"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."

This is a blog about widows,
mothers and daughters,
facing change and challenges
and receiving ordinary, everyday blessings that don't seem quite so ordinary anymore.
It chronicles the journey from grief into the restoration of what has been lost.

*** I am no longer actively posting to this site, so please come visit me at my new site ***

http://www.jrrmblog.com/ - "Starting Over ... Again"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Here's a great blog I found ...

I have been following this blog for a short while now, and I wanted to share it with you.  I won't spoil it by telling you too much about it; just say that the posts are funny and very touching.  So here it is:

The Real Full House

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lesson #3 from the Garden - Sometimes You Just Need to Start Over

I had such high hopes for my garden this year.  I started planning for it in January.  I went to the local farmers co-op and get seeds, and Youngest Daughter and I spent a Saturday afternoon planting seeds in little paper cups and plastic trays.  We set up a cardtable near a sunny window, and kept the soil moist for the seeds to germinate.

Sprouts started growing from all the cups and plastic trays.  Everything was going fine.  But then I wasn't able to get a garden plot tilled up for awhile, with the weather so wet.  By the time I got the soil ready and got the sprouts in the ground it was too late.  They didn't survive.  I had such great plans for a big garden, but they all just withered and died.

So now I had a choice - give up on a garden for this year, or try a different approach.  Off to the farmers co-op again, this time for 4" vegetable starts.  I came home with two cucumber plants, two cherry tomato plants, two "pear" tomato plants, and two canteloupe plants.  Put them in the garden and prayed for the best.  And they took off and grew!  Everything grew and then outgrew the space I had alloted it.  The cucumbers took over, the tomatoes outgrew their cages, and the canteloupe plants are spread everywhere.


So what has all this taught me?  I see a parallel with my situation - having to "start over" in many ways.  Seeing something you have planned and work toward and hoped for wither and die.  Like my future with Robby.  We had so many plans and dreams for the future.  We were working so hard to put together a good future for us and our daughters.

When Robby proposed to me, his question was "What are you doing for the next 50, 60, 70 years of your life?"  We had planned on spending a lot more time together.  We only got 20 years.  A lot of people would say to be thankful for the time we had together.  That is one of the things that people say to those who are grieving - thinking that "looking on the bright side" will somehow make it better, and the grief will be easier to bear.  And I am thankful for the time we did have - but I still grieve the time we DIDN'T have together.

But having to start again in the garden has made me realize that sometimes you just have to begin again in other areas of life.  And sometimes when you being again, your harvest is even greater than it might have been originally.  I am still waiting to see what kind of "harvest" God will bring about in my life.  :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lesson #2 My Garden Taught Me This Year

Well, I told you about the cucumbers in my garden yesterday ... today it's the tomatoes.  I love tomatoes, and this year I planted four tomato plants.  And they are growing great - the best they ever have before.  They have totally outgrown their cages, and are expanding everywhere.  And they are loaded with little green tomatoes.  But here's the kicker - up until yesterday, they were all GREEN.

Loads of little green tomatoes, covering the branches and vines.  It's there - so many little tomatoes, just waiting to be harvested.  But they aren't ripe yet.  And I hate waiting!  I can remember the taste of those fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes from last year, and I want to taste that again.  But they aren't ready yet.  And I have to go out, day after day, and look at little green tomatoes.

Can you guess what this is teaching me?  Yup - patience.  Two weeks of waiting patiently (more or less) for the tomatoes to ripen.  Hearing how everyone else is seeing their gardens come alive with produce, and trying to be patient.  Waiting for these tomatoes reminds me of having to sometimes wait for God to work in our lives - seeing the work begin, knowing that there will be "fruit" produced, but having to wait for the end result.  Wanting so much to see the "harvest."

It's like waiting for the restoration that God promises us.  The restoration from the grief and the pain.  God promises that He will restore to us what has been lost.  We know it will happen - we trust Him to keep His promise.  But we must wait.  And that takes patience.  Unfortunately, something I have in short supply too often.

