When Your Spouse Dies

Photo credit: Mockney Rebel / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: Mockney Rebel / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

When we marry, our goal is to “become one flesh” as the Bible describes in Genesis 2:24, Malachi 2:15; Mark 10:7-8; Matthew 19:4-6; and Ephesians 5:31. But what happens to the surviving spouse when their marriage partner dies?

That’s a question we’ve been asked many times here at Marriage Missions because of the “ripping and tearing” that many have experienced after their other “half” dies.

So to help you in whatever way we can —knowing that this will be a very painful journey that no one, except those who have traveled this road as well, can truly understand, below is what we have found. Below you will read a portion of a letter written to a widow that reached out to us for help. We pray God will use it to minister to your heart as well, and below it, we will include links to additional articles posted on the internet as well:

I did some research and came up with a few things that I pray will minister to you. The first is a web site that you might want to visit if you have access to the Internet (which I hope you do). Here is a description of the web site:

•  Griefnet.org Their groups operate 24-hours/day, 365 days/year to help those who are grieving with the loss of a spouse, child, parent, friend, and other unique losses. Members participate when they wish and are able to, not at a set time.  When one member of a group sends an email message to the group, everyone in the group receives a copy. This allows many people to respond with love and caring to the thoughts and feelings of an individual, day and night, year-round. Since 1994 these groups have helped thousands of people around the world deal safely with their grief.

After I lost my dad I did a lot of reading on the subject of grieving. Those of us who have lost a loved one, need to do whatever it takes to get through every moment, celebrating the happy moments we had with our loved one and crying when we can (because tears are cleansing and healing). It’s also important to look for ways to get through the tough times with our heads held as high as we can. God will give you strength as you keep looking to Him and praying that He will be your husband (as He promised to those who are widows).

I did some searching for you and the following are various quotes that were given to me that were written by Martha Whitmore Hickman, from her book, Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief, that might help you in some way. She wrote:

“In case we’re feeling driven to somehow ‘get done with’ our grieving (if I do it faster, maybe I’ll feel better sooner), let us be reminded that, as in many of life’s profoundest experiences —making love, eating, and drinking —faster is not necessarily better. Perhaps the thing about grieving is that the process will not be cheated. It will take as much time as it needs. Our task is to be attentive when the messages of mind and memory come. If we let them go by unattended the first time, they’ll probably cost more in the long run.”

“Sometimes it’s the last thing in the world we feel like doing—getting out and being physically active. Aside from the effort it takes to get up and move, who cares whether we keep our body in good working order anyway? This is one of the times when thinking has to overcome feeling. We know exercise is ‘good for us.’ It’s hard to continue to feel depressed when muscles are working vigorously, when we’re paying attention to covering ground or swimming through water.

“As we release physical energy in these rhythmic motions, part of the energy of grief rides away, too. Part of the psychic value of such activity, I suspect, is that we’re witnessing our own competence, our ability to move rhythmically, to be ‘in charge’ of our bodies. Our sense of self-confidence will spread. Maybe we won’t be forever captive to grief after all. The physical invigoration of exercise invigorates our spirits as well.”

“Sometimes we’re unconsciously fearful that if we begin to move away from our grief, we’ll lose what contact we have with the one we miss so much… Perhaps the relinquishing of our most intense grief makes a space into which a new relationship with the loved one can move. It’s the person, after all, whom we want, not the grief.”

“May I hold my grief lightly in my hand so it can lift away from me. My connection to the one I’ve lost is inviolate; it cannot be broken.”

“It’s a costly wisdom, and God knows we would not have asked for it. But it’s also true that coming through a great sorrow can make us stronger, and teach us what’s really important. But to survive the death of a loved one is no guarantee of greater wisdom. We can also become embittered, reclusive, and grasping. But if we can weather the storm, we’ll have a better sense of who we are and what we want most in life. And we’ll learn to savor and cherish cool water, sunshine and wind, the smell of roses —and the love and friendship we have now.”

“Guess what? What women have known for a long time and maybe men are beginning to discover —crying really does make you feel better —and for good reason. Now we’re learning that crying has helpful physiological as well as psychological effects. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that emotional tears (as opposed to those shed from exposure to the wind, say, or a cut onion) contain two important chemicals, Leucine-Enkephalin and Prolactin, and that the first of these is thought to be related to one of the body’s natural pain-relieving substances.

