Becoming Me, Without You
A New Blog Column
Introduction by Rachael Crabb:
I’d like to introduce you to Jeanie Stirling who has been an encouragement to me. Jeanie is a few years ahead of me on the widow path and has led the way for me as we have talked, cried, and laughed together during these last months. Larry and I first met Al and Jeanie when they were leading the Sunday school class we joined in Colorado. They also went through the MABC program, were in a couples group with us, and over the years became good friends. The friendship not only survived, but deepened as we all lived together for several months when they came from Hungary for Al’s cancer treatments at the Denver VA.
Jeanie was with me when I received the letter from John that I shared with you last month. As was said, the letter became the impetus for chat dates with John and this blog. Jeanie will be contributing to the blog as we discuss grief and the process of what we are calling “becoming me, without you.” I’ll be discussing this new title next month. For now, here are some thoughts from Jeanie….
Thoughts on Widowhood
Amanda Held Opelt in an interview about her new book, A Hole in the World, said, “I do not think we can say of grief, this too shall pass. There is no going back. A new landscape has been carved by grief’s rushing waters. And if we are to survive, we must make a home in it, however that might look.” She went on to say, “You will always carry the burden of grief with you, but you do develop the strength to carry it. You do develop the skill set I think is required to live a life of grief. And so to someone who’s in the thick of it, who’s really deep in the woods of it and can’t see a way out, I would say, be patient with yourself. You will develop the strength to carry this.”
The moment Al took his last breath every single thing about my life changed. Many people don’t understand the extent of the loss. But it’s huge. The primary, overwhelming loss of your partner in life and best friend is followed by the many secondary losses that we as widows, in our unwanted new identity, experience. Secondary losses can include loss of a way of life, purpose, identity, loss of friendships, community, intimacy, income, dreams for the future, confidence, health, a shared memory of your life, laughter, faith . . . With little to no experience with great loss, we have no choice but to navigate through these losses and in time find the strength to move forward while honoring the life we had and honoring the man we loved in that life. Does this mean we’ve completed the grieving process? No. Does this mean that happy moments now are no longer tinged with bittersweetness? No. But in moving forward, developing the skill set Amanda mentions, we open ourselves to new possibilities. We make new memories. We take the loss, the grief, and the woman we were before along with us and move forward with what I believe to be bigger hearts.
As you or others you know navigate these losses, remember to be patient. Patient with yourself. Patient with others. Patient with those who simply don’t get it. The title of Amanda’s book says it well – there’s a hole in our world. It will always be there. We will never be the same. But we can also become more than we ever imagined we could be.
About Jeanie Stirling
Al and Jeanie served in various ministries over the years that all had a focus on hospitality. They served 22 years overseas first with Cadence International in Germany and then with Ministry Essentials in Hungary. The Sunday School they led in Littleton became a real community that Larry refers to in his book, Connecting.
Jeanie continues in a ministry of hospitality opening her home to her local community for various activities and most recently leading adventure trips for widows to Switzerland and England. She realized the importance of continuing to travel and add adventure to her life when she walked 350 miles of the Camino de Santiago by herself to mark her 70th birthday and celebrate the life ahead of her.