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20 Things I Learned From Being a Widow

“Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in His holy house.” Psalm 68:5

My name is Stacey Walton. I am a mother of two beautiful kiddos. A daughter named Myka Nicole and a son named Christopher Cade. I have been a banker since October 1998 and I have been a Christian since July 30, 1989 (I remember this date because it was my 8th birthday). I love my little world, but the last year has been the absolute hardest year of my entire life. I got married to my high school sweetheart, Chris Walton, September 16, 2000 when I was 19 years old.
My husband was strong, wise, compassionate, stern, funny, tall, and handsome, an awesome father, an amazing husband, a wonderful friend, the best son and the favorite uncle. He was/is the love of my life and I was able to have 19 wonderful years with him, 16.5 of those being married.May 8, 2017 started off like any other day, except for the fact that Chris and I were at his grandmother’s funeral. We had traveled to Granbury, TX for the funeral after she passed away from a long sickness. We woke up and spent the morning with Chris’ aunt and cousins and had a great day.
At the funeral Chris was getting his flower pinned to his lapel when he started not feeling well. Long story short, my husband at the age of 37, father of my two wonderful children and who I had spent the last 19 years just dropped and was gone. I say all of that so you understand a little bit of our back story. This last year as I stated has been the most difficult year of my entire life, harder than my parents’ divorce, harder than all of my surgeries, harder than Cade being sick the first few years of his life.
Chris and I had a great marriage, not perfect, but it was a great marriage. Saying that the last year has been difficult is an understatement. Knowing I will never be able to see him, hug him, kiss him, laugh with him, talk to him again is a very hard pill to swallow. I know I will see him again in our forever home in Heaven, but the human side of me is struggling knowing I won’t see the person I am supposed to grow old with again here on earth. These last months I have been very “aware” of some lessons I have learned being a widow.

1. Life is unfair. When a tragedy like this happens you will question “why” and ask yourself “what will I do without him?” You need to know that life isn’t fair, but you can and will get through this tragedy. You must depend on God to get you through this time and most importantly don’t blame God for this tragedy. God did not “take your husband.” God doesn’t bring us sadness, God is love. So yes, life is unfair, but our God is bigger.

2. You will doubt yourself. You will wake up anxious, scared and will doubt you can even do this alone. One of the first things I said to myself was, “How am I supposed to raise a man?” It scared me to death to raise two kids, no teenagers, alone. When I married I was supposed to have a partner during all of the seasons in life. Raising kids, retirement, grandkids, all of it. But you WILL be able to do it; you will have days where the anxiety will be so overwhelming that you won’t feel like you can make it one more day. But you will, you will make it. Just live moment by moment and FORCE yourself to get up, get dressed, put on your make up and do your normal daily routines. Go to work, take your kids to school, volunteer, whatever you normally do make sure you do it every day. You don’t need to doubt yourself, you can do this. This is a lesson I am still learning every day. I have a tendency to doubt myself still, but then I remember my God is bigger than my doubts.

3. You will be fine for a few days, weeks or even months, but then all of the sudden it will hit you and you will have a “bad” day where you will be emotional, crying, cranky, depressed, anxious and quiet. You will have no idea why this day of all days you aren’t having a good day. You might have a day where you will lash out at people, especially your kids. Please understand that this is normal (at least has been for me) and it’s ok. The key is to not allow yourself to fall into a hole of depression and make sure you keep moving on with life. You will want to stay in your bed and cry but you must keep living. Also others around you won’t understand how you could be fine in the morning than all of a sudden the afternoon rolls around and maybe you heard you and your husband’s favorite song and it triggered emotions. You know how you are feeling and don’t let anyone make you feel different. Those are your feelings and it is okay to express them however you want or need to at that time.

4. It’s okay to cry. Most importantly it’s okay to allow people and your kids to see you cry. We are human and we feel pain and sadness and that’s ok. Sometimes you will cry driving down the street or making dinner. Know it is okay to cry.

5. It is okay to ask for help. This one is a hard one for me. I want to prove to myself I can do it. “I am a smart person and I am a good momma and I can do this alone” The truth is you need a good support system. You need family and friends. Even going to a Christian License Counselor Professional is a good idea. I had the idea that if I ask for help, go to a counselor or even have to be placed on medicine, I was admitting that I didn’t trust God. That is not the case, as long as you are getting help from a Christian LCP and you have talked to your doctor about being on medicine for a season, not life, a season it does not make you less of a Christian to ask and get help. “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.” -Zian K. Abdelnour

6. Your kids will “blame” you for their daddy’s death. They know deep down that it isn’t your fault, but they need an outlet for the overwhelming grief they are experiencing. They need someone to “blame,” and they know you, as their momma, will love them regardless. Love them through this; the truth is they are suffering as well. Not in the same way but they are suffering, and in a way you may not understand if you still have your parents. They need you to be strong and they need their momma. You may feel they are distancing themselves from you and they might for a little bit. You will notice though that they don’t want you to be very far away. Your kids love you and they need you more than anything.

7. It is okay to take care of yourself. “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.” I was told this all the time and I am still being told this a year later. It is okay to take a long bath. It’s okay to go get a pedicure. It’s okay to want to take some time alone. You MUST rest; it will be hard to sleep. It’s been 1 year and I still don’t sleep through the night. But you need to take care of yourself and try to rest. You need to have little things to look forward to and you need to be intentional when you decide to do something for yourself. You WILL feel like you are being selfish if you decide to do something for yourself. You will feel like you need to do everything for your kids, but the truth is if you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be effective in your role as a mother, a friend, an employee, etc.

