I vividly remember telling my counselor that I just wanted to "get through the grief," to get it behind me so I would be better. But I learned the hard way that you have to walk it, feel it, and experience it without hurrying. Hurrying just puts a band-aid on the hurt and the grief. You shove it aside so you can deal with day-to-day life...and when it piles up so high that it spills back into your path, it's not pretty.
So, to deal with the intense, raw, all-encompassing grief of losing my spouse, I came here. Here, in this format, I've laid it all out on the pages. The good, the bad, the scary, the sweet, the poignant, and the funny....I have held absolutely nothing back. Maybe it's been a case of "TMI" (too much information) at times, and if so, I sincerely apologize. I just wanted a way to pour out my thoughts and feelings, and this blog has most definitely served that purpose.
The higher purpose for this blog was for documentation of our journey for my sons. I hope that someday they will read these entries and see where we were, the three of us, after such a devastating blow. And they will see the hand of God in it all, even whenever we felt we were being swallowed by grief and pain. God carried us, and He never has let us down.
This one year mark is big, and we are doing better than I could ever dream we would be at this juncture, considering where we were. I go back and re-read some of my early entries, and it's almost an "out of body" experience for me...I remember those times, and I know I wrote those words. But the majority of the time, I sit and the words pour out of me--and I really don't remember composing them. Is that crazy? Sometimes, I feel the same way about my weekly newspaper columns. All I can conclude is that God is supplying me with the words, and I am just His conduit.
Looking at the bigger picture, I have come to the realization that there are many women out there in similar circumstances, widowed, either with or without young children. If my words can help even one person in their "unimagined journey" it will be worth my putting all those emotions and thoughts out there in cyberspace.
Are we doing well? Yes. Are we fully healed? No. I don't expect us to ever be. If I live to be 100 years old, I will miss my husband and love him, each and every day I have on this earth. My boys will always wonder "what if" daddy had lived as they grow older. They'll mature, go to college, hopefully find two wonderful Christian women to marry someday....but they will always miss the great guy that was their earthly dad.
We know there is a plan for our lives. We trust that God is in control. Whenever I see the faith that my 10 and 9 year olds exhibit on a daily basis, it humbles me. They are well-adjusted. They are happy. They still cry on occasion. They remember their daddy and laugh through the tears. They know it's okay to cry and be sad. They aren't afraid to show emotion. Someday the women that fall in love with them will hopefully thank me for helping bring out that sensitive side.
My outdoor column for the local newspaper today was my one year summary, as well. Coincidence? I think not. I've decided there's no such thing. There are only "God things."
From September 13, 2011 to September 13, 2012---it has been a long journey. A journey of sadness, healing, and rebirth. A journey that has awakened my faith, has given me a new sense of what is truly important in life, and has provided me with a platform to help others in similar situations. I never dreamed I'd be writing an outdoor column or blogging or be part of Proverbs 31 Ministries through A Widow's Might a year ago. But God has plans to prosper my family, and we are beginning to see the fruits of that.
What's next for the Howell Party of 3? I have no idea. I wouldn't even dare venture a guess. I hope that it includes plenty of outdoor activities, a chance to continue my writings through a possible book, magazine articles, and/or syndication of my newspaper column. I know that it will include time spent in prayer and worship, as we try to discern what God wants us to do, where He wants us to be, and how He will direct us to accomplish those tasks.
We're open and ready for anything. The sky's the limit. I can never thank my love, Mark H. Howell, for providing for us. I can stay at home, be a full-time hands on mother, and still have time to pursue my dreams. He was one in a million, and he was mine.
So, tomorrow's another day. But it marks the beginning of the second year of my journey. The healing has taken hold, and we are on the mend. In an earlier entry, I told of a dream I had. There was a beautifully constructed Lego house, with intricate detail, right down to the windows, doors, and fence around the yard. When Mark died, I dreamed the Legos were kicked and broken, strewn around the floor...and I was trying to scurry around and put them back into some semblance of what the structure was before he died. My counselor told me at that time to leave the "Legos" in a pile, and just focus on taking care of my family.
I followed his advice. The Legos that were my perfectly-formed life stayed in a messy pile for months. But bit by bit, little by little, I've begun to pick them up. With God's help, I'm building another structure--not the same as what it was before, but structurally-sound and quite lovely in its own unique way. If I can't have the original structure back the way it was, then this one fits my family just fine. The pile is getting smaller and smaller each day, as I find new ways to connect them, to weave the pieces into our "new" normal.
"I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed.
I remember it all--oh, how well I remember--
the feeling of hitting the bottom
But there's one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.
God's loyal love couldn't have run out,
his merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.
How great is your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over),
He's all I've got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It's a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It's a good thing when you're young
to stick it out through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.
Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The "worst" is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won't ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense."
Lamentations 3: 19-32 (The Message)
In all the boys and I have been through, we have never lost hope. We have trusted God to provide through the hard times. I have been on my knees, literally, many times in the past year. I don't ask the questions anymore that have no answers. Those questions will have to wait until I see God face to face.
I am so thankful for a God that never walks out on me. A God who tenderly cares for me and my boys with a vast, deep, all-encompassing love that cannot fail.