When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (John 19:26–27 NRSV).
The first anniversary of my husband’s death is swiftly approaching, and once again, I am in shock. However, this time I’m shocked because I can’t believe it’s been a year. This has been the fastest year of my life.
I know the year sped by because I spent half of it in shock. Shock is common for most people dealing with a major loss. Sometimes you can spend weeks or even months in shock. Shock is probably one of our mind’s natural defenses from mentally breaking down. The loss is so great your mind can’t wrap itself around it, so it protects itself by going into shock.
As for me the shock has finally waned, and I am adapting to my life without him. After a year, my internal “autopilot” is off, and I can engage my life again. I can finally enjoy a sunny day without crying. When my husband first died, it felt like a dark cloud was always hovering over me no matter what was going on. I can finally take pleasure in the things of this world again.
Many people have commented on my strength during this season. I always respond by telling them that it’s only because of the grace of God that I haven’t lost my mind. As you can imagine, it hasn’t been easy. There have been many days I called my mom for encouragement and help with my children. There have been many emotional breakdowns. Discovering new things about my husband after his death contributes to some of the sadness. These discoveries bring new meaning to the scripture that says what’s done in the dark will come to light (Luke 8:17).
One of the things I recently discovered about my husband was he probably knew he was going to die. His best friend told me Gabe wanted to make sure the children and I were going to be alright moving forward. My husband asked his best friend to take care of us if anything happened to him. As you can imagine when I heard this, the floodgates opened up. I always knew my husband loved me – even during our worst moments – but I couldn’t believe that even in the face of death, Gabe was still thinking of me. It is overwhelming, and it reinforces the greatness of his loss in my life.
Of course, as a theologian and disciple of our Lord, I’m thinking about this in the context of scripture. What does it mean in the greater scheme of things? My husband’s request of his best friend reminds me of when Jesus asked the disciple he loved to care for his mother after his death (John 19:26-27). Even though Jesus was facing an excruciating and humiliating death on the cross, he still had his mind on his family.
“Woman, here is your son.”
When Jesus said this to Mary, I imagine he was saying, “Here is someone you can trust. Here is someone you can talk to while you’re grieving. Here is someone who is going to help you when you’re in need.”
“Here is your mother.”
Likewise, when Jesus said this to his disciple, he was saying, “I trust you to take care of her as you would your own mother. Do not leave her without protection and provision. Make sure she’s OK.”
I can be honest and say I cried for a couple of hours after reflecting on my husband’s request.
So, what have I learned? In hindsight, I know God has carried me all of the way and will continue to carry me and my children. If you’re recently widowed, please know it is not going to be easy. Be patient with yourself. You will have days when you feel up and days when you feel down. You will have bouts of crying. Don’t be embarrassed if you’re out in public and you start to cry. Many things will trigger memories of your loved one, but you will get through it. Allow yourself to cry and feel the pain. As time progresses, you will not cry as much.
Also, allow God to heal your heart in his time. I’ve found that God has used this tragedy to reveal a lot of things in me, both positive and negative. I know I am stronger after having gone through my husband’s death.
God has also used this to deliver me from some things. Things that I prayed about for years disappeared after having gone through this. Oftentimes, deliverance doesn’t come the way we expect.
My counsel to someone going through the valley of the shadow of death is to hold onto the Lord’s unchanging hand. Even if he has to carry you through the valley because you’re too weak, you will come out. That goes for whatever you’re facing. God’s word is true. The Lord will never leave nor forsake those who belong to him.
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