I was really good at living with intention before my husband died.  I was good about doing things with good reason and being thoughtful, even purposeful, about what I did and how I did it.  I had the luxury of more time to think through my decisions and even more important I think, I had someone to share those decisions, reasons, and purpose with. I think for me, it felt more intentional with a witness near.

Since widowhood began, I have been through many phases, stages, whatever we might call them.  One of the stages I have the most difficulty with is getting back to living with intention and purpose.  The widow in me thinks…what’s the point of being purposeful when the rug can just be pulled out from underneath me? The me in me thinks…how can I live a joyful, loving life without purpose and intention?

In my previous life, I counted on spiritual guidance.  I tried to live with an informed conscience and really take the gospel to heart.  I felt more at peace with myself and my choices.  I felt like I was spiritually grounded and intentional in my actions and how I lived my life.

This intention and purpose was present in my parenting.  I really thought about how and what I did affected my older boy (the younger one wasn’t here yet). I worked hard at being a thoughtful parent.  I had a partner who appreciated this and most times followed suit.  As a sole parent, my intentions lead to my perceived failures and guilt.

Intentional parenting and living have fallen away leaving me only with reactionary living…and for me this is not a peaceful place.  I am no longer proactive, thoughtful or intentional…and I miss being that way.

So, the struggle becomes how to balance the lack of control that I know there is in life with the hope to live with intention.  Intention takes planning and planning makes me a little sick to my stomach now.  The “what ifs” and fear of loss creep in and overwhelm me.  Instead, I have settled for routines that are guided by busyness and reactions that are guided by frustration.  I have lowered my expectations.  I hate that.

My spiritual center was rocked to its core when my husband died.  I still haven’t recovered.  My life that I lived as a prayer and with intention was betrayed when God didn’t provide a cure that would have kept life as I wanted it.  I felt abandoned on so many levels.  I was abandoned by my husband when he died.  I was abandoned by my God who neglected to cure my husband and let him stay on earth with me.  I was also abandoned by others I loved and depended on as they tried to cope with my loss.

So, I abandoned my life with intention and purpose.  What was the point really? I worked so hard to serve God, my family and others only to be left alone.  Six years later, I am still struggling with all of this.  My family is suffering because I can’t commit to them fully or to myself fully.  I can’t commit because of the pain that came when I was or am an intentional, purposeful and a full participant in my own life.

In this world of widow, it seems like every step forward is met with two steps backward. It feels most days like any progress made leaves me to face yet another challenge…and let’s face it I’m exhausted…physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Most days, if I don’t have the routine I become overwhelmed and frustrated easily.  Some days, I take small steps toward being intentional again.

My hope?

My hope is that somehow, I can recapture a new way to live with intention and purpose.  My hope is that I can be proactive, not reactive.  My hope is that this struggle, feeling abandoned and exhausted will ease with each step I take toward living purposefully.  I can remember feeling peace.  I can remember feeling blessed.  I can remember being a thoughtful parent.  I know that I will never be what I was, but I hope that I can take the pieces of me that were important and morph them somehow into this life as a sole parent, single woman and a now somewhat reluctant servant of God.

Baby steps, day by day and even minute to minute, we become who we are to be.  Sometimes our paths are changed and we don’t have a map anymore.  That’s where I have been living for over six years now. It’s my turn to put myself back into the journey.  It’s my turn to choose a route.  It’s only me who can abandon my fear and loneliness and choose to engage again in a purposeful existence.

As much as I wish someone could do this for me, it is only my job.  It is my job to find my way back onto the path with intention and purpose.  Hopefully along the way, I will rediscover parts of me I have missed dearly.

Christine Thiele 2011

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Christine Thiele

Christine Thiele is a free lance writer, middle school teacher, and a former professional and volunteer youth minister. She has written for The Journal of Student Ministries, YouthWorker Journal, Grief Digest, OpentoHope.com, is a contributing author in several Open to Hope books and The Widow's Handbook (to be released in 2014 by Kent State University Press). Along with her writing, Christine is raising her two lovely and energetic sons. Since her husband's death in 2005 from pancreas cancer, her writing has been focused on grief and healing issues.

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