You’ve most likely heard it said to be kind as everyone is fighting a battle nobody else knows about. Thus, many feel alone and lost.
➡️ This truth has come up many times in my conversations with others.
If you are struggling I will come alongside you. ~Job 2:13
I have stood by the bedside holding the hand of my late wife as she died. I had to turn and leave her. Leaving everything I had ever known and thus began my own walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I have been there and now I want to help others.
Reaching out takes strength and courage. Send me a message via my contact page to schedule a free 15 minute intro call to see if we are a good fit and if I can help.
In the last few paragraphs of this chapter I paraphrase the C.S. Lewis quote about nonsense questions that God finds unanswerable which we ask in the midst of our pain. How I believe God may simply wave them away in compassionate silence.
So many questions still linger to this day and I am better at living with no answers… most of the time.
Things happen, and we must just continue to paddle through the rapids of our lives. #ThingsHappen #Quote #Memoir #Grief #Healing #CowboysAreNotSupposedtoCry
I recall an incident at the cancer institute where I was overcome with emotion at the perceived lack of compassion and concern for my wife and I uttered, quick loudly, some obscenities in a waiting room full of people. I still carry a lot of the pain, the hurt, and the confusion from those events that occurred many years ago and yet I know that now I am not the same as I was then.
My fears that began when she was diagnosed and grew through her illness and eventually her death are still with me to an extent. Some I have reconciled and even embraced. Some I have buried and I know I need more healing. I leave that to God and his timing… but I must be an active participant when it is time.
Only recently as I embark on a new business of coaching and mentoring others through grief have I begun to truly ask the question of what it is that grief asks of us.
What has your grief asked of you?
Get your copy of Cowboys Are Not Supposed to Cry here >
Disclaimer: This post was written the day after the Good Friday and Easter weekend that I as a Christian celebrate. This year was also the 29th anniversary of her death on Good Friday in the year 1993. I was 28 years old when she died, thus I have been alive longer without her than I was alive when she died. ~Mark W. Schutter
One if the many reviews and feedback I have received for my memoir. I am blessed and also left with this lingering ambiguity regarding my story and it’s impact on others.
Even after writing my memoir, having it edited and published I am still left with many unanswered questions. Many that I believe will never be answered this side of heaven. When someone is dying and the dreaded end is evitable what then?
All the promises and the vows that no longer matter, ’till death do us part.’ The heartfelt pleas and prayers that went unanswered while time simply marches on. The ambiguity that can surround grief often leads to feelings that emerge that are not common. The expression or stifling of those feelings can lead to disappointments, disagreements, conflict, and confusion for all involved.
Death can bring out the best in people and the worst. And in those momentsgrace for ourselves and others is sometimes hard to find.
I realize now of many things I did without much thought for the impacts on myself and others. I trudged through the days expecting more of myself, more of those around me, more from the world and from God. I have since realized that for many years I never gave myself permission to feel, to grieve my loss. (And that is a story for another chapter later in the book. 😉)
I was just beginning to learn how to embrace my life as it was now, not as I wished it to be, for that was the only way to see a future. #Grief #Healing #LifeAfter #Trauma
To begin this chapter I share a dream I had some years previous that had I never shared with anyone before it found its way into my memoir, 𝐂𝐨𝐰𝐛𝐨𝐲𝐬 𝐀𝐫𝐞 𝐍𝐨𝐭 𝐒𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐂𝐫𝐲. I am still quite honestly surprised that I shared the dream unedited. 😉
“I do not understand?” he questioned her, fighting to quell his surprise and rage that was growing.
“No, you do not,” she stated simply, still not looking at him as they continued to walk.
The words hung in the air as she paused before taking a breath. He watched her as she continued to look straight ahead, staring off into the distance as she calmly added in a tone of finality,
“I am the one dying.”
CHAPTER 7, I AM THE ONE DYING, PAGE 71 – MARK W. SCHUTTER
Thus ended the dream from which I awoke my heart pounding. There is much more detail to the dream that is revealed in my memoir. If you haven’t purchased my book, go buy a print or e-book copy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or iTunes (shameless self-promotion! 😉).
Have you ever had a dream from which you wonder at it’s meaning, even as you know there is truth spoken in the dream? Luka’s comment in the dream that she was the one dying definitely spoke a truth that I was unwilling to acknowledge while she was alive. I often found myself denying the truth and unwilling to face the reality of her illness.
Yet, I hope I am wiser now and realizing that we are all traveling different roads. Our roads will parallel and cross over others at times but ultimately we each must journey alone into the alone.
The words hung in the air as she paused before taking a breath. He watched her as she continued to look straight ahead, staring off into the distance as she calmly added in a tone of finality, “𝙄 𝙖𝙢 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙙𝙮𝙞𝙣𝙜.”
CHAPTER 7, I AM THE ONE DYING, PAGE 71 – MARK W. SCHUTTER, Cowboys Are Not Supposed to Cry
Been absent for awhile just allowing the mud to settle if you will so I can see a little bit more clearly. Spending time with God in prayer and just being silent.
Lots of grief coming up lately that has been heavy on my heart. Both from the past and the current situation.
I am realizing more and more that after almost 29 years I am still carrying my grief. And really that’s ok. My grief and longing over what was lost and might have been can, and does, exist right alongside my joy and peace.
I mourn and I am comforted. I grieve and I am blessed.
What are your thoughts? 🤔
What grief are you still carrying? Tell my I am listening. #WickedQuestions
In Chapter 3 – Walking Away in my memoirCowboys Are Not Supposed to Cry, I talked about the moments when we have to walk away from all we’ve ever known. And that brings us to the next chapter, wholly unprepared I found myself on this journey walking a road less traveled and it had only just begun.
