Monday, January 27, 2014


Everyone tells me this grief thing will get easier. I’ve heard it from a lot of people. But the words sometimes taunt me.

They taunt me today when telling the woman at the animal clinic I need a copy of the dog’s rabies paperwork because my husband died and I can’t find it. As I choke back sobs and apologize for not being able to finish my sentence, she was understanding. But as I hung up the phone they came in waves—wracking sobs that would not be held back.

Those words taunted me last week when I had to tell another stranger I had no idea where something was because my husband put it who-knows-where. And again, a relatively nice day became one where I was reminded once more that he is gone. I’ve got to figure this out.

It will get easier to deal with the loss. At night when getting four kids into bed is taking the last of my energy for the day, these words taunt me. In the morning when the alarm clock goes off and I’m reminded I cannot hit snooze ‘cause there is no one to kick out of bed to take care of things while I get five more minutes of sleep, these words seem hollow.

It gets easier. They taunt me taking the kids out to eat and having to say, “Party of five” instead of six. The words catch in my throat and bring sorrow once more. Simply asking for a table casts a shadow of sadness over the event of going out.

I know they are true. It will get easier. But waiting for that to happen is a daily struggle.

Of course there are good days. There are days like yesterday when I watched Dr. Who with three of my four kids, continuing to introduce them to excellent science fiction TV. And later, I made a really good dinner and we all five played a new card game that was a Christmas present. We accomplished some chores and baths were cared for. All things considered, yesterday was a good day.

But his absence is still obvious. The lack of him still lingers. He left a hole in our lives and sometimes I struggle with not knowing if I’m allowing my kids to talk about that enough. Do I bring it up when they may be having a good day and suddenly I take that from them? Or does waiting for them to bring it up make them think they shouldn’t ruin mine?

It will get easier. I have a love-hate relationship with these words. They are a promise of good days ahead…when they aren’t taunting me that I’m not there yet. And then this morning I went to Bible study with a small group of ladies I’m only beginning to know. Melanie shared something so sweet it brought tears to my eyes.

She shared of attending a funeral for another woman who lost a husband young, leaving her to care for four kids. She spoke of this newly widowed woman standing up and assuring her friends that this was not the burden God had entrusted to them. She was glad for their support but to remember that God would grant her the grace to walk this path.

I cried as I realized the words “it gets easier” may taunt me but that does not change that God walks with me. It does not change that He is giving me the grace to get up each morning and to hold these kids and take care of our household. He is trusting me with an incredibly hard journey because He does not leave me to it alone and because, like Job, He knew my faith would not be shaken.

It will get easier. I know this. And when the words taunt me like a cruel joke, I will turn to the truth from God’s word and stand strong. Ephesians 6:13 says “…so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” By God’s grace it will get easier to stand.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

To Wear Black, or Not, That is the Question

I used to watch old movies and ponder how cruel it was to force a widow to wear black for a set amount of time. I’ve always loved color. Vibrant colors, full of life and contrast, seem the best way to celebrate the wondrous variety God created our eyes to see. I watched Gone With the Wind as a teen and cheered when Scarlet dared to dance in her despised black gown, forced upon her by societal conventions.

Now that I’m a widow, I’m not so sure.

When I walk in public I sometimes wish there was a way to let people know without having to tell them. The times when I meet new people and find myself using the past tense verbs to describe my husband or talk how my kids’ dad “used” to do this or that. It isn’t long before I must bring it up and explain. Again.

And sometimes I’m glad for anonymity. Blending in with the crowds around me feels like wearing an invisibility cloak from Harry Potter. I’m used to being noticed. I’ve been a pastor’s wife, watched by the congregations we served for years. I’m a radio DJ, though that one still surprises me when people recognize me for it. I’m a center-stage person, often acting or speaking up front. But now being anonymous is sometimes welcome.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s exhausting. Like trying to chat with a nice lady at the new youth group my kids are visiting this past week. She was trying to plug the benefits of this church, to get a feel for where I was at. Was I new to the church or to God in general? You could see these questions in her eyes, hear the conversation feelers anyone who has been in church for very long recognizes. I felt weary having to tell her my husband was a pastor. We’re visiting this church because he died and attending the one he was so vibrantly a part of was just too hard.

This brings me back to wishing for widow’s wardrobes of decades gone by. It’s almost laughable to picture myself in the black veil and head-to-toe sheathing of the Victorian era. Any of my friends would tell you sack cloth and ashes do not become the vibrant personality God gave me. (Though I do really look good in black.) But shouldn’t we have some sort of way to tell people, “Hey, cut this person a little slack. They are grieving. Don’t ask too many questions but be kind”? I noticed this Christmas while watching It’s a Wonderful Life with my kids that Jimmy Stewart wore a black arm band when his father died. When did we do away with those?

I’m not even sure what to do with my wedding band, to be quite honest. It feels wrong off and it feels wrong on. I’ve worn that thing for over 20 years and never had it slip off until two months ago when the weather was cold and for a panicked 10 minutes I could not find it in church. I’ve lived in arctic North Dakota and never lost it. Somehow it’s like it doesn’t want to be there anymore, but without it my hand feels amiss.

