What It Feels Like to Lose You

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in Blog, Grieving, Loss

 

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Loss doesn’t just fade. It doesn’t vanish. It doesn’t leave us. It sits beside us, day after day, year after year. Often a different color or shade, but still there. Still present. Sometimes it shouts so loud it’s all you can hear, and other times it’s a steady hum in the background. A vibration, constant and tugging at your skin. A weight, heavy on your chest. You try to take a breath, but it’s never as deep as you need it to be.

I’ve tried to ease back into my life, but it seems every time the phone rings my body jolts. Who is it? What’s wrong? Is everything OK? That’s part of the anxiety that sometimes comes with tragedy.

Loss isn’t past tense; it’s always present. Always with us. Always with me.

When you died, I came face to face with mortality. The ugly reality of life. Something I always knew but never wanted to see. I’ve experienced the deaths of friends and acquaintances. No loss, no ache, nothing at all could prepare my heart for losing you. I have traveled through it all. I felt nothing makes sense. Still nothing jolted me, halted me, stopped me in my tracks, like losing you.

When you were younger, I would watch you and wonder what you would be like when you were older. Curious about the man you would become and how our relationship would evolve over time. The natural escalation from sister and brother to friends. I looked forward to giving you advice and standing beside you through the obstacles of life. I wanted to shield you from the pains I carried with me and help you forge a path that was undeniably you. I wanted to stay up late and talk to you about the world. I wanted to create with you. I wanted to explore with you. I wanted to ask you what it was like to be the baby boy with three sisters. I wanted to watch you laugh out your response with the wit and humor that followed you everywhere you went.

Some of those wants, I got to experience to a small degree. I got to have a brief taste of a life, of a future, before it was ripped away. Before you were gone. Now as you pass in and out of my mind I am reminded of the moments we never got. Of the dreams we never saw realized. You would be 23 today, going on 24. The whole world before you at 13, and in an instant, it was all gone.

You would be an uncle now, and I know you’d love being an uncle. I can picture you teaching the kids to skateboard and ride bikes. Chasing them around the yard until everyone is tired. Some days when I look at my daughter, my heart aches thinking about how she will never know you. Never experience you. You will only live on in memories. We will not celebrate future victories and achievements. We are destined to carry on and rehash the same moments over and over in hopes of keeping you with us. If only we could’ve really kept you here with us.

There’s so much we never got to. And life it just sort of moves in slow motion around me. I catch myself wondering if you would be proud of me. What you would say to me if you were still here? And I wait, anticipating a response that will never come.

Life moves forward, and so many people have been impacted by losing you. Life has slowed down around us as the world spins at full speed. We have made choices and walked down roads that have paved a future that appears uncertain. We have gotten stuck and caught up in sadness. Living, but knowing full well we will never find healing. Nor do we really want to because that might mean losing all we have left of you. So we cling to whatever we can. Just to keep you here with us. Here and not here at the same time.

I have watched the world collapse around me and I’ve felt the rumbles of grief’s earthquake and seemingly unending aftershocks. A smell, a story, a sunset, all a vision of you. I have raged and I have crumbled. Every day a strange mix of anger, sadness and disbelief. I have lied in bed and I have dug myself out of ditches, just to fall back in again and again. I have destroyed friendships and I have forged new ones. I’ve been continuously surprised by the heart’s uncanny ability to open its doors and allow more to pass through, when it seems impossible to feel anything again.

I have said things I regret in my anger, and I have watched my family fall apart and pull back together time and again. I have lived through holidays and birthdays and all the days it felt I couldn’t go on. I am still finding my footing. Still finding my road. My place. And with each step, I remember you. I cherish you. And I long for you.

I don’t think we ever recover from our grief. I think  we learn to live, broken and battered. A piece of us forever missing. That’s just what it feels like to lose you.

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Preparing Your Marriage for Death

Posted by on Nov 11, 2016 in Blog, Loss

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WHEN DEATH DOES US PART

“Till death do us part…” I repeated. Those words seemed to echo throughout the huge college chapel following my promise and then my bride’s commitment. The witnesses, family and friends, of our wedding stood by smiling. Our parents sat with proud looks on their faces. In all honestly, however, I only viewed those words as a symbol of commitment. I did not really think I would experience that part of those important words, let alone do it twice.

