Blessed are they that mourn…

for they shall be comforted….
Met an awesome young lady this week. She was at Covenant Hospice volunteer training and had lost her husband last year. He was under our care. So, she is preparing to serve others!
We talked about how the “younger” widowed don’t have peers and how hard it is to relate to other “singles” because it is so different.
I know some of you went through the death of a spouse. Tell us what we need to know about grief, pain and supporting those who mourn.
P.S. Have been invited to help address this topic at singles day in Jax this April………


One response to “Blessed are they that mourn…

  1. In January of 2004, my husband began to twitch and get weak in his right hand; we thought he was having problems with a disk in his neck from a recent injury. Months later, his right hand and arm became flacid. Doctors were testing him for months. I finally got on the internet and diagnosed him myself and to our dismay, we thought he had Lou Gehrig’s disease. We decided to go to Mayo Clinic to comfirm this diagnosis. After our oldest daughter’s graduation from nursing school, we rushed home to meet with a top neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Within 20 minutes, and after 8 agonizing months, he announced the grim suffering we would both have to endure. We had an interesting two and half hour ride home, crying, praying and discussing our life together and wondering what the uncertian remaining future would bring.

    We met when I was eleven and he was twelve. We were best friends and high school sweethearts. We played ball together as kids, we played drums, ping pong together in high school. We married just out of high school. We were hunting buddies before we were married and we had our two beautiful daughters. We loved to deep sea fish and watch NASCAR and football as a family.

    The disease distroyed our family. Not just our immediate family but it isolated my church family. My husband and I had an interesting discussion around the dinner table one night. We were studying the bible, the last Chapter of James, where James writes: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone Happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up… (James 5:13-15a); my question was, where was our church family? I called an elder, he asked, “why do you want me to come?”. “To Pray”, I said. It took months for them to come. “But, this is a progressive disease and he would not get well.” Why won’t they visit? We had announced it at church; we asked for help, prayers, visitation, etc., what happened to our brothers and sisters in Christ? One very wise woman who never abandoned us said, “Honey, they don’t want to get involved.” I said, “And why do my childen expect me to have all the answers? Why can’t they ask me easy questions? Why do I feel like I always have to defend myself? The only thing I could think of was “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well” (James)…but Lou Gehrig’s disease is a fatel disease so, all I cared about was that our family needed to stay in tack and that our mental health needed to stay well. Our family was under attack from every direction. There was so much manipulation from different families; abandonment from our church family and interferrance from family and nurses. Evenso, if we had counseling and prayer as a family, that could enable us to cope, now and afterwards.

    Why do we pray for people, asking God to heal them but they still don’t get well? Is James wrong? I reminded my kids that we prayed for each of them when they were sick with the flu, even though I took them to the doctor and knew they were going to be ok once they got antibiotics. Would they have gotten better without prayer? Probably. So, what’s the point of prayer? Prayer is not a way of demanding that God does what we want. In prayer we acknowledge that God’s will is good and wise, that His purposes are good. Prayer forces us to recogize our complete dependence on God moment to moment, a lesson I would soon learn from all this.

    Some people would say to my husband, not knowing anything about this disease, “If you believed God, you would be well.” That kind of thinking denies that God has a purpose in the suffering of his people! God had a purpose for Job to suffer. God’s people are on display. God is demonstrating His wisdom in Christ before the world, showing that he is worthy of praise and worship for who He is, not just for what He can do for people. Others, would ask, “so what lessons are you learning?” At the time, I wasn’t sure. When it was all over, it was still, his purposes were good and I needed to trust in Him for every detail.

    Christians always have hope. We have confidence that God is good – even to allow meaningless suffering. We know that sickness, disease and even dealth are not the final word. Jesus has already defeated death. And so will we all experience a glorious resurrection to an eternal glory that will be immortal and imperishable, for those of us who are in Christ Jesus.

    I was never sure how long my husband would live, he finally passed in November 2005, just short of 2 years after his diagnosis with only a few people visited him during that time. To make things worse, he was diagnosed with dementia, but not until almost 3 years after he died. If they had diagnosed him during his suffering, we could have coped. There were a few who would regularly visit him but these people were not Christians that could help him spiritually. He needed spiritual uplifting. I couldn’t do it all. Trusting God was the biggest lesson I learned and was the means with which I was able to sustain the suffering along with him. I only prayed that God would use his illness as a powerful witness to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

    After my husband passed, a very few came to me and said, “Seeing you every Sunday, watching your struggle to get him to church, really encouraged me to be more of a part of this church family”. So, my prayers were answers. It wasn’t about me or my husband, it was about Jesus using us to bring others to Him. It’s all about encouraging other to the joy that we have in Christ Jesus. The suffering didn’t end there, though. It still continues.

