Death week

I am in the midst of one of the toughest grieving weeks of the year for me. Last week it began with my wedding anniversary with Jeremy. Then, Friday I received the news that my Grandma Wanda passed away due to some complications after a surgery. Devastating. Today (Wednesday) is her birthday, and also the death anniversary of my brother, Brian. This week my mom will have her birthday as well. Needless to say, it's been a rough week.

One of my favorite memories of my Grandma Wanda took place while preparing for my brother's graduation party. Jeremy and I were down in the basement with Brian, putting together a decorated box to collect all the cards for the day. Upstairs, my other very rude Grandmother started bickering about how I wasn't helping and how ungrateful I must be while my parents would be paying for our wedding (Jeremy and I were engaged). These accusations were of course ungrounded and false, but she just likes to have something to complain about. My 4-foot-something spitfire Grandma Wanda starts yelling from the basement sticking up for me and telling her to shut her mouth. And then began to tell Jeremy how much she liked him and not to worry about haters.

I share this story because it hit me suddenly yesterday while I was sharing it with Steve that 3 out of 4 people involved in that memory are dead.
Not here anymore.
How is that possible?!

It was too much for me to understand. It's just not right. And to top it all off, it's all flooding me in the same week, at the same time. Three precious lives that have meant so much to me in different ways no longer exist. Yesterday, I'm pretty sure I cried at the drop of a hat - all of it was weighing on me.

Today I had made plans to stay distracted. But what was really pulling on my heart was to face grief. I needed to spend the day with my parents and grieve this horrible day last year when I felt my brother die in my hands. I wanted them to know how much Brian was and is loved. I want them to know I'm still here, still hurting with them, still healing. So we cancelled our plans and headed to my hometown to my brother's grave. What a sight it was to see today:

So many people had already been there today. Notes, pictures, flowers, plants, keepsakes - everyone leaving pieces behind. We added to the bunch with letters from the kids, flowers and balloons.
It felt right to be there.

Inevitably, when I face grief, it all gets mixed together - I grieved for Brian, Jeremy, and Grandma Wanda today.
It was heavy, but necessary.

You'd think the more people you lose close to you, the better you'd get at figuring this stuff out. Turns out it doesn't work that way. It just sucks every time.

I'll be glad when the week is over.


Q & A: Part 7 - The last ones

This is the final part in our Question and Answer series. It's a combination of some of the miscellaneous question and new questions that arose since we began. Thank you to everyone who was brave enough to ask us tough questions, and thank you for letting us use our story to make a difference. We pray that our answers have been helpful, and even though the truth isn't always easy, we pray it sheds light where light needs to shine and create understanding in an arena where there is little.

1. Are you going to continue using this blog now that you're remarried, or are you planning on starting a new blog with your new family?

I will continue to use this blog because it’s not just about parts of my life, but all of it. Eventually, when I find the time, I will likely incorporate all the other pieces as well but updating all that takes forever and I just haven’t been able to do it yet. But I won’t completely change it – the name will remain the same, Jeremy will remain a big part of it as well.

2. My husband and I are looking at life insurance right now because you never know what tomorrow brings. Were also working on our Will and other things of that nature. However with a tight budget already right now Life Insurance is something we always said we would get "later' because we were so focused on our day to day survival that life insurance really didn't come into the picture. With that said, Did Jeremy have life insurance and if he did, did it make grieving for his loss more doable since you didn't have the extra worry of finances? From someone who has walked that awful path of losing a spouse, I am wondering if there is any advice you can give me. Thank you.
Jeremy and I did not buy life insurance, but he was covered with the basic term insurance provided by his work, which wasn’t a ton. But anything helps when it comes to finances, because not only is it difficult to sort all that out while you’re blinded by grief, it’s also a huge stressor trying to figure out how you’re family will survive on one income. While the term insurance was helpful, I definitely regretted not taking the time to do it with Jer for sure. Even just a minimum amount is helpful, if you can manage it in your budget.
3. Would you mind sharing what phone editing software you use? Your pics have always been so beautiful!
Haha, I was not expecting this question! I usually take all my pictures on my phone, since it’s always with me. I use Instagram or Camera+ or Camera! to use all their different filters to edit the pictures. The photos you see that are not filtered from my phone are probably taken by my beautiful and talented friends Sarah and Vicki.
4. What's your favorite food ever? Something that makes you drool just thinking about it. It can be a dish or a type of food (ie. cheese, bread etc).

