A candle my husband's best friend lit for him Christmas 2013.
A candle my husband’s best friend lit for him Christmas 2013.

“To provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory” Isaiah 61:3 (NRSV).

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve emailed back-and-forth with a woman referred to me from the SUDEP Institute (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy). Her husband died several weeks ago from SUDEP in a very similar fashion as my husband. She, too, has two young children. She is experiencing many of the same emotions and feelings I experienced when my husband died – shock, guilt, anxiety, fear and extreme grief. This is her family’s first Christmas without their beloved husband and father, and she is trying to make it through the days.

Sadly, there are many families experiencing grief during this holiday season and are struggling to make it through the pain and confusion. Despite the festivities, Christmas lights, music, food and events serve as blatant reminders that our loved ones are no longer present to experience them with us. It is especially hard for families with children. I feel pangs of grief on every birthday, holiday and special occasion despite the Lord enabling me to live and cope with the loss.

The first label I filled out in 2013.
The first label I filled out in 2013.

As I reflect on my journey – this is our second Christmas without daddy – I am amazed by how far the Lord has brought me. This time last year, I didn’t know how I was going to make it. The smallest things set me off. I remember wrapping my children’s presents and bursting into tears when filling out the label. I realized there wouldn’t be any more presents from mommy and daddy. I also didn’t have the energy to put up a Christmas tree. My mom dragged a sad little tree out of her garage so my home could reflect some Christmas joy. My children didn’t even motivate me to celebrate. I felt like I had nothing to celebrate, and all of the happy families made me even more sorrowful for my children. They would never know what it’s like to have daddy wake them on Christmas morning. My thoughts caused me so much grief and pain that I couldn’t see past them.

However, it’s been almost two years since Gabe’s death, and I see how far the Lord has brought me. He has demonstrated Himself as my comforter and counselor. He’s encouraged and strengthened me in ways I never imagined. I’ve had days when I questioned God and cried out, but the Lord always picked me up and enabled me to be present for my children and to keep going. Now, I can willingly grasp the vision God has for my life and embrace it with open arms.

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NRSV).

To those who are mourning and grieving, I want to encourage you by letting you know the Lord will carry you through this season. Every day will not be easy, but the Lord will give you strength to make it through even the most challenging moments. People say “Time heals all wounds,” but I disagree because it suggests no effort on God’s or our part. I suggest that over time, God heals all wounds – if you open yourself up to His healing power. Call on the Lord and allow Him to walk with you through the dark times. If you do, He will show you the light of day and will ultimately give you beauty for ashes.

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