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After My Husband's Death, I'm Learning to Carry His Memory Forward

After My Husband's Death, I'm Learning to Carry His Memory Forward

Six years ago, I went to bed happily married and woke up a widow and single mom to seven kids. My husband and I had just spent three days together on a rare trip without kids. We’d laughed and talked, enjoyed the beach and eaten at some of our favorite restaurants. He seemed perfectly healthy with no signs anything was amiss.

That night, we arrived home, had pizza with our kids and went to bed like a thousand other nights. In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up to his labored breathing. He was having a heart attack and despite CPR, quick care from the emergency medical team and our desperate prayers, he never recovered.  

Life as we knew it was shattered. Everything we’d been working for, our plans for the future and all that we hoped for our little family was gone and would never be again. 

In that first year, I had just enough grace for each day. Though I couldn’t imagine what my future looked like, I clung to God’s promise that He still had abundant life for us and good this side of heaven. 

Slowly, God began to heal our hearts. I began to find my bearings as a single mom and the future began to look less dim. After my husband’s death, I’m learning to carry his memory forward. That first means realizing what I cannot do. 

I cannot be both father and mother. 

My husband was an avid outdoorsman. He loved to take the kids hunting and fishing. He’d pile them into his truck, crank up old country hits and spend the day outside. 

In all the ways he was an earthly father, we feel a huge gap. Some of that has been filled by friends and family, but most will always be missing. I cannot be both father and mother. My job is to be the best mom I can be and to go to God, who says He is the father to the fatherless, for the protection, leadership, guidance and provision my husband provided. 

I cannot live the life we would have had. 

Carrying his memory forward doesn’t mean trying to live in the past. It’s not clinging to the life we had or trying to recreate it. 

That life is gone. Much of the rhythm of our home and family has changed. Life looks different and single parenting has meant changes for all of us. Part of the grief process is fully releasing the life that was so you can engage in the life that is.

Despite the changes, there are three things I can do to carry my husband’s memory forward.    

I can steward well how I parent my children.

Grief can cripple you. I just wanted to pull the covers up and stay in bed for a year or two. But early on, I told myself my children had already lost one parent and they could not lose another. I not only had to show up; I needed to fully engage to parent well. I needed to steward these young lives, help them process their grief and help them walk into their own hopes and dreams. 

I fought for joy. I fought the fog of grief to be present in moments and conversations. I fought to have a strong spine for my teen boys while staying tender for my daughter and my 4 and 6-year-olds.  And I begged God continually for wisdom and guidance. 

I can honor my husband with traditions and stories.  

My husband and I first met in middle school youth group. I watched his younger brothers grow up and I’ve known and loved his extended family. My kids love to hear stories about his boyhood, our dating and his Dutch heritage. 

We also celebrate his favorite foods and some of his favorite places. Keeping traditions and remembering stories bring warm memories that not only honor my husband, but help us heal as well.

I can live life to the full. 

We cannot carry our loved one’s memory forward by living in the past. Of all people, they would want us to steward the time God gives us and to live each day well. 

God promises abundant life and that’s as true after tragic loss as before. In my deepest grief, I clung to the promise that I’d see that abundance again. I wrote the date and our name next to Psalm 27:13: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” 

Each day I embrace, each opportunity I go after, each moment I’m fully present in, honors my husband. In processing the grief, I’ve learned that love doesn’t stop. It’s carried forward with his memory as I move into all God has for me in the next chapter. 


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