I can’t say I have one favorite food, but I would say I’m in love with Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares with Caramel – I put a bag in the fridge and I swear that’s what Heaven will taste like! I also am a sucker for slushies, pizza, or anything with avocados.
Steve: Donuts, cake, or BBQ – take your pick… I LOVE them all!!  And if I could get a BBQ flavored cake-donut all bets are off!!
5. What's your favorite time of day?

Nap time, of course J
Steve: I have lots of favorite times of the day! But my two favorite times have to be our bedtime routine with the kids (reading stories, praying, and doing Bible trivia together as a family) and spending time with just Vee and I after the kids are asleep and the house is finally quiet J
6. If you could be an animal what would you be and why?

Um, I’ve never put much thought into this and I wouldn’t qualify myself as a huge animal lover, but I would have to say a Tiger. They’re so beautiful and have very few predators. Plus, they like nap time too!
Steve: I am not sure I have ever had to think about this question, but I guess if I have to choose one animal to be, I would say a bear. Bears can eat whatever they want and no one is going to tell them otherwise (after all, who is going to tell a bear he is overweight?!)… and, 9 times out of 10, if you go to the zoo the bear is off sleeping somewhere, which means I would get a lot more nap time!
7. I also read "Heart Cries" (and love love love love that blog!)

I remember that she did a really amazing interview style bunch of videos on her blog when she was answering a bunch of questions with her first son's birth mother...

Would you ever consider adding some "video blog entries" so we can hear from you and Steve verbally!?

I think that would be kind of cool!!

That is a very cool idea that I had never really thought about before. I can tell you there is a reason I write – because I can organize my thoughts before they come out. I’m not nearly as impressive in person. But, I definitely have that on my list of ideas to do sometime. Thanks for the suggestion!

8. How is Faith doing with her birth order being changed since she is no longer the eldest? Also, how is Steve's youngest (sorry I don't know her name) dealing with no longer being the youngest?

It’s been pretty interesting and fun to watch the girls adjust to their new roles. I think overall, they’re adjusting quite well. I’m grateful that Faith doesn’t feel so much pressure to take care of things like she did after Jeremy died, I think it made her age way faster than I wanted her to. But she still likes to tell me “Zada, Reagan and I are the oldest. Caleb and Carter are the youngest” – so she still functions that way sometimes. I think she likes going back and forth, to be honest – she has sisters she gets to go to for help with make-up/dress-up, girls to play with while still using her nurturing side to take care of her brothers. Reagan has seemed to really enjoy having someone younger than her to boss around! Haha, I think she loves being the big sister and I love the little voice she uses when she’s playing that role. “Now remember Faith, we need to this….” “Caleb, remember Mom and Dad want us to do that…” It’s very sweet and I think she likes having the little bit of responsibility that comes with the role – it makes her feel important. She’s a wonderful big sister.


9. As a bereavement counselor, what advice would you give me to find someone as wonderful as you? I feel as if I'm going to have to settle for the first shmoe to come along since I am not beautiful. (One guy told me he would be with me if I supported him and let him move into my house...he doesn't have a job and got kicked out of his apt., and he said I should take his offer since I'm not pretty and won't ever find anyone else anyway...I didn't take the "offer"). Please give me some advice. I'm so lonely for the kind of love Vee has found with you. I used to be so happy when my husband was alive because he thought I was beautiful but no one else ever will. What should I do? (I realize this may not be the forum for this exactly, but I really need advice and Vee said we can ask anything. I don't know where to turn. My friends are sick of hearing it.)

First of all, let me tell you that I am not perfect.  I have my own set of flaws and imperfections that Vee has to deal with – no one is perfect! However, please, PLEASE don’t settle for someone who does not treat you with the love and respect that you deserve.  I have told Vee numerous times that if, for whatever reason, we had never wound up dating or marrying, I hoped she would have found someone who treated her like a princess, who would walk beside her, support her, carry her when she was down, love her for who she is, and allow her to embrace her past while living in the present. I consider myself BLESSED to be the man who gets to walk beside her in this journey, much like I know Jeremy felt blessed to walk beside her in their marriage. 

While widowhood can leave you with a longing for intimacy, love, and companionship, it is important to not opt for someone who can “tolerate” your past, but who can support and love the person you are! I don’t know you, and will probably never get to meet you, but what I can tell you is that God designed you specially – you are His handiwork, and therefore you deserve to be treated that way! Don’t settle for some jerk that wants to take advantage of you, or who treats you less than a princess. Its not always easy to wait, and sometime its tempting to rush into things because we see ourselves as “broken” or with “baggage”, but trust me, there is someone out there who God has designed to help you feel beautiful in the area of your life where you feel so messed up.

