart.
As I sense God peace, I am amazed and recognize it truly as a peace that passes all understanding. And in the same way that God was near last year, he is still near today. In good times and bad, God is near - how incredible.
Last year, anxious was focus word in this passage for me, this year it is peace. Transitioning from anxiousness to peacefulness quite the process, maybe much like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:5-7 NASB
Like a sudden storm that hits, grief can try and swallow you up at times and create a mess out of things that are seemingly in order .
Life may be ticking along when suddenly a call, conversation or memento triggers a million thoughts.
Today, I opened the jewelry box to find my wedding ring. I put it on. I wore it for several hours.
I hadn't worn it in many months - So why would I put it on now?
Because I love the ring, it’s pretty. It fits my finger perfectly. And I miss wearing it.
Beyond this, I miss being married. I miss how comfortable our relationship was and how I had learn to navigate life with someone I loved greatly, who in turn loved me greatly.
Here and now, it’s really tricky because I want that again. But that specific relationship is not one that I can have exactly. Because, that combo of people is unavailable.
Sure, I can find similar feelings and a similar connection with someone. There is a lot of opportunity for love and relationship still it is going to look different.
Putting on this old ring. I almost want to pretend Josh is just out of town - it’s my heart and mind still bargaining with truth.
However, the truth is still unavoidable.
After a little while, I put this treasured ring back in the box. I take a deep breath and ask for God’s wisdom in trusting him more as I navigate my future next steps - whatever this means.
This month has clicked by day by day like that ticking crocodile in Peter Pan. It started 12 days ago with the realization that it was indeed the first day of September.
This is usually a wonderful month as the seasons change, fall decor appears, new activities and sports begin. The weather dips slightly and the desire for pumpkin spice items increases to a ridiculous level. I actually love fall and especially pumpkin time (my most favorite time!)
However, this year there is a bit of a sting to the word September.
My mind and heart cannot help but feel rattled as I connect to the fact that September was the month Josh died - more specifically the very last day of September one year ago. Ugh! There is not much joy in this realization.
I am rounding the bend, so to speak, to the one year mark and it still seems so surreal. Particularly this month, new waves of grief have hit almost recklessly –– and I am only 12 days in! I admit, I find it almost annoying –– even though I know at root it is because of a great love that I hold in my heart for Josh and our story together.
Still, I wish I wouldn’t spontaneously cry over a new love song I hear or because the Chiefs' season began or because cardigan season is almost here. As much as I want to simply, “move on” to the next phase, there are times when I feel completely stuck, baffled. I wonder if September will always sting a bit?
Looking at the broader picture of grief and widowhood, the new waves of grief serve as a reminder that the process of sorting out all the emotions is still ongoing and there is no real time table on it.
Additionally, this means realizing (and being okay with) the fact that last year's life disruption will create additional waves as I paddle into new and changing grief waters. This means, there will be moments when people encounter my heartache even if I would rather them not see it. (Quick reminder for myself and you: acknowledging the sorrow and the tears, isn't a sign of weakness - it's part of grieving on honestly. But yes it's messy!)
As I strive to be honest with my grief and acknowledge the various patterns and emotions, I still can’t make sense of it all the time. Grief is NOT always logical - and that in itself is also annoying!
An interesting passage sits in the middle of Chapter 3 of Lamentations, a sorrowful book and even chapter that still spotlights hope. For me, it's a great reminder for this challenging fall month. The "Therefore" at the end...is a good one . . . The Lord is my portion.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
– Lamentations 3:22-24
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.