Sometimes it feels like I have been living the last 11 years for a lifetime and at the same time it amazes me at how fast it really has gone.
Jake was killed in an accident working in a coal mine 11 years ago. I had 3 small boys and a new pregnancy. When he died I didn’t know if I would survive the night. I didn’t think it was possible to go on living with out him. The pain of grief is truly indescribable. It is a real, physical pain that makes it near impossible to even breathe.
Trying to go on living a normal life while in the depths of grief is like trying to run a marathon in waist high mud. Everything is hard, heavy and at times unbearable. I look back at the last 11 years and am truly amazed that we are still enduring this trial…but even more amazing we have learned to actually enjoy life, not just endure it.
I am often asked how we have managed to endure this trial and enjoy life. There are many reasons and factors to this but one I haven’t talked a lot about is habits.
When I was younger I developed the habits of “the Sunday School answers”. You know the ones…read your scriptures, say your prayers, go to church, share your testimony, have faith, and rely on grace. Go to any Sunday School class and you will hear those answers to many of the questions. They are even said at times with a slight attitude of annoyance.
Well, I’m here to tell you…that the reason they are the answer to every question…is because they are truly the answer to all of your problems. My life is a testimony of everyone of those answers. I believe a huge part of why I have been able to survive and learn from this trial is because of the habits I formed in my youth.
When Jake died I already had a relationship with my Heavenly Father. It was hard at first to go to church but I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do…and because I had already formed that habit.
I was already half way through reading the Book of Mormon again so I continued to read every night…because it was the right thing to do, and because I was already in the habit of reading. Reading my scripture brought answers to prayers at a time that I was filled with questions and doubts.
Before Jake died I was in the habit of saying my prayers every night. This is the one habit that did change. I couldn’t just pray at night anymore. To this day I walk around with a prayer in my heart continually. I couldn’t count how many prayers I have in a day. I needed strength for every second I endured in those first days, months and even years. Now 11 years later I don’t need to pray for strength to get through every second, but I do pray for guidance, help, love, and gratitude throughout the day.
I knew sharing my testimony was important before Jake died and I shared it often. The importance of being able to share my testimony after he died has been even more important. It’s mentioned in every blessing I’m given and I know it is part of my Heavenly Father’s will for me.
My definition and testimony of faith is the same in some aspects and also very different. I thought if I had faith and did what was right I would be protected and “blessed”. Nothing bad would ever happen to me if I had faith in Christ. Now I KNOW that if I have faith in my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and rely on them they will carry me through anything bad that happens to me and I will be blessed. I know that if I submit to His will I will be blessed beyond measure and have a life filled with joy.
-Before Jake died I had used the atonement in my life mainly for a remission of my sins. After Jake died I learned the true depth of the atonement. The need to rely on the atonement for my pain and sorrow was crucial to my survival. To this day when I am having a hard time I remind myself that the atonement isn’t a one time thing. It needs to be used and relied on everyday of our lives to receive that grace.
I have also gained a testimony of miracles. It is one of my favorite things about my life. I have endured many trials throughout the last 11 years, but weaved in and out of every trial is small and large miracles. I know that every trial I am asked to submit to in this life will be filled with miracles beyond measure. That knowledge and the faith that Heavenly Father will see me through every thing I go through is the only way I don’t fear the future.
If you are facing trials and challenges that are seemingly too hard to bear I challenge you to try out the Sunday school answers. I can testify to you that you will be blessed, you will survive, you will become stronger, and you will even learn to enjoy while you endure.
Anniversaries of Jake’s death are always a tender day. I miss him so much. I love him and I’m so thankful that our relationship has continued to grow through the veil over these years. The boys and I still think of him daily and grieve him. All of our family does.
I am beyond grateful to be married to Curtis. He is a perfect example of mourning with those that mourn. I consider this one of my biggest blessings. He is loving, understanding, and accepting of Jake in our lives. I love him and am so grateful for the beautiful life we have together. I am blessed beyond measure.
To read more of Julie’s Story : My Name is Julie and I Married My First True Love (Julie’s blog post that went viral)