Grief: Step by Step, Day by Day
Apr 28, 2016
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
This was my first blog, one year ago. It laid the foundation for the story I share with other widows, their families and friends. One hundred fifty-three blogs later, with many new Facebook friends and Twitter followers, this is still what centers me. Though it was a gift to walk before my knee surgery in January, today I’m back on my feet, barely conscious of recent surgery. So it has been with grief. When I feel stuck, I can look back to the days when I did well to get out of bed and appreciate how far I’ve come. Life is good again. Different, but still good.
We all want to soar like eagles, but in times of grief it is a gift simply to walk and not faint. After Lev died, I recalled the sermon that John Claypool preached when his young daughter was battling leukemia, “When there is no occasion to soar and no place to run, and all you can do is edge along step by step, to hear of a Help that will enable you ‘to walk and not be faint’ is good news indeed.”
Claypool asked, “Who wants to be slowed to a walk, to creep along inch by inch, just barely above the threshold of consciousness and not fainting?”
I doubt that I am the only widow who crawled back in bed and pulled the covers over her head, succumbing to grief, trying to forget all that needed to be done in the aftermath of death. Young widows have told me that only the fact that they had to get their children off to school got them out of bed and on their feet. But I had no children or job to get up for. Why not linger at the pity party and let someone else take charge? My accountant gave me good advice, “Ella, you haven’t climbed this mountain before, so it’s difficult. Take it one step at a time. Eventually, you’ll get to the top and it’s downhill from there.”
So, most of the time, I got on my feet and—step by step, day by day, month by month—I climbed that mountain. I survived the funeral. I filed for probate. I closed the downtown office. I cleaned his closet and sold his car. I could say with Claypool, “…here I am this morning—sad, broken-hearted, still bearing in my spirit the wounds of darkness…. By the grace of God, I am still on my feet…. All I am doing is walking and not fainting, hanging in there, enduring with patience what I cannot change but have to bear.”
Eventually, I reached the top of that mountain, but I discovered that the road never ends. I am recovering, not recovered. I fall into unexpected sinkholes—emotional triggers that temporarily overwhelm me. I have learned that widowhood is a journey, not a destination. But I look back through the past seven years, and I can see how far I have come. Those halting steps have added up. Increasingly, my spirit soars and I experience real joy.
What books and other resources have been helpful to you as a widow?
What motivated you to “keep on keeping on”?
About the book: Many years ago, a friend gave me John R. Claypool’s little book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler: Living and Growing Through Grief, originally published by Word Publishing in 1974. I repeatedly lent it to friends who lost their children, and eventually it didn’t come back to me. After Lev died, I remembered Isaiah 40 and understood at last the significance of Claypool’s words. I was delighted to find the 2004 edition of the book on iBooks. Through the years, the book—a collection of four sermons preached during Laura Lue’s illness and after her death—has sold more than one million copies. I recommend it to all who grieve.
Photo: Margraten, the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, is Europe’s third largest war cemetery for unidentified soldiers who died in World War II. March 13, 2015