1200 Days a Widow

Twelve hundred days have passed since I stopped being a wife and started being a widow. It is a change in title that no one ever wants to experience but so many of us will. You might be surprised that I am still counting. Let me reassure you that I don’t mark off each day on a calendar and count them individually, but please realize that they do all count. The Birthday Days, the special to only us days, the holidays, the anniversaries of everything; from the first kiss, to the first I love you, to the proposal, the first dance, the first vacation, the first everything that was supposed to be followed by years more of first’s, second’s, tenth’s, twentieth’s and so many more.

Widowhood doesn’t end with a new relationship, a new romance, a new first kiss. Don will always be the person I thought I would spend forever with and didn’t get to. Will I fall in love again YES! Have I already fallen in love again and had my heart broken again, yes! Will I risk it all again for love, ABSOLUTELY!

Becoming a widow doesn’t mean my life is over it simply meant that my life as I had thought it would be, never will be. Twelve hundred days are many more days than Don and I did get to spend together but life is not in the quantity of someone’s days it is in the quality of the living of those days.

Don taught me to live all of my days with passion, love, inspiration, truthfulness, transparency, and humility. I try to remember those things every day. I still to this day do not watch television, drink alcohol, smoke anything, or let the balance of my bank account determine the generosity of my heart, my time, or my passion.

My job as Director of Community Development at Butterfly Wings is a volunteer position that may never earn me a dime but it is something that I am passionate about and that is what helps me honor the things that Don taught me. Will I ever be rich? Yes, rich with the love of my family and friends, rich with the fullness of heart that comes with helping someone out who needs a hand up, rich in the knowledge that I am a beloved child of God. Will I ever have enough money to buy a brand new car again? Probably not. Do I care? No.

Life is not about the destination, life is not about the journey either, life is about the person, and people you get to spend the journey with. My wish for you today on this 1200’th day is not that you never ever have to lose someone, because that is unrealistic and not how this world of mortal souls works, my wish is that you love the people that you are on this journey with and that you love them fully, without reservations, without limitations and my wish is that you feel that love in return from your family, from your friends, and from God, because you also are a beloved child of God.

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What To Say, What Not To Say, and Why

WHAT NOT TO SAY AND WHAT TO SAY TO A WIDOW OR WIDOWER AND WHY

Christine J Baxter

 

There is a learning curve that comes along with being a widow, and widowhood isn’t a course anyone willingly enrolls in. As a widow or a widower you quickly learn the phrases that hurt the most and the ones that help the most. Unfortunately, well-meaning friends and family members are often the ones who say these things. They just haven’t learned what not to say and what is best to say. Hopefully this list will shed some light on the topic.

 

WHAT NOT TO SAY

“At least you . . .” Whether the widow was married for six months or sixty years, it is never long enough. So saying something like “At least you had your dream wedding” or “At least you had a long marriage” doesn’t help. If the spouse died suddenly and someone says, “At least they didn’t suffer,” they are diminishing the suffering the widow is experiencing by not being able to say good-bye. If the widow lost a spouse after a long illness, people may say, “At least you got to say good-bye”—this phrase deals a double blow because it diminishes the suffering the widow/widower went through as the caregiver, and the bottom line is no matter how long the illness is ,no spouse is ever ready to say good-bye to the one they love.

 

“I understand.” No, you don’t. You are not me and you do not know my pain, my doubts, my fears, and my sorrow. You may know pain of your own, and your pain may be deep and wide, but it doesn’t give you the understanding of my own or anyone else’s pain. If you have lost someone near and dear to you, then you have a deep understanding of your own pain. If you have lost a spouse, then you have a much closer understanding of my pain, but unless you are me, walking in my shoes, living my life, you do not understand my pain.

