It’s taken me a long time to be able to write about this journey. First of all, let me say I wouldn’t wish this process on anyone. It’s terrible. However, after speaking with several sweet friends recently who were considering a suit, I wanted to describe what you’ll be getting in to. Sometimes, it’s necessary to file legal action in today’s world to get what you and your children deserve. Sometimes, it’s about justice. If you get nothing else out of this post, remember this: This will be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. God will never, ever leave you through the process.
I was told it would take about 2-3 years to complete the whole process. It took more than four. There’s a whole lot of waiting in the journey. Know that our judicial system is very broken and very frustrating. Expect any hearing to not go your way. Our system favors the wrongdoer and victimizes the victims over and over again. You will constantly have to relive your husband’s death each and every hearing. Each and every mediation. Each and every Zoom call. Also, judges don’t think about single moms. After waiting for months, they may expect you to drop everything and show up at a hearing with just a few days’ notice. I’ve had to scramble to find sitters and ways to get my kids to and from school so I could be at court.
You will need a good Christian counselor. I know I couldn’t have done it without mine. I also had sweet friends that would help watch my kids or pray for me prior to hearings, depositions, etc. My husband (who was then my boyfriend) would sometimes come and cook and take care of the kids when a stress migraine had me in bed. (I started getting migraines during this process.) Don’t ever, ever forsake your time with the Lord. Believe me – you’re going to need to stay connected to him. God and I had a lot of honest conversations during this time. (Not in a weird way – he just spoke to me through his word.) I’m so grateful that we have a Lord who cares deeply for us and is acquainted with our struggles. He knows what it is to grieve and Scripture promises that he is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Know that it’s going to be a lot to juggle for a long while. I had to have serious conversations with attorneys while in the car with my littles in the backseat and while in the pickup line at my kid’s school. I would have to step out of children’s birthday parties to have conference calls. I actually prepared for my deposition while at football practice, trying to watch my son on the field and keep an eye on my younger kids who were playing. The juggling is not easy. It’s not easy to go to court or meetings or hearings that don’t go your way, listen to strangers trying to downplay the significance of your husband’s life, and then come home and take care of your kids. It’s exhausting. It’s long. It’s hard. I have a good friend who would always tell me, “You can do hard things.” I wish I could hold your hand, look you in the eyes, and tell you the very same thing: “You can do hard things.” We do them because it’s the right thing to do. We do them because our children are counting on us. We do them because we have to. When we are at the end of ourselves, Christ himself gives us the strength we need. (Read Philippians 4:13.)
Here are some tips for the journey. First, stay in community. It’s tempting to isolate yourself when in deep pain, but don’t. You need support during this time. Give yourself lots of grace. Imagine if a good friend of yours was going through the same thing. Wouldn’t you give her a lot of grace during this time? Give yourself that same amount of grace. Next, find projects to keep yourself busy when you get particularly discouraged by something in the legal process (like having your trial date pushed out. Again.) One time, I rearranged all my décor and furniture in my living room. I didn’t buy anything new, just moved stuff around. Heaving heavy stuff around was a welcome distraction. Another time, I bought a few new plants and planted them in the backyard. This required digging fairly large holes in my yard. By the end, I had bloody blisters on my hands, but I had successfully worked out my anger and frustration. (Spoiler alert: none of those plants survived the Snowmageddon last year here in Texas. They met a frozen end.) Exercise regularly. It helps get frustration out, and it’s a great way to naturally deal with anxiety and depression.
Finally, instead of dwelling on what you can’t control; focus on what you can. You can’t control how things will turn out, but you can control what you do each and every day with your kids. Don’t lose the years with them while you’re struggling with this battle. Play games with them. Do fun stuff with them. When you’re really tired and they are not, take them to a trampoline park. It works like a charm. They have fun and wear themselves out.
The next part is hard to say. Through this journey, you may never get justice. I clung to Deuteronomy 10:18 for years. “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow…” I remember clearly praying after the end of my battle, and asking God, “What happened?” I distinctly felt like God opened my eyes to see that this verse doesn’t promise justice in this world. This side of heaven, we may not get justice. I’ve learned a lot about trusting God through this process. I’ve come to realize we have to trust him for the outcome as well as the timetable. If we are going to trust Him, we have to trust Him completely. God has a plan. His plan is perfect. He knows things we don’t know.
Recently, I was shopping at Target and a new devotional by Lysa Terkeurst caught my eye. I flipped it open, and the page I was on said that when she was struggling, she reminded herself of three things.
- God is good.
- God is good to me.
- God is good at being God.
I think her words are perfect reminders to everyone, especially if you find yourself in this crazy and difficult journey of legal nightmares and parenting. God is good. He’s not just good to everyone else; He’s good to you, even in the midst of darkness. We don’t have to take matters into your own hands; God can handle it.
I’ll conclude with this. In 2 Chronicles 20, a great enemy army is coming up against the nation of Judah. The king assembles everyone and prays. He admits, in front of everyone, that he doesn’t know what to do. God prompts a man in the crowd to declare, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” Friends, you may have to fight, but the Lord will be with you.