This is the second in our “Freedom From…” Series, an 8-week series featuring women who have faced adversity and found freedom in the process. If you missed last week’s story, you can read it here. Our story today is from Jen Turcotte L’Herault, as told to Kristin Demery. Jen is a widow, a wife, a mom, and an artist.
I met Nick when we were 16. We dated throughout high school and got married at 21. We were very much in love. Nick had a calling to join the Army and wanted to serve his country, so he joined the Army National Guard right after we got married and went to basic training a month after the wedding. He returned home and was deployed less than a year after that to Iraq for what was going to be an 18-month deployment. About halfway through the deployment, we got the worst thing you can get – two soldiers at the door, telling me my husband was not coming home alive. I went into shock – This can’t be happening to the person that I love. How am I ever going to live without him? But after the shock wore off, I got this huge sense that God had a plan for me. And anyone who called or asked how I was doing I would say, “God has a plan,” as if that was the only thing that I could say. I felt that God was right there, as close as my skin.
I have a faith background but I wasn’t strongly practicing. Throughout that first year, my sense of peace wavered back and forth. How am I possibly going to get through this? I had never really been single before; I didn’t know how to live my life without him.
In the first year of grief, you’re counting every day and every month that passes. Once I got to about six months, I found some grief therapy. About a year afterward, in 2008, I told God on New Year’s: “Ok, God, this is my year. You are completely in control. I’m not going to do anything but pray and listen and do what you need me to do.” I prayed and had no idea where he would put me, because I had no connection to any church. I had lost some friends, and was in the midst of wreckage. I ended up meeting someone who brought me to a church called The Exchange (Woodridge Church) in Medina. I met tons of people who didn’t look at me for only being a widow; they didn’t know that about me right away. And I think God did that for a huge purpose. I felt like he was telling me:
Even though this is your story, this isn’t your identity. This isn’t who you are. You’re my child, and I will move you forward and keep your life going.
I met Adam, my husband now, through mutual friends at my new church. I had prayed for a man strong enough to let me still love and carry Nick in my heart, “Ok, God, I think my heart is ready and I’m ready to find that person, the one who will let me live out my dreams of being a wife and mother.” I kept praying it out loud, all of my expectations: I know you’ve brought me to this place, and I need you to see my through. Because my heart is big, and I know I’m meant for this. My heart was aligned with God’s. I had tried to do it myself, and that had gotten me nowhere. I believe you can handle all things through Christ!
I met Adam in June 2008 and got married in February 2010, and now have two beautiful children.
What sort of expectations did you have for your life? Do you feel like they have been fulfilled?
When I was in high school, I thought I had met the love of my life. I had the expectation that it was going to be such an easy progression – we would get married young, have kids, do all the things you’re supposed to do. Having those things cut off at such an abrupt time made it feel like all those expectations were gone, that everything I ever dreamed of died with him. But coming alongside God, I realized that he fulfills expectations in his way and in his time. Being free from expectations means realizing that it’s not about you and your expectations – it’s about God’s journey and life and plan for you. It is not always going to look the way you thought it would look. My family picture has a gravestone in it, and I am now ok with that.
How do you trust God during that process?
I think you trust God by having the peace that he will see you to the end, even if you take a wrong turn along the way. Having the peace that God is in control even when you feel that your life is out of control. Also, knowing that everything we have has been entrusted to us. God trusted that I was the person to meet Nick and marry him at 21. He was able to live out so many goals and dreams in his life – he wanted to be in the military and was excited to serve — so to look at it from that perspective, too. I can see that from God’s point of view, that I was the right person to meet Nick and be with him. God gave him a full life, one with love and passion.
What have you learned from this journey?
What I’ve learned is to look at life and not take it for granted. Try not to get stressed about small things, but really try to slow down and take in small moments that might seem insignificant to most people: Taking bedtime or bathtime at a slower pace, realizing that being able to stay up late and talk to my husband is a blessing. Little things that people often pass through – and I do, too – but that’s the vision God has given to me: Slow down. Listen to them. Show them love. Each day is a total gift, and having someone taken away reminds you of that. My mission has been not to rush through life but to take each day for what it is worth and keep moving in the direction God has planned for you.
For those experiencing grief and loss:
- Center for Grief, Loss & Transition, located in St. Paul.
- Griefshare, often located in local churches.
- 10 Top Resources on Grief and loss here.
For those experiencing grief specific to the military: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
Bible verses that may help:
- Jeremiah 29:11
- Psalm 34:4
- Isaiah 54:4-6
(The beautiful necklace and canvas were created by Jen through Jewel Kade. You can find out more information about how she’s helping others hold on to their story in a tangible way here.)