It was a Saturday, the 2nd July 2011…this year is coming up to 9 years…

Joanna and husband

We woke up as usual; happy, smiling, doing chores together and shopping life was its usual routine.

This was a day of celebration for us. My husband, a builder was given the biggest contract ever to renovate houses in a derelict area of Liverpool.

This contract would remedy all our financial worries; we could go on holidays, support our eldest daughter with her wedding plans and our youngest with funding for university. The purchase of a new works van for my husband meant that he could now employ another two labourers to work with him. Life and the future were looking bright for once. We prayed and gave God thanks and rejoiced at how blessed we were.

Then by mid-afternoon on the same day my husband collapsed right in front of me. The paramedics came and I drove behind the ambulance in my neighbour’s car in a trance. By the time we got to the hospital my husband of twenty plus years was gone….dead!!!!!!!

A dark cloud overshadowed our lives; my two daughters and I. Feeling like we’re living in limbo; anger, numb, guilt and question, why him? Why me?

I pretended like I was not real. I refused to come to grips with the reality of his death.

I kept saying to myself it’s a dream, I will wake up and he’ll walk through the door as normal. Then I looked at the faces of my daughters; they want to cry, you want to cry, but each one of us is trying to hold back the tears to be strong for each other.

Friends, family relatives, colleagues and even strangers saying, ‘I’m so sorry’ and ‘I know how you must be feeling’ but do they really? Unless they had experienced a similar loss themselves.

Joanna

I could not accept that this person has died and that I would never physically see my husband again, or hear his voice, feel his hug, inhale, that particular smell, tuning over in bed and not feel that warm body next to mine or that annoying hand or leg thrown across yours or even to get that valued input on a tough decision. This took months maybe years for the reality to finally sink in.

Planning the funeral kept me busy. I had lots of people around me, colleagues, friends, family, my children, grandchildren and church community.

After this was over, everyone went back to their regular lives. You start to receive the odd one or two text messages, emails or phone call, ‘How are you doing’, I would answer, ‘I’m fine’ but am I.? Then the reality of the death hits you suddenly. I AM ALONE NOW.

I still have my two daughters who are missing their Dad too and I have to be strong for them. But then what about me? Who is going to be strong for me? Then I remembered Job who not only lost loved ones but his health and wealth also. But the good thig is he never lost his faith.

I went through months of self-denial, feeling sorry for myself, pity, stress, anxiety and loosing my job. I had expenses and bills to pay, which use to be shared by two people however now its just one income. My menstrual cycle lasted for three months and my hair became grey overnight. I grieved in my own way.

I was alone. But I did not pressure myself to feel a certain way by a certain time. I talked to my daughters and we did not bottle things up. We always shared memories about their dad; good ones, bad ones, funny ones, fights, quarrels and debates, you name it. I had physical symptoms of grief: loss of appetite, comfort eating, aches, pains and disturbed sleep.

Joanna and daughters

How did I cope with loneliness?

  • I found support after the funeral and still to this day
  • I started going Zumba class on a more regular basis.
  • I attended church and community events
  • I reached out to my closest family and friends to get practical and emotional support.
  • Prayer groups helped to restore my faith, reading the word to keep me focused.
  • I chose to look after myself allowing myself to feel sad, cry when I wanted to, scream and shout if I felt like it and gave myself time to grieve.
  • Some practical steps helped by sticking to a routine and finding small things to make me feel better, such as listening to music.
  • I found my own way to remember my husband and keeping a connection to him, photographs of him are displayed, he’s remembered in anniversaries and special occasions.
  • I grew to recognise my loss and that it’s ok to mourn
  • I freely talk and write about my thoughts and feelings.
  • I volunteer for causes I believe in to create new experiences.
  • I strengthened existing relationships. There are people in my life who I got to know better. I went out more often with friends and family which strengthened bonds.
  • I focused more than anything else on the spiritual aspects of my life.

My grief is uniquely my own, no one had the same relationship I had with my husband. It is the word of God that kept me going. I might be a widow but I’m not alone. I have the greatest champion rooting for me:

Deuteronomy 31 vs 6: Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. (Psalm 27:10)

For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people. (1 Samuel 12:22)

Romans 8 vs 31-38: What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-38)

Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted. (Psalm 25:16)

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20)

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. (Psalm 68:5-6)

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)

The God of grace called my husband to his eternal glory in Christ. After I suffered a little while, Gods grace restored me and made me stronger, firm and steadfast.

Joanna Fay Munroe (Wolverhampton, UK)

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