    After he passed, my daughters no longer visit me, my husband’s family said I was no longer a member of the family and my church family desserted me as well. I remember one day a visitor came to church, and I knew him, so he approached me and asked me a question. I greeted him and began to answer his question until the preacher came up and asked, “What are you doing?” I introduced my friend to the preacher and the preacher reprimanded me in front of the visitor in a demeaning manner, “If anyone has a question, be sure to direct them to me in the future.” He was almost angry at me. That visitor no longer attends church there.

    Are my kids going to church anymore? I have to trust the Lord even more. Who better than God to have as a babysitter! So, is this what is meant by separating the wheat? I immediately became sick when they left. Literally, I was in the hospital twice and sick for about 3 months; not one church member called me to find out how I was doing. Mayo warned me that almost half of all caretakers die before the the patient dies. I survived so I suppose the Lord is not done with me yet.

    An elder from another congregation called me, “What are you waiting for, do you want to die a lonely old widow in that dying church?”. Another church friend from that same congregation called to check on me as well and when I told her how sick I was; she sent out a bulletin to her prayer worriers and within a few weeks, I was healthy, happy and placed membership at that new congregation and started a singles group. Two years later, one of the elders from my old church (of which I had been a member for over 20 years) called me and asked me if I was ok. I was appauled that it took him two years to call me before he figured out I had left. I told him just how I felt and that I had placed membership two years back at another church. I asked another friend of mine why did it take them so long? She said that “Unfortunetely the churches are geared toward married couples, you know, dinners for 6 and 8, etc, and I think the woman don’t want to talk to you because they are afraid you will compromise their marriages so they don’t invite you to their homes anymore. They think you should hang out with the widows. They don’t want to disfellowship you, they still love you, and they don’t want you to leave; it wouldn’t be so threatening if, well…honey, the problem is that you are just so young amd single now.” I felt sicker than I ever felt in my life. I realized immediately why I had been feeling like they looked at me as if I was an alien, tainted, unworthy, diseased, dirty, like I had aides or some kind of disease. I would say hello to people and they would ignore me….like I wasn’t there…I almost yelled out one day and thought if I did that I would embarrass myself. No wonder no one would talk to me. Now I know why I wasn’t getting invited to anything. Woman wouldn’t invite me to anything, never called me….how lonely could it get! No wonder widows are so lonely! How aweful! Is it going to be like this for the next 50 years!? That elder was right, I had to make a change; otherwise, I’d die OF loneliness itself!

    Strange thing, as soon as my husband passed, they had a really nice “Widow” banquet at my old church, almost trying to make a point of inducting me into the “widow’s” club…like, “this is where you belong”. This group was about an average age of 70. I was a little over half their age. I did not want to go but a very special friend encouraged me and she is like a mother to me so I went. I never felt so humiliated. I just did not fit. Even the older ladies knew I didn’t fit. One lady, (85 years old) told me. “I can’t believe they invited you; you are so young! But you know, we love you.” Another widow, “You’re not scriptually a widow yet, why are you here?” ugh!

    People asked how I was doing emotionally with all this. Well, I hope it makes sense, that while there was slower progression cases out there, there were more cases that were more rapid than my husband. And after my husband passed a good friend mine lost her husband in a car accident. He died on impact. She never got the time I did to tell her husband all the things she wanted to tell him before he died.

    So, to cover the hurt, my mind began to think more positive, the closer I was to the Lord the better I felt and the easier it was to deal with everything. I reasoned that as people would learn about my husband, they would, as I did, start the grieving process. So, I decided their abandonment was a way to grieve or that they just weren’t grown up enough spirtually to understand “James”. I think I did most of my sobbing the few days before he got the diagnosis, in his arms, after reading the web site. We could cuddle at night and cry and pray, talk about our life together; what he wished he could have done but wasn’t going to be able to do but hoped I could do with the girls; we talked about how we were thankful for our time together and we knew we would see each other again; we knew love was forever and we’d alway remember each other; one night he would pray and the other I would. We always said, “I love you, good night”, until one night, the disease took his voice. Today, without him, I read my bible and pray by myself. I’m content with that. My husband got to the point that he could no longer tell me he loved me. I know love is eternal and every day the Lord still loves me because of the continued blessings in my life. I sobbed for days after that last “I love you”. I knew he loved me from the look in his eyes. I know I’ll rejoice when I finally hear, “Follow me”. The grieving continued for two years as he lost his abilities to communicate and as I lost friends and church families. The toughest thing to have lost was my own family and my own children. I wasn’t going to entertain the “Why Me” syndrome. I rejoiced when he passed knowing, like Lazerus, he was being conforted. My kids didn’t understand why I didn’t cry anymore. They were angry, are still in denial and also left and said they will never return. I can only pray for them.