Ruth and I had never been happier than we were that delightful day in July.

Our wedding crowned three years of getting acquainted through writing letters and occasional long distance phone calls. Looking back, this strengthened our relationship because it forced both of us to express our hearts, feelings and beliefs on paper without the distraction of the physical area. That was great for my growth both emotionally with her and spiritually with the Lord.

The proof of the depth of our relationship revealed itself in the ensuing years of life. We were not only committed to each other but we understood each other. We did, indeed, marry our best friend. To keep our growth together on a “roll” we spent every one of our wedding anniversaries—alone—discussing the “state of our union.”

But the day would come when I dreaded our tradition. It was the summer following Ruth’s cancer diagnosis, surgeries, chemotherapy and our loss of “normal.” Those events proved to be the biggest challenge to our relationship to date. Up to this point our love had been a mutual give and receive. Now Ruth was so drained physically and emotionally that she literally had nothing left to give—either to me or our four young children. Thirty-three is a young age to be facing a life threatening disease.

Finally, for the first time, I sensed our relationship changing and it hurt me in that realization. Ruth was no longer able to contribute to our relationship as before. And, in brutal honesty, I found myself questioning my love for her…simply because things seemed to be one-sided for the first time.

I was preparing for my first experience teaching the book of I John at the school. Opening up 1 John 4:10-11, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” God spoke to my spirit, “See, I loved those who did not love back and I acted on their behalf. You are doing that for Ruth and it is okay!” I dropped to the floor sobbing.

Soon after, my dreaded “state of our union” meeting came. Sure enough, Ruth asked how I had been during the throes of the hardest days that winter. I hesitantly, yet openly shared with her how I had struggled and how God met me. She simply said, “I thought so. It’s okay.”

The following six years were filled with days and weeks of hope and disappointment. We faced treatments and then recurrences, over and over.

The most memorable time happened again during our “state of our union” talk that next July. Following a special day on the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan, we sat talking. During a warm embrace, Ruth softly said, “I have never felt so at one with you.”

Three short months later, I watched her take her last breath. I didn’t know a human could hurt so much. Within days I became aware of this hole in my soul that seemed permanent.

Losing a spouse has many aspects to it that are not always understood by many. Indeed, there is the death and physical loss of that person leaving a void in your life. Theirs is also a loss of intimacy in communication. I had no one to tell even small things to that Ruth would appreciate hearing. My biggest loss, however, was the loss of the relationship. It seemed that in addition to grief due to the death of a friend, I had lost the close relationship we had. Love songs were next to impossible for me to listen to.

A year later, God brought along a godly widow lady to the school where I was who absolutely swept me off my feet. What a beautiful lady!

The next year Judith and I found ourselves in a large church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with six sons on one side and two daughters and Judith’s sister on the other. Again, the room echoed our vows, “Till death do us part.”

These words had much deeper meaning to both of us. We had both experienced this hard truth to the fullest. However, even with that, we idealistically viewed the reality of it happening again as being a lifetime away.

Now, the process of blending eight teenagers became twice the task either of us had imagined. Yes, the volume was an issue. When you bring two families together they bring their baggage along. That meant twice as many problems. The growth and mistakes of our kids only drove us to the Lord and to each other. We learned early on to talk about everything, no matter how hard the subject. We reviewed the development of each of our kids every three to six months.

The joys and challenges we experienced in our successful blending of families from two different countries and cultures will have to be addressed at a different time. I need to fast forward sixteen years from Judith and my wedding.

Judith’s health began to be of concern. We spent five years chasing symptoms from doctor to doctor. We intentionally worked hard on her health, even though we did not know what we were fighting. Once again we faced this issue together.

She had to have an emergency surgery. During which the doctor called me in the waiting room. He said, “Mr. Knapp, I am sorry. I am seldom surprised … I found a very mean looking cancer tumor in Judith that came from somewhere else.” I immediately knew she was going to die. I sat down and sobbed uncontrollably for nearly an hour. That continued daily from that day in August ‘till Christmas day.

The next day a full body scan exposed cancerous spots on her lungs and a large, stage-four tumor on her pancreas. With that news Judith asked, “Does that mean I am going to die?” I teared up and nodded “yes” as I leaned over for a long sobbing embrace.

