Over the past week, I’ve continued to be touched by the support I’ve received from family, friends, and readers. It’s been three months since I realized that I was losing my marriage. On the one hand, that’s a short amount of time and it’s still unbelievable; on the other hand, I’ve traveled on through a quarter of a year and the reality is settling in. Waiting to share our news, resulted in a delayed effect on others, especially those who’ve known us for years, so they’re just now expressing their disbelief. Absorbing these reactions has forced another round of my own shock and disbelief.
One of my good friends told me how she’d coped when her significant other had broken off their relationship after many years.
“I hung on to one Bible verse during that time: “Be Still and Know that I’m God” (Ps. 46:10). Saying it over and over helped me, especially when I couldn’t sleep at night.”
Lately, I’ve felt tired– both physically and emotionally. My life was very full when this happened. Now, the energy needed to get through this grief has left me just plodding with one foot in front of the other, going through the motions and at times, feeling almost numb. It helps to remember my friend’s verse through her struggle. All I think I can do now is Be Still.
Sometimes in that resting on God, I sit in the quiet. But other times, I depend on companions to walk with me through this time of grief– ones I don’t have to respond to. These same companions have joined me on my solo journeys: music and books.
Early on, I listened to the Blues, especially my favorite artist, B.B. King. One night during a dismal rain, I drove around the town of Chapel Hill and the university and hospital campuses remembering the places David and I had shared.
That night, and since then, I’ve tried to follow my therapist’s advice and just allow myself to feel the sadness– not pushing it out of my awareness. Listening to the blues helps me to express those feelings and reminds me that we all experience this at different times in our lives. I’m not alone.
Sometimes, I listen to songs of faith, especially those that what would be considered contemporary Christian music. As I wrote in my memoir, He Heard My Voice, music by the group Third Day speaks to me. Through the time since our separation, I‘ve been listening to their CD, Wherever You Are. As a Christian, the song “Cry Out to Jesus” reminds me that God is present, he hears my voice now as he has in the past.
When I listen to the song “Eagles” and hear the words, “I will soar on the wings of eagles, I will learn to fly high above this world” my hope is boosted.
And sometimes, I listen to the songs I love to swing dance to, like my favorites by Van Morrison, “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Bright Side of the Road.” These are the ones that help me get out of my head–even if I’m not at the dance. Hearing these songs gives me more energy and reminds me of the joy that is still present.
My other companions during this journey are books. Some have been excerpts from devotionals, sent to bring me comfort and counsel. This week I received a card from a friend and inside she included a copy of a devotional from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. She’d underlined sections that helped her when she went through a devastating divorce, including “ask that I may preserve the self God created me to be through every fire of sorrow” and later, “If you receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.”
For years, I’ve been amazed at the uncanniness of finding the ‘right book at the right time.’ In my memoir, I describe how I experienced this on my journey to Jekyll Island, South Carolina. I found a paperback at Jekyll Books written by Joan Anderson that validated how solo journeys can help forge your true identity.
Three weeks ago– right before we told everyone our news, I visited a new coffee shop named Karma in my hometown. I noticed that they had a bookshelf that was a Little Free Library– where you could take a book, or leave a book. I quickly glanced through the shelves and selected one by an author I’ve never read.
Slowly reading Belva Plain’s novel, Fortune’s Hand, I’m struck by the ways I relate to the characters and their struggles. While it’s different from my situation, some of it has helped me to come to a better understanding of this unexpected chapter in my life. I don’t know if picking that book was just a happy coincidence, serendipity, my subconscious, the Holy Spirit, or what– but whatever was at work, that book published in 1999 helped me.
For me, the raw grief that is described in the novel is akin to what I experienced when reading Ecclesiastes years ago in the month after my father died; it felt pessimistic at the same time as reassuring that all of us face difficulties in life. In the novel and in that book of the Bible are universal truths that are hard. Reading both made me feel less isolated knowing that others’ share with me in going through trials.
I’m thankful for the gifts of music and books. They require nothing of me but to be available, receptive. They are companions along my path as I continue this solo journey.
How About You?
What companions have been there with you as you’ve gone through your seasons of grief?