I got married young. Very young. Right after high school my casual boyfriend and I were met with a surprise pregnancy. Although I hadn’t had much of a personal relationship with God for several years, I felt God speak to me in those early moments of terrified silence. Out of a less-than-perfect situation, this child was a blessing, and I was supposed to raise it. So clinging tightly to fairytale dreams of romance and happy endings, we got married shortly before our 18th birthdays.
Our paradise was short-lived and we fought more than we loved. The things you bond over as teenagers are not the foundations of a good marriage and very early on we both sensed we were in over our heads. Add a baby a few months later and we were just children trying to raise a child. A period of separation followed where family and friends quietly wondered if this was it—ours wouldn’t be the first teen marriage to fail. People gave me their permission to get out, but again I heard God telling me that I needed to stick this out. We persevered. I had made vows and I acknowledged God’s plan for my life. I was in this for the long haul.
Another surprise baby and several more separations followed, but good intentions weren’t enough to save us. Deep in our souls we were growing apart. Our last separation came in the spring of 2012. From the beginning I knew this would be our last one. It felt like my husband and I were living on different planets. I cried out to God for some kind of guidance. This can’t be it. I’m willing to fight for this. I want a life with him. Please, Lord.
On September 23, 2012, my husband was killed in a car accident in the middle of the night.
One day I was picking up our kids, thinking about our upcoming 5th wedding anniversary and if there was some chance we might be together for it. The next day I was a widow. If my life had been a rollercoaster before, this was the biggest free fall.
The days following his death were filled with funeral home meetings, service plans, newspaper obituaries, and dodging hugs and teary gazes. I was a robot. There was no time for emotions when so much had to be done, and there’s no college course on How To Bury Your Spouse.
Amidst legal paperwork, flower arrangements and newspaper interviews, I sat down with my two children and had the worst conversation of our lives. How do you tell a five and three year old that they will never see their daddy again? Somehow the words get said and the protective layers of childhood innocence are stripped away.
The night before the service I found myself alone with my husband in the viewing room of the funeral home. He lay rigid as a statue, head bandaged, wearing the suit I’d bought him for our third anniversary. He was so unrecognizable and yet so achingly familiar. I lay my head on his chest and sobbed. For the first time in five days, I let myself feel something.
I felt the abyss of every memory we would never make. The empty space beside me at every graduation, recital and sports game in our children’s future. I felt sharp pangs of jealousy that he was with Jesus and I was stuck dealing with the aftermath. I felt waves of resentment and anger that he had left me to carry this weight on my own. I felt sick for two sweet little children who looked so much like him but would never really know him.
How many days are you allowed to stay in bed before you have to get back to your responsibilities? I felt abandoned by God, disappointed and alone, and I cried out to him. I did everything I could not to be a single mother, and I worked for years to try and save a failing marriage. Was it all in vain, Lord? Did any of it matter? Where is your plan in this mess?
For a long time there was just silence, so I stopped trying to talk to Him.
Grief is a horrible process. In the months that followed, I stepped back from schooling and struggled to be a good parent to my kids every day. There were—and still are—days when I didn’t get out of bed. The weight of loss is a physical presence that hurts too much to carry around.
Slowly—with support from family, friends, and church community—my heart began to soften and the walls started to come down. I opened my Bible again and Psalm 68 stuck with me. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” He was assuring me that He was still on my side, providing for me and looking out for my kids. To feel God’s presence again was like a salve to my soul, and I ran back to Him. It was time to lay aside my trust issues and rejoice in my suffering.
It’s been three years since that awful day when God closed a door on my marriage and everything I thought I had known about my life. There are days of great joy, and days of deep sadness, but in all of this there is patience and faithfulness. God has shaped my character and moulded me into someone I wouldn’t have recognized three years ago. He has brought out new gifts and strengthened old ones. He equips me every morning with new mercies and walks with me through the day as I fumble through being a single parent. I’m at peace with where I’m at—even when I feel like I don’t have an ounce of perseverance left.
His grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness. It’s the hardest road I’ve ever walked, filled with potholes and sharp turns. But I trust that one day it will lead me to a window He has opened just for me. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what it will look like, but as I wade through these deep waters, He is with me.
Liz has studied at Trinity Western University and Grant MacEwan University and currently juggles coursework and her day job at a marketing agency. She is an actor, musician, writer, book lover, carb eater, and loud introvert. She lives in Surrey, BC, with her two children. You can find more of her writing on her blog.