 

“When my spouse left me” or “When I went through my divorce …” My husband/wife didn’t leave me, and we didn’t break up. He/she died, suddenly, unexpectedly and tragically, or painfully, slowly, and heartbreakingly. If you have an ex (boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, wife), that person is still alive. Recovery from a breakup is hard work; I have been divorced, and I know that it took me a long time to feel myself again and to want to date and have a social life. But this is death—finality: there are no second chances. If a couple has children, the widow/widower needs to deal with the grief of their children. Regardless of the age of the child, no parent wants to see their child suffer that kind of loss. If you are divorced, no matter how ugly the circumstance, the child still has a living parent. Even if it isn’t possible for the child to see the parent until the child becomes an adult, the parent still exists.

 

“Give it time.” This saying hurts even more, because the person who says it is usually someone who thinks they know how you feel and thinks they have been where you are right now and thinks that time will heal you. Time doesn’t heal wounds; time gives scars a chance to grow. A widow/widower’s heart will never be the same again; they will never be the same person again. In my conversations with widows and widowers, I have discovered they never stop loving and they never stop mourning their spouse. Yes, grief changes, but it never ends. In my experience as a widow, I have yet to have another widow or widower tell me to “give it time.”

 

“He/she is in a better place.” This amazingly hurtful comment frequently comes from a person of faith, somehow implying that where the deceased was here on earth wasn’t the most wonderful place imaginable. Every widow/widower believes that the best place for their spouse to be is happy and healthy here with them. I want to be perfectly clear that my pushback against this statement has nothing to do with a lack of faith. I fully believe that my spouse is completely surrounded by the most amazing love of God that could ever be conceived. In fact, I believe that love to be so great that it is actually inconceivable to me as a human. I think that the phrase “he/she is in a better place” is only the widow/widower’s phrase to utter, and no one else has the right to say it.

 

“Have you tried grief counseling?” I believe that grief counseling is a positive and healthy experience for widows and widowers to work through. Having said that, I do not believe it is healthy or kind for friends and family of the widow to suggest that they get counseling at the first sign of emotion or any tears. Your friend or family member has just experienced one of the most difficult losses they will ever live through. No matter how prepared or unprepared they might have been for the loss. their world will never be the same. Give them some time and space to heal.  

 

“You have been on my mind.” This comment usually comes from someone the widow/widower runs into at the grocery store or some other place of business. If you are thinking of saying this to a widow or widower, please think carefully before making the statement. Have you called, e-mailed, stopped by, or sent a card? If not, then clearly you have not acted as if they were on your mind, and for you to say so just because you have now run into them in public is awkward at best and really very hurtful because it just makes the person realize that you haven’t contacted them in any way.  

 

WHAT IS HELPFUL TO SAY?
“I love you.” Yes, it really is that simple. If you want someone to know that you love them, then just say so. It will mean the world to them to hear those three little words that they no longer get to hear from the person they have lost.

“How is your day going?” Yes, just ask this question and then really listen to their response. Simply asking “How are you?” is usually guaranteed to elicit a simple, one-word response and end the conversation, but if you really care enough to ask them how their day or week has been going or something even more specific, then they will know you really care enough to listen to the answer.

“What are the kids up to?” If the widow/widower is a parent, they are now a single parent. You may be giving them an opportunity to discuss new challenges in their life, or they may simply relish the opportunity to pull out the iPhone and show off the latest pictures. Children are usually a source of joy for the widow or widower to talk about—a bright spot in their life and something they will readily share. If you are uncomfortable talking about the deceased, then asking about the living members of the person’s family at least shows you care about their loved ones.

“Would you like to have dinner?” Yes, dinner, preferable to lunch or brunch—and maybe even with your family. See, that is the thing about being a widow/widower: friends invite us to lunch, and that really does mean the world to us, but when dinnertime rolls around, then it is family time or couple time, and since we are no longer part of a couple we don’t get invited to dinner. The same principle applies to weekend activities. Most widows and widowers are used to being part of a couple and a family, and they may not have single friends to do things with on the weekends. Suddenly they find themselves left off the invitation list for backyard barbeques, dinner parties, and traditional couple activities, leaving them feeling rejected and even lonelier.

