After My Husband's Death By Norma Carter

A few years ago, I experienced an unexpected jolt when I suddenly lost my husband of twenty years in an automobile accident. I was thrown into a quandary unable to understand why God would allow this tragedy to happen.

As I tried to make sense of this loss, I reflected on Isa. 53:3, 4 which says “Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with our grief…He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows." God allowed His Son to experience the deepest human pain and grief in order to be close to us in our suffering. It dawned on me that He identified with my pain and I need only put my faith in His hands because only He had the power to help me cope with my loss. God promised that He would supply all my needs. I needed no stronger assurance.

My grief was long, hard and sporadic as I journeyed towards healing. There were days when I didn’t seem to be making much progress. Then there were times when I went for several days without breaking down. However, Christ saw something in me that I didn’t know I possessed – strength. He saw the ability to rebound.

When your life is lying shattered all around you, the only person that can put it back together is you. No one can heal someone else. When facing my own valley of loss, I found that getting to the other side didn’t just happen fortuitously; I had to make it happen. Even though the journey ahead was not an easy one, I was determined, with God’s help, to heal. Our ability to rebound depends to a large extent on our attitudes, coupled with the internal resources we have cultivated to help us cope and survive.

As I endeavored to pick up the pieces of my life I realized that every day I had to place my hand in God’s and ask Him to lead me through the valley of the shadow of death. On really difficult days, I would ask Him to carry me, and He did. He never failed on His promises to be with me every step of the way. Joshua 1:9 says “What have I told you to do? I have told you to be strong and full of courage. Don’t be afraid. Don’t become discouraged or give up, because you don’t have to do all this alone. The Lord your God will be with you every step of the way.” (TCW) What a comforting, reassuring promise.

There is no question that life will deal you a lousy hand. It will. The only question is how you will respond, when it happens. By choosing my response, I was able to successfully cope and move on with my life. Here are some of the coping mechanisms that helped me heal.

Accept condolences as they are given. People care about your sorrow. They may not say what you want to hear because there are no magical words to ease your pain; however, in an attempt to be comforting, people sometimes say the wrong thing. Don’t waste your emotions on becoming upset. Save them for more important issues you will face. Remember, this is a difficult and new situation for all of you and they may be hurting also.

Pray constantly. I found it difficult to pray at first because I was very angry at God but in time as my anger lessened, I prayed constantly. There were times when I would just call His name and ask for help. If you can’t pray, ask others to pray for you.

Affirm yourself always. Keep telling yourself that you can and will survive. Believe in yourself and in your ability to cope even if you don’t feel like you will. I had a friend that called me regularly and had me repeat after him "I will never, never, ever give up." It motivated me to keep going.

Utilize the strength of others. Lean on your friends and accept their help. Allow them to do for you. It makes them feel like they are easing your burden and contributing to your healing process. Don’t be a lone ranger.

Allow yourself to feel and express every emotion: anger, fear, hurt and sadness. We need to cry, vent our anger and face our resentment as well as admit that the loss isn’t fair and we detest it. The only way we can put ourselves back together is to fall apart. By allowing ourselves to express emotions, it clears the way for a new start.

• Exercise. Apart from the fact that exercising improves your overall general fitness, it also alleviates a lot of built-up stress. If you can’t find the time to join a health club, walking a few minutes each day (a half-hour is sufficient) will do the trick. Being outdoor allows you to clear your head and the physical expenditure is priceless.

• Set aside time to read. Read anything that is spiritually uplifting, inspirational and comforting. Reading validates the fact that the grief you’re experiencing is normal and a process that many have gone through. I had so many wonderful books and pamphlets given to me that I felt encouraged and motivated to keep going. I read books on coping with grief, bouncing back, devotionals for widows and a host of comforting poems and letters that friends wrote as they expressed their sympathy.

• Keep a journal. Commit your thoughts and feelings to paper. It helps to document your progress and setbacks. When you’re able to reread what you’ve written, you will only appreciate how much progress you’ve made. The documentation is proof that God is leading your life, even though your feelings say otherwise. God keeps a record of our tears, so why shouldn’t we. For me journaling was therapeutic. I wrote about my setbacks and my strides. I wrote about the good days and the bad. Writing was important because putting my thoughts on paper expressed my deepest feelings. Dawson Trotman said that "thoughts disentangle themselves as they pass through your fingertips." I wrote about my pain, my progress and my peace that I prayed for and received.

As a result of my journaling, my book, Without Warning – Successfully Coping with Sudden Loss, was published. My hope is that by sharing my experience, I can help others see that hurt, pain and loss need not destroy them, but rather lead to a better understanding of life, a greater wisdom, compassion and a deeper courage to continue on and survive their loss.

• Have schedule and stick to it. Be active and stay busy. Keeping you mind and body active prevents you from spending too much time brooding and feeling sorry for yourself. Sitting around idly allows you to become lethargic and depressed. The sooner you get back to your normal routine, the better – even if it’s a little difficult.
• Seek support.  If you need emotional help discuss your feelings with a pastor, a therapist or join a support group. It’s a difficult time and sometimes talking to someone who has suffered a similar loss or someone trained to counsel can only help put your feelings into perspective.

• Don’t make any major changes for at least a year unless you just have to. You’re already going through a major change and are not mentally or emotionally ready for any more. Try to stabilize your life and that of your family’s until you are thinking more clearly. Too many times we do things when we’re emotionally upset and live to regret them.

• Give yourself time to heal. Don’t let anyone put you on a schedule or timetable. They’re not grieving – you are; so allow yourself as much time as you need as long as you’re making progress. You may have many setbacks but don’t be hard on yourself because healing is a gradual process and requires the luxury of time and patience.

• Permit yourself to laugh. It may seem outrageous to be expected to laugh at a time when you are so sad, but it truly lifts your spirits and relaxes the muscles in your face that have been taut due to your anger and grief.  Plus, laughter is one of the most healing activities.

• Do something for someone else. As you get stronger, doing something for others takes your mind off yourself and allows you to concentrate on something other than “poor me.” Giving is the greatest gift you can give yourself and by helping someone else, you are giving back some of the love and support you received during your period of grieving.

• Never let go of God’s hand. Allow Him to lead you everyday and the days when you don’t feel like taking a step, ask Him to carry you. He’ll always be there for you – just let Him.

By following these simple, practical steps on your journey towards healing, you’ll find that you too will be successful, because success isn’t something you acquire at the end of a journey; rather, it’s how you respond to the journey itself. You’ll find meaning in life once again – in spite of your loss.

Life is filled with changes. Some are enjoyable, others, difficult. One change that will always be a part of life is loss. How you’ll cope is an individual matter; however, one thing I am sure of and that is: you will survive, if you make the choice to.

Norma Carter resides in Dallas, Texas where she is an entrepreneur, writer and seminar speaker. Learn more about Norma's book, Without Warning. Answers © 2010 Click here for content usage information.