10. Now we know that Steve is divorced and that there is a mom in the picture, albeit the wack-job she seems to be. How do her visits with her daughters affect your relationship with the girls? I know you said that you love them and they love you, but they are not teens yet and someday wacky mom might offer them things like freedom to do as they please when they are teens, just to make trouble in your household. How will you handle this practically? Are you prepared for it? Are you ever worried she will bad-mouth you to the girls? The family you created seems so near to perfect that I wonder if you or Steve are ever afraid that the mom will try to destroy it?

I have a ton of fears, most of which I am sure the normal divorcee has when they have to balance the relationship with their ex-spouse for the benefit of their children.  While you list a couple of fears here, there are many I worry about even more for Zada and Reagan, for instance: Since their mom has severe health issues and has inconsistently taken her medications, I fear walking the girls through her early death because she failed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Because she has had unstable mental health for so many years I fear that this may be something that causes the girls problems in their personal lives and relationships. I fear that somehow they may pick up on her unhealthy relationship and emotional patterns and it will become something that plagues them personally. I fear for them when they get old enough and learn the truth about their mom and the ways in which she has hurt them, me, or others in our family including her own mother. So, yes there are a lot of fears I have, but the way that I look at it, I cannot allow myself be consumed by these fears. I have to do what I know is right, work as hard as I can with Vee to show the girls God’s love through our parenting, and pray that no matter what God will protect them in ways I only wish I could.  I daily pray for them – and for all our children, that God will help me be the right man and father for them today, tomorrow, and for the rest of their lives.  I pray for wisdom well beyond my years to know how to deal with those situations as they arise as well as to be thankful for the fears that never come to fruition.  


Grief and Injustice

Today should be my 9th wedding anniversary with Jeremy.

Instead of spending that day in memory of him, I have to sort through issues concerning someone who has hurt a lot of other people in their path with their selfishness and manipulation. While I didn’t actually have a ‘to-do’ list for today, I can tell you this wasn’t on it.

But what I’ve noticed about grief and injustice is that they elevate each other, and can sometimes come together is a not-so-pretty package. This injustice I have to deal with is magnified because life doesn’t get put on hold for my grief. Not only is this unjust, but it’s injustice on a day that I should get to take a break?!? How dare life work that way. Life keeps pushing forward even though Jeremy should be here. I held my breath when Jeremy died and waited for the rest of the world to do the same. But it didn’t. I was devastated.

And because I was in grief, everything felt unjust: The way Jeremy died, the timing of his death, the situation I was left in, other families getting to enjoy each other while I had to suffer, fathers getting to hold their babies, old people holding hands – when would the injustice end? Every corner I turned, someone had something that I lost.

If Jeremy taught me anything in 7 ½ years of marriage, it was to love fiercely. The world doesn’t revolve around me or my needs and I should cherish every blessing I have the opportunity to be a part of. Even when the world is unjust and people get by with things they shouldn’t, or when people get to celebrate 9 years of marriage with their spouses when I never will with Jeremy – that doesn’t mean the world will stop. And it doesn’t mean I can’t be thankful I got to have at least that many years with an incredible man.

In the meantime, I will take the time I need to take today to think about Jeremy (not that I haven’t been every day anyway) and what my life with him meant to me. No amount of injustice can take that away. I will grieve, I will remember, I will be thankful, I will cherish those around me that I love, and I will pray for justice.

Happy Anniversary, my love.
I miss you dearly.


Q &A: Part 6 - Relationship Questions

Here's our Part 6 of the Q&A series for you - only one more to go! Good thing we've been traveling a ton and have had a ton of time in the car to get all these questions answered, otherwise, it would have taken us months to get through it all. Tonight's questions are relationship questions.

1. Could you talk a little about the progression of your relationship, as it moved quickly?

Vee: Well, I feel like we’ve covered some of this in other areas, but I’ll touch on it again. I realize that for a lot of people – myself included had I not been the one experiencing it – think that things between Steve and me happened quickly. And it did. But what you also have to take into account is that we weren’t looking to “date” – we both had families, lives in the work, and responsibilities to take care of. We lived in different states and weren’t about to put ourselves or our family through a long distance relationship going back and forth if it wasn’t worth it. And we made sure we discussed all the hard issues very early on, no pretenses. What also needs to be taken into account is that we knew of each other first. We weren’t close friends, but had hung out enough for me to know what kind of guy Steve was, what kind of dad he was, and the integrity he showed in the midst of his divorce – it didn’t just come from him telling me, I got to see it. We weren’t strangers, and our closest friends trusted him and loved him, so I knew I could too.

