By Diane Howard, Ph.D.
Amanda Stephens has written a beautiful book, “Learning to Ride Again,” that describes the valley of death that she experienced when she suddenly lost her sweet husband, after one year of marriage. This lovely, honest book is a blessing for anyone dealing with loss. I recently interviewed Amanda for Fruit in the Desert:
DH: What is your purpose for your book?
AS: I wanted to share my story in hopes that it would connect with others navigating loss and provide comfort and hope. I wanted to assure those dealing with grief that it takes time to heal. My prayer is that readers will be encouraged in their faith in a God who is patient, gentle and willing to connect with us in the deepest places.
DH: How did you initially deal with this sudden great loss it?
AS: Well, initially I dove deeply back into work. It was a busy season for me professionally, and work seemed like something I could control when so much of my life spun out of it control. In retrospect, I think the distraction of work was helpful at times, but I also recognized a tendency to overextend in an effort to appear “normal.” I did, however, determine to let myself walk out my grief—whatever that ended up looking like. I did not put time limits on myself. I needed to function, but in private, I allowed myself to respond to my feelings. Life was upside down. At times, I felt paralyzed. Thankfully, I had people in my life with whom I could be raw. They were safe places.
DH: How did you begin to recover?
AS: My faith was my anchor. I experienced a sweeter, deeper relationship with the Lord, and a tangible sense of heaven the first year. My faith discovered a new dimension, and I felt the Lord guide me through the stages, never leaving my side. The recovery process has been difficult but precious because of this renewed companionship. I also gave myself the freedom to listen to my heart, to let go when it was time.
DH: What have you learned about dealing with loss?
AS: There is an unstated societal pressure to get past it, but in the heart of every mourner, there is a need to connect and feel validated in grief. We need hope and the promise that God is loving, gentle and patient.
DH: What do you recommend to those who have dealt with loss?
AS: Give yourself grace and give others grace. It takes time to find your footing, but you will, so allow yourself the time for the journey. Also, extend grace to others who may not always know how to comfort you and in fact may botch it up horribly. I’ve learned that for the most part, people sincerely want to help; they just don’t know how. Give them grace and opportunities to love you through your loss.
DH: What do you recommend to those helping others dealing with loss?
AS: Caregivers and comfort givers need to give quiet, available, lasting grace. (Yes, grace is a major theme.) There is a mutual gift of deep connection with those grieving and those connecting with their grief. Caregivers need to be okay with the reality that recovering from grief can take time and communicate to the mourner that they are in it for the long haul.
DH: How has book helped others?
AS: A woman recently wrote me and shared, “I found my pain on so many pages, feelings stuck inside with nowhere to go except through the tears that were falling. You inspired me to not just let the anger and pain run its course but to explore, breathe and remember.” I praise God for that and am humbled that He is loving His children through this story. The book resonates with a range of people in various stages of grief, suffering from different forms of loss from death to divorce. I love that others feel inspired to learn to ride again!
Amanda Stephens grew up in South Texas and though a world traveler, keeps Texas her home. As a young girl, she wrote to pen imaginary stories and dreams. As a woman, she writes to tell her own and offer hope from a place of personal healing. She currently resides in Salado. Visit learningtorideagain.com for more information about the book and to connect with Amanda.