Widowhood 2.0

I have now entered the infamous and much-dreaded second year of widowhood.  Are you surprised by that?  I was until I Googled “second year of widowhood” a few months ago.  Oh my, there is MUCH written on this subject, and everything I read was written by someone who was walking right in the midst of it.  Unfortunately, it’s a pretty well-kept secret.

So, I can’t say I was surprised by this.  I do think I entered this stage earlier than some, not because I’m trying to be an over-achiever, but because I was already living alone and had been taking care of all the household responsibilities for about four years prior to Dale’s death.  I’d already experienced some “widow-like” circumstances.

I decided to Google this topic once more before starting this blog post, to be more intentional about what was being shared.  (I also found that many of the women commenting on these blogs had ALSO Googled this topic!)

Here are some of the most prevalent emotions and experiences expressed by the many women whose words I read:

Year 1

  • Numb
  • Shock
  • Survival
  • Acute pain
  • Going through the motions
  • Handling the necessary details of death
  • Taking on new roles
  • Stronger support system

Year 2

  • Harder than year 1 (everyone said this)
  • Chronic
  • Visceral
  • Permanent
  • Support system moves on
  • Disappointed reality – he’s not coming back
  • It’s not getting better
  • This is my life now
  • Begin living without him

If year 1 and 2 were doors in a gameshow, would you really want to choose either one of them?  Definitely not!

Do I relate to these Year 2 emotions?  To a very great extent, yes, I do.  And have since about the 8-month mark when I felt bombarded by so many memories that brought me to tears.  Much more than in the first six months.  And definitely lonelier.

Here are some additional heartaches I struggle with:

  • I’m conflicted between wanting people to still check in on me – and yet not wanting to still need it.
  • I’m tired of daily crying, but part of me doesn’t want to lose that emotional connection to Dale.
  • My go-to person for all the joys and sorrows in my life isn’t here anymore. I can’t take this deep sorrow and increasing loneliness to him.  And that is an ache that continues to grow the longer I’m without him.

But, if you’ve been following any of this blog over the past months, you know that I am not without hope, and I am not unaware of the blessings in my life.

It bears repeating – God is my all-sufficiency in this trial.  And not just for the gut-wrenching first few weeks. He’s here for the long haul.  And honestly, the long haul is essentially until I leave this earth.

Widowhood isn’t a condition you eventually get over.  It is something you learn how to live with for the rest of your life.  You are forever changed by it.  Kind of like having a limb amputated.  You ALWAYS know it’s not there anymore, but you figure out how to do life without it.

So, I guess the goal of this post is really two-fold.  First of all, I wanted to shed some light on what this journey is like, even past that “magical” (not…) first year mark.

Secondly, I wanted you to know that my strength and my hope is still rooted in my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus.

  • He is the same today, yesterday and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
  • He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6).
  • He collects my tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8).
  • And because of these promises, I can count it all joy (James 1:2).

Here’s to a year of learning deeper truths from God, no matter how my heart is doing.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:21-23


The Woman on the Plane

I recently took a short trip over the one-year anniversary of Dale’s death.  Many of you saw the pictures on FaceBook of the gorgeous scenery from Southern Cal.  Such a blessing to enjoy that respite and to be rejuvenated during those days.

And obviously, the trip and the anniversary were essentially the “headlines” of the week.  However, there was a subplot that took place before and after all the vacation hubbub.

When I select airline seats, I ALWAYS choose the aisle if it’s available.  I like to be able to stand as soon as possible – and I don’t usually like to feel hemmed in.  As a kid, I loved the window seat, but I’ve moved on and don’t have a strong desire to look at clouds for an extended period of time.

Yet, for some strange reason, when I boarded the plane in Des Moines for the first leg, I went and sat by the window.  So, I got myself all belted in and said a cheery hello to the woman who came and took the middle seat; we’ll call her “Middle Woman.”

A few minutes later, another lovely lady stood by our row with a bit of a confused look on her face – and she was primarily looking at me!  That’s when I realized that, for some “unknown” reason, I had taken HER window seat!  So, we all reshuffled and settled back into our appropriate places.  We’ll name her “Window Woman.”  Kind of catchy, isn’t it? Like Wonder Woman! 😊

Shortly after that, Middle Woman says to Window Woman, “You look very familiar to me.  Have we met?”  And it turned out that they indeed had met.  In fact, they both worked together some years ago in the healthcare industry.

That re-connection led to a lively conversation of catching up on their lives and their careers.  I was now properly ensconced in the aisle seat, content to read my book for this multi-hour flight.

And then I heard it.  Window Woman said that her husband, Bob, had passed away in May of this year and what a difficult time it was, both before and after his death.  She mentioned how she had left her job to care for him as his health declined over the weeks preceding his death.  And because her husband had been a pastor, she was not only grieving the loss of her husband, but also the hole left in the ministry they had together.  And this trip was one that they traditionally took together.

While my first thought should have been, “Oh, I’m so sorry that you are walking this path,” that’s NOT what ran through my mind initially.  It was this: “This is NOT a coincidence!  God has put me on THIS flight in THIS row with THIS woman at THIS time!”  Wow!  Now what do I do with that?

Over the next 2+ hours, I did read some of the book, but also kept trying to half-listen for an opening in their conversation where I could jump in without looking totally rude.  And I was praying that God would make it clear when to make that leap.

The obvious opening never came.  The plane landed and I knew it was now or never.  So, I lamely said to both of them, “So, is this your final destination?”  I sounded like a flight attendant!!  But they both answered in the affirmative and seemed to be very friendly towards me now as well.

So, I took the plunge and said to Window Woman, “I didn’t intend to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but hear about your husband’s death.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  My husband died a year ago and I’m on a girlfriend trip to California because of that.”

Oh goodness, the gates opened up for all three of us!  And I don’t mean the arrival gates!  All three of us saw that this row placement was clearly from God’s hand and we instantly and quickly exchanged contact information.  I also gave Window Woman this blog address and told her to watch for the latest blog on the coming Tuesday.  She promised to call me when she returned to Des Moines after her trip.

Then we all went our separate ways.  For the time being.

She did, in fact, read and comment on that blog post, again promising to connect when she returned.  And true to her word, she did call and we talked for nearly an hour – and set up a time to get together over coffee to continue the conversation.  Because if God so clearly brought us into each other’s life, then we needed to see why!

During that conversation, she told me that her daughter had been praying that God would bring someone into her life ON THAT FLIGHT who could be an encouragement to her.  I get to use one of my favorite things – BOOM!

If I had stayed quiet (I know, hard for me…), Window Woman would have likely thought that the blessing her daughter prayed for was answered by the presence of Middle Woman.  And it was definitely a blessing for both of them.  But isn’t it so like our God to give us even more than we can ask or imagine?

I don’t know where this relationship will go, but we have a coffee date on our calendars and we are both excited to get to know each other better and see where this journey takes us.

I continue to be amazed at the people God drops into my life during this season.  It’s one of the many ways He makes me feel SO loved as He walks with me through this valley.  I couldn’t be more grateful for a God like that.

I hope this gives you a glimpse of His love, His grace and His sovereignty.  Three of my favorite “God qualities.”

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21