For most of you, it might come as a surprise I was widowed at 39 years of age. True fact! My late husband committed suicide one cold evening in early May several years ago in the mountains of Western North Carolina. My life, as I knew it then, ceased to exist.
Death of a spouse, in and of itself, is very difficult endure. However, couple that with knowing that your spouse chose (at least in that split second of a moment) to end his own life adds a completely new dimension to this type of grief.
Even so, I grieved hard, but I grieved well.
A question I’m asked quite often: “How did you survive the death of your husband?” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that question.
The answer? I can boil it down to 7 reasons I survived the death of my husband. But, before I share those with you, PLEASE hear me on this: grief is very personal. How I experienced grief will not be the same way you or a friend of yours will experience grief. Please don’t try to put grievers in a box, because no two grief experiences are the same. This is simply my story. And…I honestly believe that some of the principles I employed can be helpful to others that find themselves in a similar place in life.
7 reasons I survived the death of my spouse
- I let people in. – It would have been easy to simply crawl into a hole and not come out. I could have ignored the phone calls, not read the mail, or never answered the door. BUT…I chose to let people into my life. Many of them also needed to grieve, and it was easier to do that by being able to talk about my husband with me. Friends also needed the opportunity to serve, whether it was clean my house, provide meals, help transport my daughter places…it didn’t matter. What mattered was having the opportunity to help us in our time of need. Allowing people into my life also allowed me to grieve more openly and wholly. Typically, I’m a “stuffer”…keeping my emotions hidden under lock and key. However, it was harder to do so in this scenario. I had many opportunities to cry aloud with friends, get angry at times, and ask “Why, why, why?”…and all of that’s okay!
- I addressed the “side effects” head on. – Grief not only causes our emotions to get out of whack, but commonly there are also physical ailments that show up…depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia, just to name a few. While some of these will go away with time, others require a little more help. Please don’t be ashamed to get help. While help can exist in the form of prescription medication, it doesn’t always. You might be someone that prefers to use essential oils to tackle most physical problems, or perhaps a frequent massage or trip to the chiropractor could help. Regardless of the method, don’t allow your symptoms to get out of control before getting help.
- I received counseling. – Even hardheads (like me) can benefit from counseling every now and then. You might be progressing just fine through the steps of grief, but sometimes it takes an outside professional looking in to see areas that could potentially produce problems in the future. While I didn’t require a ton of counseling sessions, the few I did have were extremely beneficial and helped me to identify areas of grief that might have entrapped me further down the road. While the cost of counseling could be a problem for some, you might look at agencies that offer it on a sliding scale based on income, and there are many that do!
- I read books on grief. – I found it very encouraging to read books on grief. That might sound like a bit of any oxymoron, but when you’re in the thick of your grief journey, it’s nice to know you’re not going through it alone. I have compiled a list of resources that I highly recommend here (on my ministry blog) and would love to hear more about those tools that you’ve found comforting – just leave a comment below!
- I attended a Griefshare class. – I whole-heartedly recommend attending a GriefShare class in your town or a nearby city. I won’t lie…it’s not easy, especially the first 3-4 classes, but you will walk away more deeply healed than when you walked in, if you allow yourself. I tried to attend it just a few months after my husband died, and that turned out to be too early for me. I ended up walking out after one class. But, I didn’t quit the idea entirely. I just waited a few more months before giving it another try. I’m SO glad I did! Click on this link to learn more or find a class near you!
- I blogged/journaled about my experience. – My blog actually became my oasis while in the grief desert. Soaking in Life was actually born out of my ministry blog, Out of Deep Waters. Through my grief healing, I was able to soak in life again. I was openly transparent about my experience, and began sharing about it just a week following my husband’s death. I wrote about the good, the bad, and the ugly days. In those cases where I felt I needed to be more private in what I shared, I wrote in a personal journal for my eyes only. It was so healing to go back and see how far I’d come over the course of traveling Grief Road.
- I prayed & studied God’s Word. – As a woman of faith, this was crucial to my healing experience. In all honesty, it was the last thing I want to do in those early days, but it was definitely the post important. My initial prayers may have only been two words, “Help me!” God met me in those two words. My study of His Word in those early weeks may have only lasted 2-3 minutes, but at least I cracked it open, and yet again He met me there.
All-in-all, these are the very things that I truly feel allowed me to heal deeply and quickly following the worst tragedy I have experienced in life, to date.
From allowing people into my life to addressing the physical side effects directly, going to counseling, reading grief books, attending a GriefShare class, blogging my feelings, praying, and reading, I found healing. I truly survived my spouse’s death!