An icy road. A no-fault death. The driver of the other car wondering what, if anything, he could have done to avoid the accident. In seconds, I became a widow and a single mom with a seven month old son.
John’s death was devastating. We loved as deeply as two young people could. We’d already survived two miscarriages and had just purchased our first home. Even now, 30 years later, I have vivid memories of the joy in my life with John and the deep sorrow I experienced when he died.
Though I did not know it at the time, John’s death began my lifelong mission of helping people heal from life’s crushing losses.
The Journey Begins
My journey first took me down the path of facing the rest of my life without John.
Healing from grief does not mean forgetting; once you have loved deeply, that person remains a part of you forever. I was determined to heal for myself and for my son, Carl. I did not want to spend the rest of my life feeling the searing pain of grief. There were few resources in my tiny town of Dyersville, Iowa, so I did what seemed right – I read everything I could find. I kept a journal. I wrote about my experiences. I relied on my faith. I actively remembered. I made repeated “trips” through the years of my love for John. These “trips” included physically revisiting the places that we loved to go, cooking the same meals we had both enjoyed, and continuing to engage alone in what had been shared pastimes. One of the most painful and yet most healing activities was continuing to deliver the marriage preparation class that John and I once gave together.
Years passed and the journey continued. The “trips” lost their power to bring deep sadness. Healing came slowly but come it did, and I got joyfully re-married to Ken. Not long after Ken and I were married, I began giving workshops on grief and published articles based on my experience.
In the next major part of the trip, I became the long-time leader of a widowed support group and I went back to school for advanced degrees and certifications in grief studies. It was during this time that I began to refine my support skills as I listened to the life stories of hundreds of people whose spouse had died. I taught them what I had learned, I cried with them, and I encouraged them. I was fortunate to be a companion on the path with so many good people who wanted what all people want when a loved one dies…to remember faithfully and happily…to grieve fully…and eventually to be joyful again.
Why This Blog
When John died, I was immediately surrounded by dozens, even hundreds, of well-intentioned people who had absolutely no idea what to say or how to act around me. They stumbled over timeworn phrases, unintentionally causing me to feel more pain and alienation.
The purpose of this blog is to share my experience and learnings from over the past 30 years and help others who are grieving a life-changing loss or know someone who is. It is my greatest hope that everyone in our society learns how to deal better with grief, illness, and death. Perhaps this blog can be one small way to help make that happen.