A Way Through

“You will embark,” he said, “on a fair sea, and at times there will be fair weather, but not always. You will meet storms and overcome them.  You will take it in turns to steer your boat through fair weather and foul.  Never lose courage.  Safe harbor awaits you both in the end.” —Daphne Du Maurier

We have met storms and they didn’t overcome us.  The promise of a safe harbor kept us going  but one of us has reached the safe harbor and one of us is left to navigate the rest of the way alone.  

On August 29, 2022, I wrote:Looking for my Rainbow. It was the day after Bob was taken by ambulance to the hospital for the last time.

I said my final goodbye to my beloved husband on September 2, 2022 as he exited earth for his eternal home.  He reached his safe harbor.  For the last few months I have been slowly learning how to live as ‘me’ instead of ‘we’.

The loss of Bob is accompanied by other losses.  Grief has a ripple effect.  These are often referred to as secondary losses.  The tasks Bob did and decisions he made that he no longer does is a loss.  Being Bob’s caregiver, as hard as it was at times, is a loss and I miss it.  I grieve his sense of humor, coffee together, deep conversations, driving to and walking in favorite little towns along our lakeshore. Now just driving through our city alone is hard. Memories of our life together here surface and waves of grief come again and again. Today is his birthday and I grieve not being able to make a special dinner and his favorite cake or dessert.  I missed greeting him this morning with a kiss and a gift or card. These losses and more take me by surprise but I know it’s all part of healing.  Each one must be felt and not buried if I want to move forward. 

Mind over matter doesn’t work in the middle of grief.  Nor does trying to harness the power of positive thinking.  It cannot be willed away.  As uncomfortable as it is, grief must be felt.  I am experiencing the truth of that… we cannot not grieve when going through loss.  

There’s a sweetness in the grief at times and that surprises me too.  Tears bring relief and healing. It always helps to just let them flow. I’ve read in several grief recovery books that if grief is bottled up it won’t go away. It will just build up like the steam in a tea kettle until the pressure has to be released and will come out at inappropriate times and in unhealthy ways. We can’t avoid it, push it away, try to mask it or run away from the intense feelings. So I’m taking it slow, easy and letting the process unfold.  

I don’t know what I’d do if I was alone in the process.  Sons, daughter-in-law, grandchildren can’t take away the void I feel but being with family and sharing memories of Bob’s love and presence in our lives becomes a buffer.  It helps all of us.  My two sisters have been saving my life.  Although they haven’t experienced what I’m going through, they keep in close contact with me and check in on me often. Family has been a soft place to land.       

Women who have lost husbands reached out to me and long time relationships with some of them have deepened and new relationships with others are developing. It’s encouraging to be in the company of women who understand each other’s pain. These women are a gift. We are a gift to one another.    

The sweetness of grieving is also felt in my relationship with God.  Honesty in prayer has opened up a deeper, richer relationship with Him.  

He is close to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147;3

I dislike the word widow.  It’s hard for me to utter the word but with this new status comes something good that I would never want to miss or avoid. My God holds me closer than ever now.  It’s his promise to me.  He states it over and over again in the Bible and I just learned recently that there are 103 scripture references to widows, revealing the importance I hold in the heart of God. Widows are included with prisoners, orphans — the voiceless — the oppressed–the powerless — and He promises to uphold us and speak for us. 

Through all the pain, sorrow and heartache, I have been invited into the arms of my Savior and my God.  He is listening, defending and touching my heart and His promises to me hold true.

I wrote the following poem many years ago for a grieving friend: 

SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS

In the arms of Jesus

is where your loved one rests

and you can be assured

that’s where he’s truly blessed.

No more pain or suffering

now free from all sorrow

in the midst of singing angels

there is a bright tomorrow.

For all of Heaven’s days are bathed

in the brilliance of God’s light

there’s no more fear of darkness

for in Heaven there’s no night.

Remember, in your deepest sorrow,

you grieve not without hope

and the one who holds your loved one close

is the one who’ll help you cope.

My beloved, Bob, has reached the safe harbor and I am being helped, loved and cared for by the One who welcomed him to safety.  Bob reached that distant shore first.  Now with confidence in God’s guidance and the memory of Bob alive in my heart, I will move toward that harbor where both of them will someday welcome me home.

Nancy Janiga

1/26/2023

The featured photo was taken on the shores of Lake Michigan

Lament: The Doorway to Blessing

Me:  God, I’m angry.  I need help dealing with this.  

God:  You’re not really angry.

Me:  What? You are all knowing.  You see me, know the circumstances I’m facing and you’re telling me I’m not angry?

God: You don’t have to hide your feelings from me.  I want you to be vulnerable and authentic.  

Me:  Huh?  I am being vulnerable.   

God: Today you finally stopped carrying this alone and brought it to me for help.

Me:  Yes, I need help with this anger.

God: So why are you angry?

Me:  You know how I’ve been hurt in that relationship. There’s so much that I don’t understand and after all these years of friendship to be treated like an enemy is hurtful and makes me sad. I tried to reach out to talk but she shut the door on all communication.

God:  Ah, so you’re hurt and sad?  Have you read Psalm 55: 12-14?

If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. Psalm 55: 12-14

Me:  Tears flow …

God:  My door is always open to you. Read Matthew 5: 3-4 and mediate on those verses for awhile.

I come before the Lord empty.

Spiritually I’m destitute.  I’m not strong enough in my own strength to handle this. I need Him. I open my bible to Matthew 5: 3-4:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

There’s no room for anger, unforgiveness or pride, not even a little wiggle room.  

I humble myself, I’m truthful about who I am and what I’m feeling.

Lacking what I need, I open my hands. I’m ready to receive.

This is my vulnerable place.

My mind flashes back to when I first came to Jesus years ago. I was finally truthful with Him about who I was.  That was the door to salvation.  

He swung open the door and welcomed me in and here in this present moment He does the same.

That vulnerability that brings me to God comes through what the Bible refers to as lament.

Lament means: “To express sorrow, regret, or unhappiness about something.” Or: “A passionate expression of grief or sorrow.”

Jesus’ first sermon goes counter culturally to what our world says we need in order to be fulfilled and lamenting seems weak.

But God shows me, in the first beatitude, that being poor in spirit brings me blessing and that His kingdom is mine.  

I read it again: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Matthew 5:3

That’s present tense.  That means right here; right now.  

Honest lament and being truthful with God is the doorway into His presence and that doorway leads to His kingdom … on earth as it is in Heaven.

I share my hurt, sorrow, confusion, grief and I am transported above this painful circumstance.  

I’m free to grieve.  I’m free to be vulnerable.  It’s ok to not be ok when I’m in His presence.  

I mourn my loss.  I read Matthew 5:4 again. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”.

I am comforted, at peace and spiritually full. This is what it means to be blessed.