“Tears are, they tell us, an exocrine substance —like sweat, or exhaled air —and one of the functions of such processes is to help cleanse the body of substances that accumulate under stress. Then why are we embarrassed by our tears? Why are we fearful they’ll make others uncomfortable? Often, when people cry, the work of healing can begin.”

• “No more apologies. No more uneasiness. My tears are for my healing. Perhaps, too, my tears will give others permissions to cry when they feel the need.”

“One of the things so astonishing and costly losing a loved one is that, while the sun continues to rise and set, newspapers continue to be delivered, traffic lights still change from red to green and back again, our whole life is turned around, turned upside down. Is it any wonder we feel disoriented and confused? Yet the people we pass on the street are going about their business as though no one’s world has been shaken to the core, as though earth has not opened and swallowed us up, dropped us into a world of insecurity and change.

“It is, as Emily Dickinson says, ‘a new road’ —for us as surely as for the one we have lost. It will take us time to learn to walk that road. Time, and a lot of help, so we don’t stumble and fall irretrievably. Those who have had their own experiences of loss will probably be our most helpful guides —knowing when to say the right word, when to be silent and walk beside us, when to reach out and take our hand. In time, we’ll be helpers for others.”

“Sometimes we berate ourselves: Why are we not doing better? Particularly if we’re people with any pretense to faith, why can we not muster the resources of faith and be a model of calm acceptance and inner serenity? It’s because we’re human beings and we’re hurting. No one worth his or her salt is going to think less of us if we acknowledge the shattering pain this loss has brought.

“People may conceivably hold us in some kind of awe if we exhibit an unnatural calm, but they’ll feel closer to us (and better able to deal with their own grief when their time comes) if they sense we’re being honest. We need to let the grief flow through us even as we try to be aware of the ongoing life around us. Sometimes it’s a matter of precisely that —letting the grief flow through us. It’s an act of the utmost courage.”

“I will not further burden myself by trying to fit some image of a ‘model griever.’ The strength I have is the strength to be myself.”

“Change is the order of life, yet how we resist it. Sometimes, looking back, we see that only by letting go were we able to move on to the new adventures, new insights and satisfactions. A widow, who had lived in her husband’s shadow, doing the dutiful wife-and-mother things, emerged after his death as a featured speaker at many church and civic gatherings. She said to me once, ‘Isn’t it a shame I had to wait until he died before I began to come into my own?’

“We live our lives in chapters. What was right for her in the early years of her marriage was obviously not suitable in her later years. Nor would she have wanted to consign home and children to someone else’s care when her children were small. There is consolation in knowing that change, even difficult change, brings surprising gifts. Though the thought may be unappealing to us now, let’s not shut the door too soon on something good that could be waiting for us in the next room.”

“I will keep my eyes open. Something surprising and good may happen tomorrow —or the day after.”

Also, the following are quotes from the book, Will I Ever Be Whole Again?, Surviving the Death of Someone You Love by Sandra Aldrich (who wrote what she learned after she was widowed). Even though we include several quotes in this article from the book, I HIGHLY recommend that you obtain it. There are many, many other statements and points and stories included in the book that will weave all of these statements together:

“Our brains often move slowly as we try to absorb bad news.”

“I’m convinced that our bodies are constructed in such a way that we must grieve. And if we aren’t allowed to grieve appropriately, we will express it inappropriately, often through anger or depression. …Bereavement is the time after a major loss. The outer signs, such as wearing black or having annual memorial services—such as the Ethiopians do—are set by societies.

“Grief is an emotional response and can stay with us for years. But a thin line exists between grieving the loss of someone we love and grieving the way our life has turned out. We all know people who display grief so intensely even years after a death that they’re difficult to be around since they are convinced no one has suffered as they have.”

“During the year I worked on a funeral-home counseling team with Dr John Canine, a Detroit area grief therapist, part of my job was to encourage new widows. Of course I knew the widows’ pain all too well, but while I agreed that [my husband] Don’s death was an amputation, I had decided it didn’t always have to bleed. Most women found comfort in my soothing, ‘It may always hurt, but it won’t always hurt this much.'”

“The grieving process may be complicated by the individual situation, but the intensity with which we grieve often depends on a combination of four variables: the closeness of the relationship, and whether the death was sudden, premature, or violent. Any one of these characteristics means intense sorrow, but with each additional grief intensifier, our emotional pain deepens.”