I googled “how long to wear a wedding band after spouse’s death.” We do live in the Google age with an answer to anything easily at our fingertips. One response said it was a personal decision but a year was often the ball park. It’s been four and a half months. My sister agreed it was too soon to feel I should take it off, though she didn’t imply I couldn’t. I vacillate on what to do with that ring.

For now I’ll keep wrestling with my wedding ring, keeping it tucked safely away if it’s so cold it slides off my finger. I will wear it when I’m out of the house until it doesn’t bother me not to anymore. I don’t know if that will be a good thing or a bad thing.

Perhaps I’ll try to come up with some type of grief wear. I sew, though not usually clothing. Maybe I could bring back that Jimmy Stewart arm band. I could make a little pocket in it for cards that the bereaved could carry stating, “I’m still working through the death of someone in my life. Please be patient and give me some grace.”  They might look like a rolled up pack of ‘cigs in a t-shirt worn by a street tough in Grease. I could sell them on Etsy. Stranger things have shown up there. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Count to Five

I closed the door of the van and the sobs just burst out of me. It was irrational. I knew that. I was sobbing because I had needed to ask for help and I received it—with smiles and quick assurances that it was fine. But the fact that I needed it had brought the grief in new waves.

Tonight was one of those nights. Heck, this week is one of those weeks. Tonight Jarod has play practice from 3:40 until 6:30. Lucy gets home at 2:50. At 3:10, Ryan is due home. Kati, however, has dance club practice at school from 3:10 until 4:15. At 3:30 I needed to head to work to record radio show for the next three days and get home before 5 so that I could get Kati, Lucy, and Ryan back to the middle school for Family Night and to view the Science Fair Kati was so proud to show off. It gets done at 6:30, in time to go get Jarod.

That left Lucy, age 5, as a wild card after school. Ryan, the only one who will be home and my child with autism, cannot babysit his sister. They aren’t comfortable around each other. Neither seems to know what to do with the other in more than small, structured doses. So Kati, 11, volunteered to keep Lucy with her at dance club practice since the high school girls were coming to teach them the moves today.

I felt somehow ashamed to have to call the gym teacher, her adviser for this club, and ask if this was an acceptable solution. Lucy had jumped on the idea. My first instinct was to take her to work. But that really is no fun for her and would prolong what I had to do if my focus was split. Mrs. Jackson was so kind when she said Lucy was more than welcome to come watch. She’d had other families need to do this before. It seemed all worked out.

After school, Lucy gathered her crayon tote and a few snacks. She excitedly bounded to the van. As we drove up to the school, she asked if their phones worked the same as ours. Since I would be leaving her in the office for Kati to retrieve, she wanted to help answer phones. It was adorable. The secretaries thought so too. They were so happy to see smiling Lucy and told me there was no need for me to wait with her—they had this. Kati would be called to retrieve her in about 10 minutes. In the meantime, they would enjoy Lucy. “Tell your mom she can go,” they whispered to Lucy, with a smile aimed at me.

As I walked to the van, the feeling just rolled over me, startling in it's intensity. It was anger and humility and sorrow all rolled up in one. I was mad that I had to ask for this help. I felt like I was somehow failing that I could not figure this out on my own. I was angry that my husband wasn’t here to help with all this. And I missed my partner all over again. As soon as the door closed, I buried my hands in my gloves and sobbed.
But only for a moment.

Wallowing is not allowed when you are grieving with children who need to be cared for and shuttled about. When you have to go pick up a kid and keep this chaos moving. I felt like the character Tris in the popular book “Divergent” allowing herself to be terrified, to let fear consume her, but only to the count of five. I let myself sob.
1 – Feel the sorrow and let that be ok. 
2 –Cry, uncaring who might see in the school parking lot.
3- Be angry that I have to figure this out without Kraig.
4 – Wipe your eyes.
5 – Take a deep breath. Count my blessings. My child was welcomed because we are loved at this school. My extra help was gladly given with smiles by people who care about me, about my kids. I have seen the payoff of years of developing relationships in a school full of hard stories.

This is how I grieve when the kids need me to keep moving forward.

I’m so tired of grief. It is exhausting and sometimes sleep eludes me which doesn’t help. But I know I can’t rush through this. I don’t want to because I know if I did, I might have to go through it again. I will let the feelings come. I will let the tears and sobs choke out when they need to—but only for a moment. Moms do not have the luxury of stopping moving entirely.

Today I had the blessing of support from a gracious teacher and kind school secretaries. And even though it sucked that I need it, I am wise enough to ask for it and humble enough to accept it. I am smart enough to know that this was offered in love and in an effort to assist me.

One more day of dealing with grief done. One more night of figuring out how to parent alone done. Here’s hoping for a good night’s sleep tonight. Tomorrow is a new, chaotic day.