February 2019 update

A lot has happened since my last post. I am now no longer working and have changed churches. A dear friend who lost his wife in 2017 has endured a very public grief, but one which has lifted the lid on the taboo of grief and enabled a wider conversation on a subject not much talked about.

Life continues its ups and down and I am sure that most will not understand how at 6.5 years I still find it so hard. As Maggie Smith is quoted on the Care for the Family – Widowed young support Facebook page ‘People say it gets better but it doesn’t. It just gets different, that’s all’.

On Sunday at my ‘new’ church a lot of good happened.

This is what I shared with my family at The Gateway Church, King’s Lynn.

On Saturday 9th February I listened to Kees’ talk from the previous Sunday as I had been away and missed it. The subject was ‘Freedom by Grace’ and I definitely felt God spoke to me through it, even to the point of Kees mentioning a friend who had died from MND, the disease that also took my dear Ruthie’s life, in the context of the joy his friend kept until his death. After listening I then joined the Gateway walkers but due to a prior commitment I ended up walking from Thornham along a very windy sea bank to meet the rest about half way. On the way I shouted at God in the strong winds about my life after Ruth and the struggles I have. On Saturday evening I felt very lonely – it was the first Saturday evening I have been on my own in a long time and I ended up on the Christian dating site that usually signals I am feeling lower than is good for me.

On to Sunday…

Our Life group was on set up and I was there very early. After set up I sat on the steps and felt quite on my own. Ruth Duncombe came over and chatted and I started to feel better. I spoke to a visiting family and felt good for doing so. Then Nigel Worth arrived and I went over to meet him (we have known each other nearly 40 years). He saw me and said ‘Brocky!’ a nickname that only people I have known a long time use. (It felt like Jesus saying (Martha, Martha lovingly in Luke 10:41) During worship and communion I felt really close to God and my brothers and sisters. Then Mike, who was hosting, had a word for someone trying to cope with grief and shame and asked if anyone felt called to go forward for prayer. I looked at Marilyn and Alan who know me quite well and felt the confirmation to go forward. Mike very lovingly prayed with me and hugged me in my ongoing grief and pain at loosing Ruth and I went back to my seat feeling very peaceful. After wards Marilyn said to me that seeing Mike hug me was like seeing Jesus hug me. Nigel got up to preach after the notices and spoke on grief and anger with God from his own family experience and Psalm 77. I could identify with so much he said, but felt encouraged that I no longer feel anger, but the grief still overwhelms at times. At the end he asked if anyone could identify with what he was saying to put their hand up, so I did… and then he asked people to hug anyone with a hand up, and I got lots of hugs.

When I joined Gateway 6 months ago I wasn’t going to share my story for fear of being a victim. Over the months I have felt so much love from people that I now do have the confidence to share my story. Jesus just radiates from all I have met at church, more love in 6 months than I could’ve possibly expected. I will continue to grow in his love.

I hope that those of you reading this may be helped. The long road continues and it’s certainly not a straight line!

#agriefshared #thegatewaychurch #modernloss

Modern loss and faith 3…One year on

So how am I? Really, honestly? It’s hard to say. Life has its ups and downs; mostly dull. Most would say I am fortunate to be able to live the life I live, but as I say, only I live with my anxiously wired, never stop overthinking mind. It’s tiring, exhausting, not to say even scary at times. I visit some beautiful places, yes, but I struggle to rejoice in those places. Occasional twinges of peace, or that ‘thing’ that happens to you…happiness, but they’re mostly just …twinges. Holidays are so interesting, aren’t they? To me they personify loss and loneliness. Anyone in a couple will not understand the sadness of widow holiday. Everyone thinks ‘oh he/she is on holiday…must be having a lovely time’. Nope, not always, just reinforces the isolation. Being out of touch with home, my place, my memories (difficult as they are), is painful and frightening, especially as so many out there cannot comprehend this. There is a longing just to share, with a special someone, the moments, meal times, sunsets, places. 

Saw a great piece in the I newspaper the other day. It was an article about grief. A line read: ‘When your head is full of grief and sadness, very often accompanied by anxiety, it can feel like the loneliest place in the world’. Spot on. 

A strange phenomena has happened lately. I see a picture and think I must take that and send it to Ruth. Stop. Then I realise that heaven is not a Facebook tag, or text away. Reality. Why now, nearly 5 years on. Understandable in the early days perhaps? Then I feel bad for ‘forgetting’. Forgetting she is gone, passed. Dead. Funny old thing is social media. On one level one can derive a lot of comfort from it, and on another it can be totally destructive… especially as an over thinker. I often feel rejection when ‘friends’ do not ‘like’ some of my pictures and thoughts, but are seen ‘liking’ other peoples’ posts… then I kick myself and think I have ADD, so please don’t start ‘liking’ all my posts! 

