Pam and I are both writers who are part of a group called Hopewriters. We met in person several years ago at the World Conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors. I sat in on her workshop and listened intently as she shared her story and suggestions on how to help widows navigate grief. I resonated with so many of her personal experiences and her practical advice. I’m grateful she is sharing her words with all of us here today.
Guest post by Pam Luschei
Living in southern California for over 40 years, I’ve kept several earthquake kits in my garage. Flashlights, candles, water and canned food offer reassurance that I will survive in an emergency. Thankfully, I’ve never had to use them. I like to be prepared for emergencies. But what about the disaster you don’t prepare for? Is there a survival plan when your world turns upside down?
In 2018, my husband and I had just returned from a missions trip to Costa Rica where we had spent 10 days serving, encouraging and helping pastors in the lush hills of this beautiful country. We were reflecting on the trip, and I had left the room. When I returned, it looked like my husband had fallen asleep. As I got closer, I saw that something was definitely wrong. I immediately called 911 and cried out to Jesus in a panic. I contacted both my adult children at work.
The ambulance came and made attempts to revive him on the floor in the hallway before they took him to the hospital. My son came to get me and we rushed to the hospital. My daughter was waiting in the lobby of the ER for us. The three of us were taken into the room where the medical staff were still trying to resuscitate my husband. He was not responding.
The doctor said they did everything they could. I stared at my husband’s lifeless body. It was the beginning of my worst nightmare. I had entered an emergency that I did not prepare for.
In reflecting back to the early days following my husband’s sudden death, I felt like I was in the emotional ICU for my broken heart. I was in need of soul rehab to begin the process of healing. Desperate, I started a journey to find ways to survive.
During the first weeks and months I would get up, grab my coffee and open my Bible to the Psalms. I was in search of “spiritual oxygen” to fill my lungs so I could make it through the day, one hour at a time, sometimes just 15 minutes at a time. I found the Psalms of lament gave voice to where I was. The words in Psalm 77:1 described my condition: “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God and he will hear me. I sought the Lord in my day of trouble” (CSB).
These were much needed words to echo my condition. The words of Psalm 46:1 (CSB), “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” Like an oxygen tank, these words would fill my spiritual lungs to keep going.
In my pain I sensed the need to move my body. Most mornings I would put on my walking shoes and grab the leash to my 14-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer and head out the door. The physical movement of walking became a way of “walking out my grief.”
Six months after my husband died, a friend became a companion in grief when she lost her husband. We met every week to walk, talk and weep together, giving motion to our emotions. It was like “physical therapy” to manage my grief. Research has proven the benefits of exercise to manage our emotions as it helps enhance our brain chemistry to improve mood. Walking proved to be another form of treatment I needed to heal.
Grief expert and author, Dr. H. Norman Wright, says, “The more you learn about grief the more you’ll be able to handle it better.”
Wisdom from someone who knows the pain of losing both his wife and son. I became a student of grief, leading me to read books on grief by others who walked the journey.
Someone gave me a journal and I began filling the pages with my words the first year. Words going into my soul and words coming out became the nourishment I needed to recover.
Surviving the first year of loss was like coming out of the ICU on crutches. I was broken, but breathing; wounded, but walking, and shaken, but standing. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4 described how I felt: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, CSB).
My condition was part of the human experience. By God’s grace, strength, comfort, and peace, I was still upright, being held and holding onto Jesus. God was faithful and continues to be my refuge and helper. Somewhere in the first year, I found hope to make my exit out of the ICU.
As I’ve grown in my grief experience and processed the pain of loss these past four years, I have a greater capacity to empathize and walk with people who are hurting. From the peace and comfort I’ve received from God’s Word. I can offer hope to others who are grieving.
2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of afflictions, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (CSB).
The cycle of how God gave me comfort so that I could offer comfort to others is one of the most palatable outcomes I’ve experienced. During my “rehab of the heart,” I’ve discovered hope, comfort and strength to move forward as God faithfully carries me through.
Pam weaves her background as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist for over 20 years, as she writes, teaches, and speaks to women, offering hope and encouragement in difficult seasons. She has been recently published in the DaySpring book, Sweet Tea for the Soul; Comforting, Real-life Stories for Grieving Hearts. She shares her journey through her web site or you can find her on Instagram.