“Suicide, war, murder, accident, devastating disease. Death often is absolutely senseless and even my refuge of the sovereignty of God doesn’t offer a satisfactory explanation. How tired our heavenly Father must be of our blaming Him for the consequences of human decisions! I’ve finally settled on this: Our only choice in the midst of tragedy isn’t whether we’ll go through it, but how. Only the Lord’s presence offers comfort —and the hope that we will see our loved ones again.”

“I truly believe that God in His re-creative way can bring His good out of our pain, but I also believe that we have to be willing to see the good that is created. But how do we accomplish that when the loss is so senseless? Granted, sometimes the victories are small by themselves, and it’s only in the comparison of how we used to be that the miracle is seen. I’m convinced that even the most tragic loss ultimately can be turned into good —if we allow it to be.”

“The loss through death will always be an amputation, but it does not always have to bleed.”

“Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross found that the dying work through five basic stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We know that the families of the terminally ill go through these stages too. But after the death, the griever faces additional challenges through numbness, searching, disorientation, and resolution.”

“Numbness can last from just a few hours to several weeks. Everything seems to move in slow motion, causing the grievers to feel as though they are in a bad dream or walking through a fog. As the numbness begins to fade, the intense grief of this early stage may produce chest pains or feelings of suffocation.”

“Searching —the next stage —can be an intense time as the grievers come out of the fog and ask, ‘What exactly happened?’ In the early part of this stage, the survivors will want to see the autopsy report or police account. Not only is it normal, but it is healthy. Getting our questions answered, painful though the process may be, gives us some emotional control.”

“During the searching stage, that awful question ‘Why?’ surfaces. Often it’s accompanied by ‘What else could I have done?’ or ‘Should he have stayed on chemotherapy?’ or ‘Maybe he should have gotten off the chemotherapy.’ Of course this is a painful time for listening to the griever’s questions too. No quick answers exist. After [the famous preacher] Peter Marshall’s funeral, his anguished widow, Catherine, asked her mother why this had happened.Her mother, also a widow, answered quietly, ‘In God’s time, He will give you His answers.’ With hindsight we see that the Lord brought blessing out of the pain as He gave Catherine her special [writing] ministry. Countless people have been comforted by writings that could not have been produced except through her own suffering.”

“When the survivors are ready to let go of the deceased’s personal items [and everyone comes to this point at different times so don’t rush into it if you aren’t ready yet], they often wonder which ones they should discard and which ones they should keep. Many counselors divide the items into two categories: linking objects and mementos. Linking objects are personal items, such as toothbrushes, [pillows and such] and should be discarded as quickly as the griever is comfortable with throwing them away. Mementos include family pictures and heirlooms that are an important part of the family’s memories. Mementos should be kept [unless it causes more pain than joy].”

“Resolution signals the beginning of rejoining life. Joy, and even laughter, returns. …How soon laughter or even quiet grins return to our lives depends on how intense the circumstances were that caused our grief. But a time comes when we must allow the laughter to return —or pull our gloom even tighter around our shoulders. Medically, laughter causes the brain to release chemicals called endorphins, which relieve pain. …When Proverbs 17:22 says A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (KJV), it’s true!”

“FACE THE LOSS. It’s okay to hurt. You aren’t damaging your Christian testimony if you cry. It’s okay to miss someone you love. Remember, even Jesus wept —over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). …So if Jesus, the son of God, can cry, it’s okay for me —a frail imperfect human —to cry.”

“In facing the grief, it helps to remember that some of the dumbest things are gong to get to you. …Talking through even those ‘dumb’ symbols of loss with a trusted friend or a knowledgeable grief counselor can be an important step in acknowledging the hurt. Those who try to ignore looking at their distress —whether because it’s too painful or because they think ‘good’ Christians don’t cry —often battle stress and depression later.”

“Something healthy happens when we say, ‘This hurts!’ Releasing that pain may be as dramatic as sobbing on the kitchen floor, as intense as crying all evening after the children are in bed, or as quiet as a deep sigh when a young family reminds us of what we’ve lost. Southerners have an expression to describe the intangible longing that occasionally sweeps over us: ‘feeling homesick and lonesome.’ The only immediate cure I’ve found for that pain is the Bible. Every human emotion is recorded there. Immediately Psalm 74:1 comes to mind: Why hast thou cast us off for ever?(KJV). Once we’ve accepted the reality of our situation, we can begin to work through it with the Lord’s help.”