What I find so funny is that Jeremy and I had a pretty quick relationship as well. We dated for about 5 months before we got engaged, and got married 4 months later! Only 3 months longer than I was with Steve before we got married. What can I say?! When I know, I know!

Steve: As Vee stated, we weren’t strangers prior to our relationship. We had know each other for a couple of years, hung out on several occasions, and knew each other’s back story. I had seen the kind of relationship that Jeremy and Veronica had, I knew that she was a great wife. I had seen the kind of relationship that Vee had with her kids and knew that she was a great mom. I had seen the kind of relationship she had with God despite losing Jeremy and could tell she was a woman who followed after God’s heart. The real part that was unknown was whether or not we could be more than just good friends.

The first night that we talked on the phone, we both laid it out really simply and really clearly that neither of us wanted to date just for fun. As Vee shared, there was too much at risk for both of us. Because of our past circumstances and histories, we cut through a lot of the formalities of dating in a few hours and got to the meat and bones of a relationship. Truthfully, I knew I wanted to marry Vee within probably a week of us talking…let’s be honest, what’s not to love about her? While it may seem fast for some, I feel like it was all in God’s timing. As Vee and I talk about it, even today, we can’t imagine it being any different than it was – we feel like it was exactly the way God worked it and we have a lot of peace about that.

2. Do you ever feel like there is a third person in your relationship (or maybe 4, I don't know Steve's situation)?

Vee: While I take pieces of my life with Jeremy with me (how could I not?) I feel like my relationship with Steve is one in its own. It’s complicated of course, because I am completely in love with two people and the way that plays out can be confusing. But what’s incredible about how God gives us the capacity to love is that neither outweighs or negates the other. Jeremy and Steve are two different men – they have some things in common, but my relationship with each of them is different. There are things Steve and I handle differently than Jeremy and I would have – and that’s ok. Because what I know is that I love and trust Steve and together even if our strategies are different, the goal is the same.

Steve’s ex wife holds no influence in our relationship, other than in the insecurities that have been left behind in Steve and his self-image, and really that just makes me strive to show him what a good and healthy relationship looks like. We handle minor issues regarding Zada and Reagan, but she’s not an entity in our relationship.

Steve: This is an interesting question and one that I’ve seen talked a lot about in various blogs and writings for widows and widowers who are remarrying. There’s a stance for some that says when you marry a widow(er), you should be prepared for a marriage of 3, while others state that the widow(er) should completely leave behind their past relationship to move forward with a new one. While I can’t speak for anybody else, I am uncomfortable with both of those. No doubt Jeremy and Veronica’s relationship changed them both and despite Jeremy’s death, it doesn’t change Vee’s feeling for him. It’s an ongoing part of the story. But my marriage to Vee is ours. We talk about Jeremy, Vee shares memories, but this in no way implies that there are 3 people here. The same is true for my ex-wife. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t shaped by my relationship with her. From time to time, she is a topic of conversation (though not spoken of as fondly as Jeremy) but in no way is she a part of our marriage. Vee and I have our own way of communicating, our own way of raising our children, our own way of loving each other that is unique to us.

3. Do you think it's wise to make plans for the big "what if" my spouse dies or is that morbid? If so, what kinds of plans do you wish you had made with Jeremy or are you now making with Steve? 

Vee: Of course I think it’s wise to make plans for if your spouse dies. It might be difficult, but the truth is, one of you is going to die first. If and when it happens, you’ll be sorry you didn’t do more. Have life insurance. Have a will. It just makes things go smoother. Not easier, nothing makes it easier, but it will be one less thing you have to worry about. My other suggestion would be to take the time to write a letter to each other only to open if your spouse dies before you. I had done it for Jeremy as a wedding gift, and I would have given anything to have one from him. Just to have his words to hold onto would have been so special. Cheesy, maybe – but trust me, it would be invaluable.

Steve and I haven’t put anything in place yet, but it is a topic of conversation because we want to do that soon – establishing a will, writing letters to each other, talking about what each of us would want for funerals, burials, etc. – so that we know. But Steve isn’t allowed to die first – we made a deal. ;)

Steve: I think its super important to talk about those issues long ahead of time. I worked with many couples who had never discussed issues of where they wanted to be buried, what kind of funeral service they wanted to have, never wrote out a will, or even talked about what would happen if one of them passed away, and yet one of them was facing just a few weeks left to live because of a terminal illness. Trying to make those decisions while in the throws of grief is needless pain when you have the opportunity to discuss if beforehand. Vee and I have had several conversations about our own deaths, funeral wishes, burial wishes, and what we would like to happen with our children if either one of us dies first. While these talks aren’t easy, I feel like it’s given us some peace about what the other person wants. I know that this is especially a hard topic for Vee, because this is one of her greatest fears, but it’s also a reality and something we have to face: one of us will die before the other.

