February 10, 2015 // Uncategorized

Safety net

After spending some time talking with a woman I met whose husband died suddenly a little over a year ago, a painfully familiar topic arose. “I just don’t feel safe in this world anymore. Since Jim died, I feel weak and vulnerable,” she lamented, informing me that she and Jim had been happily married for 34 years. She asked me if that feeling ever goes away.

I was suddenly whisked back in time to when shortly after my own husband Trent died suddenly, I experienced that very same frightening sensitivity. His death left me feeling exposed on all sides, the sole protector of not only myself but my two small children as well.

I can still recall mentioning over and over to anyone who would listen how vulnerable I felt — that I had lost my best friend, my safety net.

Over the years I have learned that feeling unsafe comes with the grief territory. My reaction to my new singular situation was natural. I came to realize over time that lovingly partnering with someone in life typically creates a powerful force. Unfortunately, that realization was born of the loss of that partnering in my life.

So there I was left to my own devices with my two little girls to face the world and whatever challenges came my way. Yes, I had definitely lost my safety net.

Trent had been the major breadwinner in our little family. But more than that, he was my knight in shining armor who rescued me when my car broke down, brought me flowers after a particularly rough day, was as invested in our children’s welfare as I was, partnered with me in all our family’s decisions and much, much more. I learned rather quickly that there was more to feeling safe than just physical protection.

So as I formed my answer to this newly bereaved widow’s question, I found I had much to share with her. “Yes,” I told her, “You will eventually feel safe again in this world if you mourn your dear husband’s death well.”

Our conversation turned then to some of what constitutes mourning well — allowing yourself to be who you are in the upheaval of grief, educating yourself on the truths about grief to become better prepared for what may come, taking gentle care of yourself as you experience the chaos of grief, finding personally fitting ways to acknowledge and express your feelings about your loss, seeking and accepting support, allowing the pain to transform you into a new being and moving forward with your loved one’s memory planted firmly in your healing heart.

I relayed to her that after my husband’s death as I struggled with this sense of vulnerability, I found myself faced with myriad issues that Trent was no longer available to handle, from finding trusted help with finances and car repair to maintaining our home and educational decisions for the girls. Over time I found inner strength and some creative ingenuity that I never knew I possessed.

I told her it was by trial and error that I have formed a network of trusted associates to assist me with those issues I needed help with. The rest I’ve taken on myself, with some failures, but just as many successes. All this has worked to build my confidence and sense of personal safety that I longed for after Trent’s death. I’m always proud to report that I once put in a new garbage disposal all on my own.

But beyond all that may seem trivial to some, in my grief work I have learned that being left without a safety net affords the bereaved the opportunity to be alone in their grief and find out what they are really made of. Feeling alone without a safety net is a painful and frightening situation but it may also be the time when God gently moves in to draw us closer to Him and show us just how strong our spirits are. He shows us that we are never truly alone or without a safety net. Being vulnerable in our grief gives us the chance to open our broken hearts to a new way of being, where we can try on different styles until we find the one that fits us and gives us the assurance that safety can come from our own faithful strivings.

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