From the outside, Dr. Kimberly Harms looks like an accomplished dentist, speaker, and counselor. With a bright smile and a friendly personality, many people would assume that Dr. Harms—or Kim, as she likes to be called—has a perfect life.
Kim met her husband, Jim, when she was a student at the University of Maryland. The couple had big dreams to pursue careers in dentistry. They married when she was 19, and the two worked together all their lives, even opening a private practice together.
For years, Jim was Kim’s biggest supporter when she served for over 20 years as a National Spokesperson for the American Dental Association. She cherishes their deep, emotional connection that spanned decades, describing their marriage like a partnership: “He was my soulmate. He was my best friend … he was a coach to our kids; he was a great dad…. I had a lot more fun since I married him.”
Later in life, Kim would become a mother to several children who grew up in a loving home with two devoted parents. From the outside looking in, she had the perfect job, the perfect husband, and the perfect family.
What most people don’t know about Kim, however, is that her path has been marked by grief. With every moment of joy and each accomplishment, catastrophe seemed to follow her.
It all started in Kim’s childhood. Her mother had daily battles with her mental health, and when Kim was only 17, her mother made the choice to end her own life.
Now a mother herself, Kim had to find healthy ways to deal with her own grief and darkness when her brother suffered a heart attack and passed away. Only three months after this shocking event, Jim was diagnosed with liver cancer.
Although this heartbreaking news sent another round of shockwaves through her life, Kim had to be strong and remain hopeful for her children. Eventually, by the grace of God, Jim was put on a donor list and received a liver transplant. Jim’s recovery seemed to be going well until her family was hit by a third tragedy: the death of her 19-year-old son, Eric.
Eric was an accomplished student, a skilled jazz pianist, and a cherished member of the family. However, he was also a struggling freshman in college, and he made the decision to end his life in a moment of darkness and deep despair.
With this news, Jim’s health took a turn for the worse. Kim firmly believes that her husband did not pass away from a failing liver but from a broken heart, shattered by the loss of a son. Jim lived for 11 more years after Eric’s death, but his health was never the same, and he later passed away in hospice.
Although Kim had expected his death for a long time, the loss of so many loved ones in her life was devastating. She said that for the longest time, she walked around in a zombie-like trance, as if a fog had come over her life:
Kim made the choice to seek treatment for her own depression and grief, realizing that she needed to be strong for the children she still had on earth. Empowered by her newfound journey for mental health, Kim left dentistry to become a grief counselor.
Now, Kim can serve many people who have experienced losses like hers and help them make sense of the grief. In life, there are many tragic events we can never quite understand. People like Kim help us see God’s purpose in the midst of our hurt.
For widows who have lost husbands to suicide, Kim has unique insight. She herself has been in a dark place like her mother and Eric were. She understands that people who contemplate suicide cannot think straight because the pain has grown so much that they can’t think of anything else.
Kim believes Satan puts false guilt in our heads to make us believe that this world is better off without us in it. To those who have lost a loved one to these lies, she believes that with God’s help, they can fight the shame and guilt that comes with losing someone to suicide and rest in the promise that He works all things for good.
For all widows, Kim offers a new resource to help them process their grief and move on not only for their own sake, but also for the sake of others close to them. Her upcoming book, Naomi and the Widow’s Club, is filled with stories from the women in a widow’s group she joined to deal with her own husband’s passing.
To hear more of Dr. Kimberly Harms’ story and others like it, listen to A Widow’s Heart. Also, be sure to follow A Widow’s Heart on Facebook to see when each episode comes out and get sneak peeks of new episodes!