(This is a two-part series. To read Lauren’s first post on widowhood, please click here.)
When my husband died, I was confused and in shock. Our initial meeting, marriage and pregnancies were so God-ordained that I didn’t understand how it could end the way it did. I didn’t understand why God would take Gabe away from me and our children. My only prayer leading up to my marriage was that my children grow up with both their mother and father. I was raised by a single mother, and a two-parent household was very important to me. I felt betrayed by the Lord.
However, the Lord didn’t allow me to wrestle with my emotions and questions for too long. A couple of days after my husband died, the Lord spoke to my spirit while I laid on my bed mourning. The Lord explained to me how Isaiah 38 related to Gabe. The Lord told me that Gabe was supposed to die when he was hit by the drunk driver at 18. However, because of the prayers of his faithful parents, the Lord blessed him with an extra 10 years just like in the story of Hezekiah. The Lord said to me I just happened to meet Gabe during the last few years of his life. After the Lord spoke to me, I remembered how Gabe used to tell me that his parents prayed him back from the brink of death after the accident. I shared the word with my aunt Karen who is also my spiritual mother.
The Lord confirmed the word he spoke to me a few days later at my husband’s funeral. Gabe’s mentor, Rev. Hurmon Hamilton, preached “The Sound of a Miracle.” In the sermon he said Gabe wasn’t supposed to be here, but God blessed him and us by allowing us to participate in the miracle of his life. Since I shared God’s word to me about Isaiah 38 with my aunt before the funeral, she, too, was amazed when she heard Rev. Hamilton’s sermon. The prophetic sermon reinforced to me that God was with me and was ministering to me during the hardest season of my life. This knowledge gave me a great deal of comfort. God demonstrated that he never left me nor forsook me and that he would speak to the areas of pain in my heart.
In addition to finding comfort in reflective prayer and scripture, here are some other practical things I did to help me make it through the loss of my husband.
I asked for help.
I was seven months pregnant when Gabe died, and I had a two year old son. I didn’t feel like doing anything. My youngest sister moved in with me for the summer. She spent the next two months cooking, cleaning, driving me to appointments and helping me care for my son. I would not have made it through the first two months without her.
My friends and church family dropped off food and cooked meals. My husband’s friends also helped me take care of my house. My husband’s best friend came for weeks and took the trash out. A couple of Gabe’s other friends came regularly to cut the grass. They were a tremendous blessing, and it helped me greatly to have people around me.
I listened to hymns and Gospel music.
Gabe was a minister of music. Sacred music was at the center of our lives. During my bereavement, I listened to the songs that reminded me of God’s goodness and faithfulness. One of the song’s I listened to almost every day was Richard Smallwood’s “Thank You.” On days when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, the songs gave me strength and a reason to praise God.
I also watched YouTube videos of my husband singing. I was so thankful to have them after his death. The clips of my husband worshipping God comforted me because I knew Gabe was now in the presence of the Lord doing what he loved most.
Another supernatural way God comforted me during the time of my bereavement was a family member told me she had a dream of Gabe. In the dream, she was reminded of a recording she had of Gabe singing. She sent me the recording, and it was Gabe singing a song with the following lyrics:
“I’m trading my sorrow. I’m trading my pain. I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord. I’m trading my sickness. I’m trading my pain. I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord. Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Yes, Yes Lord!”
When I heard my husband singing these lyrics, I knew the Lord was speaking to me and letting me know that my husband was free from his ailing body. He was free from sickness and pain and basking in the joy of the Lord.
I surrendered myself to the grieving process.
Even though the Lord encouraged and comforted me by speaking to me and giving me insight into my husband’s death, I still mourned the loss from my life. I went through a range of emotions. I felt guilty because I regretted the times we spent fighting. I felt sorrow because I didn’t get to say goodbye. I was scared because I didn’t know how I could raise two children by myself. I was anxious because I worried about what would happen to my children if I died during childbirth – my pregnancy was high risk. I also felt bad because part of me felt relieved because I no longer had to worry about seizures. I experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I learned that these emotions were part of the grieving process.
Although I dreaded the grieving process because I wanted to jump back into my life as quickly as possible, I knew it wouldn’t be healthy to do. So, I surrendered myself to it. I didn’t try to rush through it. I took it one day at a time and dealt with the emotions as they came. I cried when I needed to, and still do. I talk things out with my family and friends when I need to, and I seek professional help when I feel like I need it.
When my husband first died, I met with the Christian counselor who counseled us throughout Gabe’s illness. This was extremely helpful because his outside perspective helped me see the possibilities of the future. Christian counseling helped me see that I could have a future despite my present circumstance.
I channeled the negative emotions and energy into something positive.
A few months after the birth of my daughter, I contacted the Epilepsy Foundation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to share Gabe’s story and to see how I could help to raise awareness. As a result, I became a speaker for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, and the Epilepsy Foundation is publishing a story about Gabe to raise awareness about Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). As of today, I shared Gabe’s story three times to persons with DUI’s and high school students. My children and I also participated in the Epilepsy Foundation’s annual 5K walk and MADD’s 5K walk. These activities help me to ensure that my husband’s death wasn’t in vain, and they help me to create traditions for my children to help them process his death and their grief.
I also wrote a 50-page letter to my children about my life with their father detailing how we met and all of the things God did for us. I self-published it through Amazon. This project helped me channel negative energy into something positive.
It’s been a year since my husband went home to be with the Lord, and it hasn’t been easy, but it gets easier every day. There is no quick fix to overcome the death of a loved one. You just have to take things one day at a time. In time, you will learn how to live with the loss and the sting of death won’t be so great.
My advice for those who find themselves in similar situations is to be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to mourn and process the grief. In the beginning, you’ll feel like you’re on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but it gets better. Find comfort in the Lord during difficult times. The Word of God is true. He will never leave nor forsake us, and Jesus DOES comfort those who mourn. In time, the Lord will give you beauty for ashes and will give you the strength to finish your race so that you, too, can make it over.
Lauren Jones is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves in the Washington, DC
metropolitan area. She blogs about her life as a minister and widowed mother of two at www.throwupandtheology.com. When she’s not preaching, writing or changing diapers, she raises awareness about epilepsy and volunteers as a speaker for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). She self-published “I’m Singing This Song to You,” a letter to her children in honor of her late husband available for purchase on Amazon.