Words Not Pictures

I realize that we live in a visual world. The internet has become a visual medium. Some of us grew up watching television. A picture they say is worth a thousand words.

On this blog you will not see many pictures. Because the picture I see in my mind is not found online or in any lens. It is the picture that my imagination creates. And so as I write I see what I am saying. And I pray that as you read you will also see what you heard me say. Okay?

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The Journey From Married To Single

I recently found an interesting video on You Tube called “Why Only The Happily Single Find True Love”. This is on the School of Life Channel. The title intrigued me so I watched the video. Basically it said that singleness gets harder as you get older, and that as a newly single person you may feel left out or ignored by your married friends. We who are single need to make sure that we don’t become desperate for marriage just because being single seems out of place.

I agree that as a widow,and I mean male or female, part of our grief journey has to do with learning how to be a successful single person. Learning how to celebrate life with it’s holidays or anniversaries or celebratory events of life alone. This is hard at first. But in time we need to make new memories by ourselves. We need to create new memorials that pertain to us as just us. Most experts agree that a newly single person who is actively looking for a new relationship may end up hurt or hurting someone else.

So in that part of the video I agree 100%. Learn to enjoy life alone without a spouse first. Then in time if the right person comes into your life it will be for the right reasons and will be a union of love and joy. For me, I am actually enjoying being single. I don’t do a lot right now. But the fog is clearing off of my mind to see opportunities to do things that bring me pleasure and enjoyment again. Thank God!

Honest Questions

Almost every time I talk with a friend the issue of my marital status comes up. Recently I was asked, Do you see anyone you think is pretty here? How am I supposed to answer that? Of course I did. Young women. Attractive girls. But I still didn’t answer my friend.

You see, I am learning several things as I go on learning how to be a single man again. First, I enjoy most of my single life. A few things obviously I can not do without a wife. But there are more things I can do as a single man than I cannot do. But this is all a part of the learning curve for me as I adjust to this single life. The other thing I am learning is that it is much too soon for me to even think about a new relationship. My emotions are still too raw. My head is not always thinking straight. And frankly, I am afraid of falling in love right now. So I am in no hurry to find someone new and I am not actively looking for someone new.

I appreciate the concern of my friends. I hope they understand my situation. And I welcome their questions, except when their words hurt.

Escape Or Embrace?

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” 2 Corinthians 1:8

Those of us who are grieving the death of a close loved one know the feeling that Paul felt when he said he despaired even of life. Have you felt like that yet? Have you felt like life wasn’t worth living? Have you felt like giving up? So have I. Trauma, or a crisis, or circumstances beyond our ability to cope are magnified in grief. That is why some want to run away or hide or even end their life. They are seeking relief from the pain and the sorrow.

While it is natural for us to want to escape, to survive and be happy again means we must learn how to endure. While we are looking for a way out, God is wanting to help us find a way through our grief. One thing every grieving person must do is embrace their own fear and sorrow and pain. We do this in honest prayer. God already knows, so it is for our benefit that we talk things out with Him.

Paul was so distressed that he felt like death was the only way out. But instead he says that in the midst of his situation he learned not to trust his own wisdom and strength, but to trust in God’s ability to even raise the dead.

My experience has taught me not to trust in my own ability but to trust in a loving and powerful Heavenly Father who can apply His grace to my need.

“Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1:10

Complicated Grief

As I mentioned, there are issues that complicate our grief journey. These are things that can knock us off course or cause us to drift from the sure path to joy. We all suffer setbacks along the way. No path is perfect. But there are signs to watch for in case we get too far afield.

Sometimes the grieving person shows none of the usual signs of grief. Sometimes even normal problems go on for months without any progress. And if these complications cannot be resolved by basic methods, professional help should be sought.

Here is a brief list of danger sign warning us of a serious problem. Suicidal thoughts or plans. Self-destructive behavior including drugs, alcohol, workplace failure, burning social bridges, and constant self-defeating talk. Severely mentally disorganized, unable to concentrate or focus, inability to learn anything new, loss of short term memory. Deep and ongoing feelings of guilt and remorse and regret. Violence in word or deed. Doing things that shock those around you, making sudden and radical changes in your life. These are all warning signs of a deeper need.

Just because you experience any of these things does not mean you are at risk of serious problems. But here are some guidelines to help clarify whether our grief is complicated or not. How severe and devastating the symptoms are. How long has this been going on. How dysfunctional has the grieving person become. Often this is a hard judgement to make. How long is too long? How bad is too bad? That is where a professional counselor can help diagnose the difference between complicated and uncomplicated grieving.

I have at times experienced complicated grief issues. That is what scared me enough to seek out help and that landed me at Griefshare. Complications need not be fatal; there is help available.

Grieving Lesson 8

Beyond what I hesitantly call normal grieving there are aspects of death that cause additional issues to complicate the grieving journey. One topic that complicates grief involves trauma.

Trauma for our understanding here has to do with someone being exposed to death or serious injury or sexual assault. Even being threatened with any of these can cause trauma. And simply said, trauma adds another layer to the grieving process. Trauma has an effect on us both emotionally and physically. One expert described the effect of trauma as rewiring the brain. So it is more than emotional upset.

Some who experience trauma also experience flashbacks and nightmares. Flashbacks are waking remembrances that cause us to experience the trauma again like it just happened. Nightmares are like a bad movie that plays in your mind where the ending is always bad. And we feel powerless to stop the movie or to change the ending. But there are things that we can do. First, when flashbacks occur, force your mind to stay in the present. Think of things here and now. You can control your mind. For nightmares, write down the dream using as much detail as you can remember. Then re-write the dream with a different ending. Do this as often as you need to. Exposure to the trauma in this way lessens the fear and terror it will produce.

