I’ve got remember to tell Paul, I thought. My daughter-in-law Megan’s face glowed (She is now great with child.) in her last trimester, and I listened intently as she excitedly explained the preparations for the baby’s birth. And then it dawned on me, Oh yeah, Paul isn’t here; he’s in heaven with Jesus. October 17, 2009, was the day Paul was promoted to heaven—the day everything changed.
On this five-year anniversary of the death of Pastor Paul Giesbrecht, I’ve decided to spend the rest of my life remembering. “Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there is deep love.” —Zig Ziglar
I want to remember our life and love together. I’ve learned how thoroughly I loved Paul and continue to love him even in his death. You might ask, “How can this be, since you are remarried?” My love for Paul didn’t end, although his physical life on this earth did. I know he is alive and well in heaven. I loved our life together; we had twenty-eight years of fun family times and fruitful ministry opportunities. Biologically, we had two great children, Sarah and Ben, along with countless spiritual children who were products of the numerous hours of prayer and ministry. Grief is described as: emotion-filled, change, intense emotional suffering derived from a Latin verb meaning burden. My memories involve bearing the “burden of grief.” Although Paul is physically not with us, I have fond and cherished reminiscences of our life together. These recollections keep that part of Paul’s life contributions vibrant, and his legacy is revealed in innumerable ways.
I want to remember how difficult it is to lose someone you love. “You and I will be different because of our grief,” H. Norman Wright says in his booklet Experiencing Grief. This is true. However, the griever has a choice. Will you let grief take you to a place of compassion for others? Or will you be stuck in selfishly running awful-izing circles around your own losses? (Awful-lizing circles convince us that our situation is worse than anyone else’s and that God doesn’t care about us. This is a lie.) I chose to refuse to believe the lies grief tried to tell me by working through the “Five Tasks of Grief” by Dr. De Vries, shared in Nancy & David Guthrie’s GriefShare Recovery Group:
- Accept the fact your loved one has died and is not able to return.
It takes about six to nine months for the heart to catch up to what the mind knows is true. Take time to grieve.
- Give appropriate release to all of your emotions.
Emotions need to be expressed, not pent up. Don’t store them; they always come out, one way or another.
- Separate and store the memories of your loved one.
When your loved one died, their history has stopped. When you treasure or recall memories, it makes room for you to move on. “My loved one died. Their history ended; everything now about my loved one is in the past tense.”
- Separate your own identity from what it was with your spouse.
Accept and understand you are now a single. “I am no longer a couple. I am a widow.”
- Reinvest in life—fully in what God has called you to be and to do.
Realize you still have purposes that far outlive your spouse.
I want to remember to continue to let grief change me. “Grief changes us, the pain sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply, hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately, loves more openly.” —Author unknown
Grief can change us when we “lean into our personal grief.” This means to “grieve our own grief” and let our grief take us where it will. We can’t go around, over, under our grief, but we can put effort into moving through our grief. If people pressure us or make comments about how we should be doing, we can show grace and let them talk, then answer, “I will let you know what I need, thank you for your prayers.” Grief support groups like GriefShare™ are essential to help with this process.
I want to remember that Jesus’ death and resurrection provides comfort for all. Just this past June, my eighty-two-year-old father passed away suddenly. I thought, I’ve got to remember to tell Paul. And then I thought, Oh yeah, Paul already knows. Paul is there in heaven, too. Now Dad is with Jesus and with Paul. I want to remember Paul. I miss him deeply. Pastor Paul, Rock, the father of my children, has left a gaping hole in all of our lives that no one else can fill. Wait a minute—yes—there is One who can fill the hole. His name is Jesus. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” —Matthew 5:4
I want to remember God’s promises are enough to help me stand firm and look forward to my future. Today, I stand on His promises. Won’t you stand with me?
“God heals the brokenhearted, he binds up their wounds.” —Psalm 34:18,
“The day you die is better than the day you are born.” —Ecclesiastes 7:1
“The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. And no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For the godly who die will rest in peace.” —Isaiah 57:1–2
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” —John 14:2
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will pass away.” —Revelation 21:4
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for eternal life. Thank you for allowing us to know without a shadow of doubt that you are preparing a place for us. Heal our broken hearts, bind up our wounds. Thank you that you provide peace, comfort, and hope. May we freely give to others what you have so generously given us. In Jesus’ name, amen.