When was the last time you went through a difficult time? Years ago? Yesterday?
We all struggle at some point. It’s really difficult sometimes to know how to get through that tough time. Where to turn for support, for help, how to make it through a given day.
Five years ago, I was suddenly single–widowed. We were now victims, survivors, of suicide. Our world turned upside down, on its side, and every which-way. It was a very dark period. But it was also very fruitful. A wise friend told me that I had to go through this, to grieve, endure the struggle before I could move on. And move on I did, eventually, when God allowed me to.
I’d like to share with you some things I learned during that dark time. Some things were told to me, wise words from wise friends. Some things I learned on my own. All these things were of incredible importance to me and vital for my very survival. There was real value in my struggle.
Feel the Pain
Don’t drown in it in alcohol or suppress it with pills. It’s bitter and it hurts. But you’ve got to feel it in order to move on. A widowed friend of mine told me “You’re never so alive as when you’re in pain.” Shocking, right? My silent reaction was what the heck kind of thing is that to say?! But she was right. When you’re in pain, God is working. He’s shaping, remolding, reforming you. He’s fixing the broken parts, refining them like gold. He’s doing a great work in your heart. He was rebuilding mine, making it stronger, more capable, more aware of me. He was taking the shattered pieces and putting them together in this beautiful patchwork creation.
Talk to People
I talked to a lot of friends. Some were new friends who reached out to me and I was thankful. I needed to hear what people had to say. Some offered the hard words that I needed to hear, like my friend above. Others offered simply a shoulder and the words I also needed to hear “everything will be alright.” Both kinds of friends were right. Both were necessary. I needed someone to just listen. I cried for almost a month straight. I’m serious. I had managed to put off my grief for about six months. When someone dies it’s nearly a full-time job dealing with the practical side of it: we had to move; he had pension and bills and all that to settle; I had to redo my will and my advance directive for health care; I had to change the name on the title of my car, my bank accounts, my utilities. I had a lot of necessary “busy work” to attend to. My children needed me more than ever so I was able to focus on their grief and ignore mine.
I hit that brick wall of grief at about the six-month mark and came to the point where it was my turn to start dealing with everything. And it came in a ball the size of six months of pent-up grief and pain and hit me all at once. And I cried for a solid month. I cried in the shower, I cried in bed, I cried while working, driving, attending sporting events. I cried all the way through church. Once the tears started, there was no damming those suckers up. I lived in a small town. Most everyone knew us, knew what we had suffered, and simply understood. I didn’t feel embarrassed about it. I had to live. I couldn’t just stay in our house until the crying jag was up. I had to power through and let the emotions flow and I am still thankful that people let me. I met with my sister-in-law in between in our two towns on Fridays. I cried on the drive there, the drive back, and the whole time we talked. I’m sure all the McDonald’s patrons thought I’d flipped my lid but I didn’t care. It was what I needed. I needed her ear.
Read and Write
I did both. I wrote a lot and I read a lot. I wrote letters people would never read. I wrote a letter expressing my anger and forgiveness. I wrote furiously. I wrote fiction. I read books people gave me and they helped. I immersed myself into writings of the struggles of others and how they survived. Kurt and Brenda Warner’s story helped me. I won’t forget it. A sweet friend gave me Brenda’s book and I devoured it. And it helped me. I read on my Kindle app on my tiny phone late at night, a book recommended by a former pastor about a current pastor whose wife and sons were murdered by his daughter. It was a true story of tremendous grief and pain that he survived. And it helped me. I started a blog back then that I don’t even recall the name of and I wrote only for me. It’s hidden somewhere on the internet, even to me. But it exists and it helped me.
Help Someone Else
It’s really true that when you help someone else through a struggle, it ends up helping you. It gets you outside your own head for a bit. You concentrate on something and someone besides your pain. Don’t get so absorbed that it distracts you completely from dealing with your own junk, but allow it to distract you for a an hour or a day so you not only get a break but you offer support someone else who needs it.
Pray, Pray, Pray
Talk to God. Every day talk to Him. Write to Him, yell at Him, whatever you need. He can take it! Talk out loud with Him and have those conversations, ask those questions. He’s listening, I promise you. Tell Him what you need and how you feel. Cry out to Him. He hears your heart. He loves your heart. I cried, prayed, reasoned, questioned, asked Him to get this pain off me. It felt like it was a heavy lead blanket that you wear when you have an x-ray. It was with me all the time. I couldn’t take it off or great a break from it. It oppressed me and weighed me down. It was suffocating. But for a time, it was necessary to wear that around, to feel it, deal with it, and find a way to free myself.
God carried me through those days. I know it with every fiber of me. I couldn’t walk it alone. Friends couldn’t be with me 24/7, but God could. And He was. I could barely function some days. “Grief is exhausting,” someone had told me and boy, were they right. I worked at home which was a huge blessing, especially then. I sufficiently cared for my children, fed them, got them to and from school, and attended all their activities and tried to do some fun things with them as well. I barely did housework (sorry, but it’s true aside from dishes and laundry), I worked as much as I could but sometimes it wasn’t as much as I should. I was physically and emotionally spent. I literally had no energy. He carried me.
Let People Help You
We need people. We are not meant to go through life alone. That’s how Eve got here, right? Alone time is good but it’s not good all the time. We need each other. We needed to move. I couldn’t do it alone. I had two small children and was a puddle of grief (see above!), and also, not Superman. I couldn’t move an entire household with fifteen years of life in it. But a church family could and they did. Friends helped me car shop when our vehicle died shortly after my first husband. Friends helped me move. A dear friend took my daughter shopping for items to spruce up her new bedroom in the rental house we’d move into.
Some kind and beautiful stranger (I have my suspicions but still don’t know who did it), buzzed into our driveway and plowed me out early one morning. I don’t know who did it. It wasn’t our kindly neighbor who’d give it a scrape when it needed it sometimes. It was somebody who knew we needed it and to this day (even as I write this), it brings tears to my eyes. See? That one thing that took that person five or ten minutes out of their life that they may have never given a second thought to…it meant and still means a lot to me. Because they cared.
People came alongside us and asked what we needed. Sometimes I’d decline but sometimes I needed what they were offering and accepted. People are kind, friends. They really are if we give them the chance. And they’ll step up because something in us wants to ease the suffering of others. We don’t like people to hurt and we don’t like to be the hurting. So we reach out and offer whatever we can…a meal, a plowed driveway, an afternoon of babysitting, money, a book…whatever we can, to make someone else feel loved and supported.
Whatever you are struggling with today, please reach out to someone. Don’t be shy or humble or afraid. We all need each other. That’s why we’re here and why God didn’t just create one person. We need people. We can’t do this on our own and we don’t have to, because we have each other. Life is not a solo gig. Reach out. Help someone. Allow yourself to be the someone who receives that help.
Be encouraged for you are not alone!
Melanie Pickett is a mom, second wife, and domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor who’s living her second calling as a writer. Melanie has battled Crohn’s disease and complications for over 20 years. Having survived a 15-year abusive first marriage, Melanie shares with her readers what she learned through that experience to encourage and inspire others. Melanie has been featured on Huffington Post, The Mighty, Splickety Magazine, Whole Magazine, and Sonoma Christian Home where she’s an Associate Intern Editor. Melanie’s favorite thing to do is spend time with her teenage children, husband, and black pug Gracie. She also loves to read, enjoy the beach and Great Lake near her home, workout (when health allows), and dabble in photography. One of Melanie’s favorite quotes is “We were born to be real, not to be perfect.”