Judith and I talked about everything. This was no different. The next four days in the hospital were full of time we spent mourning her impending death together.

Gradually we communicated with our eight children and their families that they needed to do whatever it took to come see Mom/Grandma soon before pain medication made it hard for her to be alert. I watched, monitored and participated in each one’s mourning. Some of our grandchildren wept the deepest in my arms.

About a week before she left for heaven, I was talking to her quietly at her bedside and a tear trickled down the side of her face. Through her medicated fog she whispered, “I’m sorry I have to die.” Now the tears were running down my cheeks. I assured her it was okay and that I would be fine. I gave her permission to go on without me and that I would be along soon.

Early Sunday morning late in October, Judith leaped into the arms of Jesus.

I was alone again. The loneliness was deafening.

A classic question was posed to me by a pastor friend and his wife. How can we as a couple prepare for such a tragic event as one of us dying “before our time”?

First, be committed to developing the deepest, most open relationship possible. Keeping your emotional distance to possibly reduce unknown future pain is not a good idea.

Next, I would encourage you to have a policy of open communication, even when things are great. That way, it won’t be a new event to add to the struggle of tragedy. Also, it should be a given practice of walking with God closely when things are normal or “easy.” That way you won’t have to learn how to trust Him AND go through tough times at the same time.

Have conversations about “if I go first” at some time or another… better sooner than later. This could help your spouse greatly with hard decisions should you go to heaven first. Live each day with the appreciation for your spouse like you could lose them tomorrow. Keep all relationships current. To this day, I have no relationship regrets with either Ruth or Judith because we lived out our relationships with short, current accounts.

I also recommend couples be willing to take the message of 1 Corinthians 7:4 further than the bedroom. Help each other take care of their temple (physical body).

Finally, don’t be afraid to educate yourself about the grieving process. “Till death do us part” is no joke. It is for real and should be considered seriously.

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A JOURNEY OF GRIEF

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Blog, Loss

I didn’t know a human could hurt so much.

It’s not like I had never experienced loss. My grandfather died when I was six. I remember the event and the emotions of others but I did not feel devastated. I do however, remember Mom’s pain when Dad was killed in a farming accident; I was 11, the eldest of four children. Mom’s grieving was compounded by the birth of my youngest brother one week after Dad’s funeral on a bleak February day. Baby by her side, she cried in bed most of the time, for a long time. Still, my pain was not soul wrenching. I don’t remember crying, but all I really recall was the constant reminder that he was no longer there. His chair sat empty at the head of the table haunting reminder of my uncle’s first words after they took Dad’s body away, “What a big responsibility for such a young boy.” I had lost a dad and a leader. My only feelings were that of hollowness inside me and a sense of abandonment. He was gone.

Loss began to have more of an impact as I entered my teenage years. During high school I had a dog named Lady, who followed me everywhere possible. Although she may have been ugly to look at, there was no companion more loyal. When she was hit by a car and had to be relieved of her misery, it hurt. She was my best friend.  I stood there watching her die and ached inside.

My first sense of deep loss as an adult came when a group of friends moved out of my life. I worked with a religious non-profit that specialized in developing teams. Quite naturally, after spending so much time together, we became very close. It was a sad day when they moved to another job assignment. Coincidentally, I listened to one member of our group say that one of the reasons she tried NOT to get close to team members is because it was so painful to her when it came time to say goodbye. To her, the loss was too deep. I didn’t agree with her logic, but I understood.

The anguish that hit hardest in my life, to that point, was the loss of my wife, Ruth, to cancer. It seemed so unfair that we were dealing with a life-threatening condition in our early thirties, but there we were. In a way, we began grieving our losses the day we received the horrid diagnosis. Ruth would not see our four children graduate from high school, she’d miss knowing her grandkids and our long-term dreams were gone – vanished. Future years of service together became a fantasy. Due to her treatments our normal life became elusive, and so it went. All this pain accumulated in addition to her possible physical death in a yet-to-be determined time frame. We set out on an intentional path to live life to the fullest in all possible ways.

Seven years of treatment, surgeries, tears and hopes suddenly came to an abrupt end the moment I watched her take her last breath. I mumbled a broken, “Goodbye…Ruth,” and collapsed into a sobbing heap in my chair. The shock was more soul-wrenching than anything I had ever experienced. I didn’t know a human could hurt so much. Her death was somehow a shock because I had clutched to hope for a few more months with her.

