Hope and Healing~

Are there books you have purchased multiple copies of, just to give away to others?  Two immediately come to mind for me; I’ve purchased extra copies of Angela Miller’s You are the Mother of All Mothers for mothers who are grieving the loss of a child, and also the Zondervan Hope in the Mourning Bible.  

hope-in-the-mourning

Yesterday’s mail brought what was probably the tenth copy I’ve purchased of this book. It seems like I’m always giving my copy away to someone I think needs it. Not only is it is my favorite version of the Bible (NIV), but the devotionals interspersed throughout are uplifting and inspiring. The only thing that would make it better is if it was softcover, because I prefer softcover Bibles.

The morning my husband died, I knew I needed two things; heart-felt praying, and God’s word. And yet, I wasn’t sure how to find either. I prayed for guidance, and God did not fail me. He brought the right people into my life; those who consistently and fervently prayed for me, and a young woman (who’s since become my daughter-in-law), who sent me notebook pages full of Bible verses. Also, just a few weeks after I lost my husband, I was asked to write some devotionals for a grief Bible. In order to write those eleven devotionals, I had to learn how to study the Bible for answers.

Bible devotional.jpg

In the meantime, I was writing and blogging about the dark path of loss that resulted in an incredible  journey of faith. Hope in the Mourning was released in 2013, the same year my book, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace was released.

Writing, whether it was journaling, blogging, or working on articles and books, was very healing for me. I have since studied the science behind expressive writing for healing, and find it fascinating. A writer by trade, it seemed only natural that I’d chosen writing as my choice of therapy. Sometimes, I flip through the pages of the journal I began writing in the day after my husband’s death, and though it hurts to revisit that extraordinary pain I was experiencing then, I can see how the act of writing my way through grief may have saved me.

journals
James Pennebaker, a professor at the University of TX, has spent the last 40 years studying the link between writing and emotional processing. He’s studied those suffering from cancer, illness, and loss, dividing study participants into two groups: one that would write about emotionally charged topics, and the other about common, everyday things, for just 20 minutes a day for 3-4 days. In each study, he found that the people writing about emotionally-charged episodes experienced marked improvement in their physical and mental well-being. They were happier, less depressed, less anxious. In the months following the writing sessions, they had lower blood pressure, improved immune function, and fewer visits to the doctor. They also reported better relationships, improved memory and more success at work.

This is the research behind my two newest projects; I’ve signed a book contract for a journal for those mourning the loss of a loved one, and I’ve devised a workshop to help guide those who are just getting started in journaling, or who want to utilize expressive writing to help work their way through painful experiences. I presented the “Expressive Writing for Healing” workshop at the Heal Your Grief retreat in October, and hope to present it at other conferences. Besides these two projects, next month I’m registered to attend a workshop for those who work with the bereaved.

Because I’ve discovered something else, besides writing, promotes emotional healing~ helping others.

 

I Am Where I’m Supposed To Be

This afternoon I waited in a church pew until after the homily, when Father called me up to speak about the Bible Study I am beginning in April.

walking-toward-eternity-daring

When I finished speaking, I returned to my pew and sat through the rest of the Mass until everyone else was leaving.

It wasn’t the fact that I stood in front of a congregation and spoke about David, and loss, and needing Bible verses that is so extraordinary to me. As I stood in front of a crowd, reading things like this, I did not cry;

“The next morning, I found my husband non-responsive in his recliner. Sometime during the night, his heart had stopped, and I thought mine had broken in two. Our youngest was just eight years old. I had not been raised to memorize Bible verses, and studying the Bible had not been a part of my upbringing, despite having grown up in a devoutly Catholic home. Yet it was Bible verses I yearned for in those first days after David’s death.”

My voice did not waver or shake as I continued to share the reason behind my wanting to begin a Bible Study;

“How could I have reached the age of 50 before I held my own study Bible? I needed healing, and the road to healing was right inside this book. I prayed that God would help me find my answers. Within days of that prayer, a young friend sent me two pages of Bible verses she’d written down on notebook paper. “Something prompted me to write these down for you,” she wrote, followed by verses like this:  Psalm 147:3 God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

No, it wasn’t the fact that at the beginning of the very week of the one-year anniversary of David’s death I would speak at church that was such an extraordinary event, it was the fact that I stayed for the rest of the Mass.

You see, only my children are aware that I have been unable to stay for an entire church service since David’s death. The music, the sight of older couples holding hands, the poignancy of greeting other parishioners after the “Our Father” was just too much for me.  David loved greeting people; reaching out eagerly all around him to shake hands. David and I held hands during part of the Mass. Beautiful music and certain songs pain my soul.

Before I know it, my eyes are stinging, my throat and chest are filling with un-shed tears, and I have to leave. And though I will need to leave each service early tomorrow so that I can hit all four Masses, two in nearby towns, tonight I was determined to stay.

This Wednesday, it will have been a year since David died. There it is, written down in capital letters on my calendar; ONE YEAR. As if I’d forget.

I mentioned in my last blog posting how good it felt to have fun when I conduct coupon workshops. I enjoy my beginning writer’s workshops just as much. I am excited by the fact that in the next 45 days, I have 10 scheduled. I love doing them!

I’m also working on a book about grief and faith and have an outline for another book. The book that David encouraged me to write three years ago is being released by Familius Publishing in August.It is already available for pre-order on Amazon.

coupon crazy cover

My world is so much bigger than it was just four years ago. I laugh when I think that when my daughter perused my address book for friends to invite to a surprise birthday party for me in November of 2009, she had a hard time coming up with names beyond my family, my long-time friend Mary and a weight loss group I belonged to at the time. If her Dad was planning the surprise party today, there would be at least 30 more invitations going out, thanks to the women I have met at christian writer’s conferences and an increased involvement in the community.

After my short speech tonight, I sat in the pew, marveling at the changes in me just since David’s death. He wouldn’t have been surprised by my ten scheduled workshops; I’d just begun doing them a few months before he died. He’d observed how ecstatic I was after each one. I’d done two on the weekend that I brought him home after his heart attack, one the night before he’d died. While I am saddened I missed some precious time with him before his death, I remind myself of his huge grin when I stepped through the door that Monday night. Our eyes met and mine must have sparkling.

“Was it a good workshop? It looks like you had fun,” he’d remarked. I know I bent over to hug and kiss him, what might have been the last kiss we would share. I don’t remember if I kissed him before I went up to bed, exhausted.

“You are flying. This is your time to fly. You are soaring,” my husband was saying in early 2012, and I think he believed I could do anything I set my mind to. In those first few weeks after his death, I wasn’t sure I would be able to do much of anything ever again. Now, nearly a year later, I can’t help but wonder what God has in store for me next.

Sitting in that pew tonight, after a speech that was well-received, I thought to myself, This is where I am supposed to be. This is what I am supposed to be doing. Someone in here needs to hear this. Someone in this church needs that Bible study.

anniversary and books 004

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11