4. My 27 year old husband died suddenly from heart disease (that we didn't know he had) 2 1/2 months ago. I am now dealing with the fear of those close to me just dropping dead. Did you deal with this fear? If so, are you still dealing with it?
Vee: I did have this fear, especially at the beginning. Saying goodbye to people was very difficult. But I suffer from this in another form: If I am trying to get a hold of someone and can’t and have no idea where they are, I have major anxiety attacks. This has happened 3 times now with Steve, and I had no idea how severe it was. But every time, I have flashbacks of texting Jeremy and not hearing back from him, then my mind races to every horrible scenario that could possibly have happened, and my heart races and I hold back tears. Last week, I went to a movie with some friends and never heard back from Steve. I called, no answer. I knew he should have been home with all the kids, but I couldn’t stay – I had to rush home to make sure he was okay because I was starting to panic and didn’t want anyone to notice. He was sleeping, of course, but it took over an hour for me to calm down from the idea of losing Steve. I couldn’t even talk about it with him, even knowing I was being ridiculous, without tears. The fear of losing other people I love haunts me often. Steve takes every precaution to make sure he takes his phone with him and gets back to me when he can. The only way I deal with it really is knowing that fear can’t keep me from loving people with all I have – it’s better to love and lose than never to love at all. I am living proof.
Steve: Your fear and reaction to that fear are a normal response to anyone who’s gone through a tragic or traumatic experience. Vee and I have talked about this as she shared some of the fears that she’s had when she hasn’t been able to get a hold of me. These times are called ‘triggers’ and they trigger an emotional response from a previous event. Some counselors or psychologists refer to this as post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This is fairly normal for most people who have gone through something traumatic and no reason for alarm, unless it something that’s preventing you from your daily life. The main thing you can do to help work through those anxious moments is to be able to talk them out with someone you trust over time. Vee and I have been able to share her feelings and thoughts she had when she wasn’t able to get a hold of me. It doesn’t mean that the next time she’s unable to get a hold of me she won’t still feel anxiety or fear, but it allows me to do everything I can to help prevent those moments. It allows her to confront some of those fears with somebody she knows loves and supports her.
5. How do you and Steve handle holidays you shared with Jeremy (your anniversary with Jeremy, Jeremy's birthday)? 

Vee: Steve is so loving and gracious in these areas. He’s very good about allowing me celebrate Jeremy, and even joining me in honoring him, and letting me grieve when I need to. He makes himself available to me to talk with or cry on if that’s what I need, and also gives me space to grieve privately if that’s what I need. For Jeremy’s birthday, we host a birthday party and bring all of Jeremy’s favorite foods and Steve is committed to helping me continue that tradition, not just for me, but for our children as well. Since my anniversary is coming up on the 19th of this month (this Thursday), Steve has already asked me what I would like to do on this day and how I would feel most comfortable spending my time. He’s very thoughtful in these areas. Actually, he’s pretty thoughtful in most areas. J

Steve: In a previous question, Vee was asked if I allowed her to grieve Jeremy or to celebrate or remember those special occasions. For me, there’s a difference between ‘allowing’ and ‘supporting’. She doesn’t have to have my permission to grieve Jeremy – that’s natural and expected. While I hurt to watch her grieve, I’m honored to be able to support her as she grieves and to grieve along side of her. It’s nothing she does on her own. While her intensity is greater than mine, because she was married to Jeremy, I share in her grief and I support her fully. I try to look for opportunities to allow her to express her grief and although not always easy for me, give her the space she needs when she wants to grieve privately.

6. How did you ease into being intimate (emotionally, physically etc) with a new partner? Did you find it was really difficult initially?
I have only been with one man and that is my husband - how did you adjust sharing yourself emotionally, mentally and physically with Steve. Was it a hard adjustment?
Talking about intimacy in the widow world can be very taboo.  No one wants to talk about it; therefore it can be very difficult thing to deal with. Not just the loneliness that comes along with losing a partner, but also the ache for intimacy that’s included. Add that to pregnancy hormones, and I can say the first 3 months after Jeremy’s death were very difficult for me, and I was only able to share that with a few people!
Steve and I had a much better transition than I thought, but I attribute that to the fact that Steve is very patient and loving, and I trust him with my heart. If we hadn’t been emotionally or mentally in line, then the physical stuff probably wouldn’t have been either. That’s not to say it is always easy. Steve was lucky enough to have to deal with an emotional bride a few times on our honeymoon, poor guy. Not because our relationship isn’t beautiful or wonderful (which it is!) but because I am still grieving, and needed to grieve that part of my life with Jeremy. But I think intimacy is a part of relationship that reflects all the other pieces. Steve has been very careful with my heart and we have a great relationship mentally and emotionally – therefore, our physical relationship is pretty awesome as well.
Steve: Intimacy was honestly a big deal for both Vee and I, but for very different reasons. For me, I had been really hurt in the past and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to get hurt like that again in the future. Vee understood my insecurities and knew the vulnerability I felt in intimacy and was really patient with me as well. Because of what I went through, which was honestly one of my biggest fears, our emotional connection and spiritual connection laid an amazing foundation for our physical connection. From time to time I still have those insecurities about intimacy, but since Vee is such an amazing wife she’s been very healing for me.