The following months took me through a mourning process that was foreign to me. Even though I had been blessed with a great circle of friends, an amazing team at work, caring members from the church we attended and a dedicated family, I still experienced profound feelings of loss and emptiness. Agonizing loneliness, devastating longing, missing my best friend and lover occupied my every moment. I found myself wandering around the house like a toddler looking for his pacifier.

One of the things that struck me as odd was the huge variety of ways people attempted to talk to me in the early weeks after my wife’s death, followed by a complete lack of conversation about her or my loss in the weeks to come. It was as if she had never been. Often-times I realized that the way people responded to my loss revolved more around their need instead of mine. A few who had experienced their own losses got it right. Precious few admitted they “Didn’t know what to say.”

People began pulling away from me after about the third week following her funeral, while my need to talk only increased. In truth, I would have given anything for someone to ask me, “Could you tell me about your wife’s death?” But no one ever asked.

Consequently, I began an intentional effort to find others who may have experienced a similar loss so I could talk about my experience and work through my pain. One motive for seeking out others was to comfort them through listening and understanding their heart-felt exchanges, while fulfilling my need to share concerning my own loss and process of grief. This part of my grieving process continued for six months after my wife’s death. By the end of this period I had either forgotten or gotten over the negative effects caused by those who said the wrong thing to me during my grief period.

Working through the loss of my wife left me stronger. I remember thinking that nothing else in life could be harder. The deep pain had left my feelings for others’ hurts closer to the surface.

Fortunately, the year after Ruth’s death I met a wonderful widowed lady. Mutual friends actually talked her into attending the college where I was teaching so we would meet. It certainly took nerve for her to do that. This “arranged” and seemingly innocent meeting allowed me to easily be drawn to her. You see, Judith was the most beautiful lady I had met in a long time. It was love at first sight. That next year we were married.

The day we married my four children were in their teens and Judith’s four boys were also teens. Yes, we blended eight teenagers into a family and survived. Telling that success story must be left for another day.

I could not foresee the heavy challenge emerging the year after our marriage. A policy of the religious non-profit organization with whom I worked forced my resignation from the group, against my wishes! I involuntarily left my leadership position and a 20-year career. This sudden unemployment hit me harder than a blow to the stomach. I had never experienced such depth of rejection before.

Losing my position and the relationships I’d cultivated with co-workers turned into an emotional nightmare for me. Part of the reason for the inner turmoil occurred because I failed to recognize these losses as something to be dealt with in a “grieving” fashion. I just sucked it up, acted brave about the whole situation and moved on to a new job. WRONG!

Only Judith really saw the sinking spirit in me during the next three years. She understood my silent grieving. But I pretty much suffered alone, not wanting her or the children to endure my sorrow. Occasionally while alone, I would experience sudden outbursts of grief. But I wrongly attributed those emotional bouts to residual grieving over my first wife’s death. Not always so.

My strong faith in God provided the strength to continue.

The next 20 years contained many successes both through our work and family victories. Judith and I moved two more times in response to jobs and family duties, landing in Arizona following her mother’s death.

The very next year we became concerned for Judith’s health. We both sensed something was wrong but didn’t want to consider the worst possibility. Five years of changing doctors, along with many tests finally exposed a large tumor on her pancreas. By the time doctors and tests exposed this culprit; time had run out for successful treatment.

Judith passed from this world victoriously the same month 22 years later as had my first wife.

Another deep mourning process began. Some asked if I found it easier or harder the second time. My answer: It was harder. We had only three months from prognosis to passing. During that time Judith and I intensely and intentionally mourned her impending death together. Plus, we invited each of our eight children and their families (24 grandkids) to come join me in saying “Goodbye” to their mother and grandmother. Each visit magnified the reality that Judith was leaving us and there was nothing we could do. The process hurt beyond imagination but it also played a huge part in all of our healing processes in the months to come.

As before, I was supported by a wonderful circle of friends and family. Our church group cared for us in great ways for more than three months and beyond. But just as before, even those expressions of support could not fill the empty soul-wrenching hurt in my spirit – I missed her. Only time and the grieving process would resolve the void her absence left in me. This time, not only did I face an empty bed but also an empty house. The loneliness was deafening. And as before, I observed those who admitted to me honestly, they “Didn’t know what to say.”

