Step by Step

Change, loss, grief its everywhere. You can’t escape it, you can’t hide from it! And it’s true that whether you’ve lost a husband, a loved one, a job, a marriage, a healthy life, or a life free to roam out and about, loss is hard. It’s really hard. It’s harsh and so often unpredictable.

My story of loss began 7 years ago, November 1, 2014. A day my life changed forever. That was the day my normal life, my young and vibrant 52 year old loving husband of 30 years, father of our three children, teacher, coach, mentor and friend to many died after he collapsed on his morning run with our dog Max. It was harsh, shocking, and beyond devastating.

Losing a husband left me numb, frozen in life, and forced me to change, when I really didn’t want to. Our plans were plentiful. Travel, going for long walks with our dog Max, spending our life, growing old together. Then suddenly it all changed. Just like that, he was gone! No warning, no planning and no final goodbye’s. But, we have all experienced loss, it’s inevitable and no amount of money can stop death and loss. So how do we cope with this loss? For me, it was time to find my way, on my own, without my husband. A time to untangle our 30+ years together and figure out how to find meaning in the life God had planned for me for my remaining years.

The first days were all a blur, as we were surrounded by family and close friends, caring for our every need. We were guarded and protected with food, laundry, and all the things we needed to survive.

But as our inner circle returned to their worlds, the kids and I began to understand the mountain climb we had in front of us.  I was at a standstill. I was in no way ready to enter the real world again. And maybe I never would.

Watching the world around me returning to normal, when I was not ready to move forward. It was hard!  It was as though I was at a stop sign and the world around me was moving 70 miles per hour.  I wanted to scream! Stop, just stop. Just for a little longer.  I need time to catch my breath.

Grief took a hold of me and dragged me down paths where I faced fear, worry, and homesickness. The fears of, “What is going to happen to me? To the kids? To my life? Will I be alone? How will retirement look? What if something happens to me and I’m home all alone?”

All the worry, “Did we plan enough ahead for our finances? How will I be able to travel alone? All the concern for things that had not even happened yet. Jana, I had to scold myself. Stop it, stop getting ahead of yourself.  Stay here. Stay now. Don’t worry about it, not now.

And the homesickness, a feeling I experienced as a young child as my mom dropped me off at girl scout camp. For days I cried myself to sleep wanting to go “home”, to my house, my bedroom, my family and to be where things were comfortable, familiar, and normal.  That unsettling feeling in your stomach where you just know things are not right and you wonder if they ever will be again.  Homesickness, that’s what I was feeling.

Homesick for Randy, for his laugh, his warm hand in mine, our life together and our family back together again.  But it wasn’t going to happen, my mom was not going to pick me up from camp and it would not all be ok again, not yet and not that easily. I was going to have to overcome this homesickness and take steps into the unknown, a world I had not imagined.

In the book of Matthew, we hear from the sermon on the Mount, a strong message about worrying.  DO NOT WORRY,  Matthew 6:34 (NIV)… says:  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This resonates with me and shouts, “Step by Step!”

Step by step was message and at times it quite literally had to be just that. Baby step by baby step. Or sometimes it felt like one step forward, two steps back. Just when I thought I was moving forward, something would set me back a few notches. A picture appeared on Facebook, reminding me of Randy.  A sound that reminded me of his voice? Or stopping to gaze at that family picture that hangs in the dining room. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Step by step…here and now!  Don’t jump ahead to tomorrow, don’t jog to next week, and don’t run to next year, not yet.  It will come on its own.  God was asking me to stay put, stay here~  Listen for his voice and feel His presence now and in this moment. It was a profound thought that carried me through and still to this day as the pit in my stomach rises and homesickness tries to settle in, I have to remind myself, step by step, you’ll lead me, and I will follow you all of my days.

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