As I went to her side, I learned that she was in a season of deep, painful grief. She was mourning. But rather than allow it to take her down, she resolved to walk through it.
I’m proud and humbled to call her my friend.
Her strength… God-given… is so encouraging.
She knows to rely on the only One who can fully heal.
Leah has been very public about her grief journey on her blog. It’s a powerful testimony.
At the very core of who she is, Leah wants to share her passion for Jesus. She wants others to know His desire to work miraculously and restoratively through their lives… just as He has through the tragedies in her own life.
She works full-time with 106.9 the Light, a radio ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and speaks both nationally and internationally. But her favorite “job” is being a mom to her beautiful teenage daughter, Anna.
My sweet friend became a widow on May 4, 2011.
Here is her story…
It’s one of the most misunderstood emotions. Some might consider it a dirty five-letter word. By and large, it’s an unwelcome intruder. However, if we live any length of time on this earth, we will come face-to-face with it.
I faced it as a child with the death of my infant cousin, but my experience with grief as a five-year-old lasted no longer than the funeral due to my limited understanding.
As a teenager, I sung in the choir at the Homegoing celebration for a fellow teen at my church. Grief lasted a bit longer. My tears stung a little longer.
When I was twenty-one, I faced the tragic and sudden death of my eight-year-old nephew. At that time, grief became a really deep emotion… like nothing I’d felt before. It lasted longer, and it hurt so much harder. Even still – I healed quicker than my brother-in-law and sister-in-law left behind to grieve the loss of their young son.
There were many other deaths… lots of other funerals… several other occasions to come face-to-face with grief.
But nothing compares to my head-on experience with it in May, 2011.
After missing for nearly 24 hours, the body of my precious husband was found on May 4, 2011 following his shocking suicide.
I took on a new title that day… widow.
At the young age of 39, I faced grief on a whole new level. I felt a new degree of pain that I never realized was even possible to feel and still live through it. And yet… over a year later… I’m still here, and I’m stronger and more alive than ever before!
How does one suffer such tragic loss and be able to find healing?
While no two grief experiences are the same, I can only speak to what brought me to a place of healing so quickly. Let me first say that reaching a place of healing doesn’t mean I no longer cry or remember my husband. It only means, for me, that the deep, dark crevices of grief no longer cripple me.
The light at the end of the tunnel now shines brightly, and I have been able to move forward, in faith, with the rest of the life God has planned for me.
For me, walking (and often crawling) through the stages of grief has been very proactive.
I could have chosen to curl up in a ball and stay there, but I knew my husband wouldn’t have wanted that. I had a teenage daughter that needed me, and honestly… I wanted to get well. I just didn’t know how.
So, I started with the only thing I knew to do.
1) I prayed. From the first day my husband’s body was discovered, and each day thereafter, I talked to God. Now, let me say that, at first, my prayer consisted of two words, “Help me!”
That’s it friends. No lofty words… simply, “Help me!” That’s all I had, but God met me right there.
Eventually, my two-word prayers grew into sentences and then into paragraphs. Ultimately, I reached a place of prayer much deeper and more intimate than I’ve ever known.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. ~Isaiah 43:2
2) I read God’s Word. Daily. Initially, my reading might have consisted of one verse from Psalms. That eventually grew to an entire chapter. Ultimately, I craved His Word, and studied it on a much deeper level.
I desperately needed to hear from God. I craved His comfort. And, I chose to seek Him.
This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. ~Psalm 119:50
3) I blogged my journey. Blogging became my journal. Within one week of my husband’s death, I began recording my journey onto electronic “paper.” That, in and of itself, brought healing. Yes – it was a public format, but it allowed others to interact with me about their own similar journeys.
However, there were still private conversations between me and the Lord that remained in my personal hand-written journal.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10
4) I went to counseling. This was a vital piece in my journey, as well. My counselor directed me to face some of the hard issues of grief head-on. While it wasn’t easy, it was necessary for me to move forward. While I recognize that not every grieving person needs counseling, it was essential for me.
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. ~Proverbs 4:5-6
5) I sought medical help, as needed.
6) I communicated with other widows that have been walking this road before me.
7) I attended Grief Share, and I believe this was a pivotal turning point in my grief journey. Being able to dialogue with other people experiencing many of the same emotions allowed me to find a place of belonging. So much changes after the death of an immediate loved one. Not knowing how to “fit into life” without my husband was extremely difficult for me.
However, GriefShare created a perfect atmosphere for me to learn, confide, and weep with others that “got me”… that truly understood some of what I was experiencing.
For more information on Grief Share, please visit www.GriefShare.org.
8) I also read lots of books on grief. I couldn’t get enough it seemed. Outside of the Bible, I spent more time saturating my eyes with the pages of well-written words and wisdom from other “experts” in the field. There really is a wealth of information available to us – we just have to be willing to find it and then take advantage of it by reading it.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ~Matthew 5:4
Grief is hard work.
However, God promises He’ll NEVER leave us. Grief Road does not have to be walked alone. Choosing to walk hand-in-hand with my Savior throughout the most heartbreaking time of my life has proven to bring contentment and joy unexplainable any other way.
It is Him that I love!
It is Him that I serve!
It is Him that I praise!
It is He that healed me!
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height or nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:35-39