In an effort to help the many friends and acquaintances who expressed this sentiment of well-meaning concern, I became very open when talking to friends about my grieving process. It became obvious that my explanations opened their understanding of the grieving experience, clarifying ways in which they could help me and others through their speech and actions.

I can only express what I know and have experienced. While I am a professional, I make no claims on having official training to deal with all people in all sorts of grief. My expressions come only from my own life and from conversations with others. I recommend that individuals who seem to be in physical and emotional states beyond common dialog, be referred to professional help.

My hope is that the following experiences and suggestions will be helpful to you as you aid co-workers, friends and family encounter who are experiencing their own losses. Perhaps something you find in the pages to follow will help you be a better friend or loved one in a time of grief.

 

images any loss

« Point To Ponder »

Comments of comfort should not be geared to “fix” the problem of grief for the bereaved.

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Grieving a Job Loss

Posted by on Jun 28, 2016 in Blog, Comfort, Loss

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JOB LOSS

Many college graduates never work in the field of study in which they receive a degree. I am not among that group. I found a deep sense of fulfillment in finding a career about which I was passionate from the start. I served with a religious non-profit organization that was very team-oriented.

On one of our first encounters with the leadership of this group their deep heart-felt convictions and passion showed through. I remember turning to my wife, Ruth, and asking her, “So, do you think you could spend the rest of your life working with people like that?” Through her tears she mumbled, “Yes!”

Following our year-and-one-half of orientation and leadership training, we were assigned to a teaching and leadership position. The next eight years saw the addition of our four children and the privilege of working in partnership with other veteran leaders. The opportunity to become closely associated with new candidates who came through the training facility deepened our roots in the organization further than anything I had ever experienced in my life. Indeed, we became closer to many of our co-workers than we were with many family members.

My next assignment was to teach and serve as president at a junior-college-level training school in another state. We moved and quickly settled into our new roles there. With loyalty as one of my personal character strengths, my commitment to the job given to me ran deep. Our family life revolved around the work I did at the school.

Then tragedy struck. Cancer. During those seven years of battling cancer together as a family, I plowed through the personal stress it forced on me and whole-heartedly continued my roles at the school, only asking for breaks to take Ruth to her doctor appointments. I did this right up to the day she died.

Two years after Ruth’s death I married again. Judith and I each had four teenagers to bring into the marriage. The only issue our marriage created revolved around a policy of the organization that all members take a one-year orientation training like the one I taught at for my first eight years with them. Judith had not received this training before we were married.

This policy had been “law” with this organization since its inception. None of the leaders at that time had the freedom (nerve) to make exceptions. The “pink slip” came in the form of a decision that for us to continue with the group, we would have to resign from the school, move our family to another state and attend this training program as students — actions that were logistically impossible for our family. We were effectively OUT of the organization.

LOYALTY OVERRULED

I remember that difficult day. One of the leaders came into my office and began with, “Dave, this is very hard for me to say.” My entire insides seemed to begin aching all at once. I was stunned, hurt and felt totally abandoned by people whom I thought to be my friends. My heart was so wounded I did not even say anything in my defense. I WAS OUT. I had not done anything wrong.

My strong sense of loyalty prevented me from showing my pain and rejection. I defended the leadership and stuffed my grief very deep. I never shed a tear. I simply wrestled with my grief in my soul and my thoughts.

Following the fulfillment of our responsibilities with that school we moved our family across the USA to begin a new life in a new community at a new job. I was working two jobs and blending eight teenagers. Needless to say, busyness often prevented time for reflection.

Judith was the only person who really knew I was a hurting guy. My kids noticed I had become more “quiet” at our meal table. A co-worker at the new school commented that I did not seem to be the leader/outgoing guy he would have expected from a former president of a college. My spirit was indeed hampered by my repressed grief.

The loss of my job and the position I served in for 14 years was the second most difficult loss I had ever experienced. Only losing my first wife, Ruth, was harder up to that time. I did not deal with this grieving process well. It extended for three years.