    It is impossible to read about the Bubonic Plague or flu epidemics that often took both parents and not feel blessed that at least my chidren will have one parent left (assuming God allows me that Gift, if they ever decide to come back home). Different professionals have told me that this is not rare (I was astonished), in fact 45%+ of all children where a parent dies leaves home for years and sometimes, never come home because of disfuntional grieving. It is so important to get couseling immediately. I begged the family to get into couseling with me during this tough time but no one would go. I went the whole time he was ill and for a year after. It was the best thing I ever did for myself. I found out that friends and family also grieve disfuntionally and that was also part of the reason why people abandon those who are ill.

    It is impossible to read about the poverty in the time of Charles Dickens or Victor Hugo and not be struck by how many toddlers were left to raise themselves in the streets after the breadwinner died. My husband and I decided before he got to any disabling point that I would continue working because I would need to move on with my life and keep my job. How unselfish he was. Why are my kids so angry about this decision? God gave an ability to make choices. I asked my daughter, “Are you leaving because your father told you to do this or is this your decision?”. She answered, “This is my decision, it is absolutely something he did not want me to do”. Than why did she leave? Manipulation from outsiders and disfuntional grieving.

    It is impossible even to read about the sieges on Jerusalem in the Old testament where parents were eating their own children and not feel blessed to be living in this generation and this country where war is not in this country and we are not in danger of starving to death. I never was discouraged when I no money for food. It got to a point in my husband’s caretaking that I was actually out of food for lack of funding because of all the bills. The one good friend I had, my mother-like angel would bring me food once a week. She was such a blessing. I had just what I needed.

    So instead of entertaining any “why me”? questions about God’s taking care of me or my husband going home sooner than we would like or my children leaving, my questions tended to be “why not me?” Why did I live in this time, in this country, with the blessings I have. My new congregation believed in fulfilling Galations 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fullfill the law of Christ”. I not only help with the singles, I also try to help with the teens, which fulfills my desires to help my church family. No one feels as if I will comprimise any marriage. No one feels like I am a danger to their relationships. My new church family loves me for who I am and for what I can contribute to the family. They pray with me and for me. I pray for them and with them, the way life should be.

    While my husband was still alive, I was becoming aware of how alone I was going to be when he would pass. After he passed, I spent 6 months alone contemplating, praying, paperwork, and writing lists of things I needed to do, and wanted to do. When I finished the lists and got to the things I wanted to do, my new church family supported me more than my old church family. I wish my childen would have stayed because I would have been able to implement some more of what they needed and wanted. I still cry once in a while; not from depresion or out of pitty for myself; not out of selfishness, not even because I miss him, his laugh and his joking around; but because I miss my daughters. It really made me think…how much do we abandon our heavenly Father. So, I’ve learned a lot of lessons from this experience. I think the grieving process for me was over after he passed. I continue to pray for my children that the Lord will keep them safe and someday bring them home. When I say home, I mean HOME with Jesus. I may not ever see them again here, I only pray they make it Home to Jesus.

    Divorce is a sad thing but it is happening more and more. Between that and being single from a death of a spouse, the result is — in the first time in history — there are more single people than there are married people. If Churches of Christ don’t get over this “couple’s only” mentality, the churches will continue to loose members.

    Being single again is lonely sometimes; but the nice thing is my new church family has encouraged me to start a singles group. We sit together on Sundays, like the teens do. Many of us feel content being single. We help in a lot of ways, with the elderly, prayer worriers; kitchen help; meals when people are ill; we open our homes to the teens for their funtions; we chaperone for the teens; we help out by teaching the ladies class; we facilitate special events or ladies night out; we faciliate work parties for other widows or singles. We help other singles from other churches who don’t have single ministries. We want to be contributing members. In fact, we seem to have more time now that we are single than we did when we were married and are able to help out in the church even more. It’s a joy be able to be in a church where the church family loves us, tells us they need us, and wants us to be a contributing member and outwardly encourages us to join in! We aren’t broken. We aren’t immoral. We want to belong to a loving caring church family. Praise the Lord if you find a church family that is supportive the way Lord intended (James 5:13).

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