He is free, he is well, but they are in the valley of the shadow of death. I have been there before. It is a terrible place to be.
After the horrible shock of the permanence of the loss, and the busyness of the funeral, and all the people go home, they will have to rebuild their lives. And it will be hard work because they are so broken.
But it can be done. It must be done. Life goes on whether we want it to, or not. It's best to embrace what you still have and move forward little by little. No one should expect you to be fine in a couple of weeks or months. That is unrealistic!
I'm going to share what my grief journey looked like in this post, but I have to say that everyone is different. What worked for me may not work for everyone.
I was blessed to be able to take a significant amount of time off work. I had endured a lot of stress in the ten months that Michael was ill, and I knew I was incapable of dealing with any work-related stress. I spent that time off well. I spent it intentionally.
During my leave of absence, I took three short trips to see dear friends in different parts of the country. I let them care for me and listen to me. Their kindness and compassion was so appreciated and helpful.
I attended weekly sessions with a therapist who specialized in grief. I had a lot on my chest, and it was very helpful to have someone listen to me. Honestly, I can't remember much of what she advised me, but I do remember talking a lot. Ha! I also joined a GriefShare group at a church in the neighborhood (at our new church, actually). I talked less in that group setting than I did in my one-on-one sessions, and I learned a lot from the other people in the group.
I was actually afraid of becoming stuck in my grief, and letting bitterness take hold. So I spent a lot of time with the Lord in prayer, reading my Bible, and going to church several times a week. In James 4:8 it says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." That is the truth! As awful as those first six months were without Michael, God showed up and I grew a lot in my faith. Honestly, I wouldn't trade that for anything. To know God more and to experience His peace and provision is priceless.
I read a lot. (A lotta lotta as Michaela would say.) There are some really good books about grief and Heaven, and I have to share them here because if you, or someone you know is grieving these are very encouraging:
There were several others, but these books were my favorites, and they are the ones I give to friends and family as new losses are experienced.
Here are some other recommendations based on my experience:
Be very careful about what sorts of entertainment you consume. Avoid dark and depressing themes. You are already trying to get out of "the valley of the shadow of death" so why retreat into a dark cave? Even now I choose to listen to mostly Christian music, and I make sure that the shows and movies that I watch have an uplifting message. A broken heart needs to be encouraged and edified, not further bogged down by everything that's wrong in the world. So guard your heart!
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Don't drink alcohol - especially don't drink alcohol by yourself. Alcohol is a depressant. It's not going to help you one bit, and you may actually develop a dependency on it. Just avoid it for several months. I only drank lightly when I was in the company of friends or family, and never by myself.
Exercise! I walked the neighborhood with my dog regularly. God designed our bodies so that we release positive endorphins when we exert ourselves. You will get a natural high when you get moving. A great resource for grieving widows is One Fit Widow. I follow her on Facebook, too. We lost our husbands about the same time, and I love her take on life after loss.
Connect with others who are going through, or who have gone through similar losses I can recommend my friend Ferre's blog, Widow's Christian Place. She's got a sweet ministry to widows, and she runs a private group on Facebook. You can contact Ferre through her blog and get an invitation to her FB group.
Write about your feelings and your experience. Keep a journal, or start a blog. Don't keep your feelings locked up inside. Find a healthy outlet for them.
Let people help you. If your family, friends, and neighbors have offered to do something for you, take them up on it. You don't have to do it all on your own. Let them be God's hands and feet in your season of grief.
I could probably write more, but I think those are the main things that come to mind when I think about my grief journey. It's been five and a half years, and I'm still on that journey. Michael is never far from my thoughts. He's always missed. There is a huge void in my life, and I struggle with loneliness. But the heavy part of grief is behind me, and I know that I don't have to grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). I know that I will see my beloved Michael again one day. In the meantime, I need to do my best to live my life in a way that honors Michael's memory and pleases the Lord - one day at a time.