Friends: An Unexpected Loss

April 28, 2016

Memoirs Help Normalize Grief

April 28, 2016

Grief: Step by Step, Day by Day

April 28, 2016
with friends in Nantucket
On My Own

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


  1. I had not thought of John Claypool’s book in some time. I too, 30 years ago, found that book to get me through the days, months and years. I shared it, bought it for others and I need to make sure I currently have a copy. If not, I will order one. Thank you for your words and insight into a time we all will probably share at some point. See you soon. Mlee

    1. Yes, I too had forgotten the book until I needed it again. I never hear those words from Isaiah without thinking of Claypool saying that sometimes it is a gift just to stay on our feet. I know of no better book for those who grieve; and while it speaks most directly in cases of protracted terminal illness and the loss of a child, I think the message is universal.

  2. Wow! Very well done and so appropriate for your mission. I loved the photography and the feeling really came through as someone you would like to know more about. The topics you chose were so interesting to me because knowing you they totally were glimpses of the author. I loved the supper and inspiration as well as the travel the photos that accompanied were so fitting as well as fun and made the topic inviting to read more. I liked the read more invite. Have tried to connect o. LinkedIn but haven,t been able to connect. We are in Flagstaff, Arizona today and it is snowing and in the 30’s what a drastic change for us. We will be home on the 18th. Later Jo

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