So what am I asking? For a start, if you’re one of those who do not like the honesty of my blog, then that’s good. Perhaps you do not know what to say to me when you meet me, for fear of the lame ‘I’m ok’, perhaps I would like you to sincerely accept that, and try to encourage me. There are no simple answers. Try telling me to count my blessings, and that God gives me so many blessing to remember for when things go wrong, my bereaved mind then goes into anxiety of expecting something bad to happen. Not pretty. The loss of Ruthie has made a complicated me more complicated. Maybe another relationship would make it worse, or maybe make me better, who knows? 

In the Bible is a story of a man called Job, who lost everything. As yet, I have not lost everything, but still feel anger, sadness, sorrow for what I have lost and the consequences. God was angry with Job’s friends for lacking in honesty with him. Job was honest with God. I hope I am honest with God, because in all of the above, I am nothing without him. I would love to be happy, joyful, peaceful, without thinking revenge will come if I am ‘too happy’. No doubt some will read this and support me. I dare say there’ll be others who think I should have ‘moved on’, and think ‘here he goes again’. It’s your choice, but if you find yourself in the same boat as me, I will still be in the ‘support group’, because that, ultimately is what God has led me to, thus far.

Modern loss and faith 2

Bereavement and grief. Two words that live with me, haunt me, taunt me. Mostly I do well. Last two days they have ‘bit me on the bum’ again. Why? Strange really. I love cycling. I am not fast … unless it’s downhill… I can do some decent distances… sometimes! I love fresh, open air and countryside, but it always ends up as my ‘book of Job’ moment, ranting at God about Ruthie. Yesterday was bad. Yesterday I missed her more. Maybe it’s the tiredness. Maybe the association of having bike rides as respite when she was ill. I also have time to think of living alone. I am not cut out for that. Period, as the Americans would say! I thought about a recent failed friendship / relationship attempt. How that has really thrown me. How even when you think that all the ‘God incidences’ point in the right direction, we still get it wrong, or do we? 

Overall, life has been better since I last wrote. I have been away, spent time in lovely places, shared precious times with friends. Led at church last Sunday. What a privilege. I am humbled when I do that, I give a lot of me, but in a way it keeps me grounded. What a blessing life can be. I am really busy at the moment. I have lots of friends in difficult situations to pray for. 

The other Sunday while in Devon, I attended Crediton Congregational church…the first church I have ever walked into not knowing a single soul. I was made so welcome. The leader, speaking after a song, talked about our identity; something I struggle with. We sang a song, not known to me… ‘You’re a good, good father’. My identity is in Chrst, I am who I am: a talented, creative, significant human being, made in the image of God, and it really doesn’t matter about my past, my genes, my life experience. The sermon was about living in ‘joy and chains’. I live in the joy of life (in all its fullness) yet in the chains of sadness and some loneliness. However, God is a completer-finisher! He has started a good work in me and will complete it, and I will be a better person for it. He has started so he will finish (thanks James Gregory). Yesterday I caught myself thinking about ‘one life, live it’. There’s so much today of living in the present. Mindfulness teaches to live in the moment. Yes we need to live in the moment, we need not let our past govern our futures, but call me mad, bad or indifferent but we also need that eternal perspective, that our so called clever, intelligent, secular, open minded (?) western world without a God, has chosen to live without. Sad. 

So, what next? Today as I was looking onto my patio, the sparrows came right up close. I thought about one of my favourite scriptures.  Jesus said, ‘Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing’ (Matthew 10:29 NLT). In the same way, he knows me. I might not have much hair left but God still knows every single one. He knows me. He knows my deepest longings and desires. All I need to do is trust. 

On Modern Loss and faith

Bereavement is a strange process, but one we all must share at some point in our lives. Grieving through the death of a loved one is a very different process, I am informed, compared to the grief associated with a breakdown in a relationship. Someone once told me that divorce is a worse process than bereavement…and I do understand that, especially with the joy in heaven that awaits when a loved one dies, and the hope of resurrection. 

There are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I have been through three, and am finally after nearly four years getting close to the last, acceptance. I don’t think I went through denial. With a diagnosis of MND, you know there is a very definite end date. We were 8 months in getting a diagnosis, and once we established it was ALS, not the longer term PLS, we knew and accepted our fate. The next 10 months were relentless. There was no denial, we knew the score. After Ruth died, I certainly knew the anger, bargaining and depression. No one can grieve with out these factors at some point. For me depression was my long term friend. I am now moving into acceptance, and as you may know, trying to, with Gods grace, rebuild my life. It is a slow and at times difficult process. There are significant decisions to be made, not least the fulfilling of Ruthie’s wish regarding her ashes. 

So what next…

Last Sunday at KLBC, Kev spoke from John 21:  1-14, when Jesus prepares a beach barbecue for the disciples after his death. The disciples had lost hope, had a lack of reality in their faith and felt distant from God, yet later in the chapter Jesus re-commissions the disciples and restores Peter. This is one of my favourite parts of the gospels. I can relate to all those in recent years. A good friend used to call me ‘Rocky’… I suppose because it rhymed with ‘Brocky’! However, I have always seen it as a reference to Peter, the rock!  Recently another friend gave me a mental image for when their faith wobbles of imagining standing on a rock (Jesus) and pushing down on him. Although I have not denied Jesus verbally, sometimes I have denied his reality in my life and not lived life to the full as he would want. 