“For those still hounding themselves with the ‘should-haves,’ they’re dealing with false guilt —the kind the Enemy loves to use against us. One way to release it is to say aloud, “This is false guilt, and it is not from God.’ As you keep talking to God about it, the peace will eventually come.”

“Believe it or not, we do have the choice of whether we want to be better or bitter because of what we’ve experienced. What if we stopped asking ‘Why me?’ and pondered ‘Why not me?’ Why do we think we’re supposed to get through this life without sorrow? Think of Job’s observation: ‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10). Allow that grief to help you become a better person as you learn from it and help others through their pain. We can also help ourselves as we grasp the importance of this moment and this day.”

“When Jesus said ‘Come unto me,‘ He did not add ‘But come without tears.'”

“We are truly ‘fearfully and wonderfully made‘ (Psalm 139:14). God knew what He was doing when He gave us tear ducts. In fact, when we’re under stress, crying is a healthy thing for us to do. In fact, when we’re under stress, crying is a healthy thing for us to do. In the early eighties, William H. Frey II, Ph.D., director of the Alzheimer’s Research Laboratories at Ramsey Medical Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, led a team of researchers testing the content of tears. By comparing the tears shed when the subjects peeled onions against the tears shed when those same people watched a sad movie, the researchers discovered noticeable chemical differences.

“But haven’t we always known that? Think of the times we’ve responded to ‘What’s wrong?’ with ‘Nothing, I just need a good cry.’ If we’re not allowed to cry because of our own or society’s standards, I’m convinced the brain holds the toxins that should be released, thus producing other problems. It’s better if the tears flow now so we can move on later. That’s why the friends who were the greatest comfort to me were the ones who simply put their arms around me and cried too.”

“Grievers are caught in a time warp; each moment rolls heavily toward us as a reminder that our life has been changed forever.”

“From my personal and professional experiences I’ve learned some important steps in helping children: ~ Tell the truth right away. ~ Be truthful. ~ Tell only what the child can handle. ~ Encourage children to express feelings. ~ Allow children to attend the funeral. ~ Take the child to the cemetery. ~ Let the child talk. …How many times have we approached the adult at the funeral home and ignored the children standing nearby? It’s important that they, too, be allowed to talk —to explain how their [dad or mom] died or to share a special memory. Not only does that attention acknowledge their place in the family, but it acknowledges their grief as well. … ~ Encourage communication. ~ Be there. ~ Affirm the child’s feelings.”

“If well-meaning people forget the promises they’ve made to you in the funeral home, try to remember they cannot be all we want them to be —just as we can’t be all they need us to be.”

“Inappropriate responses can result in greater problems later. As searing as fresh grief is, the recovery still is swifter when we face our loss.”

“Concentrating on what we have left instead of what we have lost helps ward off depression.”

“Our children learn how to handle stress by watching the adults in their lives.”

Philippians 4:19 was the scripture [my son] ten-year-old Jay was memorizing the day his dad died. The copied verse from the King James Version was on the kitchen counter when I came home from the hospital to tell the children the bad news. The note paper almost seemed to glow, as though the Lord Himself was offering special comfort: ‘But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.‘ Many times I tested that promise, even occasionally challenging Him with ‘Even this need, God?’ Gradually I learned that He hadn’t overlooked anything. Amazingly I learned to do many of the things that had belonged to Don’s traditional roll —even changing the oil in the car and balancing the checkbook. But most of all I grew, learning much about myself and even more about my heavenly Father.”

“TAKE GOOD FROM THE PAST INTO THE FUTURE. Second Corinthians 1:3-4 reads, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says he talks to his brothers in Egypt, years after they had sold him to a caravan,You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. I am convinced that God can —and will —bring His good out of any situation we give to Him.”

“Learning to take care of ourselves in the midst of grief can be both a challenge and a new beginning.”

“Find ways to help others and thus help yourself.”

There is also something that Georgia Shaffer wrote in her book, A Gift of Mourning Glories (which is no longer being published) that would be good to keep in mind when you are tempted to escape your pain in a way that you shouldn’t. Gloria wrote of a woman who understandably struggled in her grief, but in trying to escape it, she almost went in a direction that would have lead to later regrets piled on top of her grief:

“Gwen discovered she had more valuable insights to give others after she’d gone through her own ‘valley of sorrows’ than she had before. ‘When Steve, my beloved husband, died of cancer, I was left with a void the size of the Grand Canyon,’ Gwen said.

