When I lost my husband a few years ago, I thought I would never, ever recover. I felt more pain than I thought humanly possible. My spirit was broken. I was sad, confused, depressed and angry.
Up to that point in my life, I didn’t think about death affecting my family. Of course my husband and I had sat down with an attorney and gone through the process of making our wills. We took out life insurance policies, but didn’t really, seriously think about dying. We had big future plans for ourselves and our children. I had friends that lost loved ones and I empathized with them. I sent flowers, cards, plants and I prepared meals. I hugged them and cried with them, but just didn’t think it would happen to me. I guess I thought I was “death exempt."
For me, life was great. I was married for twenty years to my best friend, two lovely children, a comfortable home, successful business and great lifestyle. I was happy with the way things were. Well, that all come to a crashing halt one Friday afternoon as my husband’s car collided with another. I got the call we all hope and pray we’ll never get: “Mrs. Carter, please come to the hospital, your husband has been involved in an accident and is critically hurt. You should get here right away." Soon after arriving at the hospital, I again had to listen to words I never expected to hear from the doctors: “I’m sorry, we tried everything, but his heart stopped."
Our family was shattered. It all happened so suddenly – without warning. This was an unexpected jolt that left me suddenly without my husband who had added meaning and value to my life.
Death is a cruel and evil enemy and a product of sin. We all live in a sinful world and we are all sinners, so death is a given. None of us are exempt from experiencing this horrible end; nonetheless, when it happens, it is never welcomed and we are thrown into a quandary wondering how we’ll make it.
Surprised by Grief
So when tragedy struck my family, I was completely devastated and shocked. I felt as if I was free falling into a deep, dark hole with no bottom in sight and nothing to hold on to. How could this have happened? Why? I couldn’t fathom why God would allow this tragedy to happen to me – to my family. It made no sense. I always believed that if we serve God and follow His word, He will (or should) make sure that our life runs smoothly. I trusted Him to take care of us. So where was He now? I became hysterical and cried uncontrollably in utter disbelief. Remember, I didn’t expect this to happen to me – other people, maybe, but not me. Well, it did happen and denying it didn’t make it go away. The facts stared me in the face – “You’re a widow, your children are fatherless.” I became numb. In retrospect, I thank God for that numbness because it provided the anesthetic I needed to get through the hours of planning a funeral and taking care of other necessary business matters. To make things worst, I was doing all of this on my husband’s birthday. Imagine having to pick out a casket and burial lot as opposed to buying a gift and celebrating with the one you love.
Soon, my feelings of denial led to anger. I was so angry, I felt like a volcano about to erupt. I wasn’t sure where to direct my anger – at the other driver of the car that collided with my husband’s, at the unfairness of life or at God. He seemed deserving at the time because I believed that He could have prevented the accident.
When you blame God, it’s unnerving and unsettling to other people and they respond with little clichés to convince you that your anger at God is irrational. What they don’t realize is that nothing anyone says at that time helps because nothing makes sense. You exist on emotions and your logic thoughts are completely shut down. When anger is directed at God, it can be analyzed, dealt with and can later lead to the rediscovery of the character and purpose of God. You’ll soon realize that your anger at God was misplaced and that He really does understand our anger.
My anger allowed me to vent my emotions but accomplished nothing other than to make me unapproachable and bitter. I constantly complained about the unfairness of life. I wanted everyone to acknowledge my sadness and pain and quit pretending that everything was okay – because it wasn’t. But that wasn’t realistic and it wasn’t happening. Of course, I wasn’t thinking that people die daily and their loved ones have similar feelings. I was in my own world and felt as if no one understood my pain.
Soon, it became clear that I had to direct those feelings and emotions into something more positive or the anger would consume my entire being. Other than my children that were hurting also and needed my strength and positive reinforcement, I had a business to run. This was no easy feat. I could either remain angry or pick up the pieces of my life and move forward. I chose the latter. I didn’t have the luxury of lying around feeling angry and depressed. Nothing stopped the day my husband died – nothing but his heart. Life went on. The payroll had to be met; bills to be paid, employees to be supervised. I wanted the whole world to stop and recognize my dilemma but nothing stopped. So, I pulled up my bootstraps and started to take care of business.
I believe that circumstances are beyond our control; however, the one thing we can control is our attitude and attitudes are a result of our choice. Abraham Lincoln said: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing." I was determined to succeed. Some days I felt strong and courageous, other days sad and depressed. Nonetheless, I had to move forward.
It is amazing what lies within us. We don’t realize the magnitude of our hidden strengths until they are tested. I realized that I was a lot stronger than I ever imagined. God’s word tells us that “As long as you’re in this world, you’ll have trouble. But take heart, I have defeated the evil one and have overcome the world” (John 16:33 TCW). God furnishes us with the necessary support we need to overcome obstacles. I felt His arms of comfort holding me and angels caring for me – lifting me up when I needed strength and support.
Healing Can Happen
There is no immediate cure and no magical words that can alleviate the pain of losing a spouse or any loved one. But through the grace of God, the support of family, a network of friends and a caring church family, I was able to go on with my life. Phil. 4:13 says “I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength” (TCW). That became my motto. Christ was now at the helm of my ship, steering me through the turbulent waters as I navigated my way through the difficulties that lay ahead.
Once I made the decision to not dwell on my pain and “poor me." I began to channel those emotions into more positive actions. A favorite quote by Aldous Huxley says: “Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you”. I decided to use my experience to help others. God never wastes a hurt. In fact, it’s very likely that your greatest service to others will most likely come out of your greatest hurt. Who better to comfort a wife that has lost her spouse than a widow who has experienced the same agony? When someone says to me, “You’re the only one who understands what I’m going through”, what she’s really saying is: “You’ve been where I am. You’ve experienced the hopelessness, the pain, the bitterness and the frustration. But somehow, you’ve gotten through it." The unstated plea is “Help me get through it. Help me find meaning in life again. Help me heal.”
One of my goals now is to help others realize that they can survive a loss, that there is hope beyond the tears and that they too can find meaning in life once again, with God’s help.
Read the sequel article, After My Husband's Death.
Norma Carter resides in Dallas, Texas where she is an entrepreneur, writer and seminar speaker. Learn more about Norma's book, Without Warning. Answers © 2013 AnswersForMe.org. Click here for content usage information.