It’s been over nineteen months since Kristen died, and my journey has taken me from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy. The lessons I’ve learned have been necessary as I’ve matured in Christ. If I could somehow travel back in time and give myself advice after Kristen’s funeral, this is what I would say.
I know you’re hurting right now and can’t imagine “moving on.”
Your world has been turned upside-down, and when you’re not feeling pain and sadness, you’re still in shock over what’s happened. The idea of “moving on” feels dishonorable, like you’re forgetting Kristen and pretending she didn’t exist. That’s the last thing you want to do. Right now, you think you’ll never be happy again, or even want to be happy again. But that’s just the grief talking.
Hope is coming.
At this moment, you’re still walking through a fog, unable to concentrate or focus. (Try not to be so hard on yourself when you can’t remember things you’ve just read. It’s totally normal.) You’re also feeling down. Not so much depressed. Just sad, listless, and numb. There will be times when death will seem preferable to life, especially given the overwhelming responsibility you’ll face trying to raise two small children without Kristen.
Your relationship with Elizabeth and Ian will be stronger than it’s ever been.
It’s true that being a single parent will drain you physically and emotionally. You will have to do everything, but that also means you get to experience so much more. You have the privilege of reading to your children every night, playing games, singing silly songs, and dancing with the cutest, most adorable 6-year-old in the world. You get to have tea parties and fashion shows, and you’ll become an expert with nail polish. You will grow as a father and as a Christian.
God is with you and will never forsake you.
You’re going to learn to lean on God for everything. Not just a few things, but for everything you need physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. He’s going to be your rock, your help in times of trouble, your all in all. When you discover how much you hate being alone, He’s going to send caring family and friends to walk beside you. When you feel like no one else understands what you’re going through, He’s going to encourage you to see a Christian counselor for individual therapy every week, and to attend group counseling for over a month for bereaving widows and widowers. You’ll shed more tears in six months than you have in your entire life, and you’ll lose a lot of sleep, but your relationship with God will run deep as you learn to live one day at a time, asking God to give you this day your daily bread.
Forget what lies behind. Press on toward the goal.
You’re a fighter, Joseph. Just keep going. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re stuck in place or even moving backwards, but in those moments just keep straining ahead. Life is not a snapshot. It will take some time, but as you endure and persevere, God will bless you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. You won’t grieve forever. This journey will change you, but you can’t approach the cross of Jesus Christ and stay the same. Let God heal your brokenness, and you’ll experience amazing joy!
Strength for today. Hope for tomorrow.
I’ve finally moved on. After going through so much darkness, you won’t recognize the morning at first. You’ll keep going through your day-to-day routine without pausing to notice, but one day you’re going to wake up and realize just how far you’ve come.
You’re going to be able to see glimpses of how God was providing exactly what you needed in each stage of your grief. And your heart will be overflowing with joy when you realize God has restored your heart and made it possible for you to love again. Be thankful to God for the beautiful, Christian woman He’s going to place in your path. Cherish her, Joseph! She’s more than you could have ever asked for or imagined!
Your future self