I am honoured to share a guest post from Connie Hunter as part of this series exploring small things. The series is a collection of stories and voices paying attention to ‘small’, in our culture of ‘Big’. Connie writes from the hard place of unexpected loss. You can read more of her words and thoughts on grief at her incredible blog Faith & Fortitude. Her writing will make you ache, think and even smile.
When someone dies, there is a culturally accepted notion that certain events will be a real struggle for those left behind. It’s a no brainer. These times are significant for a reason, so it stands to reason that they be met with a certain amount of trepidation and a sense of bracing oneself.
So what do I know of this? My husband Craig died very suddenly in December 2014…he was just 30 years old. His unexpected departure would eventually be classified as Sudden Adult Death and our little family was turned upside down in an instant. I was 16 weeks pregnant at the time with our second child—we already had a 2 and a half year old daughter.
Suddenly, I was hurtled into a timeline of “firsts”: Christmas Day (a mere 5 days after he died), New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the birth of our son (!), our wedding anniversary, our daughter’s 3rd birthday, and so on. Today, 24th August, is his birthday. I still await my own 30th birthday, and the anniversary of his death.
I faced (and face) these days head-on, fully anticipating how difficult they will be. The gravity of these kind of days will always mean that my friends and family stand closely with me, anticipating the difficulties that may come. Very often their support is what carries me through those days.
And yet, while those days are very tricky…they’re not the moments that take your breath away, because the pain is anticipated. For that particular emotional sensation, we must look to the small things.
The seemingly insignificant moments that cannot be prepared for. You can’t arm yourself against these times, because by their very nature they are uneventful, not very important, ordinary.
The first time I signed a birthday card with just my own name after a decade of our names being side by side. A letter that comes through in the post addressed to “Ms” instead of “Mrs” (ouch), having to tick a box that declares your relationship status as “widowed”…these are all the firsts that I was so very unprepared for. No one warns you about these moments.
Even something simple like doing a food shop could render me utterly flummoxed, as I tried to reconstruct the eating habits of a decade…it turns out cooking for one is far more complicated and cumbersome than cooking for two (let’s not get into our picky eater daughter in this post). What used to be a delight, transformed into a chore. No one warns you about these moments.
Watching a tv series that you both enjoyed and realising that its plotline is fairly complex and requires a bit of chat-along (“Who is that guy again? Is that her dad? Do you think he’s bluffing?”)…turns out… another small thing that hit me hard. I would find myself texting friends saying “Please tell me you’re up to date with <insert tv show> because I need to talk about it!” No one warns you about these moments.
How silly they are, compared to weighty days like anniversaries and birthdays.
But they are the everyday reminders of the new world order. A new world order where everything sucks. Chinese Water Torture of the heart, because these things don’t stop. And they will keep on coming for the rest of my days.
I could spend my time living in fear of these “small” moments…sometimes they can have the power to propel my thoughts to quite dark places.
I tick “widowed” in a box and suddenly I am transported to how I’ll be lonely forever, how my children won’t have a father, how much I miss him, etc. How will we survive, practically, emotionally, spiritually? What do I need to do to make sure my kids are ok? How can I make this better?! Frenzied thinking…all inspired by a moment of beurecratic box-ticking. This was just supposed to be the simple task of filling out a form!
My daughter loves a particular story in The Jesus Storybook Bible – it’s called The Singer, an interpretation of The Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 6, 9; and Luke 12. She calls it the chicken story because there are some pretty nifty illustrations of sparrows pushing shopping trolleys (forgive her lack of ornithological knowledge, she’s 3).
The heading of the actual Bible passage, and the jist of the story is “Do Not Worry”. Of all the tales in that Bible of hers, this is the story we must read over and over on her request. For her innocent little heart, it’s for the bird pictures and the absurdity of the part where it talks about flowers wearing dresses. But I like to think that The Spirit prompts her to request this story again and again because it’s the one her mummy needs to hear, on days where she is weary from all the small things heaping on her heart so heavily that she can’t bear to even read the Bible herself. To hear the Creator say “Do Not Worry…do not be afraid, I’ve got this”. I’ll not put that down to a coincidence.
And so when I feel like small things may drown me, God edifies other small things for me. A simple bedtime story is transformed into a powerful message of encouragement over all our lives from the Creator of the universe. “Do not worry…do not be afraid, I’ve got this.”
Perhaps the next time one of those small things threaten to take my heart captive, I will think of chickens (“chickens”) pushing shopping trolleys and flowers wearing coats and remember that God is Lord over all of these things. He cares about how I feel in those moments and he wants me to come to him, to seek first his kingdom. Easy, it will not be. But it’s an offer that I’ve been given, and I want to take it.
Connie Hunter is mum to two little ones, and graphic designer/branding consultant at Studio Stereo, the company she founded with her husband Craig in 2008. She is (unfortunately) a member of the very niche group of people widowed under 30, as Craig tragically died in December 2014. She blogs about her experiences and living with grief here.
[Read the series so far here]