So God uses my garden to teach me stuff.  :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lesson #1 My Garden Taught Me This Year

Here is the first lesson in which God used my garden to remind me of something important.  He used cucumbers to do it - God can be SO creative sometimes.  And He has to be creative when teaching me - sometimes very random things get used by God, and that's all part of the fun of being His child.  :)

This year my cucumbers have been growing like gangbusters.  Last year it was zucchini, this year it's cucumbers.  I only planted two plants, but they are taking over the garden.  I don't have much planted in there - at least, not much that has survived to grow and produce anything.  I have four tomato plants (two cherry tomato plants, and two "pear" tomato plants), a couple cantaloupe plants (which right now have about six little melons growing on them) ... and the two cucumber plants which are conspiring to take over the world.

So I went out there about a 2 weeks ago, and started looking for cucumbers.  I'm thinking there HAS to be some produce in amongst all those green leaves.  There had been so many little yellow flowers, and there still were many there.  So of course some of them had to have matured into cucumbers by that time, right?  I started poking around the edges and lifting a few leaves - nothing.  I'm not seeing anything that resembles a cucumber.  So I get discouraged and go inside, wondering what's going on.

Next day - go back out to the garden.  This time I am really curious - where are those cucumbers?  So I get more aggressive, starting to move the vines around and getting into the center of the plants.  There they are!  I had to get down in there, because there was so much growth (it seemed to be all leaves and vines) but there they were - three perfect cucumbers.  Well, as you can see from the photo they weren't really perfect.  But they tasted perfect in a salad that night!  :)

OK, so here's what those cucumbers taught me - since you've stuck with me through this blog thus far.  I learned that even thought we don't see the "fruit" (or veggies) that we are expecting to see in our lives doesn't mean it's not there.  We may have to look a little closer and investigate a little harder - but it's there.  It may remain hidden for awhile.  We may not be sure it's there, or we may not see it there on the surface.  But it's there.  Just like the work that God is doing inside us as we walk through the hard times that we experience.  We sometimes get through a tough time, and having been told that God is using this season in our life to produce the fruit of the Spirit, we start to ask God, "OK, Lord - where is it?  I don't feel any different.  I don't see this great and wonderful work You have been doing in my life and/or in my heart.  What gives?"

Maybe we just need to be patient ... which brings me to my next blog for tomorrow; lesson #2 that my garden has taught me this year.  :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Talking about Death to a Child

Kids are intuitive.  They pick up on things we don't expect them to - and often we are amazed (perhaps chagrined?) at what their minds absorb and their mouths then say.  We pride ourselves on sheltering them from issues we feel are "too adult" for them - and then find out after the fact that they have perceived what's going on anyway.  :)

As much as we would like to shield our kids from death, they will be exposed to it.  In many ways, they are exposed a little every day.

"Children are Aware - Long before we realize it, children become aware of death. They see dead birds, insects, and animals lying by the road. They may see death at least once a day on television. They hear about it in fairy tales and act it out in their play. Death is a part of life, and children, at some level, are aware of it.
If we permit children to talk to us about death, we can give them needed information, prepare them for a crisis, and help them when they are upset. We can encourage their communication by showing interest in and respect for what they have to say. We can also make it easier for them to talk to us if we are open, honest, and comfortable with our own feelings - often easier said than done. "

When talking with children, many of us feel uncomfortable if we don’t have all the answers. Young children, in particular, seem to expect parents to be all knowing - even about death. But death, the one certainty in all life, is life’s greatest uncertainty. Coming to terms with death can be a lifelong process. We may find different answers at different stages of our lives, or we may always feel a sense of uncertainty and fear. If we have unresolved fears and questions, we may wonder how to provide comforting answers for our children.
While not all our answers may be comforting, we can share what we truly believe. Where we have doubts, an honest, “I just don’t know the answer to that one,” may be more comforting than an explanation which we don’t quite believe. Children usually sense our doubts. White lies, no matter how well intended, can create uneasiness and distrust. Besides, sooner, or later, our children will learn that we are not all knowing, and maybe we can make that discovery easier for them if we calmly and matter-of-fact tell them we don’t have all the answers. Our non-defensive and accepting attitude may help them feel better about not knowing everything also.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Helping Teens Cope with Death

