My oldest daughter and I snuck into the back of the church just before the memorial service started. She asked me to go with her to support one of her classmates, whose dad had died several months earlier while out for a jog. Because of the pandemic, the family had waited to host this celebration of his life so more people could attend.
We listened to stories about his life, how he met his wife, his time in the military, the way he faithfully supported our school and the students. We belly laughed as friends from his childhood and younger days shared stories. The school choir sang some of his favorites. I couldn’t help but think back to that day seven years earlier when I had sat in the front row of the very same sanctuary. Back then, it was us who shared stories and celebrated the life of my husband Ericlee, who had died of cancer at age forty.
I remember sitting next to my three daughters, who were two, five, and eight at the time, and my mother-in-law, who was burying her only son. My family and friends filled the pews behind us — hundreds of them. We laughed and cried in much the same way the family before us did. And I wondered, then, what the future would hold: How could God redeem a situation like ours? How would I survive without my beloved?
After the memorial service, my daughter and I hung back. She wanted to greet her friend, and I felt like I should introduce myself to this young widow mama. I just wanted to hug her neck and tell her God was going to take care of her and her kids.
As we made our way down the aisle, the woman looked up and welcomed me with her dark eyes. I awkwardly introduced myself. “I already know who you are,” she quipped. “I don’t want to be a part of your club.”
I was taken aback at first, but I understood what she meant. Nobody wants to be part of the Widows Club. It’s a club we do not choose. We feel thrust into it when most of us would rather scream and run in the opposite direction. And yet, there’s a profound comfort I’ve found in connecting with other widow mamas through the years.
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you didn’t choose to be part of the Single Moms Club, the Infertility Club, the Mental Illness Club, the Divorced Women’s Club, or the fill-in-the-blank-here club, but I’m here to remind you that God has a tender place in His heart for you, just as He did for me as a newly-minted widow.
He has a heart for women who are vulnerable in all kinds of challenging life circumstances. God comforted Hannah, who called herself a “woman with a broken heart” because of her infertility, and He eventually gave her a son (1 Samuel 1:1-20).
Jesus went out of His way to meet a Samaritan woman at the well, who had been through five husbands. He revealed Himself as the Messiah and sent her out to share her story with others (John 4:1-39).
Jesus comforted His dear friends Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died. He wept with them even though He knew He was going to perform a miracle and raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-53).
Friends, we need to make space for grief. We cannot forge ahead without tending to our trauma and our tender places. We all have experienced loss in a variety of ways. Grief does not go away. It can’t be pushed down or stuffed in the closet. Grief will leak out when we least expect it.
I got a message this week from one of my best friends that her mama, who has been fighting cancer for years, is weakening. My friend is praying for strength to be her caregiver. My mind floats back to those final weeks of my husband’s life. A friend told me it was a “sacred privilege” to be able to usher him to Heaven. In my exhaustion and anticipatory grief, I had a hard time understanding how this was a privilege. Looking back, I know it was, indeed, a gift.
Another dear friend sent me a message that her abuelito graduated to heaven. She’s flying to her homeland of El Salvador to be with her family who is mourning. I pray for safe travels and for her young daughter who must stay behind with her daddy.
There’s a circle of grief and glory that does not end until we take our last breath on this earth and cross that finish line into eternity with Jesus. Sometimes that circle feels like riding the merry-go-round on the playground. The world whizzes by, and you can’t quite find your bearings in the grief. But if we lift our heads, the light and glimpses of God’s glory are there too. Even in the tenderness of grief, we get that feeling of earth-meeting-sky, of mourning-waltzing-with-joy, of life-kissing-death.
My twelve-year-old comes into my room before bed. “Mom, I just watched Dad’s funeral on YouTube!” I search her face and realize she is not stricken with grief like one might expect. Instead, she possesses a surprising joy.
“I don’t remember any of those stories from the funeral,” she says. “It was so cool to hear the impact he had on people.”
My girl lost her daddy when she was just five years old. She was like tissue paper back then — beautiful and ever-fragile in her grief. I draw her close and inhale the tangy-sweetness of her skin. This is where the grief and glory meet. And this is where God meets us.
Ruth Mills says
Amen! God is the master of turning ashes into beauty & He provides beauty in the midst of the ashes to encourage us thru the ash heap. Thank you for sharing!
I’m so grateful for the ways He cares for the suffering and redeems all things for His glory!
Dawn Lopez says
Thank You For Your stories. What A Blessing For Me. God Bless You All!!
