A Holding Pattern

July 4, 2015 | My Jottings

I read that when a plane is being flown in a holding pattern, it’s not making any further progress in miles, but is flying around in a relatively small area of airspace, waiting until it has permission to land.

I feel like I’m in the holding pattern of widowhood, wondering what comes next. Except I realize that what is going on in my life right now (which I’ve always regarded as lavish beyond belief) might just be what will be going on in my life until my days on earth are over. And that would be so fine! But I still have this limbo-like feeling. I guess it’s normal.

I wish I had other older widows to talk to. I have four very close friends who’ve all been widows, but each was young when her husband died, and they’ve all remarried. And indeed they’ve each been wonderful comforts to me.

I wonder about seemingly silly things like, “What shall I do with my time now?” I have daughters and grandchildren and a foster care business, so it’s not like I’m bored. It’s not that. In fact, I can’t ever remember a time in 57 years when I’ve been bored. Being a reader has ensured a boredom-free life for me.

I have a picture in my mind about what a healed widow might do with her time. She gardens, knits, takes painting or sculpting classes, maybe even some college courses. She travels occasionally with friends, does senior yoga to stay limber, volunteers once a week at a place which benefits from her wisdom and compassion. She also loves to walk and bicycle, and only increases in strength and dignity the older she gets.

Well. I love the order and color of a beautiful flower garden, the organic freshness of home grown vegetables. But I’m not even an iota interested in doing it myself. I drove up to the cemetery today and pulled a handful of weeds away from Michael’s grave, and on the way home I noted the dirt under my fingernails with a titch of anxiety, which made me want to scrub them when I got home.

I love the idea of painting and creating and feeding my melancholic soul that way, but for some strange reason I don’t want to pursue that right now. I have scrapbooks I need to finish first.

Yoga would be nice if I could bend my right knee and attend an intensely remedial class for women who’re mostly blind and don’t want to do downward facing dog.

I would love to take a couple of online college courses, but to what end? To get a degree I probably wouldn’t use? Or just for the joy of learning and achievement? The latter sounds like it might be possible.

Travel is the one thing my imaginary quintessential widow-woman does that I would like to do, but I realize I have almost as much agoraphobia as I do wanderlust. I want to go to Scotland tomorrow. But I don’t want to leave my house. This could present a problem.

I can picture myself volunteering someday, but only when I’m not so needy myself. I don’t feel like I have much wisdom and compassion to offer to anyone these days. Rather, I feel vulnerable, drained and sponge-like.

It would seem like I’m in some kind of holding pattern. Like I’m waiting for the next thing, but I have no idea what the next thing could be. Woman_on_park_bench_10058346_l_RGBBecause except for the constant, hollow longing for my Michael (which is huge enough), I have been blessed with a life that keeps me thanking and praising God many times a day, with a full heart.

Can a full heart also feel tentative, sore and unsure? I hope so.

Perhaps a widow who has remained unmarried and is a few years further down the road on this grief journey could tell me that this holding pattern sensation will pass. Or maybe she would tell me it never really goes away, but that it becomes bearable with Jesus.

It’s perplexing but not terrible, and like everything else, I’m entrusting it to Him.


  1. Kay in Cornwall says:

    Dear Julie, I write not from experience, but from love. I think maybe you’re being a bit too hard on yourself. To you, it must seem an age since Michael passed into Glory, but in real terms it’s not that long. Your grief is still being worked out. I honestly cannot imagine the pain you are going through. If only I were there beside you right now, I’d give you a massive hug!

    Here in the UK we have an organisation to help the bereaved:


    I’ve not read through the website so I don’t know if it will help, but I pray that something here will speak to you. Do you have something similar in the U.S.?

    Praying for you dear, dear friend


  2. Just Julie says:

    Dear Kay, I do know my grief journey has really only begun. And I feel your love and care — thank you. I perused the site you sent and was so impressed! To my knowledge, we don’t have something as comprehensive as this here. We have grief/bereavement support groups, but they’re organized by hospitals and counseling centers and don’t have such a centrally organized help site like you do. I would be contacting them if we did! Hugs to you and Alan… xoxo

  3. Peggy Johns says:

    Please continue with your huge, huge gift of writing, while you hang on to the love of God and Michael. I selfishly need your thoughts, and encouragement! Love, Peggy

  4. Just Julie says:

    Oh Peggy…such an encouragement you are to me. I am honored that you stop by this little site. God be with you today… xoxo

  5. Dorothy Sooter says:

    Dear Julie, I am a much older woman and I am a widow, as you know.
    The first year was by far the worst. For me going back to work was very
    helpful. Working in a pregnancy care center also helped as I met so many young women that were in a terrible place. The compassion I had for them helped me but there was always the nights to go home and wish with all my heart your dad was still here. It is close to eight years and he
    Is as fresh in my mind as ever. I talk about him to my family an he was
    so loved by them. I know you have a job in caring for your ladies and you sure do not need any more work. Your trip to Alaska sounds wonderful and your friends going with you should make it really special. One of the things I have missed were the great trips your dad and I had going across this beautiful country. Eating bologna sandwiches in the car for lunch.
    Would never eat them at home but they sure tasted good. Seeing all the family was also great and I miss seeing you and all your beautiful children and grandchildren. In the past because I was such a slow reader, I did not get into reading until after your dad passed. That has been a wonderful experience for me. Losing my sister a few weeks ago has been very hard. Now I just sit and cry privately and know she is with the Lord and she is really home. Julie, you are such a blessing to so many people.
    Hope some of this helps you find your way through the maze of losing Michael. Love you.

  6. Just Julie says:

    Thank you for all you’ve shared here, Dorothy. You loved my dad so well, and I’ll be grateful to you forever for that. I’m glad you’re reading so much — Dad would love that. And I send you my love and prayers as you grieve your dear sister MJ. xoxo

  7. Sue Raimo says:

    You’ve described the holding pattern feeling so well. As much as we would prefer otherwise, I think it has to take as long as it takes. If one tries to land prematurely God’s next best may be missed – or even a crash. I have been enriched by watching you walk close to the Lord in the happy seasons of your marriage, watching you walk close to the Lord in the hard seasons, and now watching you walk close to the Lord in this new season of widowhood. May He continue to be your place of stability.

  8. Just Julie says:

    I do agree with you, Sue, and don’t feel inclined at all to get out of this “feeling”….it’s just not what I expected. I expected grief and sorrow, but not grief and sorrow with an odd feeling of purposelessness. I’ve never felt this before. And your kind words uplifted me, as always. You are a kind and generous friend, dear Sue. I know in so many ways, we deeply understand each other. xoxo

  9. Ember says:

    Ahem. Heathrow. We’ll meet you. xxx

  10. Just Julie says:

    🙂 xoxo

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