Other traumatic deaths involve suicide, or murder, or natural disasters or other violent acts.These are complicated issues and I don’t want to go into any detail here. There are resources to help both through counseling and through prayer. God will help you.

One thing all of these issues have in common has to do with our thoughts. Our mind is the soil where either trauma and fear or peace will grow. The key is you. What you allow to dominate your mind will also control your emotions. You may think that God is not who you thought He was and is not able to do what He promised. You will discover that you are not the person you thought you were. And you alone do not have the resources or the strength or the wisdom to sort out the complexities of your situation. The key for you is a healthy, Bible-based diet of self-talk. We control our feelings by controlling our thoughts.

Psalm 43:5″Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

2 Timothy 1:7″For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

You are not alone in your grief no matter how complicated it is. There are people who love you and will help you. And Jesus is alive and willing to apply His grace to your broken heart.

Less Dying More Living

I recently heard Larry Gatlin sing a song that touched my heart. I’ve Done Enough Dyin’ Today. Here are the lyrics.

What will we do now? You tell me
The hourglass is all out of sand
How could love slip through our fingers
And leave nothin’ but time on our hands?
And how will we live now? You tell me
With parts of our hearts torn away
Just existing makes dyin’ look easy
But maybe tomorrow I’ve done enough dyin’ today

And how will I sleep now? You tell me
With only my arm my by side
Perhaps I’ll learn sleepin’ all over
And just maybe without dreamin’ this time
And who’ll make you laugh now? You tell me
Since you sent your clown on his way
I don’t think I’ll cry, just die laughin’
But maybe tomorrow I’ve done enough dyin’ today

And how will we live now? You tell me
With parts of our hearts torn away
Just existing makes dyin’ look awful easy
But maybe tomorrow I’ve done enough dyin’ today

Read more: Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers – I’ve Done Enough Dyin’ Today Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Any grieving person will understand why the idea of living or existing can make dying look easy. And they will also understand the idea that I have done enough dying today. I don’t know what inspired Larry to write this song. But I know what is says to me. In grief you may yearn for even an hour of relief. You may pray for help when there seems to be no one listening. But somehow you make it through the day or the hour.

Let me leave you to your own application of this song. But know this, that God hears and He cares. And Jesus is praying for us in Heaven. So just make it one more day or one more minute and in time it will feel less like dying and more like living.

Grieving Alone

Even though each person must grieve in their own unique way there are things about grieving that are common to all. For instance, I am sure that I am not the only person who had their spouse die who had to grieve alone with no family close by. But having said that, it does not negate my experience.

I have had conversations with men I know whose wives died like mine and one thing they had that I didn’t was the support of their immediate family members. People who would come over to clean and cook and help around the house. People who would come over to pull them ut of their funk. Family who was close by to pitch in and to help get through the hard times.

I had none of that. My children all live in another state. My mother lives far away. Kathy’s family disappeared from my life when she died. So I was left with only the help of very few friends to get through the hardest thing I ever experienced in my life. And even then few ever called unless I called them first.  Looking back it’s a wonder that I survived at all.

I am grateful that I am not in that awful dark place I was in anymore. But I hope I learned a lesson from what happened to me.

Remarriage

From time to time kind-hearted and well-meaning people suggest that I need to get married again. I know they mean well. But what they don’t realize that grieving people have very tender emotions and therefore words that don’t bother others hurt us.

Many grief experts agree that it is unwise to remarry too soon after the death of your spouse. Our motives are all wrong. Our reason for marriage is all wrong. We are looking for someone to fill in the empty space left by our spouse, not looking to meet and know and love someone on their own merits. It is not fair to the potential mate for you to show affection only to back out in sadness or fear.

I will only say that if and when the time comes for you to remarry you will know it in your heart. It will be love and joy and it will be wonderful. But if you are looking for a spouse, you will be hurt and you will hurt someone else. I have learned to leave it all with God. Let God choose the time and the place and the person for you. Doing this took a heavy weight off of my mind. Instead of wondering, “What’s wrong with me that I’m not even dating?” we can rest on the comfort that God knows what’s best for us.

In the mean time I am still working out how to be single again. So don’t complicate my life by trying to hurry me into a new relationship.

Explosive Emotions

Did you ever hear of explosive emotions? Have you ever experienced them? In the grief journey we may and probably will experience explosive emotions.

What are explosive emotions? Anger, hate, rage, blame, terror, resentment, and jealousy are all examples of explosive emotions. You may recognize some of these as common to a grieving heart. I have written about these in the grieving lessons. What these are in general are a kind of protest that we make when a loved one dies. We feel cheated or wronged and therefore we express many explosive emotions.

Expressing and embracing explosive emotions is however essential to getting through the grief and into the world of joy and light. The key to remember is that it is alright to experience them but we must be careful never to allow our emotions to cause us to hurt ourselves or others around us.

Friends and family can be put off or shocked at our emotional explosions. They want us to be happy and to be normal. They don’t know how to deal with us. The want us, who are full of conflicting emotions, to calm down and settle down and act in a logical way. People who have never grieved do not understand the intensity and irrationality of our emotions.

Suppressing explosive emotions is not healthy for the grieving person either. It can lead to low self-esteem, depression, guilt, physical ills, and thoughts of suicide. So it is important to understand what’s happening and to make time to express our emotional outbursts.

Explosive emotions are not good or bad, right or wrong. They just are. They are as normal to emotional pain as a bruise is normal to a physical injury. We need support, not judgement or criticism. And the more explosive our emotions are, the more love we need. These explosive emotions will not be with us forever. We will calm down in time. But for now don’t be surprised when you experience them.