Seed of Change: An Excerpt from my book, 180 Your Life: A Woman’s Grief Guide

 In General

There was a moment as a new widow and mom of a newborn that I tried to make myself as small as possible.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Because that moment forever changed me. It’s stared like a seed, small and buried in a dark place. Now, like a sequoia in my soul, it won’t stop growing. This seed grew into my purpose. It grew into a dream that I didn’t choose, but chose me, and I simply said, “Yes.”

Songs are written about following your dreams. Movies are made to inspire us. But the reality is that JBP_6635following your dream, really committing to see it through, involves great risk, fear and release.

When I am tired and want to quit, this is the moment that won’t let me escape. When I think to myself, “It’s enough. Have a normal life. Get a normal job. This is too hard. It costs too much.” This is the moment that asks me, “Have you fulfilled the mission?” 

I believe God heals, empowers and restores those that feel small, wounded or isolated…but God often does it through community. Connecting us to one another so that we are all transformed into our best selves.

This moment calls me Onward. Maybe it will call to you too…Because if a dream is really a good dream…it’s not meant to be fulfilled by one person. Big dreams bring people together, working together, to make their community better.

This is an Excerpt from My Book 180 Your Life From Tragedy to Triumph: A Woman’s Grief Guide

Behind the Upholstery

“Church groups sometimes look different from the inside than they

do from the outside. From the outside, they might be well-organized,

cheerful, energetic dynamos. From the inside, they are just people. My

church friends certainly rallied around my daughters and me, and provided

practical and spiritual support. Friends slept at my house. Others

ordered catering. They helped me plan the funeral service, activated

people to care for my yard, cook meals, and donate lots of diapers and

baby supplies for Sophia’s upcoming birth. I am forever grateful for

their love and help.

But I also needed something. . .More. I needed women who understood this journey. 

One pivotal moment early in my widowhood eventually motivated

me to create my first Team Lady 180 group. This is one of the messy

stories. I don’t want to dishonor the gift of sincere friendship that friends

from church gave me at that time, but I also want to offer insight into

what a widow feels and how awkward it is to re-enter your life after a

massive loss. Maybe if more people understood, they would push past

the awkward feelings and reach out to those who are grieving.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to

look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from

being polluted by the world. James 1:27 NIV

By telling this story, I hope to encourage more churches to create

long-term support group environments specifically geared for the unique

needs of widows, widowers, their children and those who are grieving.

No person or church is static but grows and changes over this passage of

time, so this story is a snapshot of what happened to me in 2007.

At this church on Sundays, the children separated into a performance

group that harnessed their creative energies while their parents were

in the main service. I had been a part of the production team for that

children’s performance. Several months after Jason’s death, I decided

it was time for me to step out of the shadows of anonymity and rejoin

my production group. I was finally able to put my older daughter in the

nursery, and I wanted to show off my new baby to my friends and re-establish

Abstract blur people in party, sociability lifestyle concept

myself in this smaller community. There were always snacks,

great conversation, and a creative production vibe that was fun to be

around on Sundays.

However, today was different. People knew my story. I was greeted

by welcoming hugs from the mostly twenty-something

crowd. One or two brave souls said they were sorry for my loss. The production team

leader, an older man with life experience, kindly chatted with me before

he had to start the children’s church program.

But the remainder of the group, mainly younger adults, quickly

looked away and busied themselves with random tasks. They didn’t

know what to do with me. They didn’t know what to say. Maybe they

were afraid to say the wrong thing or they were just uncomfortable. I was

trying to re-enter my old life, but I wasn’t the same. My whole family

wasn’t the same, and everyone around me knew it. I wasn’t part of a fun

power-couple anymore. I felt isolated in a room full of people.

Then Sophia stared to stir. She was waking up and was hungry. I felt

a lump in my throat. I missed my husband. I missed our lives together.

I missed my friends. By now I knew this feeling. I could feel the tears

coming. So, I picked up Sophia and scanned the room for a hiding place

where I could feed her and cry privately.


The kids’ service was now in full swing, and I could hear kids and families laughing together. The

green room only had a few people in it, so I found an overstuffed armchair

in the corner of the room and sat down on the floor behind it.

I still remember the feeling of sitting on the carpet behind this pretty armchair,

trying to make myself as small as possible while I breastfed Sophia.

An asian baby hold her mother's hand closeup

In this little corner, I couldn’t hold my tears back. Sophia looked up

at me and smiled while she nursed, wrapping her little hand around my

finger, and I smiled back at her though tears were streaming down my

cheeks. I could hear a few young people chatting on the other side of the

room. I wondered if they even knew I was there.

Younger people often don’t know how to deal with grief, because

many haven’t had to yet. Young married people don’t want to think that

life is so fragile that their amazing Christian marriage could disintegrate

so publicly. Parents with small children don’t want to think that their

lives could change so drastically. It’s easier to give a casserole and look

away than to walk with someone through her grief journey.

I knew then that I couldn’t go back. Not that I couldn’t go back to

church, but that I couldn’t go back to my old life. That feeling of isolation,

of wanting to make myself as small as possible, became a seed in

my heart. I never wanted to feel that way again. I never wanted another

widow to feel that way, either. That was the moment that changed me. I

vowed then never to be that small again. I vowed to find a better way, to

find purpose in this pain.

It was this moment that started me on my quest. I craved appropriate

environments that met the needs of younger families grieving the loss of a loved

one. I started to seek out other younger widows. I discovered a widowed Sunday

school in one church, a widowed ministry at another, and a widowed

home group at another. Each one had a clue for me about the importance

of a supportive community that understood my grief journey. I was in

search of my Team. There had to be a better way.”

There are so many women who grieve alone. Empowering these women in a supportive team, with mentors who understand their loss, in a healthy, dynamic environment that addresses the whole person is a wonderful way to help create vibrant homes for adults and children after loss.

To learn more about how to support widows and bereaved women through a healthy place to connect and recover with practical, healthy steps for Body, Mind and Spirit, visit our 180U page. 

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  • Joyce Shellem

    I know of what you speak. My journey started in 2009 when my best friend for 31 years and husband for almost 25 years took his life in front of me on our oldest sons 24th birthday in his locked car.. I am my own expert related to my own grief and have a far better understanding of your pain in comparison to many. Yet I shall never claim to fully “understand” your pain. It has been a very spiritual, painful, tumultuous, and incredibly joyful life since Pete’s death. My story is s tragic love story like something written by Shakespeare himself. That story continues to be written with every breath I take. I have survived these last 6 years and 10 months by living my mantra which I had tattooed on my right forearm. … “One breath at a time.” Some day I will more publicly share my story. For now I wanted to tell you that I admire what you are doing and wish you and your daughters well.

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