Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reflections on Grief

I attended part of a widows retreat yesterday. Originally, I was supposed to be there Friday night through this morning. But, when it came down to it, I physically did not have the stamina to do so. By the time I got home in the late afternoon yesterday, I was nauseous and had a powerful headache. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to be limited by those symptoms.

Anyway, I enjoyed Saturday's session. We heard from a couple of widows who shared their experiences. I appreciated how they could acknowledge God's hand in their losses and their new lives. A frequent statement from those who shared was that God is in the details.

The main speaker yesterday runs a grief ministry here in Long Beach. I have seen signs for the ministry on a local church and on the car of one of my neighbors who is also involved in the ministry. Such a small world. She really focused on the stages of grief, and what to expect the first three years of the journey.

We had time to visit informally with other widows during lunch and tea. In between, we had a small group session where we answered some specific questions about our journeys and our feelings. This was the most emotional time. My emotions are triggered when I see and hear the pain others express for their loss and their children's loss. I think the most valuable part of the experience was connecting with other women who are walking a similar path, and being able to share freely the eternal perspective we have about this life and the next. It was very much a Christ-centered experience, and there's no other way for me to put this whole thing into perspective without that.

One thing I'm realizing this week is that others, who have not experienced loss, have a very short time line in which they will continue to tolerate the changes in a grieving person. I am experiencing this to a certain degree in the workplace. I guess it's to be expected, but it's disheartening. I don't feel like my failings this year as an educator are directly related to my grief, but rather to my health. Nevertheless, the compassion I would expect from those around me in light of all that has occurred in the last year and a half has been spent. My situation is old news and I should perform at higher level or be fired. At least that's the message I feel I'm getting from several directions.

I heard several women this weekend talk about how the Lord has provided for them and their children since their husbands' deaths. I'm going to be petitioning the Lord to do a work in my life to change my situation at work and lead me to a better place where I can have a fresh start.

Lastly, I think people are reading me wrong, or I am presenting myself in a way that is confusing to those that don't understand the power of the Holy Spirit. The only way I make it through each day is by trusting the Lord and clinging to His promises. That's how I can get up and leave the house. That's how I can smile and be interested in what others have to say. But it doesn't mean that I'm not dealing with a huge void in my personal life. Michael was everything to me. My life with him was such a joy. It doesn't mean that I'm not lonely. It doesn't mean that I don't cry about my loss when I'm alone and feel more free to express my emotions. It doesn't mean that I'm not mourning the loss of my precious husband and the dreams we had of a longer life together. I'm not over it. I'm just trying to move forward the best I can and reflect God's goodness in my life despite my circumstances.

So for anyone who thinks I'm fine. I'm not fine. I have been forever altered by this, and if I didn't have Jesus in my life I'd be a complete wreck.


  1. Joannah,

    I hope something works out for you the following school year. In the mean time do you think it might be a good idea to have your union rep with you during any future meetings? It really sounds like you are being set up to fail.

  2. You should also document the chain of events in detail. For your records unless they force your hand.

  3. Oh, friend. Don't let anyone tell you how to feel. Why do they judge you so? People who don't know Christ can't understand. I am praying that prayer for a new start with you! You remind me of another woman whose blog I read...this mother just lost her 1 1/2 year old in a tragic accident (don't read it if you don't want to cry!!), but her faith is getting her through. This post of hers eloquently describes how:

    Only by His mercy.

  4. I find it shocking the way your school board is treating you.
    How on earth can you be fine?
    Focus on yourself and as much as possible ignore these dreadful comments and rotten people.

  5. fuzz and dawn, it's not who you'd think it is, thankfully. It will work out. :)

  6. Joannah,

    I so totally get it. Others expect us who are grieving to just be "done with it". I cannot forget the fellow teacher who actually slapped me across the face and told me, after the first year of grieving Paul, that I'd need to be over it and that she was tired of how long it was taking me to not be grieving. You are seeing that those who don't understand think we should just be all better at a certain, set time that THEY think is good. How awful. I kept reminding myself they didn't understand. In my head I knew that my my heart was still horribly hurt. I also discovered that after a certain point I just answered "fine" when asked how I was, because did they REALLY want to know that I was still a torn up, falling apart mess inside. No, they wanted a quick response and to move on. It was not truthful as I wasn't fine. But, I found a small core group of people that I could say that to and they were the ones I told and poured it out to. Everyone else got the "fine". I'm not saying that was right or wrong. One of the biggest things I learned it there is NO right or wrong. Each and every person grieves differently. There are certain "stages" and processes, but we each have our individual responses. I could just scream for you regarding work. The parent community and your principal seem to have been very harsh. I do agree with you that you turn it over to GOD. You can't fight that and still have any energy left for your grief journey and your pregnancy. The LORD is with you and you will be "fine" in HIM! Love and hugs to you, Sarah

  7. Sarah, I am shocked that woman slapped you! What is wrong with people? I think I would have had her charged with assault.

    I must clarify that my principal is being supportive so far as I can tell. I had a good talk with her on Monday. I don't want to elaborate on where the negativity is coming from here. But, it has broken my heart.

    I think because I don't wear my heart on my sleeve that people assume I'm fine. It's just not my style to grieve openly in the workplace. When asked, I in one way or another express how good God has been to me in spite of my loss. That's truly how I feel. It doesn't take away from my loss, but He is carrying me through life without Michael.

    Thank you for always sharing from the heart with me!

  8. I think your insight into grief is wonderful Joannah, at the very least it helps understand why others are unsupportive. I think you've hit the nail on the head, most people really don't understand how grief works, they expect you to get over something or be normal and you know that isn't normal or healthy. I feel like this often, why don't people get it or understand what I deal with day in and day out. I'm glad you've found a local group!



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