Finally, however, I gained victory through coming to grips with the grieving and releasing it. I was alone on our property with some livestock we owned. I suddenly burst into tears and sobbed for the longest time as I remembered some of my close friends who were still with that organization who “let me go.” They were able to continue carrying out the passion for that work we both shared. I had been deprived of that. I was forced out against my will. One final thing I did that helped me was to write a grief letter to some of the leadership team involved. Doing so provided a measure of freedom to my spirit.

I have heard many other examples where men who lost their jobs went into deep depression for a long time. Like me, these men often found their personal identity in their work. When that is lost, they flounder for identity and security. Since many men seem to think mourning is not “manly,” they try to tough it out instead of grieving freely for victory.

One thing that might have been helpful to me during those three years of grief would have been for someone to open the subject of my job loss and ask me how I got through it or what it was like going through that loss emotionally. Even asking me how I felt the day I was “let go” may have opened the topic for my heart to be expressed and freed from some pain.

WOMEN IN JOB LOSS

Experiencing grief due to the loss of a job is not gender-specific. It may be true that men tend to attach their identity to their job, while women tend to find security from their job; however, the loss can be just as traumatic for either.

Crystal realized that her loss of a job caused depression brought on by her grief. She began sleeping late and not even dressing to go out for the day. Those who helped her most were friends who tuned into her experience through caring. One friend called her each morning for a while to encourage her to get out of bed and face a new day. Crystal soon began getting up and dressing as if she were going to work. This lightened her spirits and helped her work through the deep hollow feelings of loss.

Not all of her friends were as understanding. One, whom she visited shortly after her job loss, did not factor her grief into her less-than-perky actions and criticized her “lack of caring.” This can be a challenge to all of us to be sensitive and give allowances to friends we know who face losses in the normal course of life, like losing a job.

 

 

« Point to Ponder »

Sympathy for the griever by recognizing their present pain has more value than attempts to empathize by comparing to your past losses.

 

ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE BOOK: “I Didn’t Know What To Say” today.

 

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Letting the Bereaved Know you are thinking of them.

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 in Blog, Comfort, Loss

Let the Bereaved Know You are Thinking of Them
Helping Others with Grief | By Chelsea

Following are some tips to let the bereaved know you are thinking of them:

1. Acknowledge their loss – It is important you tell them you know what has happened. You know the bottom has fallen out of their world. Phone them, text them, email them, write them, facebook them . It can be simply “Thinking of you” or “I am so sorry to hear about……..” You are acknowledging the importance of that person in their lives.

2. Don’t be afraid to say the name of the person who has died – even though the person is no longer on this earth, they lived. Their presence is all around the person grieving, in memories and personal items. They existed and will always exist for that person in some way. Saying their name is a gift and sharing a memory even more so.

3. Allow them to talk about how they are feeling – If they want to cry, let them cry. If they are angry let them be angry. If they are feeling guilty, as they very likely will, let them talk about that. All these emotions are a very normal part of grief. You don’t have to fix it, make it better, tell them it could be worse or anything similar. All you have to do is be there with them and listen without fixing. They just need a safe place to vent. If you can sit there and let a person cry their whole heart out without interrupting, just letting them be until the tears are spent, you are indeed a true friend.

4. Understand that there is no timeline for grieving – grief isn’t over in 3 days or a week. It is something that never ends in a sense. Over time there is an adjustment and adaptation to that loss, but there is no ‘getting over’ it in the literal sense. Therefore don’t expect them to be fully functioning in a week or two. Their whole world has been shattered. Some days will be better than others. Some days they won’t want to do anything and other days they will cry. Just accept if you can where they are and avoid being part of the move on brigade.*

5. Refrain from offering platitudes or comparing losses – whilst this can be helpful, in many cases it isn’t. Saying, “They are in a better place.” really doesn’t help someone who has lost the most precious person in the world. Especially if they are young, they want them here with them not somewhere else. There may be many other things you are tempted to say in an attempt to make them feel better. You don’t need to. Losses can’t be compared, the pain is still the pain. However comparing someone’s loss against your own may actually hurt more than help. If you want to show them you understand a little of what you are going through, you can say “I am so sorry. Whilst I don’t know how you are feeling exactly, I do understand what it is like to lose a loved one.” You have told them you too have experienced grief, which then opens the door. Remember you don’t have to fix it or take their pain away. Just be there and listen.

