For everyone who grieves the loss of someone they love…
It sucks away your energy, your concentration, your strength, your confidence, your motivation, your dreams, your ambition. I cried every single day, usually more than once a day, for three months after Kristen died. I didn’t know I had that many tears in me, nor did I realize that I could only cry for so long in one sitting. After a while, my body just didn’t have any tears left. So I’d go back to what felt familiar and try to live a “normal” life, but then a few hours would pass and I’d be right back where I was before, feeling broken and defeated.
It was miserable.
I hated it.
And I wanted it to stop.
Except I couldn’t. I couldn’t shut off my feelings and retreat from the world. I had a 4-year-old and a newborn at home who needed me. I couldn’t just stop being a parent. I suppose I could have moved in with my parents and let them watch their grandkids for me, but I never felt like that was what I should do. I am their father, and I knew it was my responsibility to raise them, regardless of how I was feeling at the time. So I kept going, living in the same house that Kristen and I bought together, eating at the same table each night for dinner, reading the same stories to the kids each night, and sleeping in the same bed that we had once shared.
It was hard. Really hard.
I don’t remember the exact pain and anguish I went through—honestly, I’m glad I can’t remember those details—but I remember the tears, kneeling by my bedside to pray, wondering what in the world GOD was up to. I had known Kristen for more than 10 years. We had met when we were 19, and suddenly, I had to face a world without her in it. I couldn’t fathom that reality. I didn’t know how I would ever be able to continue living as a single dad with two small children. I couldn’t understand why GOD allowed this to happen, and my fears and doubts slowly turned to anger.
I had never been so angry at GOD before.
It wasn’t the kind of anger that lashes out in hatred. I didn’t curse GOD or reject Him. It was more of a rebellious anger, the kind that says, “You screwed up my life, and now you’re going to have to fix it.” I have been in church my whole life and have always believed GOD exists. I wasn’t going to abandon my entire worldview, even though my world had been turned upside-down. I wasn’t going to run away from GOD. Instead, I was more honest and blunt with the LORD than I had ever been. I learned things about myself that I had never realized before, like the fact that I didn’t really trust GOD to provide for me during my darkest hour. I knew in my head that He could, but in my heart I didn’t believe that He actually would. The more I prayed and poured out my heart to the LORD, the more intimate our relationship became.
And that’s when He began to heal me.
It didn’t happen suddenly. I couldn’t even sense the healing at the time. But looking back, I could see that He had brought me to the other side of my grief. When my grief had sucked away everything I thought I was, leaving me raw and vulnerable, GOD met me there. I barely knew who I was anymore, but that’s because the LORD was stripping away every bit of pride and ego that I used to hide behind. My identity was not wrapped up in my job, or my education, or my house, or my car. My identity was found in Jesus Christ. I am a son of GOD. He loves me, and He will never leave me, nor forsake me.
I can live a full and joyous life because of Jesus Christ.
Once I allowed GOD to mold me and remake me into something new, I experienced blessings I never could have imagined or asked for. I met the most wonderful Christian woman, who is now my wife, and the two of us have already shared adventures that we will always cherish. Not that long ago, I thought I’d be a single parent for the rest of my life. Now I’m part of a team again, and I am grateful beyond words for that. I’ve never been more content than I am today, and I know that my best days are ahead of me and not behind me.
One of the most important lessons I learned through this journey is that grief is not linear. It doesn’t follow a sequence of steps. The stages of grief that we often hear about (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) don’t necessarily come in that order. They can hit you at any time. To my knowledge, I never went through a bargaining phase, and I didn’t feel anger for a long time after Kristen died. I was in a state of shock (denial) for the first couple of months and just felt numb to what was happening around me. I couldn’t plan ahead or think in the long-term. I could only focus on the things that were right in front of me. Then I began to experience depression. I remember feeling so down and alone that I wished I were dead. I was never suicidal, but I thought that if I died, at least I could escape the pain I was feeling. It was nearly a year after Kristen’s death that I struggled with a lot of anger, and it’s ironic that going through that stage of grief ultimately brought me to acceptance.
I wish I could say that if everyone followed a specific set of actions, then you’d arrive at a predetermined outcome. But that’s not how grief works. It can suck up everything in your life for a long time. On average, people who have suffered a loss begin to feel “normal” within 18 to 24 months, and after 3 years, most people recover to the point where they feel the same as they did before the loss. But that’s just the average. Some people can recover more quickly, while others may take considerably longer. I found that what was most important was that I actually allowed myself to grieve. If I hadn’t, then I would be no better off today than I was more than 3 years ago. I wouldn’t have a new wife, I wouldn’t be able to support my kids emotionally, and I wouldn’t be able to move forward with my life. Kristen died, but I didn’t. That means GOD’s not done with me yet. There is still something here on this earth for me to do, some purpose I still have to fulfill. I’m not sure exactly what that is, so I choose to keep living.
I encourage everyone going through a difficult time to do the same.