words by: Ferree Hardy
You might be reading this in April, but I wrote it many weeks before. Two days after Groundhog Day, I was typing away on this column while a winter storm laid nineteen inches of snow outside my window. I had moved up here to “The North Country” from South Carolina on December 20, so you might think the cold was a shock to me. However, aside from dressing in lots of layers, I am enjoying this “real” winter so far. I grew up in Wisconsin winters full of snow, and although as a youngster I had the advantage of having loads of fun in it, I also learned that winter doesn’t last forever; seasons change.
While it lasts, I will enjoy the winter. I especially love the sunshine, which is so different from the hot steamy South. I’m filled with wonder to go outside into full sunlight, which is cold, brisk, and invigorating rather than wafting with heat like an oven. But I am looking forward to the snow melting. What I missed most in the South was the more dramatic change of seasons—those days when the air changed over to springtime. I missed those moments when you could smell the ground thawing and the trees coming out of dormancy; those days when you could almost see the grass turn green and the dandelions pop. All of that might be happening even now, in April! But for me, as I write this in February, it’s something I happily anticipate.
I’m reminded, however, that there are other types of seasons, seasons that have nothing to do with the calendar. A small group discussion about my book, Postcards from the Widows’ Path, recently touched on a season that nobody likes—a season of waiting. Whether it’s waiting for something simple like a package or letter to arrive in the mail, or something momentous like the birth of a baby, it’s not the most comfortable of times. Life seems to hold its breath. Many have experienced this with pandemic restrictions and social distancing. Other situations in life add to this feeling of limbo—perhaps a loved one is in prison, in another country, or out of work. The season of waiting might be a time filled with happy anticipation, or if we’re waiting for a doctor’s diagnosis or the inevitable death of a loved one, it can be a time filled with dread, anxiety, and sorrow.
A dear lady I know in the Midwest is currently asking for prayer as she spends the final days with both her parents. Imagine that—both parents at once. She posted pictures of them on social media, and I was reminded of my own parents’ passing. There comes a point of no return in age or health; sometimes we can see it; sometimes we can’t. From her photos, I’m quite sure her parents will be gone by the time you are reading this. I don’t think she’ll regret that she traveled to be with them in their last days, even though it was very hard for her. She’s now started into a season of life called “Grief.” It’s when all of life congeals and intensifies. Emotions— all of them— sadness, anger, love, hope, despair, and even happiness—rise to the tip of our tongue, the top of our tear ducts, and swell within the weight of our heart. Grief stirs and layers all our memories, experiences, and feelings.
Besides springtime, are you in a season of waiting or a season of grief right now? It’s a relief to know that seasons are temporary. They do, eventually, change. A friend of mine in California recently spent four days helping a young family move to a different house. The young mother was nursing a two-month-old infant. If you’ve been in a similar situation, I’m sure you can understand the almost constant crying of that hungry, stressed-out baby. My friend was grateful her children are almost grown! But babies grow, and seasons change.
Sometimes grief does not pass or change as quickly as we want. It does require time. I’ve found that the old saying “time heals all wounds” is not entirely true, however. Time passing is no guarantee that grief will pass, although it does help. Love is a better key, and I don’t mean getting married again. Loving life itself—the fact that you are alive and thankful that you can see, hear, taste, smell, touch, talk, laugh, and cry—is what will heal the wound of grief. It takes time to choose that shift to thankfulness, and it takes honestly grieving. It’s hard work and cannot be rushed, but it will be resolved with time and love.
Just as the seasons change, they also come around again. So, too, the season of grief will revisit. Let it. It will be a bit different, it won’t be welcomed, it won’t be polite, but let it come. It won’t last as long if you don’t fight it. Allow it to come again and again. Lean into it. Each time will help it wear itself out.
Sometimes we are helpless to love life again. If grief seems to have taken over your life and if every day feels the same as the day your heart was first broken, you might be caught in a season called “Complicated Grief.” Everyone wants to be over their sorrow in about two weeks. Everyone longs to be normal. But grief does take time. If you are grieving the loss of a spouse, you were probably married for years, decades, or over half a century! It will take more than a couple of weeks, and more than a couple of months, to work through such a loss. Take it at your own pace; your own pace is what is normal—we cannot compare our grief to the grief of others.
Complicated grief requires some extra help. I believe everyone can benefit from talking to someone and finding the right kind of help at any point in grief, and sometimes the earlier, the better. But if you think you might have complicated grief, then finding some professional help is best. This is not a complete list, but here are some of the signs and symptoms to seek help for:
• No change or healing of your sorrow: every day feels like the first. This burden has lasted well beyond your first year.
• Depression—thoughts of suicide, despair, hopelessness, etc.
• Physical problems—uncontrollable weight loss or weight gain, chronic insomnia, medical issues, etc.
• PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder: some of the symptoms are nightmares, and/or flashback memories of traumatically difficult times or death scenes, etc.
• You’ve experienced more than one loss in a short period of time, and/or unresolved grief from the past has surfaced.
There’s one last season, and it happens now in April. It’s the Easter season—the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Did you know that His resurrection means we can live again, too, no matter how much life has knocked us down? I’ve been helping widows for over a decade because it’s like watching someone come back to life. It’s not easy for them, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s the closest thing to a resurrection I’ll ever see, and it’s a season of pure joy.
Easter blessings to you,
Ferree Hardy has helped thousands of widows through her book, “Postcards from the Widows’ Path,” small groups, speaking, and personal coaching, but touching one life at a time is what matters most to her. She holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute, and was a pastor’s wife in Ohio for over twenty years before her first husband died. She’s happily remarried now, and her readers know that moving seems to have become a hobby for her. But she also enjoys backyard chickens, aims to read fifty books a year, and loves to bake. Learn more by visiting her blog.