Last year, as I held him in my arms and with my head on his chest listening to his heart, my husband of 41 years went to be with Jesus. He died surrounded by family and clinging to his hand-held prayer cross. I remember the unimaginable, massive grief that washed over me.
I carried his prayer cross and wedding ring with me wherever I went. Ed, an ELCA pastor, made my new church an almost unbearable place to be. All I could do was cry with memories at the liturgy, lessons, sermons, and most of all, communion. I would take communion sometimes sobbing, always crying, clinging to my cross and fervently praying that God would never leave me. I was filled with loneliness and emptiness.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, said: “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same.”
I try to remember and revisit these words. I can now go an entire day or two without any tears or feeling down. My smile has now reached my eyes, showing joy to the receivers. I can take communion and worship without holding on to Ed’s cross or crying.
I feel I have moved to the other side of grief “where the tears still flow but not as often” (The Grief Toolbox). Grief is funny that way (Not “ha ha funny” as Ed would say). It comes and goes, weaving through your life as you journey forward. I have moved forward as a witness to God’s unstoppable love.
God has walked with me and carried me throughout the year. Ed’s spirit is by my side as I face new challenges. I am now responsible for the car’s (which I bought) maintenance and all things related to the yard. I make all the decisions. I do all the household tasks. I make all the food, and I sleep alone in our bed.
I talk to Ed; sleep with his T-shirt and cross; tell Grandpa stories to my grandson; laugh when my son tries to tease me (just like his dad); and establish myself in a new church community without my favorite pastor.
With my Lord’s steadfastness and love, I have made many new beginnings. My relationship with my God has grown as I live and love life. I have been blessed!
As we approach All Saints Day November 1, will you offer your insights and experiences with the death of a loved one?
Diane Frederick, of Casper, Wyoming, served on the churchwide executive board from 2008-2014.
Photo of Diane and Ed, acting silly. Used with permission