March 16, 2011 // Uncategorized

What next?

As I write this, taking in the peaceful sight of the softly falling snow, I ponder what this day has in store for me. What will I accomplish and of what service will I be to others? 

I must admit, it seems not long ago that the deep and brutal grief over the death of my husband Trent crippled me so that my only thought each morning was not “How can I be of service?” but “How will I survive this day?”

After learning that Trent had been killed in a car accident and enduring his funeral, I was left, as all bereaved are, to navigate life without my loved one. My life had been turned upside down in a single moment and my compass in life had been broken along with my heart.

As life pressed on all around me, including the trials and joys of my two preschool-aged daughters, I found myself zapped of energy and faced with an unexpected and swirling cacophony of questions, not the least of which was, “What next?”

“You’re young,” my well-wishers reminded me in hopes of encouraging me out of my grief, “You’ll soon forget Trent and start a new life.” Oh, how those words rang hollow in my ears. I could not comprehend forgetting Trent or the life we had made together with all its challenges, delights — and future plans. What was I to do now?

Of course my main objective became how to be the best single mother I could be. Yet even with that, in the depth of my grief, something more profound was calling from within. As I began to face the multifaceted dimensions of my grief I learned that it was okay for me to take quiet time for myself and to ask those difficult, sometimes unfathomable questions. 

Where was God in all this, I mused? My faith had been shaken to its core. Was this punishment for some ill I had caused? No, I discovered, not punishment, but a lesson in how to grow closer to my Redeemer.

Who was I now that I was no longer Trent’s wife? Living in a couples’ world brought home the fact that I no longer fit in. The lonely space Trent’s death left in my heart gaped jagged and ever present. 

How was I to support my family? Trent had been the family’s bread winner, while I stayed home with the girls. How would they fare if I went back to work so soon after losing their father? There were so many questions that only I would be able to discern over time.

As I processed those questions, I came to realize that Trent’s death had changed me and how I saw the world. Nothing, I learned, would ever be the same. My priorities shifted and the awareness that life truly is fragile and fleeting took shape. Things that once seemed so important before his death held no interest for me now or were no longer relevant. 

As time progressed and I made my way through the mourning process I began to realize that I wanted to spend my time doing meaningful activities. So, armed with only my faith and the deep abiding love I still held protectively in my heart for the man who had gone before me, I set out to determine my purpose.

As I ventured out into the world again, I discovered where once I found pleasure in personal achievements and acquiring things, now I looked to deepen my relationships with family and friends. I felt a need to serve — my family, church and community. It didn’t happen over night, but on the painstaking journey I walked, a heightened sense of compassion for others naturally evolved and I began to feel a calling to work with the bereaved. 

Many of us, after a loss, seek an entirely new life purpose, others a renewal of the passion we held before the death. I know a gentleman who left a high-paying corporate position to direct a nonprofit children’s organization following the sudden death of his father. Another young widow found new passion in presenting educational workshops in her field of nursing. A retired widow found fulfillment in volunteering not only at an area hospital, but also working with flowers, a lifelong passion, at a neighborhood florist.

Life holds so many questions — and opportunities. As we seek new meaning for our lives after loss, over time hope and healing will open our broken hearts to yet unexplored ventures of purpose and love. We can find fulfillment and new life — and won’t our loved ones be proud!

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