God is with me, no matter how I feel. God does keep his word, restoring faith in me all the time. God meets me at my place of need. When faith ‘wobbles’ God brings words of assurance. There is a way forward, listen to what Jesus is saying to you from the shore. Spend more time in his presence. Hold on to the faith moments.

Open your heart to God, let him restore you, he is Lord, he had called us to serve him by the power of his spirit, without him we can do nothing. He has great things in store for us. 

Whatever you’re going through, whatever your God (or superior being / inner self, for my none Chritian friends) you, like me, can find hope and strength for tomorrow. Start believing, and live life to the full.

Until next time…

On Living with God and depression 2

Thanks for following my story. The response has been overwhelmingly kind. 

Reflecting on the blog has surfaced other thoughts, which has been helpful. The main question of ‘why me?’, I already know the answer as ‘why not me?’ A lot of the really old stuff related to low self worth and low self perception. Good job God got me! His father heart has obviously got me this far.

 I think my happiest times before I met Ruth were my 20’s, but I still get angry with God in that I served him at a time when now I feel I could have been more care free, and that I feel I gave him my all and yet I still feel I missed out on many things! 

Another of my dreams would be to smile and laugh. I have never been a smiley person. I don’t often laugh. I have always taken life too seriously, and then really beating myself up mentally when I fail. Strangely, a previous counsellor of mine got me to ask close friends how they thought of me. One described me as ‘fun’, certainly not an adjective I would describe myself as! Sometimes I think I am incompatible with the world, it’s the flip side of ‘God has a purpose for my life’, because he saved me when I should have medically died at birth.  I don’t believe this is Gods ideal for me, or others. I know that prematurity is one of the known factors in depression and given my life factors it’s no surprise that’s why I became depressed…almost like I was born with it. How do I balance that with being a Christian and a human being? – ‘A unique, creative, talented human being made in the image of God’! The answer has to be ‘to live in the hope that Christ has given us’. It is a daily process, his blessings are new every morning, great is his faithfulness, as each day he blesses and keeps me and makes his face to shine upon me! 

I have been greatly inspired recently by Patrick Regan’s book ‘When Faith is Shaken’. Liza’s story particularly spoke to me. She was a fully committed Christian whose son died in a knifing incident. Her loss, bewilderment and shaken faith during her bereavement I fully understand, and her honesty is amazing. Although written from the Christian perspective this book is also a good commentary on how to deal with life issues, especially around illness, loss of confidence and bereavement. 

Living with God and Depression

I had always been ‘the quiet one’. Around the age of 15, I felt very strange. We were moving to a new house, in a village about 6 miles away. I didn’t want to go. I had been previously bullied at school, fell short of parental expectation by failing the 11+, and had been born prematurely leaving me with socially isolating high frequency deafness. I had been labelled as ‘looking like a rat when I was born’, and ‘skinny’ at school. My hearing and speech issues meant I was misunderstood. I really disliked school, it felt so alien to me. I had attended Covenanters and Sunday School, and said my prayers every night.

I didn’t cope well as a teenager, I was not popular, unlike my brother, and felt very awkward socially, and often tried to cry myself to sleep…even though I couldn’t cry, certain songs I would sing to myself, even though I didn’t know the words due to deafness, would cause an emotional response. I guess around this time I developed depression. Then God found me…around 17 I was confirmed in the Anglican Church where I lived. About a year later I encountered God powerfully, finally I had a faith and something to live for.

When I started work, I settled in, but not comfortably, and no clues socially. However I was living for God, and my faith helped. However I didn’t have a girlfriend, and that made me stand out as odd. Every summer I would go back to the beach mission where I had encountered Jesus, and help out.

When I was about 33, a dear friend suggested I attend a different church with young people in…there I met Ruth who would become my wife. We had 17 years together until she died in 2012 age just 43 from MND. Prior to this I had begun my first treatments for depression…probably about 25 years after I started to have symptoms. Throughout Ruth’s illness I had a lot of support and counselling. It helped. My faith didn’t waiver, I could honestly tell non Christian friends and colleagues that my faith was really helping.

After Ruth died I stayed part time at work until I decided to retire in 2014. I was still being treated for depression, but in 2015 I had a year on reduced dose. I had further counselling. I was active in my local church, but often felt emotional and angry when I went in. The people were lovely, accepting and kind. In early 2016 I became really depressed, with thoughts of self harm, so I saw my GP and went back on a treatment dose of AD’s and sought counselling. I also felt I was ready to find another friend. I did meet someone who was lovely, but our mutual issues and my ‘need to be needed’ attitude sadly pushed us apart. What God did through this person they may never know, but I started reading, praying, talking… Big time! Various life issues came to mind, that had not been raised in any counselling room before. I decided I would never loose another potential friend because of me. God became my rock and anchor more than ever.

I have started this blog because I have a story to tell, one that I hope will encourage and enhance your lives. God bless for now…until I write again.