October 17, 2009, I said goodbye. Pastor Paul Giesbrecht’s motorcycle accident was horrific, unexpected, tragic. It was my worst nightmare; I was the one to find him, a crumpled heap by the side of the road, less than five minutes after the crash. The worst part was the feeling of helplessness as his life slipped away from me. In the past, we’d faced many other difficulties, and I was able to fix most anything. But the fatal injuries he sustained that day won out. Paul was the love of my life, husband of 28 years, father of my two children, speaking and writing coach, best friend, and pastor.
That fateful day, I began a blind trek down a lonely road through the valley of the shadow of death. I became a widow, a single parent, and my children now fatherless; I learned not only about death and dying but also about grieving. I learned my crazy feelings of grief were normal. I found out that grief is like an uninvited house guest who won’t go away. I discovered only I could grieve my own grief. But the most important thing I learned was how to be honest.
I worked through the Five Tasks of Grief by Dr. De Vries, shared in Nancy and 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 learned the most important thing for me to do was to grieve my own grief. I chose to put effort into moving through my grief. When people pressured me or made comments about how I should be doing, I decided to let them talk, and then I answered, “I will let you know what I need. Thank you for your prayers.”
Now I am constantly encouraged by scripture: “God heals the brokenhearted, he binds up their wounds.” Psalm 34:18.“The day you die is better than the day you are born,” Ecclesiasties 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,” Is. 57:1–2.
My farewell to my beloved began the day he died. It will continue for the remainder of my days on earth.
Dear Lord, thank you for Pastor Paul’s life. He taught me so much about life and love. Thank you for the way you used him to influence me. I pray for my grieving process, help me to be honest. I pray for my children, may you heal their broken hearts. I pray for the family, who continue to miss Paul’s smile, laughs, jokes, presence. Thank you – we know we will see him again. When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. Thank you for the opportunity to look forward to that day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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