Here is one I haven't had to deal with as much - teens and death.  My oldest daughter was 19 when Robby died, and Rachel was 8 so we skirted the volatile teen years for the most part.  But helping teens deal with death is a little different than explaining death to a small child.  There are not as many questions, but the loss is just as profound.  They understand more about what's happened, but still need loving adults to help them through the many emotions that are sure to bombard them.

Here are a few hints about helping teens cope with grief:

Many Teens Are Told To “Be Strong”

Sad to say, many adults who lack understanding of their experience discourage teens from sharing their grief. Bereaved teens give out all kinds of signs that they are struggling with complex feelings, yet are often pressured to act as they are doing better than they really are.
When a parent dies, many teens are told to “be strong” and “carry on” for the surviving parent. They may not know if they will survive themselves let alone be able to support someone else. Obviously, these kinds of conflicts hinder the “work of mourning”.
Teen Years Can Be Naturally Difficult

Teens are no longer children, yet neither are they adults. With the exception of infancy, no developmental period is so filled with change as adolescence. Leaving the security of childhood, the adolescent begins the process of separation from parents. The death of a parent or sibling, then, can be a particularly devastating experience during this already difficult period.
At the same time the bereaved teen is confronted by the death of someone loved, he or she also faces psychological, physiological and academic pressures. While teens may begin to look like “men” or “women”, they will still need consistent and compassionate support as they do the work of mourning, because physical development does not always equal emotional maturity.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Answering Questions Children Have About Death

Kids may have a lot of questions about death.  I know Rachel did.  She was 8 years old when Robby died, and even though she didn't ask many questions early on, she has asked many questions over the course of the past year (and asked some questions more than once.)  Her biggest fear was that something would happen to me, and the question she asked the most was "What will happen to me if you die, Mom?"

Here's a book that might be helpful for those who are answering questions and trying to explain death to a young child:

Here are some typical questions that may be asked by the child when a parent has died:

Is death like sleeping?
Death is different from sleeping. When you go to sleep your body still works. You still breathe and your heart beats and you dream. When a person is dead, his or her body doesn't work anymore. Remember that children who are told that death is like sleeping may develop fears about falling asleep.

Why did they die?
If the death was from an illness, explain that the person's body couldn't fight the sickness any more. It stopped working. Make sure your children know that if they get the flu or a cold, or if mom or dad get sick, their bodies can fight the illness and get better. Their bodies still work. Explain that people do not usually die when they get sick. Most people get better. If the death was from an accident, explain that the person was hurt so badly that his or her body stopping working. Explain that when most people get hurt they can get better and live a long, long time.

Will you die? Will I die?
Children are looking for reassurance. Let your child know that most people live for a very long time. Children also need to know who will take care of them if a parent or guardian dies. Let them know who to go to for help if there is a family emergency.

Did I do or think something bad to cause the death?
Maybe your child had a fight with the person who died. Maybe your child wished this person wasn't around to get so much attention from other family members. Maybe your child said, "I wish you'd go away from me," or even "I wish you were dead." Reassure your children that saying and wishing things do not cause a death to happen.

Will they come back?
"Forever" is a hard concept for young children to understand. They see that people go away and come back. Cartoon characters die and then jump up again. Young children may need to be told several times that the person won't be back ever.

Is she cold? What will he eat?
Young children may think the dead body still has feelings and walks and talks under the ground. Some children might imagine a cemetery as a sort of "underground apartment complex." You may need to explain that the body doesn't work anymore. It can't breathe, walk, talk or eat anymore.

