I am guessing you understand the feelings of extreme sorrow, grief, even anger. You know what it feels like to be so overwhelmed, you don’t know where to turn, or what to do next. But do you know how to find joy again? Do you know what it means to start living again? How do you not only survive, but begin to thrive again you ask? How do you even get through the next hour? How do you keep living when you have lost “everything”? I pray my story gives you hope. I pray what worked for me, helps you as well.
Today we will be talking about:
- How Do You Keep Living When You Have Lost Everything?
- My Story of Grief and Loss
- How Do You Keep Going When Life Becomes Unbearable?
- What is MSA?
- 7 Stages of Grief
- How to find joy
If you are experiencing and thoughts of self harm please reach out to:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
My Story of Grief and Loss
I had received the worst possible news I could fathom. I thought to myself, “This can’t be happening to us. This just can’t be true. The Doctor didn’t just say to us the words “There is no cure.”
How Do You Keep Going When Life Becomes Unbearable?
How do you find the strength every day to get out of bed, get dressed, and eat? There is no way I have the strength to go to work, but I have to. I have to put on the smile, and when someone asks me how are you – I answer “I’m Good.” Every day I answer “I’m Good” or “I’m Fine” when inside I am definitely NOT fine! I am falling apart. I am so overwhelmed some days, I can’t breathe!
This is just part of my story, beginning in 2012. My husband had already been sick for the past three years, and had originally been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I had already been his primary Caregiver for 3 years. All of the Doctor’s appointments, medication, physical therapy appointments, and speech therapy appointments.
Life was so exhausting. Then came the dreaded and unexpected.
We knew others who had fought Parkinson’s disease, and it seemed he was weakening unusually fast. He was losing his voice, losing his ability to stand or even sit up straight. What was this? Why is he struggling so much more than others? And then the Dr’s words I will hear forever: “Life expectancy is six to eight years, and you are three years in.” The new diagnosis was called Multiple System Atrophy (MSA).
What is MSA?
Wait. What? “What do you mean he has only a few more years to live?” No!! That can’t be! What is MSA? I have never heard of that! We can beat this! I know we can. We will pray & he will be healed! But our world went from bad to worse over the next three years as my husband (then 53) required more and more care. He went from a walker to a wheelchair in less than one year. He went from being an active, fun-loving, full-of-life husband to being someone I barely recognized. He had to have help with even the most basic of care. Our lives changed from planning retirement to living in what could only be defined as hell. And then on Valentine’s Day, 2015, my husband of almost 32 years died, and my life felt like it was over. For more help read the article “What to Do When Your Husband Dies and You Are Grieving”
7 Stages of Grief
The experts say there are seven stages of grief. I suffered through each one of them, multiple times. 1st I was in complete shock and denial. I felt like he was just on a trip at times and he would be back. I remember the day I woke up, and realized he truly wasn’t coming back. Then I had so much pain, I couldn’t think straight. It was like I was in a fog. I also felt guilty. Guilt over not being able to help him get well. I was so very angry; Angry at everything and everyone it seemed. I was even mad at my husband at times, because he had died and left me alone. My depression was intense, I survived only with the help of medication. I lived these 1st stages of grief forward and backward for what seemed like an eternity.
And then finally, I reached the 5th stage of grief: the upward turn.
The waves of grief became a little more predictable, and instead of the Tsunami’s, I was now experiencing manageable waves. I realized I had to learn how to live again. In fact, I had to learn how to be single again. What a tough realization. And finally, I reached the stage of acceptance and regained my hope for living. I didn’t always want to move on, after his death. But I had hope again; I have a future.
So how did I go from sorrow, anger, extreme grief, depression, and even an occasional “I don’t want to live” feelings?
How did I get from just existing, to actually thriving? Was it some magic pills or exercise or yoga? While I did take medication for awhile to help, and I did find myself doing better when I exercised, these things did not help me find my joy again.
The answer for me was lots and lots of prayer to Jesus Christ, my savior.
I had accepted Christ as my savior when I was just a teenager. I knew all the songs, like “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” And “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” But my husband had become my rock! So when I lost him, I became lost as well. My hope was built on our personal successes; on our retirement plans! I realized during my darkest days, that Christ was NOT my hope; my savior. He had never left me, but I had moved Him into 2nd place, sometimes even 3rd, or last place in my life. So how did I get to the point where I could live; where I wanted to live again? Lots, and lots of prayers. “Jesus, I can’t do this on my own! You have to help me!” “Father, I need the strength today to get out of bed.” “Lord, I need you more than ever today.”
Did these prayers instantly fix everything?
No. But they did give me the strength to get through the next hour, and then the afternoon or night. And then the next day, I prayed again, and again. And as I prayed, I was healing. The Tsunami’s of grief became less and less, and then they became calmer waves, and then the waves subsided all together. And as my reliance on God to get me through the next day increased, my pain, my anger, and depression all decreased.
You see, I am trusting that the God who created the Heavens and Earth, created me too, and that He cares so much for me, that He has a home in Heaven for me. And I believe that He loves my husband so much, that there is no more pain, no more sorrow, only peace and joy! I have faith that I have a loving creator; one who never left me during all the days I was trying to live life without Him. I believe that my “Rock” waited patiently for me to learn how to trust Him, how to believe in His peace, His love, His grace and mercy. I have faith that one day, probably not too far in the future, I will get to be with my husband again in Heaven! And I have faith, that all those I love and have trusted Jesus Christ as their savior, will be in Heaven with me!
So, did I go from grief to joy overnight?
Not by a long shot. It was a one-day-at-a-time process. Did I have good days and bad days along the way? Absolutely. But what I learned along the way was more than I have learned in my entire lifetime. I became a widow at the age of 50, and within a couple of years, I had not only learned how to live again, but I found joy. I learned what it really meant to make God my “Rock”! HE will not leave me! HE will not disappoint me!
Do I still have trials, challenges, struggles today?
Yes; just like everyone else on earth! A friend told me one time that if you put a group of 10 people in a room together, and have each person write down their story, their struggles. Then have each person put the papers in a bowl together. If we then each took a turn at pulling out a story to read, we would learn that our story was not the worst in the room. In fact, we would very likely wish we could have our own personal story back! Everyone is going through something, and our trials often feel like they are the worst. But when we trust in a loving Christ to heal our wounds; when we believe in His love in our darkest days; when we have faith that one day, we will see our loved ones again: one day at a time, we regain our joy. And that is how you keep living, no matter who, or what, you have lost!
If you are grieving and would like more help, please read the following article by Dr. Victoria Smithers on 11 steps to grief recovery.