“Can I come over?” Most people say, “Call me if you need anything,” and they actually mean it—but in reality the new widow/widower rarely knows what they really need, and what they need most is love. Call them and schedule a time that you can go to their house. Bring something they can freeze or put away to eat later, and offer to throw a load of laundry in or take out the trash. After the initial call, you might call on the way over and ask what they need from the grocery store. Do not wait for them to call and tell you what they need; they are too numb to know.

 

WHAT’S THE NUMBER ONE THING YOU CAN DO FOR A GRIEVING PERSON?

Say “Tell me about him” or “Tell me about her.” Ask how my spouse and I met or how we fell in love, what his favorite color was or what was her favorite food, what we did together for fun. Ask about our vacations or our day-to-day life—just ask. Ask to look at pictures or home movies. Share your own memories of the deceased with the widow. Yes, they might cry when telling a story or two, but it will be a good cry and not a cry from loneliness or pain. It will be the simple tears of a good memory that they have the honor of sharing with you.

 

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What is the span of a life?

I have talked about the Karner Blue Butterfly here before but I haven’t mentioned that one of the reasons they are so rare is because of their very short life span, between four and twenty-one days. That is all, three weeks on a good run and their beauty is gone.

What is the span of a man’s life? Psalm 90 verse 10 puts it this way “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” 

And we fly away.

He is gone, at seventy years he flew away. He had all of the sparkle and beauty of a Karner Blue and the span of his days was as limited too.

If I Could Fly Away to Find Youkarnerbluebutterfly

If I could fly away to find you

I would latch upon a star

I know that’s where I’d find you

Because that is surely where you are

Clouds would be too mundane for you

You were made for something more stunning than fluff

You lit up my world by day and by night

You cast a glow upon me for all within sight

Your eyes so brilliant and blue

Lit up my world adding sparkle to every hue

Without you any sparkle I had is long gone

Without you the nights are too cold and too long

My world is silent without you by my side

The sound of music tears me apart

Each song of lovers walking side by side

Brings pain to my broken heart

Time passes without you and I fail to understand

How the world keeps turning when I can no longer hold your hand

If only I could fly away and find you

I was latch upon a star

I know that’s where I’d find you

Because that is surely where you are

 

 

 

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Injustice, Day Four

I do not have a photo or lovely story today and I know the story that follows might not fall within the traditional definition of injustice because I do not think that the events are just or unjust but they do evoke the feeling that “this is not the way it is supposed to be.”

My friend who is in her eighties lost her daughter to cancer last night. She will need to make plans for her burial and deal with a grief that no parent should ever have to experience. Unfortunately it is not within our power to determine when life ends. My heart broke into a million pieces when I had to hold my brother’s hand as he buried his three children all under the age of six when they died in a fire around twenty years ago. I prayed while holding the hand of my cousin and her Father when she slipped away now more than ten years ago. My grandmother outlived her son by over thirty years. Three sets of my Aunt’s and Uncle’s have had to bury a child. A beautiful friend and member of my church family still feels pain and guilt over the loss of an infant over 60 years ago.

I am sure that every one of you knows someone and most likely many who have lost a child. We cry out to God when we hear the news, we scream why God why, why not me instead of my child? There are no answers to these questions. This is never a matter of what God feels we can handle, or God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, God does not give us pain. God is love and God gives comfort. God is there for us in the darkest days of our lives, we seek God in pain and find comfort. An author once wrote that “it is only in our despair and agony that we feel nothingness and it is in the nothingness that we can be filled with God’s love.” It is not that God gives us pain so that we can seek this comfort, it is a matter of God has always been there and it is only in our darkest moment that we feel the presence of the Divine.

Today my heart aches for my friend, but in that pain there is also rejoicing because God is good all the time. Not all things are good and not all times are good, but God is good, all the time.

A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

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