Why did God let this happen?
Answer questions related to God and your faith according to your own beliefs. You may also want the counsel of your clergy. It's okay to not have answers for everything. Children can accept that you, too, have a hard time understanding some things. It is best to avoid suggesting God "took" someone to be with him, or that "only the good die young". Some children may fear that God will take them away too. They may try to be "bad" so that they won't die, also.

Returning to School
Going back to school following a death can be difficult. You can make this easier by helping your children with possible answers to questions and remarks. Schoolmates may not always be sensitive to your children's feelings. Tell the child that, if they don't want to, they don't have to answer questions. Explain that others may be uncomfortable talking about the person who died. Your home can be a place where you and your child can talk about and remember the loved one. You may want to talk with the school principal, your child's teacher, the school social worker, or counselor, to plan for a surviving child's return to school. You may also want to discuss what information you would like shared with his/her classmates.

Taken from How Can I Help Young Surviving Children

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reaching Out To The Hurting

(Found this on a website recently, and wanted to share it.  I have included my own perspective in parts.  It all rings true - and it speaks from my heart.)

Reaching Out to the Hurting

There she is, the newly widowed mom. Your heart hurts for her, but you don’t approach her. You just don’t know what to say. She looks your way and you pretend not to see her. You see intense grief in her eyes and you look away. You feel guilty and squeeze your husband’s hand. Seeing her awakens a fear that you have tried to keep buried—fear that something similar could happen to your family. It is natural for us to feel these emotions and pull away. It is difficult to know what to do and what to say to someone whose spouse has died. I have been on both sides of the situation and I implore you to let God expand your comfort zone and reach out.

Each individual’s grief is unique, yet every widow and widower is struggling to figure out how to function as half of a couple. One of the many intense emotions is feeling alone. Widows and widowers don’t want to be pitied. Instead they long for friends that are willing to encourage them on their journey.

Don’t avoid the widow or widower.
It communicates that no one cares. No matter the reason, we feel forgotten and abandoned.

Please pray and let the widow or widower know that you are praying.
Many, many times the prayers of my friends, as well as other Christians I have never met, have carried the girls and me through intensely emotional times. Knowing others were praying gave me the strength to keep breathing and continue putting one foot in front of the other.

Please reach out.
Many people often think family and friends have been reaching out to the grieving family, but fewer people are reaching out than you think, especially after the first three months as well as after the holidays are over. Don’t expect widows and widowers to seek you out. Grieving itself is intensely draining. We are also juggling work, helping children with their grief, legal and financial issues, and many other situations that we must face without our spouse. We have already felt family and friends pull away and we don’t risk being hurt again. You need to be the one to approach the widow or widower. What do you say? “We’ve been praying for you and the kids and I was wondering how you are really doing?” Then really listen. Or “I don’t know how you feel or what to say. But if it’s alright I’ll just sit here and let you know I care.”

Don’t be afraid you’ll make us cry.
Our tears don’t mean that you have hurt us. Our grief is our constant companion. Tears just mean our spouse was very special to us, and we miss them immensely. Let us feel it is okay to cry. Offer us a tissue, squeeze our hand, or put your hand on our shoulder. Better yet, weep with us.

Please speak our spouse’s name.
There is a special comfort to the girls and me when someone speaks Robby’s name, especially when they share a good memory or what they miss about him. Hearing my spouse’s name on the lips of others is like warm sunshine on a cold cloudy day; it’s soothing to the soul.

Don’t say “Call if you need anything.”
Often we don’t know exactly what we need and even if we do, it is very difficult to ask. Instead offer specific help. “I made a double batch of lasagna; I’ll bring it over around five.” and then include the recipe. “Could my son come mow your lawn or shovel your driveway?” “We are on the way to the park. Could your kids come with us? You could come along or enjoy some quiet time at home which ever you prefer.” “Could my husband and I come over and see how we could help you get the house ready for winter?” Sit by us during the choir concert or soccer practice, or at church. It is comforting to not sit alone.