Thank you for your encouragement, Dawn!
Making space for grief, indeed. I have been a member of the widow’s club for 3 years. I am 67. I struggle with PTSD because of how my husband died. But I know I got through the worst of it because of God’s loving presence. And as much as I cherish time with friends and family, I still have times when I do not want to be around others. I believe the death has brought me closer to God.
Thank you for your comforting thoughts.
Madeline, my heart is with you as you navigate this grief. I know my husband’s death has brought me closer to God too!
Beth Williams says
I didn’t want to be a part of the dementia/geriatric psych club. When your dad goes “nuts” & tries to put a fist to your face. It was a hard time. Life was like that merry-go-round whizzing by me as I took care of & checked on him daily. God & a good friend, who had her own aging parent troubles at same time, got me through that rough time. God even spoke to me during that time. I was visiting dad at the assisted living during lunch. Two men were at the ends of the table-dad sat in middle trying to eat. He shook so bad that food never hit his mouth. I offered to feed him & he allowed. One fellow said “You will get stars in your crown for this”. WOW!! It felt like a sacred time for me. God telling me that I was doing His bidding-leaving a good job & caring for dad.
Beth, thank you for sharing your experience. Caregiving is a hard and sacred privilege. I remember caring for my Grandpa in his days of dementia.
Thank you for the heartfelt reminder. <3
Always clinging to the hope of His glory! Thank you!
Krista C. says
My mom went to be with Jesus March of this year. Loss & grief are so hard. Thank you for sharing this & reminding me that Jesus is with me as I navigate through this loss & helping my Dad who would be celebrating their 49th anniversary this month.
Krista, I’m so sorry for your loss. I pray you and your dad will discover glimpses of His glory in this anniversary.
Lovely words. Thank you, Dorina.
Bless you! Thanks for reading!
Becky Keife says
This is where He meets us.
Yes. Amen. Grief and glory mingling together—Jesus never once forsaking us in our sorrow. Thank you for these beautiful reminders. Love you, friend.
I know you’ve lived this too, my friend. The circle of grief and glory leads us back to Him.
Thank you for this poignant post. Clubs I wouldn’t choose or wish on anyone else but have become a part of: “heartbroken mothers of a prodigal” club and also “family members left their earthly life through suicide” club. With the Lord’s strength & comfort and the prayers & support of Christian friends, we’ll make it through.
Thank you for sharing your experience. May God meet you in the circle of grief and glory. He is so tender toward us.
Janet Williams says
Oh Dorina you are such a beautiful writer. I feel your heart in every word I read.
Thank you for being such a humble blessing to women you will encounter in a club they don’t want to be a member of!
Janet, your encouragement means so much to me! I’m so grateful you can resonate with these words.
Nancy Ruegg says
Dorina, your story offers dazzling hope for those in the midst of dark gloom. Thank you for reminding us–from your own personal experience–that God does indeed offer glimpses of his glory no matter where we find ourselves. SO impactful to our well-being when we remember!
Nancy, we have to cling to hope! Thank you for your words of encouragement! They mean so much to me.
Allison Wixted says
So beautiful and true, Dorina! I’ve found myself a member of many clubs I’d rather have avoided, but I’m cheering alongside you that the bumpy roads of grief and glory pave the way to Christ! Hugs and prayers from a multi-club-carrying sister who digs deep each morning to find the silver linings courtesy of His unwavering grace.
I love how you articulated that! He meets us in the grief and glory! With you, sister!
Aimee R. says
I am a member of the “survivor of suicide” club, losing my brother was a grief unimaginable -Only God could provide me strength to get through each day. Praying for those who experience pain, grief and sorrow. God catches each tear in a bottle and never, ever leaves us. Thank you Father for your love and faithfulness to your children.
Aimee, I’m deeply sorry for your loss. Thank you fir sharing your story and encouragement here.
Theresa Boedeker says
Dorina, so beautiful. We get through these hard times the best we can and struggle to survive. We don’t ask to be in so many clubs, and neither did the other people in the club. But when we can see the beauty despite the club we are put in, when it can grow our empathy and love for others in the same and different situations, when we can trust God and his word, when we can learn and become better people despite the unchosen circumstance, then it is beautiful and it blesses us and others. there will be grief to wade through. Questions unanswered. But God can weave it into beauty.
Theresa, I appreciate your encouragement and perspective on this. Beauty in the ashes. We have to have our eyes and hearts open to how God is working even in our grief.