The last section of questions will be miscellaneous ones along with any new ones that have come up since we started. Thank you all for allowing us to share pieces of our story with you!


Q & A: Part 5 - More questions about grief

Here are the rest of the questions we've answered related to grief. Grab a cup of coffee...you might be here awhile...

8. Whenever people go through some of life's biggest moments (marriage, divorce, death, birth of new lives, relocation, career change, etc)... sometimes friendships change.

Have you experienced changes in friendships based on what you've been through? Has it made friendships stronger or has it strained them?

You've been through SO MANY of life's big changes... Jeremy's death, moving to a new home, new baby, and now additional family members to complete and add love to your home. It appears you have handled things so gracefully and almost seamlessly...

For some of the realists who read the blog, it might be good to have some insight around "if you are the widow...the one going through all of the change, what should you be prepared for inside of your friendships?"

Vee: First of all, if things have appeared seamless, then I haven’t been telling it right! Nothing about the last almost 2 years has been seamless, or even graceful. Every transition has come with lots of grief, questions, heartache, and prayer – and this includes my relationships. Jeremy’s death has brought a lot of people closer to me and has made many of my friendships stronger, but unfortunately, it has strained some too. I’ve read about a lot of people in grief who have experienced broken relationships or people who were hard, hateful, or insensitive – I can honestly say I’m thankful that this has not been the case for me. My closest circle became tighter, and grew in number and I’m so blessed. The strain has come from transition, distance, trying to keep up with so much at once, or just from not agreeing on different aspects of life.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the strain in my relationships hasn’t really come out of my ‘widowhood’ – most of it has sprung from moving forward in life. I think a lot of friends found purpose and a place in my life to rally around me and help fill needs that were absent, and now they struggle to know how to help me or misconceive that I don’t need them anymore. It’s not bad; it’s just different and requires patience and an open heart on both sides. It’s a tough place to be in when everyone has his or her own ideas about how to grieve, but you have to be true to yourself and know that everyone is different and everyone grieves different.

I guess if “you’re the widow” expect friends to not really know what to do or how to help sometimes, expect them to not understand, and expect them to struggle with your identity as much as you do. When you’re grieving, you’ll notice that it’s a very selfish state of being – you are incapable of looking outside of yourself and probably incapable of being a good friend back to those who will give so much. I have found a lot of guilt in this area, but I also know I would do the same for my friends. It’s painful to watch relationships change sometimes, but know that the ones worth hanging on to will find a way through the mud to meet you on the other side of it. And the ones that do are incredibly special – hold onto them.

9. Have you or will you receive any professional counseling?
Vee: I did receive some professional counseling last summer. While it was good to talk things out and gain a different perspective on things, I found that writing was a similar therapy for me, only cheaper. I’m a huge advocate for professional counseling, and I believe I would have done more if I didn’t have such a strong support system. I was never lacking in people to talk to, pray with, or cry with and that has been invaluable to me. I’m a natural processor and talker (chatty Cathy over here!) so I’m thankful to have these outlets available to me when I need them.
10. How do you bring up death with your children? I just experienced a tragic loss and my little 2.5 year old daughter is always asking "why is mama sad" how do I explain this to my daughter?

Vee: The thing I’ve realized through teaching preschool and working in childcare and especially being a mom is that kids see through fluff. My best advice is to just be honest with your children – no need for gory details or information over their head, but be honest. If you’re sad, let you children know why you’re sad and why it’s ok to be sad when you lose someone you love. I was always very honest with my children about why I was crying, but they knew anyway. They were sad, too, and I wanted them to able to express that pain and talk about it. If you read back through my blog, you’ll probably see some of the tough discussion I’ve had with my kids. Some were painful and I wasn’t sure I could get through them, but I’m so thankful they felt like they could talk to me about it. I think it has made them more well rounded and more sensitive to others in pain.

