When I think about wellness, I am astounded to think that I might have anything to say on the subject. When my husband Jon passed away suddenly, I never thought I would ever be “well” again. I was staring down a black hole… lonely, depressed, and terrified, with no idea how I would survive it. Or even if I wanted to.
I spend the first several weeks after Jon’s death ignoring God. I can’t say I was angry at Him, it was more a hard-headed refusal to acknowledge His existence. But even then I knew that if I wanted to survive this, I had to rely on Him. And I had a little girl who needed me, so giving up was not an option. I wouldn’t let her lose two parents.
At first my prayers were simply “Dear Lord,” and then, nothing. Completely unable to find more words, I was just trying to open the conversation. But that’s all He needed. Eventually I found myself tearfully praying for God to take control of my life, because I couldn’t do it anymore. I was at the end of my rope and had no choice but to let go. I was laid bare in every way, and giving up all the control I once held so tight.
In those moments of desperate, incoherent prayer, one verse stood out to me more than anything else.
“Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10
In that stillness I could let it all go. Be real and honest and vulnerable and weak. I was refreshed, and found the strength to move into the next day. And then the next.
As I was allowing myself to be laid bare with God, I was simultaneously letting go of control in my relationships. For years I had been known primarily as “Jon’s wife”. He was larger than life and I was comfortable resting in the safety of his shadow. When I became “Jon’s widow”, suddenly all eyes were on me. I felt exposed and without him I had nowhere to run or hide.
The trauma left me completely incapable of keeping up the walls I had so carefully constructed around myself. Instead, for the first time in my adult life, I began to let people in. Friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers suddenly all saw me as I truly was. They saw my pain, my fear, and sometimes even my hope that maybe someday things might feel ok again.
Being seen meant being honest, both with others and with myself. No more did I analyze and overthink everything I said to ensure it fit with the image I wanted to craft of myself. Now, I simply spoke. I found that I had something real to say, not a contrived version of what I thought people wanted to hear from me. And perhaps more importantly, others now felt comfortable to share their hearts as well.
I have many moments where I forget all this, where I feel myself worrying about trivialities. I wince when I see the walls that are being rebuilt around my heart, and it takes work to knock them down again. But those words always come back: “Be still.”
Be still, and know that God is there, He is listening, and He is working. He is empowering a community of beautifully broken people to love me and carry me when I feel I cannot go on. And in my pain, He is creating someone capable of deep compassion. Someone who can help carry others who have been shattered as well.
There is still a long way to go in my journey with grief. So much healing that needs to happen, and so much baggage that I will probably carry with me forever. But when I am still, I am well.
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