6. Keep in touch – so often there is such a flurry of activity after the death. Arrangements to be made, details finalised, paperwork to be completed. In the first few weeks there may be family around and frequent visitors. In most cases, people drift off after the first month. They have lives to get on with. This is the time when you can be much needed and appreciated. It can be a visit, thinking of you call or suggest going out for lunch. Often it can be the time when a lovely card or a single flower delivered to the door will touch their heart so deeply.

7. Don’t run away in the supermarket – avoidance can be a coping mechanism. This happened to me often or friends just dropped out of my life. It hurt so much at the time but now I understand why. They just didn’t know what to say or couldn’t deal with my pain. I felt at times I had the plague and they thought it might be catching. Just a few words, a touch on the shoulder can mean so much.

8. Include them in your life – grieving can be exhausting and the emotions of grief overwhelming. It is often difficult to cope with crowds or social circumstances. It just depends on the day. So if you have extended an invitation a few times and they have said no, don’t give up. Allow them the gift of time and the gift of spontanaiety. Often they may not know how they will feel until that day dawns. Understand also that whilst going out might be a welcome distraction for some, for others it is the last thing they want to do. Bringing a latte to the house might be just the thing. They might not even want that. Their own company is all they want right now. Respect them where they are at.

9. Know that the calendar is a big part of their life – birthdays, family celebrations, festive times of the year and the anniversary date of a loved one’s death can become very significant. It can be so thoughtful to make a note of these dates and be in touch in some way when the date arrives. Often years later, that anniversary date can still trigger some painful emotions. Also birthdays without loved ones are especially difficult and a big family Christmas with one person missing can be torture.

If you are still daunted, I would encourage you to do just one thing then. Send a card acknowledging their loss with a few personal words or a precious memory. That alone can mean so much.

Source of Article: Mareen Hunter.

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Preparing Your Marriage for Loss

Posted by on Feb 6, 2016 in Blog, Grief Relief, Loss

WHEN DEATH DOES US PART
David Knapp

“Till death do us part…” I repeated. Those words seemed to echo throughout the huge college chapel following my promise and then my bride’s commitment. The witnesses, family and friends, of our wedding stood by smiling. Our parents sat with proud looks on their faces. In all honestly, however, I only viewed those words as a symbol of commitment. I did not really think I would experience that part of those important words, let alone do it twice.
Ruth and I had never been happier than we were that delightful day in July.
Our wedding crowned three years of getting acquainted through writing letters and occasional long distance phone calls. Looking back, this strengthened our relationship because it forced both of us to express our hearts, feelings and beliefs on paper without the distraction of the physical area. That was great for my growth both emotionally with her and spiritually with the Lord.
The proof of the depth of our relationship revealed itself in the ensuing years of life. We were not only committed to each other but we understood each other. We did, indeed, marry our best friend. To keep our growth together on a “roll” we spent every one of our wedding anniversaries—alone—discussing the “state of our union.”
But the day would come when I dreaded our tradition. It was the summer following Ruth’s cancer diagnosis, surgeries, chemotherapy and our loss of “normal.” Those events proved to be the biggest challenge to our relationship to date. Up to this point our love had been a mutual give and receive. Now Ruth was so drained physically and emotionally that she literally had nothing left to give—either to me or our four young children. Thirty-three is a young age to be facing a life threatening disease.
Finally, for the first time, I sensed our relationship changing and it hurt me in that realization. Ruth was no longer able to contribute to our relationship as before. And, in brutal honesty, I found myself questioning my love for her…simply because things seemed to be one-sided for the first time.
I was preparing for my first experience teaching the book of I John at the school. Opening up 1 John 4:10-11, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” God spoke to my spirit, “See, I loved those who did not love back and I acted on their behalf. You are doing that for Ruth and it is okay!” I dropped to the floor sobbing.
Soon after, my dreaded “state of our union” meeting came. Sure enough, Ruth asked how I had been during the throes of the hardest days that winter. I hesitantly, yet openly shared with her how I had struggled and how God met me. She simply said, “I thought so. It’s okay.”
The following six years were filled with days and weeks of hope and disappointment. We faced treatments and then recurrences, over and over.
The most memorable time happened again during our “state of our union” talk that next July. Following a special day on the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan, we sat talking. During a warm embrace, Ruth softly said, “I have never felt so at one with you.”
Three short months later, I watched her take her last breath. I didn’t know a human could hurt so much. Within days I became aware of this hole in my soul that seemed permanent.
Losing a spouse has many aspects to it that are not always understood by many. Indeed, there is the death and physical loss of that person leaving a void in your life. Theirs is also a loss of intimacy in communication. I had no one to tell even small things to that Ruth would appreciate hearing. My biggest loss, however, was the loss of the relationship. It seemed that in addition to grief due to the death of a friend, I had lost the close relationship we had. Love songs were next to impossible for me to listen to.
A year later, God brought along a godly widow lady to the school where I was who absolutely swept me off my feet. What a beautiful lady!
The next year Judith and I found ourselves in a large church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with six sons on one side and two daughters and Judith’s sister on the other. Again, the room echoed our vows, “Till death do us part.”
These words had much deeper meaning to both of us. We had both experienced this hard truth to the fullest. However, even with that, we idealistically viewed the reality of it happening again as being a lifetime away.
Now, the process of blending eight teenagers became twice the task either of us had imagined. Yes, the volume was an issue. When you bring two families together they bring their baggage along. That meant twice as many problems. The growth and mistakes of our kids only drove us to the Lord and to each other. We learned early on to talk about everything, no matter how hard the subject. We reviewed the development of each of our kids every three to six months.

