Two years ago, Helen Strickland faced the unbearable task of laying her young husband, country singer Craig Strickland, to rest. Craig, the 29-year-old lead singer of the Arkansas-based band Backroad Anthem, died from hypothermia after getting caught in a winter storm while on a fishing trip on Dec. 27, 2015. The days spent looking for him (his body was eventually discovered on Jan. 4, 2016) and making plans to lay him to rest were extremely difficult, but Helen says the funeral on January 12, 2016 was “the hardest part of the whole experience.”
In a new blog post on HelenEWStrickland.com, she writes, “It made it real. Seeing his casket at the front of a beautiful chapel full of people … my whole resolve was shaken. It was the first time that I didn’t know if I was going to be able to control myself in front of people. Not that a widow has to, but for some reason, being around people made me want to comfort them during that season.”
Helen goes on to write about walking towards her husband’s casket, saying, “I saw the dreams I had for my life fading. And the reality of my life became a lump in my throat that started to harden like a rock.”
Through her pain, Helen remembers making a decision to praise God even in these very difficult circumstances.
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As of Friday, it will be two years since I buried my husband Craig. I’ve done a lot of reflecting over the last two years and I’ve decided to share a few of my thoughts about what it was like to become a widow at a young age, how we can find courage in our faith no matter our circumstances, as well as one of the many important lessons I learned from the way Craig lived his life. Thank you all so much for your love and encouragement during this time of year. I am more thankful than you know for your love. ❤️ We all love and miss you Craig Michael. . Link to Blog in Bio #beencouraged
“I would raise my hands to every worship song as I do in church when I praise His name,” she says. “Because my God is my God in this tragic moment, as He’s my God in the easiest of moments. And I will tell you, raising my hands to praise my Heavenly Father as a grieving widow with a broken heart was definitely the closest I’ve ever felt to God.”
The two years since that day have not been easy, and Helen has often struggled under the weight of her grief.
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Today marks two years since my late husband Craig Strickland passed away. I honestly can’t believe it. It’s been hard, yet through it all I’ve learned and grown so close to God. To me having faith has never meant having a perfect life. It meant trusting God when life wasn’t perfect. Hope can be found in even the darkest of places when we choose to trust God with everything. Yes, if I’ve learned one thing from widowhood, it’s that when we release our hold on trying to control our own lives, God can finally pick up the pieces of a broken heart and make you new again. And over the last two years I have thought deeply about what my reasoning for loving God is truly based on. And I’ve concluded that I love my Heavenly Father for no other reason but because he first loved me. He has blessed my life tremendously in ways I do not deserve. And therefore whatever he gives or takes away, or no matter what he needs my life to look like in order to tell his story, I will be willing to live that life for His names sake. Craig’s story continues to move people, and bring them back to God, and I will humbly praise God for allowing me to be part of that story. Apart from Christ I see no way of overcoming a tragedy like losing the one you love. But I pray that Craig’s story, my story, and his family’s story will show you the hope you can have in Jesus. No matter the outcome of my life, I will choose to love Him and trust his plan for my life. And I know Craig would expect nothing less. ❤️ I love you Craig, thank you for blessing my life tremendously. . Watch NWA Channel 5 news for an interview with me tonight at 9 & 10pm
She says, “I prayed so many times that this wouldn’t be my life. I asked God to take this cup away from me. I cried out to God and asked Him why he was being silent. But today I’m grateful for not only the beautiful memories I have of my late husband that I can always cherish, but also the wisdom and the strength I now have due to my daily fight to choose to love God through my circumstances.”
Helen goes on to share a few of the lessons she’s learned in the past two years, including having a strong prayer life, appreciating the people around her and giving up control, as well as ownership, over things.
Helen also reminds anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one that grief is a process.
“It will hit you in strange ways at different times,” Helen writes.
She closes out her post saying, “Dear friend, whatever you’re experiencing, I realize it might be hard to be thankful right now. But my prayer is that you will read my story and see that you can find joy again with the help of Christ. I pray you would trust that God can bring hope and happiness to your life no matter your circumstances … He’s the only one who can.”
Helen plans to continue her blog posts about her journey. She’s also working on a book about losing Craig and finding hope in the aftermath.