Please keep your word.
Not keeping your word implies the same thing as avoiding us. Children are keenly aware of those who show they care, and those who don’t. Their whole world has turned upside down when a parent dies. Their security is shattered. Their trust is shaken. Their emotions are as tangled up as a ball of yarn. Show them they can count on you.

Don’t give advice unless asked.
Trust me, unsolicited advice is always in abundance for widows and widowers. Everyone else seems to know what to do about things we are unsure about. Our whole world has been turned upside down. We have had something happen that we did not have control over and are trying to listen to how God wants us to handle things. The more unwanted advise, the harder it is to discern God in it all.

Don’t judge our children.
As I said before, their emotions are a tangled mess. Sometimes their grief comes out as sadness, but often it is masked in anger, rudeness, depression, hyperactivity, or inattentiveness. Events you may consider normal in your everyday lives could be a grief trigger for our children. Again, don’t pity them. Be kinder than necessary yet lovingly firm.

Please share your spouse.
Let me clarify this. Don’t jump to conclusions or assumptions when a widow or widower talks to your spouse. We are used to hearing a different gender’s perspective on various issues. Letting us talk with your spouse in an appropriate setting is very helpful. I am very grateful to the ladies who have let me talk with their husband’s about lawyers and legal matters as well as landscaping and cars without jumping to the conclusion that I was a desperate woman trying to steal their husbands.

Please remember.
Special days like our wedding anniversary, anniversary of the death, birthdays (the missing spouse’s too) Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and holidays are especially difficult. A call, a small gift, a card, or email around these times is very meaningful. Before I was widowed, I thought after a year things were better. I now know that grief has no timetable. Like many widows and widowers, my first year was about survival, making it through all the “firsts” without my husband. The next year will be one of harsh realities that my husband will never be here again. I still have days when grief waves overwhelm me and my mind gets blanketed by fog.

Please continue being there.
We need to talk and share. We need friends who will listen without judgment and refresh us with their prayers and encouragement. We need friends who rally us to press on when we want to throw in the towel.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Learning to Breathe Again"

Find it at Amazon.com

There is a book that I have been meaning to find - it's written by Christian singer Tammy Trent, and it's called "Learning to Breathe Again."  I found a bit about it online, and wanted to share what I had found.  My next stop is the website of the local library, to see if I can't reserve this for the next time I venture in there to pick up a DVD or book.  :)

"Christian singer/songwriter Tammy Trent and her husband had a fairy-tale marriage, right up to their romantic vacation to Jamaica in September 2001. But on a routine diving excursion, her husband Trent never resurfaced and was later found dead, changing Tammy's life forever. She took a year off from music to grieve and begin healing, and is now using Trent's story as part of her testimony and ministry. Tammy tells her story in her brand-new book, Learning to Breathe Again, in which she tells of their wonderful romance, Trent's tragic death, and how she has been picking up the pieces since.

In the following excerpt, we pick up the story two weeks after Trent's death and shortly after the funeral, when Tammy is returning to her Nashville home. She had asked a neighbor, Shannon, to pick her up at the airport and take her to the house.

We didn't say a lot on the ride from the airport. But when we pulled into our neighborhood, I began crying. Shannon reached over and took my hand, but neither of us said anything. She pulled into the driveway. "Are you sure you don't want me to go in with you, Tammy?" she asked.
"I'm sure. But thank you, Shannon."

"If you need anything, you know I'm here." She lived just a couple of doors away.
I nodded, thanked her, and gave her a hug.

Then I punched in the code to open the garage door. Hearing the familiar noise as it rumbled up, a morsel of memory flashed through my mind: Trent and me coming out through the garage, carrying our luggage to the car, big smiles on our faces and happy to be on our way to Jamaica.

