I went to a lovely wedding this weekend. The weather was rainy while we sat waiting for the wedding to start and was still sprinkling as the bridesmaids and groomsmen walked down the garden trail to the wedding pergola in the beautiful setting of a garden and pond. Just as the bride emerged, the sun came out, and the celebration of love was underway with cheers and smiles. This young couple like many young couples look into the days ahead and see only good times. The pastor gave a short time of advice where he warned them there could be stormy waters ahead. We have been there too haven’t we? On our wedding day, we see only good times and love and a bright future. As far ahead as we think we can see, times are good and love only grows perfect and full of joys.
Grief in the Midst of Joy
Just before I left for the wedding, my husband read me an email from his sister; his niece had married the love of her life less than a year ago. I didn’t get to go to the wedding, but from all the pictures she has posted on social media before, during and after the wedding I felt she was the luckiest woman in the world to have found such a fantastic man, perfect for her. Their love appeared strong enough to weather any storm, and all who knew them felt the same. A marriage made in heaven. This loving man had “lit a fire’ under my husband’s niece, as I put it. I hadn’t known her long, because our marriage had been late in life, but I saw her come alive. She didn’t just smile anymore; she beamed such a contagious smile that I celebrated with her everytime I saw a picture of her or her husband. The email said that he had died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was young. My heart broke in two as I prepared to go to the wedding of a dear friend of mine.
Earlier in the week, I had lunch with a young widow. Her husband committed suicide and left her with a beautiful son who loves baseball, and his dad had been his coach. As we talked, she told me of the many complications in her life because of hurting family members and past relationships.
After the wedding, I went to visit some friends in the hospital. Both had been very active and had been very involved in their church and ministries. He had a small brain tumor removed earlier in the week, and they were still waiting to hear what the doctors and oncologist thought their future might be. The sad part is they thought he had suffered a stroke earlier this summer and he seemed to be recovering quite well. They knew life would be different, but they were willing to make the adjustments needed. In truth, it was the tumor that acted like a stroke. They do not know what their future holds. The wife is exhausted, feeling let down, desperate for what to do next. She is learning the rollercoaster of caregiving. The helplessness of knowing there is nothing she is in control of except how she faces all that comes her way, She can control her attitude.
It’s all grief, except the hopeful marriage couple. The fact the sun came out for their wedding vows, and the announcement of their new life together seem to give a promise of unquestionable hope for this sweet couple. I hope so!
The peace that comes with caregiving is that grief comes in manageable stages. First, as my friends in the hospital are learning is the loss of dreams. The dreams that they will live a happy and active life together whatever that looks like to them. The gradual loss of ability and realizing the confinement and sleeplessness of caregiving. Then the separation of a healthcare facility when caregiving becomes too much for the family. The strength takes to be happy and hopeful for the kids and grandkids that the caregiver doesn’t even feel herself. The awkwardness of attending ball games and school activities for the grandchildren alone when you know your spouse would love to be there. Watching your loved one suffer is horrible and consuming. It is possible to get away from watching them suffering from your eyes, but your heart carries the pain no matter what you are doing or where you are. An untimely death can throw the unsuspecting spouse to the grief wolves or a bottomless pit of worries and woes.
The Unanswerable Question
The question on all of our minds is, “Why?” Why can’t we live the dream we had in the beginning? Why do our loved ones have to suffer? Why must we be stronger than we feel like being? I don’t know if there are any answers to these questions or why we have to live part of our lives alone wondering why. I was still asking why when I lost my husband for whom I had cared for nine years, and the last three were the hardest once he was on dialysis. I asked all the questions and grieved a little at every step, and although I knew his death was coming, it caught me off guard when he gave his last breath. I was blessed to have been surrounded by friends as he lay dying. We were studying I Corinthians 15. It was an amazing ending for him.
There are no easy answers, but I know that knowing God was with me through it all helped me through caregiving and the grief of the first year without my husband. For more on how God is with a caregiver and those who grieve, you can purchase my book, “Experiencing God While Caregiving,” at Amazon.com.