The Love Story
It began as an incredibly sweet love story. There was this girl who grew up on the east coast of the US and this kid who was born in England and grew up in Australia. Years later they met in a singles group. In that group there was a tradition of a white elephant gift exchange amongst the singles. He thought it would be really nice to give her a picture frame. When you buy a frame they usually come with somebody’s picture it who you don’t know. So, he thought it would be nice to put a black and white picture of himself in it. Two weeks later, she’s part of the white elephant gift exchange but he’s overseas working by then and she gets the picture frame with his picture in it that somebody else gave away.
Time moves on
Fourteen years later they met again and apparently still liked each other. Soon after she said “yes” and they traveled the world with trips to India to Africa and Nepal and the UK. They saw some neat places. Next, they bought a house together. That was their first home together they had some crazy fun times together.
Falling in love again
Over time they fell in love again – and again. He had been born when his dad was over 40 and he had promised himself to not be that old when they had kids, but he was 49 when they became pregnant. Soon after Ricky was born and they were incredibly excited and felt like God was blessing them.
The Downhill Slope
Then she started having pain in the lower back and her right hip. Of course, they didn’t know what it was. But she was big into chiropractic care and didn’t necessarily care about doctors so much. She’d had a cyst in her right breast since she was 18. The chiropractors told her it’s just fibrous node and it will come and go. But as it got bigger she’s was told it was somehow related to nursing the baby. But it wasn’t. 5 days later she had an MRI in the hospital and it showed the cancer had spread and was all over her body. Chemotherapy was tried and they drove for hours each weekend to utilise natural therapies. Although the natural therapy made her feel a little better it didn’t stop the cancer. Within a few weeks things got worse. They always tried to focus on enjoying every moment of time together and didn’t realise that soon her tomorrow would be her last. And yet they discovered there is joy in the Lord even in the midst of troubles.
Life they say, is what happens while you’re making plans. He was with her when she left this life. And his life changed forever at that moment.
The Real Story
How do I know this story? It’s my story and the story of my greatly loved wife. She was taken from me when our son was 16 months old and no matter what I wish and pray for – she isn’t coming back. I’ve lost a best friend, my companion, and the mother of my son.
So Where Do You Turn?
How can you handle such a loss? What do you do when your loved ones depart? What can help you through the valley of the shadow of death?
1. There are a couple of practical things you need to do. The first one is to ensure you have your wishes documented in a will. There is no point having an arrangement with your family to look after your kids for example. Unless you have it properly documented, the state will step in and may make other arrangements. So, make a will today. It can save thousands of dollars spent in pursuing legal avenues because one family member thinks one way and another thinks another way. Prepaid funeral plans are also worth considering since that way, you can work out what will happen and save the family from a lot of trouble when they are in the throes of grief.
2. The second thing you must do is to work out what happens after you die. For thousands of years men and women have expected to live on in another form after they die. The ancient Egyptians made a big deal of the next life and started preparation when they were still children. In fact most ancient cultures did the same thing.
On the other hand, we tend to live our lives ignoring the fact that we will die. We don’t even like to think about it. Yet it is coming for all of us and so you need to work out what you believe in this area while you are still alive and you better be sure you are right. For me the key here is in the bible. It says “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So there is something you have to do to prepare for the next life because it is your destiny whether you believe in it or not!
Grief Is Different For All Of Us.
Whenever we face grief we face a unique loss. Our relationship with that person defines our grief. When I lost my dad it suddenly hit me – he was gone forever! Grief is a physical emotion and often crying is only way to wash away the overwhelming feelings. So do not be afraid to cry. Other people may or may not understand but that’s irrelevant to what you need in your life at that moment of grief.
When you face grief there will be a period of time in which you will be operating at 50% or less. It’s like you are living in a fog. If you lose a spouse, it’s like you and your spouse were weaving a tapestry together and suddenly it is torn apart. That’s how it feels when your spouse has left. You life is torn apart and it hurts deeply.
The Steps OF Grief.
There are some defined steps of grief. They are denial – I don’t believe this is happening, Anger – often expressed towards someone or something else and usually out of proportion to the offence committed, depression – I’m alone again, then bargaining – God if you do this I’ll do that, and acceptance. These steps do not always happen in this order and some steps may be skipped entirely. But the end point should be acceptance.
Help Your Friends Help You.
When you are going through grief, you need friends to help you – to sit with you, to put their hand on your shoulder. They don’t have to say anything. They simply need to be there with you. They should let you cry, or talk or be quiet. As you progress through your grief, you will need to have someone listen to you as you tell your story – especially if the death was unexpected or traumatic. Unfortunately, people don’t always understand what you need so they avoid you rather than sit with you. For most people the funeral is the end but not for you. You live with the loss every day. So you should then be prepared to ask them for help. It’s tough when you have spent your life not doing that but it will help you in your grief.
There’s Power in Community.
You also need to find others who have gone through a similar loss. Shared experiences can help everyone involved to process their grief and move to a better place. Some churches have programs to help others.
If you see others who are grieving, the best thing you can do is go and sit with them. You don’t have to say anything because often what you say will not help. So it’s best to just sit. To make a cup of tea. To listen to the story. To ask about how they are. The best thing someone said to me when I was grieving was “there are no words”. And that is true. Don’t use clichés – especially “you’ll get over it” or “time heals”.
Any help you can give such as cleaning their house, making meals, doing their laundry, all these things may help someone who is lost in the fog of grief and it will certainly show you care.
Finally let them take as much time as they need. If they get stuck somewhere then organise for them to get professional help. But otherwise be prepared for the long haul. Some people take years. Some take months. However long their grief cycle is, stick with them and eventually you will have a friend who is much wiser for the experience they have been through.
If you would like to see Paul telling his story to his university friends in Israel have a look at this video.