Steve: As hard as grief is for adults, it can be even more tricky for children for various reasons: First, adults have language to help them talk about grief – we can say I am overwhelmed, afraid, depressed, alone, etc… but most children don’t have the vocabulary to talk about grief, let alone the understanding of those terms.  Therefore, most children wont talk about grief and most adults interpret their lack of conversation about grief to mean they don’t want to talk about it or its not affecting them.  Second, most adults want to “protect” children from adults things like grief. We don’t want them to worry or become upset, so most of the grief happens behind doors where the children cant see.  Third, children have a simple understanding of the world and the things that happen in it – when we talk about complex issues that adults have a hard time wrapping our minds around, you can only imagine what a child must think about it. (Since I worked as a bereavement counselor, death was a common topic for Zada, Reagan, and I after long days at work.  I can remember the girls telling me on several occasions how weird it was that when a person died we put them in a box [i.e. a coffin] and then went to look at them [i.e. a funeral], or put their body in the ground when we talked about their soul going to heaven)

Since there are several factors that can make grief a little tougher for children, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. Children are resilient! Although they are young and vulnerable, they are also able to do a lot more than what we think they can.  Although It’s painful, many children lose a parent every day – and still grow up to be normal, well-rounded adults. 

2. Since children don’t have a vocabulary or understanding to go along with grief, its often helpful to give them various outlets to express their feelings in other ways that don’t involve just words.  Allow them to paint, color, play, do a craft, make up a game, do a project, make up a skit or play, or do something tangible that will help the child express their grief.  When I worked as the Director for Camp Hope, a grief camp for children, I had the children paint masks – on the outside of the mask they could paint how they showed people how they felt and on the inside of the mask they could paint how they really felt.  This seemed to be a great way of helping children get in touch with their feelings.

3. Don’t hide your grief.  While their will be moments where you need to grieve by yourself, its important for children to see others grieve, so they know its ok to grieve too.  If nobody cries in front of them, then they assume it’s not ok to cry when someone dies.  If no one talks about the deceased loved one around them and how much they miss them, then they assume that it’s not ok to talk about the feelings they have of missing that person.

4. Talk on a “kid level.”  Since children have a limited vocabulary and a limited understanding of grief, death, heaven, etc. then it’s important to talk on a level they will understand.  There are some things to stay away from, however: phrases such as “Daddy went to sleep” or “Grandma is just resting” can imply to small children that sometimes when you sleep you don’t get up and can instill some bedtime fears in children.  Also, using phrases like “God wanted another angel” or “God needed to take Mommy home” can leave children with a fear of a God who takes people away.
I have a TON more to talk about on this subject, but I hope this is helpful and give you some ideas!   

11. Are you angry at God? How did you get over that/how are you getting over that?

Vee: I can’t say I’m angry with God anymore now, but I definitely was. I still have waves of it, but it has been watered down to confusion and hurt – which is really what anger is disguising in the first place. I can’t say that there was a moment I just ‘got over it’ or even a revelation I suddenly had that made me understand God. I still don’t get it. I still think Jeremy should be here. I still think it’s unjust and stupid that good people die while bad people still get to suck in air….but I also know that God didn’t cause Jeremy’s death, or that ‘He needed another angel’ – when people say things like that to widowed people, it annoys me. I think we live in a fallen world where evil and death aren’t prejudice. And I know God grieves with me. Really, it just took time. And as much as I HATED that answer in the beginning, it really is true. Time to work through the anger in my heart. Time to talk through the hurt and cry out the pain. Time to pass so that I could look back and see how God was working the whole time, and working blessings out of a tragedy. It also took honesty with God – I said what I wanted to say and got out my anger, because let’s be honest…He already knows. Letting it out was more for me than anything else, but being angry with God is so ‘taboo’ and something that we’re not supposed to do. But I say God wants every piece of us – not just the pretty parts. How can He heal brokenness if you aren’t willing to give it to Him? So, I gave it to Him, alright – anger, yelling, screaming, cursing, and crying. Eventually, you just get it out til the next wave comes.

I have a plaque that sits on my kitchen counter with Jeremy’s favorite verse on it. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” After Jeremy died, this verse could not have angered me more. How could God plan to prosper me when He took away my future and every ounce of hope I had? We were good people, believers who were striving to be the best we could be – not perfect, of course, but trying – why would God take away that promise from me?!

What I began to see in my own life, and within the context of Jeremiah, is that God’s promises aren’t always immediate – or even always in your lifetime. People were being given this promise while being brought into captivity! When you take the verse for face value, it becomes very egotistical, and that’s not the intent of the verse or the context in which it is being used. What it means is that if you’re faithful and you continue to put your trust in God, His promises will be waiting for you.

