On Oct. 14, 2014, my husband had emergency surgery for a mass in his colon. Two days later, Todd was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. My strong, healthy, 46-year-old husband, the father of our two sons, would endure four surgeries in six days and spend 19 days in the hospital recovering.
Even though I have experienced grief, I don’t really feel like much of an expert. Grief hits you out of nowhere. You can’t prepare for it; you can’t stop it; you can’t describe it; and you can’t get away from it. Grief is a process; grief is a feeling; grief is healing; and grief is remembering. I’m sharing my personal journey with grief. Some of you may identify with bits and pieces. All who have lost grieve, but how we experience and deal with grief can be very different.
words + photographs LORI MATTHEWS
The Bible tells us there is a time for everything, including a time to weep and a time to mourn. I believe grief is a gift from God; it is His way of helping us cope here on earth with loss and sudden change.
I began grieving immediately upon Todd’s diagnosis. I grieved for Todd and what he was facing. I grieved for my sons – who were then ages 15 and 19 – who had to face the inconceivable. And I grieved for myself and how my life would be changed.
While I Grieved
And while I grieved, I was blessed: blessed with a husband who allowed God to use him in these circumstances, blessed with children who looked to the Word for strength, and I was blessed with friends who just stood by my side. Todd and I began to acknowledge God’s blessings and thank Him for them, calling them out to Him one by one.
And while I grieved, I prayed. I prayed to God for healing, for a miracle, for time, for compassion and for wisdom. My prayer life grew stronger. I prayed for the armor of God to surround me to keep satan away. I especially prayed for my thoughts to be His thoughts. I prayed for my children to grow in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and man. I prayed thanking God for those around us who showered us with love, food and time. For two and a half years, I woke up every morning in prayer for Todd – and God answered my prayer to the very last day of Todd’s life.
And while I grieved, I also enjoyed life. Todd decided early after his diagnosis he would live life to its fullest, and so the boys and I followed that course. I kept working, traveling, teaching Sunday school, attending Connor’s baseball games, parenting, enjoying friends and, most importantly, enjoying our family time together. Sitting on the deck and talking with friends and family became cherished time.
Lessons of Grief
I learned grief doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks. It was O.K. to experience grief, sadness and mourning, but it was also important to experience laughter, joy and happiness. I gave myself the grace to grieve and the grace to move forward all at the same time. God gave me strength for each day, and I was confident He would be with me no matter what the future would hold.
I learned grief wasn’t a measure of my faith. I knew God’s promises were true and, even if I didn’t understand the why, I knew He would be with me – even in my grief. Jesus gave a beautiful example of grief when He wept because His friend Lazarus died. Knowing He would raise Lazarus from death, Jesus still cried. I knew God would provide and protect me and my family, but I still grieved while holding onto His Word. God’s promises are true. He will hold our hand, guide us with His counsel, and take us into glory. (Read Psalms 73:23-24).
And still, I Grieve
During those two and a half years after his diagnosis, Todd encouraged us, celebrated with us and loved us, until he was not with us. On May 25, 2017, Todd met his Savior with a smile on his face.
Right after Todd’s death, grief was constant, it was there shielding me, protecting me, helping me cope with what I could not change. The ability to express my grief and not ignore it helped me to move forward to create my new normal. I will always have a missing piece in my heart. I loved Todd, and I miss him. Because of this, I will continue to grieve. I don’t grieve constantly, but when I hear a song, see Todd reflected in my boys or sit on the deck alone – grief can come back, for just a little while, helping me to understand that life, even when bittersweet, is worth the journey.
I remember saying to Todd, “I will always want one more day for us, and I’m glad I will always want one more day.” Grief helps me remember I wanted one more day – and the time we spent together mattered to me. LM
Lori Matthews is a clinic director for Cox Medical Group in Springfield, Missouri. She enjoys reading, playing golf and going for long walks.
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