I suppose every young widow has a different story, though we share some aspects within our bereavement. Below is my story.
“You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book” Psalms 56:8 TLB
This is a promise I would cling to later.
My story starts long before my first husband died. I guess you could sort of say I lost him twice.
First to mental illness.
Then to death.
I can’t say we ever had a healthy relationship, but things got dramatically worse when at the age of 30 he seemingly just “lost it”. I came home from a vacation to see my folks, to find that he was suffering paranoid delusions. If you know anything about mental illness, then you know how hard it is to get treatment for someone who doesn’t think they have a problem. This was an extremely hard time in our lives. And I grieved greatly watching the man I loved disappear. I started learning what “in sickness and in health” really meant! Ironically that is when I probably was the best wife I’d ever been to him up to that point. I never stopped trying to get him help.
But eventually he became a drifter like so many suffering from mental illness. Coming home – leaving again. That is such a high risk life! I knew that if he didn’t get help he would die out there. 3 1/2 long years later, that is just what happened.
Talk about complicated grief! In many ways I had grieved for him long before his actual death.
If it hadn’t been for a wonderful friend that I consider my spiritual mentor, who showed me how to depend on God, I certainly would not have made it through “better, not bitter”. She showed me the way to be a better wife, following God’s precepts. And how to love him like Jesus did, because by then a wife’s love wasn’t strong enough.
Also one of the things that kept me going was taking care of our daughter. I tried to protect her from seeing the worst of his illness, and attempted to give her some normalcy.
When he died, leaving me a young widow and my daughter fatherless, I made sure to be honest with her about how he died. But I made sure it was at her 7 year old level. Keeping it simple and/or letting her know I would explain the answer to her questions when she was old enough to understand. (She finally did want the whole story when she was about 15; even then I didn’t give her all the ugly details that she didn’t need to hear. I want her to keep the good memories she had of her dad, they didn’t need to be stained with some of the occurrences that happened as a result of his illness.)
I learned to cling to God. Sometimes clinging to Him felt like holding onto a rock-face lava rock cliff, but falling into the abyss would have been worse!
The Bible took on new meaning! I would write out promises from the Bible and carry them around with me, memorizing them.
I learned that I was so undisciplined mentally and would just let any thought pop into my mind and dwell there. So I started “training my brain” if you will. “…and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor10:5
I had never thought of myself as a worrier. Though it was just in reality that I worried on other things not considering that they really were worry areas. In one of those little flip calendars I found a saying (don’t know who said it now) “Worry is a trickle in your brain that if left unchecked becomes a channel into which all other thoughts flow.” Boy did I need to “get” that concept, to make it through those times when I had no idea where he was! Trust, rest, wait is what God seemed to be teaching me during those years!
And I can say I went through a lot of the bereavement steps even before he died and I became a young widow, because I had lost the man I knew, his mind, before I ever lost him in body!