In the last couple years, I’ve read stacks of books, articles and blogs on losing a loved one, grieving and dealing with severe illness. Among those on grief: Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis and the more recent “Saturday Night Widows” by Becky Aikman. Frequently, God and spirituality are in the picture in helping people cope with loss.
My faith in God helped me through Tom’s illness and death. But since being diagnosed with serious heart disease and having bypass surgery, my faith has been shaken. I’m half praying and wondering if it is doing anything. I am trying to make sense of what happened and can’t figure out why. I don’t quite know how to proceed.
You see, after Tom died, I thought God was protecting me and the kids. I believed this like I believe my late father watches over my sister and I and our families and keeps us safe when we are driving. These are beliefs that help me handle stress and tough situations. They are silly, I know, but comforting.
Now, I’m not sure. I feel the safety net is gone – that anything could happen at any time. I’m praying less and not feeling sincere when I do. My church going is spotty at best, and I’m not sure what to do about it.
When I was deep in the throes of recuperation from surgery, my one devout friend was doing everything to keep me in the Catholic fold during Lent. She brought over Communion and we prayed. She invited me to church with her as I became more mobile. I went through the motions, but felt like a fraud. And I wondered ‘what is the point of all this praying?’ I’ve been doing it on and off all my life, and my life continues to be difficult.
As I move along toward whatever comes next, I’ve asked God for guidance in whether I should move or stay put awhile longer to see what happens. My daughter will be home in a year to student teach, so the house might not seem too big anymore. I ponder my career direction, and how to handle meeting a partner. So far, I’m not getting answers on anything related to my future.
All I know now is I am working on getting well and strong, which will take a few more months. I want to be able to lift weights again and walk fast and run up the stairs without panting like a 60-year chain smoker. I want to be physical with someone and not worry about feeling extreme pain and discomfort. Hell, I can’t even hug without my chest hurting, so people pat me when they say hello and goodbye.
I haven’t abandoned religion entirely, but daily prayers aren’t part of my routine anymore. I need some kind of sign, some encouragement that God is listening. I don’t feel like he is hearing me.