I didn’t mean to preach a sermon, but I say all that to say I can see God’s blessings in my life every day. Even though I’ve lost much, I know I am still undeserving of what I have left. And I am still waiting on my promises – Jeremy is standing there among them.

12. How do you imagine your after-life in Heaven? You always talk about wanting to be with Jeremy again, yet now that you're married to Steve, I imagine you want to also be with him in Heaven. Is there a struggle for you with that? When you picture it, are you with one or the other, or a peaceful party of three, with both men knowing they carried a part of your life? Also, what about your burial when you pass? Will you be laid to rest with Jeremy or with Steve?
Vee: Heaven is a topic that Steve and I both agree raises more questions than gives us answers. I can’t tell you what Heaven is gonna look like exactly, but I am confident that Jeremy will be waiting for me there – I can’t imagine it any other way. When I picture it, I imagine reuniting with Jer because he’s the one I miss and the one I long to see. I trust that Heaven holds more for me than I could ever possibly comprehend. What gave me so much peace early on in my grief was picturing Jeremy in Heaven with us already – playing cars with Caleb and wrestling with Faith and me stealing hugs in between. But that was my Heaven on Earth. I pray constantly that I will get my moment in Heaven with Jeremy. But thinking about Heaven also brings tears quicker than almost anything – maybe out of jealousy that Jer is there and I’m stuck here. Or the confusion of knowing I should be happy for him while I’m so sad without him. Either way, I ache to be there. And I have to think that Steve will there waiting for me as well. I don’t know how that works and I don’t think I’m meant to figure it out. The thing you learn about life after losing someone you love is how to be ok with things you don’t have answers to.
As far as a burial goes, it’s another question I don’t have much of an answer to. As much as I wanted to be buried next to Jeremy, I knew even before I met Steve that outside of Jeremy’s family, it didn’t make much sense for me to be buried way out in Canada where no one else I know would ever be able to visit. Not that it’s the primary motivation for a burial, but I realized after Jeremy’s death and my brother’s death that there’s something to being able to just stand there in their presence. I want people I love to be able to do that, and I can’t see that happening in Canada. Jeremy’s grave is perfect there and I couldn’t imagine him any other place. My family has plots in Brighton, Michigan where I grew up so I know there’s a place there for me if I needed as well, but since I don’t know where the future will take me, I’m not too worried about it right now. Honestly, where my body goes after I die is really not important to me. As long as I’m on my way to Heaven, put my body wherever.
13. My question is about your relationship with God. How was it affected by Jeremy's death?
My husband was still exploring his faith when he lost his brother and since then he has been angry/bitter/resentful towards God. He feels like God doesn't care about him, so why should he care about God. Is there anything I can do to help him through that? Do you have any books, scriptures or songs that you recommend that would help? How does one feel anger towards God, but still keep him as the creator of the universe and the ruler of your life?

Vee: Struggling with faith is a natural part of grief. There’s no way to have your world shaken like that and not have serious questions about God and His plan. Even those with strong faith have to come face to face with hard realities. But anger is not a bad emotion in and of itself. I believe that God would rather have us yelling and screaming at Him than not communicating with Him at all. I watched my family struggle with this as well when my brother died. I’m not sure I can give you a cookie cutter answer for how to handle it, as I can’t even tell you how I overcame that place. Just time I guess, and the prayers and support of so many. Steve might know more about this area than me, so I’ll let him speak into this.
Steve: Vee is right, struggling with spirituality is a normal part of grief, and so is anger.  We need someone to blame or something to make sense of the injustice and hurt we feel.  Sometime our anger is aimed towards doctors or nurses we feel should have been more vigilant, or our anger may be directed at ourselves for not doing more or preventing the death, or our anger might be at God for “causing” or “allowing” our loved one to die.  The simple fact is, while blaming something isn’t helpful, it is normal.  Allow your husband to be angry.  If you study the Psalms you can see that the writers spent some time questioning God, being angry, and expressing the injustice that they felt – and yet these are words and expressions that we see in the Bible.  I think that we can be angry and express that anger with God without losing” our relationship with God.
At the same time, understand that anger is a secondary emotion, meaning there are usually other emotions that are provoking the anger – especially with grief.  Sometimes its fear for the future, hurt, overwhelmed, or injustice, but whatever the feelings are, it’s usually great to try to explore and talk about them. 
As far as books that would be helpful, I would recommend “Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?” by Tinker Melvin.  This book explores the topic of where God is when things like death and disease run rampant and tear apart our lives.   


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