The joys and challenges we experienced in our successful blending of families from two different countries and cultures will have to be addressed at a different time. I need to fast forward sixteen years from Judith and my wedding.
Judith’s health began to be of concern. We spent five years chasing symptoms from doctor to doctor. We intentionally worked hard on her health, even though we did not know what we were fighting. Once again we faced this issue together.
She had to have an emergency surgery. During which the doctor called me in the waiting room. He said, “Mr. Knapp, I am sorry. I am seldom surprised … I found a very mean looking cancer tumor in Judith that came from somewhere else.” I immediately knew she was going to die. I sat down and sobbed uncontrollably for nearly an hour. That continued daily from that day in August ‘till Christmas day.
The next day a full body scan exposed cancerous spots on her lungs and a large, stage-four tumor on her pancreas. With that news Judith asked, “Does that mean I am going to die?” I teared up and nodded “yes” as I leaned over for a long sobbing embrace.
Judith and I talked about everything. This was no different. The next four days in the hospital were full of time we spent mourning her impending death together.
Gradually we communicated with our eight children and their families that they needed to do whatever it took to come see Mom/Grandma soon before pain medication made it hard for her to be alert. I watched, monitored and participated in each one’s mourning. Some of our grandchildren wept the deepest in my arms.
About a week before she left for heaven, I was talking to her quietly at her bedside and a tear trickled down the side of her face. Through her medicated fog she whispered, “I’m sorry I have to die.” Now the tears were running down my cheeks. I assured her it was okay and that I would be fine. I gave her permission to go on without me and that I would be along soon.
Early Sunday morning late in October, Judith leaped into the arms of Jesus.
I was alone again. The loneliness was deafening.
A classic question was posed to me by a pastor friend and his wife. How can we as a couple prepare for such a tragic event as one of us dying “before our time”?
First, be committed to developing the deepest, most open relationship possible. Keeping your emotional distance to possibly reduce unknown future pain is not a good idea.
Next, I would encourage you to have a policy of open communication, even when things are great. That way, it won’t be a new event to add to the struggle of tragedy. Also, it should be a given practice of walking with God closely when things are normal or “easy.” That way you won’t have to learn how to trust Him AND go through tough times at the same time.
Have conversations about “if I go first” at some time or another… better sooner than later. This could help your spouse greatly with hard decisions should you go to heaven first. Live each day with the appreciation for your spouse like you could lose them tomorrow. Keep all relationships current. To this day, I have no relationship regrets with either Ruth or Judith because we lived out our relationships with short, current accounts.
I also recommend couples be willing to take the message of 1 Corinthians 7:4 further than the bedroom. Help each other take care of their temple (physical body).
Finally, don’t be afraid to educate yourself about the grieving process. “Till death do us part” is no joke. It is for real and should be considered seriously.
Loss of Spouse

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