Chapter 4, Still Miles to Walk
And the Best Thing You Can Do with Death Is to Ride off from It?
This chapter focuses on the many things that take place immediately following a death. All the logistical and practical things that you, as the surviving spouse are expected to take care of starting with funeral arrangements. So many decisions must be made all the while dealing with the shock and grief of your loss.
At the beginning of the chapter I list the following quote from Stephen Jenkinson in his book Die Wise, A Manifesto of Serenity and Soul,
Dying is not what happens to you. Dying is what you do.
I agree with this and would also rephrase it from a different perspective,
Moving forward after someone you love dies is not what happens to you. Moving forward is what you do.
You immediately realize there are still miles to walk and you have no map of the path nor the ultimate destination. Maybe because there is no end to this walk?
Ever since Luka had been diagnosed the first time, through all the treatments, her dying, and right up to this point as the funeral ended, I had been making this up as I went along. And I still didn’t know what to do.
CHAPTER 4, STILL MILES TO WALK, PAGE 49 – MARK W. SCHUTTER
I learned the hard way that there were still so many unknowns on this path as I walked through my own valley of the shadows. My legs moved on their own much of the time, my mind numb but reeling from the enormity of the moments before me. Knowing that nothing would ever be the same again and I could never turn around and walk the path back to where it began.
What are you thoughts? What is your experience following the death of a loved one? Have you read my memoir? Did it spark anything in you?
Read my thoughts on the first three chapters of my memoir, links below, and watch for the next one in the series – Chapter 5, Death is Only the Beginning
Chapter 3 began taking shape in my mind following a conversation with my therapist. As usual we were discussing Luka’s death and the impacts on me, when I mentioned that in the moments after she died. I spoke about remembering standing by her bedside where she lay. Thinking to myself, there was nothing else I could do. I had to and needed to walk away. Yet, I stayed for several moments by her bedside.
I knew I needed to walk away. To turn from this lifeless body that lay in front of me that had held my whole world. There was nothing left for me to do for her.
I recall my therapist staring at me in silence for several seconds before he spoke softly. “It’s interesting in all my experience you are the first person to talk about that. I mean we talk about the death and then we jump to the funeral proceedings and all the logistical things around death. No one has ever mentioned before, those moments immediately following someone dying and what those left behind have to do.”
I swallowed hard and responded, “Yeah, her death was peaceful and calm but then what? I stood there, knowing she was dead and then realizing that was it. I had to turn away from everything I knew and walk away, leaving her there alone. That was hard.”
I don’t recall if I thought about all those things that would never be again or just the among of willpower it took to move my feet and leave her behind. Our time together in the physical world was done.
“Time together was the only thing, just being with her, sitting talking, watching movies, and holding her hand, so many things that I now believe may have helped her breathe a little easier in those moments.”
CHAPTER 3, WALKING AWAY, PAGE 40 – MARK W. SCHUTTER
There would be no more talks, no more movies, no more time together. Only the memories of what once was. I still carry those memories, nothing can take them away, although the edges of my memory may have frayed and faded a bit. That is just time eroding what once was. I was heading towards my 29th birthday…
“I was lost at sea with on wind in my sails. I had the freedom to do, to be, to go anywhere I wanted, and I did not want that freedom. I was free to walk away. How do you reconcile that?”
CHAPTER 3. WALKING AWAY, PAGE 42 – MARK W. SCHUTTER
A man says “I’m alright” when asked how he is because nobody cares?
I tend to disagree with the last line in the audio of the video that a man simply responds “I’m alright” because no one f&%king cares. I think others, men and women, do care.
The problem is we don’t always know how to care or show that we care. We don’t know what to do or say, especially men. We get uncomfortable with the feelings and vulnerability that this question invokes. Life is a struggle at times and no one is immune. Why can’t we acknowledge the struggle and the pain that we may be feeling?
Are you uncomfortable sharing your true feelings and if so why?
I think we have been programmed, again especially as men, to ignore our feelings of sadness, pain, regret and grief. And women are programmed to expect men to respond this way. Remember boys, and men, are supposed to be tough and strong. But why do we stereotype a man who is hurting and feeling as not being strong and tough?
What strength does it take to confront our pain and heal from it?
I talk a lot about expectations, real and perceived, that I accepted from society, family, friends when I was grieving. The impacts it has had on me and the struggles in my book – 𝘾𝙤𝙬𝙗𝙤𝙮𝙨 𝘼𝙧𝙚 𝙉𝙤𝙩 𝙎𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝘾𝙧𝙮.
When you ask a man how he is and he says “I’m alright.” #CowboysAreNotSupposedtoCry #MentalHealth #Men #Healing #LifeAfter #Trauma #Pain #Loss #Grief
A far better place—the phrase echoes through my mind, and my faith tells me to believe in this. As a Christian don’t the words of our God tell us there is a far better place?
Yet I ask, what does that mean, and how do we know? We don’t know I often want to scream back. Instead, I and nod in a feinted attempt at agreement, holding onto hope, that there is a far better place.
An interesting chapter and maybe the most philosophical of the entire book, as I ask the questions that many have asked before me. The theological questions of life after death, what happens to us, is there a heaven and if so isn’t there a hell? Even atheists and agnostics with no faith in a god or a higher power have asked the question, wondering what is there after we die?
The last paragraph of chapter 1 of my memoir Cowboys Are Not Supposed to Cry speaks of Luka’s belief in a far better place. (You can read my thoughts and revisit of chapter 1 here.)
Luka was the one facing her own mortality, not me. She was the one who must venture alone into the alone, not me. I wonder even now what thoughts ran through her mind that she did not share with me. Or worse still those thoughts she did share and I have long forgotten. Her words tossed aside as if they were of no more importance than a scrap of garbage. What are you supposed to do with that?
Believe… in life after otherwise what’s the point?