Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2016 Apr 14
Have you ever seen history rewritten?
History is often about perspective. We each have our own experiences through which we interpret events. Sometimes an event will change the way we see our past.
I’ve seen this over the last years concerning marriage. Often, we rewrite our marriages in light of our circumstances. For example, I’ve known people who did not have good marriages by any standards. They were miserable. Perhaps they lived with an angry, bitter spouse. Or an addict. Or an emotional abuser.
And then their spouse dies. Suddenly, they view their marriage through a different lens. They remember all the good times. They look back at their marriage and remember it fondly. They miss their spouse and long for their marriage…no matter what it was like.
Those of us who are divorced often do the same thing, but in reverse.
When I divorced, the hurt and pain were devastating, too much to bear. The cruelty of his affair was a crushing blow, one that could have done me in forever. The rejection. The feelings of worthlessness. The fear of not being loved ever again.
The final years of my marriage were unbelievably painful. And those years rewrote my marriage. Completely wiped out my memory of any good times we had together. Made me wonder why I ever married him in the first place.
Over the years, I have worked hard to forgive, to wipe out any bitterness that I might be clinging to. It’s been hard. Those of you who are divorced with kids know how difficult it is to co-parent with that pain. You know what it’s like when you have disagreements over the kids. You know the ongoing battles, hurts, pains. They never end.
And they make it difficult to fully forgive.
That’s the life I’ve lived for the last 6-7 years. And these years have rewritten my history.
But, this last week, my history has begun to be rewritten in a different direction. My ex-husband—the father of my children—passed away suddenly last week.
Can I just say that death post-divorce brings a very strange mixture of feelings? Am I now a widowed divorcee? How does the interaction between his family and me play out?
More important than anything, what about my kids?
My kids are grieving. Such a painful mix of emotions for them. And they are each grieving in their own way. Quiet, withdrawn, contemplative. Tearful outbursts that come on for no reason. Just trying to be happy because we like to make others smile. Hurt and pain that they will never see their dad again on this earth. Guilt for a relationship that was not what they had hoped—and they will never get a chance to have. Shock that he’s gone, so quickly, so suddenly. Anger over the complicated family dynamics.
So very much to handle at such a young age.
And me? Wow. I don’t even know where to start. Suddenly, I am flooded by the good memories of our marriage, things I had pushed out of my mind for years. The way he made me laugh. He really could be so funny. His preaching ability. He was truly a very gifted speaker. He had the ability to stand up and speak on a moment’s notice (unlike me who wants/needs ample notice to prepare). His knowledge of the Word. He could open scripture and see things I would never see.
We communicated so well during our marriage. We had such open communication that he even told me of his attraction to the woman he eventually had an affair with. We talked openly about it, trying to fight that temptation (until he succumbed to temptation and shut me out).
My ex-husband had some great qualities, qualities that I see in my children. My kids would not be who they are if he were not their dad. And I am blessed with three amazing children—children who are my heart and soul, my heroes. Children who have walked through so much pain in their short lives and are now faced with even more pain. Children who love Jesus and are overcomers. Children who are desperately in need of all of the love and prayers they can get right now.
Last night, the day after his death, two of my kids went with me to a special service at church. Throughout the service, I felt the weight of the situation. I’ve been a single parent for years. I’ve really had little to no help for the daily responsibilities. I’ve carried the load. I’ve been a solo parent.
And yet, somehow knowing he is gone, the burden seemed so much heavier. I tried to remind myself that our daily lives will not change. We will continue doing exactly what we’ve done for the last six or seven years. I will continue to take my kids to every doctor appointment. I will continue to take them to every school activity. I will continue to sit in the stands and cheer my kids on…alone. I will continue to be the only parent standing by their side for every awards assembly.
But, I now have to walk them through their own grief. I have to wonder who will give my daughter away on her wedding day. They will never have a dad at their graduation. Or when they have children of their own. There will always be a hole, a hole that is not easily filled.
And me? Suddenly I began to wonder if I had ever said anything in my writing that I shouldn’t have. Never would I ever want to disrespect him, to use my blog to tear him down. Yes, he had an affair. It is a fact documented in public records. But, I do everything I can to protect his identity by writing under another name. I write about my journey to healing and wholeness, not about him. But I am reconsidering every word I write in an effort to keep from painting him in the wrong light.
Again, I feel like I am just rambling. So many thoughts running through my mind. So much hurt and pain that doesn’t even seem right in some ways. So much fear for my children. Such a heavy weight of helping them navigate this new journey that has been thrust upon us.
Ultimately, I know my Savior is faithful. He has carried us through some incredibly dark and difficult days, and I know He will by faithful to carry us through again. I’ve been praying for a deeper faith. (Really? You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time.) But I know this is an opportunity to see God do incredible things. The impossible is a set up for God to show up.
As I run to my Savior’s arms, I look forward to having my Heavenly Daddy bind up my wounds and heal my broken heart—and the hearts of my children. I look forward to a new intimacy with my Father. I look forward to experiencing my Savior’s tender loving care…again. I look forward to learning more of my Father’s nature, more about who He is. I look forward to an incredible period of spiritual growth.
I don’t always know what God is doing, but I have learned that I can trust Him.
If there’s one thing I need, it’s prayer. You all have been so amazing! So many words of kindness and encouragement. So many people all around the world praying for us. It’s so great to share those words with my children, to let them know they are not alone in this journey.
Please continue to pray that I will be able to lead my children to a place of healing and wholeness. Pray for my children as they navigate these tumultuous waters of grief and guilt. And pray for my ex-husband’s family as they mourn the loss of their son, their brother, their uncle, their nephew. I can imagine no grief greater than that of losing a child, and I know his parents are hurting beyond belief.
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire 0f oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3