My eyes fell on Trent's yard shoes, lined up next to the door leading into the house. He wore them when he was mowing the grass or working outside, and he always took them off before he came inside. I looked at those shoes and pictured Trent leaving them there, lifting out one foot, then the other.

I opened the door and stepped into the house. Everything was exactly as we had left it. There was the DVD lying out beside the TV: Patch Adams. We had watched it together the night before we left for Jamaica. Trent loved that movie, and we had both wiped away tears at the end, where Patch loses the love of his life.

I walked quietly through the house. I didn't weep uncontrollably, but the tears rolled down my cheeks, and occasionally I covered my mouth to keep from sobbing aloud. I sat down in the living room and looked around, then I got up and walked through every room on the first floor.

Finally I started up the sixteen stairs, clinging to the stair rail to pull myself up every step. I stepped into our bedroom and looked around at everything as though I'd never seen it before. And yet it was all so familiar: the pillows arranged just so on the bad, the picture on the dresser, Trent's underwear on the floor. I smiled, remembering how I'd said, "Honey, pick that up," but in the rush to leave that morning, he'd obviously forgotten it.

In our bathroom, I rubbed my hand along the big bathtub we'd shared so many times. I imagined Trent sliding under the surface, holding his breath. There were candles all around the edge of the tub, and I noticed a little matchbook leaning against one of them. Not knowing why, I opened it up, and there, in Trent's writing, was a message to me: "Hi, TT!" He'd drawn a big heart around the words.

It was as if he had left that little matchbook for me to find at exactly that difficult moment. My heart lurched, imagining him writing the words.

Inside our walk-in closet, I pulled a bunch of Trent's clothes off the hangers and sank to the floor, burying my face in them. I lay there a long time, weeping and trying to breathe in Trent's scent, trying to feel his presence again in those rumpled clothes;

A little bit later, I walked into our office. I started the computer, and as the screen lit up, I caught my breath when I saw a little yellow square in the lower left-hand corner. It looked like a sticky note stuck there on the screen, and it said, "Tammy is who I dream of. Can't wait to see you."

Can't wait to see you.

I sat there, stunned, by the messages Trent had left for me to find. First the matchbook, and now the computer. I was amazed at how Trent continued to comfort me, even from heaven ..."

Here's the site where I found this excerpt.

You can find Tammy's book at Amazon.com

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

And the grief goes on ...

In a previous post I talked about the vacation that my daughters and I just returned from ... a week of sun and fun in Southern California, seeing Disneyland and many other fun attractions - and making memories.

But now we are home, Oldest Daughter has returned to college and Youngest Daughter is still enjoying another month of summer before school starts.  I am back to work, having done all the laundry that required doing and weeded the garden that grew dramatically while we were gone.  OK, honestly I've only partially weeded it so far ... but I'm working on it.  :)

Last night I sat down after Youngest Daughter was in bed, and put in a DVD to watch.  It was "P.S. I Love You" - a poor choice for the night, it turns out.  It's always been a favorite, but for obvious reasons has been hard to watch for the past year or so.  Well, I tried it again last night - and the pain was still there.  Cried and had to turn it off after about the first 30 minutes.  Still reminds me too much of the pain of losing my husband.  I have found that I am still on this road of grief ... or should I say, I had a pitstop in Grief-ville last night.  A reminder that it's not over yet.  Far from over ... but getting better.

So here are some thoughts to share, for those who are on this road along with me:

"Your Grieving Heart" - Recover From Grief website

There are three major points for you to keep in mind as you go through your "work of mourning":
  • You will have your own unique way of expressing and experiencing grief. As long as it is changing, and moving, and "fluid", it is normal grieving.
  • WHAMO! Brought to your knees again by intense grief. And you'll wonder if you are making any progress at all. You are. The passage of time assures this.

    the roller coaster ride of grief
  • It really will come to an end. In it's own time. You will come back to life with loving remembrance in your heart, ready to embrace life again without your beloved at your side. You will gradually feel stronger and more in charge of your life. It really does end.