8. It is okay to give your kids grace for a season, but make sure it’s just for a season. If you allow it to go on too long they may get the attitude of entitlement. When my husband passed away I gave my kids a lot of grace about things. Their attitudes, not doing their chores, being hateful to each other, asking me to buy them anything and everything, etc. I would do the minimum for them to know I was still momma, but I did not have the emotional capacity to handle the drama. It was easier to “give in”. I knew my son was safe in his room playing Xbox, but I allowed him to seclude himself in the room too long. I allowed my daughter to have attitude with me and her brother because it was easier and emotionally I just could not handle it at the time. Sweet lady, understand that is okay. You are also grieving, and thereis no handbook on how to be a single momma or how to be a widow. All you can do is pray and trust that God has you in His arms.

9. Your role has changed. You may end up having to take on responsibilities that your partner normally handled. In my case, my husband was the disciplinarian and I was the support system. We made a great team, but now my role has changed. I am now the covering for my family. I am now the head of the household. Don’t let people put adult responsibilities on your children. Unbeknownst to me, someone told my son he was now the man of the house and needed to step up. He came to me later riddled with anxiety and, with tears in his eyes, said, “I don’t know how to be the man of the house!” I had to explain to him that wasn’t his job. It was MY job to take care of his sister and him. My advice to you, mother to mother, is do not allow ANYONE to tell your son that. It is not right to put that pressure on a child.

10. You will get overwhelmed. You will have so much going on in your life. Life will give you challenges and your children will try your patience, but what will overwhelm you is the realization that you no longer have a partner by your side.

11. You clean out your husband’s belongings when you are ready. That is not something anyone can decide for you. Personally it hurt too bad to walk into the closet and see his clothes hanging there so I ended up cleaning out his belongings only about a month after he passed away. Some may feel better waiting. It is your choice, no one else’s. Make sure you do it when you are ready.

12. You take off your wedding ring when you are ready. I had people ask me, “When are you going to stop wearing your ring?” “When will you start dating again?” Some of the things people have said to me are so inappropriate and makes me shake my head. All I can say is this: it took me 9 months before I felt comfortable taking off my ring. When I decided to do it, I was ready, but I would imagine this will be different for everyone. There isn’t a magic time to take off your ring. That also goes for dating. 1 Corinthians 7:39 says “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband’s dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” You are the only person who can tell you when it’s time to move on and start dating. Don’t let anyone dictate to you when its time “to move on”. You do it when you are ready or you may never be ready and that’s okay. I know I don’t want to “be alone” the rest of my life, but I am in no way ready to start dating right now. I still think about Chris and miss him daily. It is all about when you are ready.

13. Your friends and family mean well. They will ask you things and say things that may be inappropriate at the time. The thing is, they love you and they just don’t know what to say. They are truly trying to help and they really do mean well. Not many people understand what it means to be a widow. Just know that your friends and family mean well and they love you.

14. The first time you hear his voice, it will be a shock to your system. It had been a full year since I heard his voice when a friend sent me a video of Chris. It was a very short video, but there was his voice. My heart jumped, not because I hadn’t heard his voice in a while, but because it brought back so many memories. I have probably listened to that video over a 100 times because I get to hear that big laugh every time.

15. The firsts are all hard, but you will get through them. The anniversary is probably the hardest. I would suggest you take a few days off of work if you are able to do that. Make sure you do something fun those days. DO NOT close yourself up and off to everything. The day of your husband’s death does not define him. It is his life and how he lived it that defines him not his death. The days around the anniversary will be very hard, emotional, and tiring, but you will get through it. The next day you will wake up, or at least I did, and it will feel like a weight was lifted. You made it one year! You did it!

16. Don’t get your feelings hurt. When you hear your kids say, “I wish daddy was here. He would know what to do or say” That doesn’t mean they wish you weren’t there. They just wish their daddy was there also. Daddy is their hero, and they miss his wisdom, answers and one liners. They don’t love you any less. They just miss their daddy.

17. Milestones will be difficult. Graduations, weddings, grandchildren that I have not experienced yet but I’m anxious about them just like you are right now. All I know is that our God is bigger than our anxiety. I will choose to trust in God and not be afraid. “For He did not give me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

18. Night time is the hardest. It’s probably the time you and your husband would talk, watch your favorite movie or television show or just be together. No kids, no phones, just the two of you. That’s when I would feel the loneliest, and still do every single night. I never thought I would miss hearing someone breathe or turn over in their sleep. I suffer from lack of sleep. Its normal, I think. If you are suffering from lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, etc., know you are not alone. Just remember our God has big shoulders and He loves you so much that He gave His Only Son for you. Go to Him. He will give you comfort.“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3:16

19. Remember you are your kid’s momma. It is great that I have a close relationship with my kids. My daughter has me listed as “best friend” in her phone and it makes my heart smile. Just remember that you are their momma first and above all. They need a friend, but they need their momma more.

20. You are stronger than you give yourself credit. You are the daughter of the most high God. You are a princess because you are the daughter of the King. Always remember that you are an amazing person. You are an amazing mother. You are an amazing friend. You will make it because you are strong! “You have dealt with so much, and done the best that you can, take a moment now to appreciate how strong you are.”-Karen SalmonsohnThis is what I have learned throughout my first year of being a 36-year-old widow and mother of two teenagers.I pray for comfort, understanding, rest, sleep and peace for each and every one of you who are suffering from a loss.

~Your sister in Christ,

Stacey