“‘Shortly after his death, I enrolled in a class at a community college and met Bob, who wasn’t only good-looking and charming but very attentive toward me. I was surprised by how his attention eased the ache in my heart. No longer grieving, I looked forward with anticipation to each new day. Within one week my new friend and I were sitting together for lunch, lingering behind as the rest of the students filtered back into the classroom, and having private conversations.

“One night after a lengthy phone conversation, Bob came to my home. As we sat on the sofa, he leaned over and kissed me, stirring all the passions within. Not only was my husband gone but for a moment so was the pain. How tempting it was to follow my desires. But God is good at rescuing his people. Bob and I were interrupted by a phone call, which put an end to what could have been a regrettable event.

“‘The next day reality slapped me in the face,’ Gwen recalled. ‘I asked God to forgive me for trying to bury my pain. The ache in my broken heart returned full force, and I was back in the grip of grief where I needed to be. I’ve learned that when we enter into a relationship prematurely, it acts as a temporary pain pill and stops the grieving. Such a shortcut wasn’t only unfair to Bob but it hindered me from fully mourning the loss of my husband.

“Experts say it takes two to five years to adjust to a new normal. It took me that long to gather all the pieces of my shattered heart. Finally I’m at a place where I can give my heart away to someone else. It was well worth the wait.”

And then here is something from the book, Coping with Life after Your Mate Dies:

“The death of your mate will greatly affect your physical and emotional health. Grieving can cause numerous physical manifestations, such as headaches, dizziness, insomnia, moodiness, and various appetite problems. When reminders of your departed loved one cross your consciousness, anxiety and panic attacks may occur, manifested by irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling hands or feet, among other symptoms. Most physicians agree that there is a direct link between physical health and one’s mental/emotional state. Mental-health authorities have discovered that prolonged and unresolved grief can actually cause physical disabilities that may indirectly become life-threatening.

“One of the most common complaints of grieving spouses is difficulty in establishing a regular pattern of restful sleep. A professor friend of mine recently witnessed the long and painful death of his 53 year old wife. He found that he awoke several times during the night with “flashbacks” of the wonderful times that he and his wife had enjoyed. On other occasions these sleep disturbances bore reminders of the occasions when his afflicted wife needed him to move her to another location in the bed.

“Other persons we have interviewed complain that they are prone to awaken at a very early hour, such as 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. One dear lady said she cried herself to sleep each night because she was now sleeping alone for the first time in 37 years.

“There are a number of ways of attempting to cope with these and related problems. First and most importantly, it is helpful to recall certain verses and promises that God Almighty has given us. Always recognize that there are countless conditions and situations, such as your mate’s death, over which you have little, if any, control. Man-made explanations and remedies cannot remove your present grief. No amount of talking on the part of your friends that “you need  to get on with your life” will resolve your problems.

“Unfortunately, too many people (including faithful Christians) utilize the resources found in God’s Word as a last step in helping them in their present need. To help you with your sleep and other physical problems, you can remember special promises that God has given us. For example, read Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 7:7; and John 14:14. Your pastor can suggest many other relevant Scripture passages.”

With that in mind, the following are some scriptures that might help you as you begin this journey:

  • The good men perish; the godly die before their time and no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to realize that God is taking them away from evil days ahead. (Isaiah 57:1 LB)
  • Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  • God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  • The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)
  • Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)
  • Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15)
  • Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
  • Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)
  • Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)
  • I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. (Micah 7:7-8)
  • You are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:5)
  • I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)
  • O Lord, sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. (Psalm 119:116)
  • This I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. (Lamentations 3:21-22)
  • Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
  • Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
  • Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
  • We say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
  • As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. (Psalm 71:14)
  • May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
  • You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. (Job 11:18)

And, here is something I found in the book, When Your Spouse Dies: A Concise and Practical Source of Help and Advice, written by Cathleen L. Curry (a book you may want to obtain if you’re able):

• Make no big changes. During the months after the death of a spouse it is almost impossible to sort out and evaluate the different choices that confront you. Wait a year to settle in to your situation before you sell a home, move, or get romantically involved with another person.

• Be gentle with yourself; allowing God’s love to surround you. Pay attention to getting enough sleep, eating nutritional foods, and getting some exercise.

• Ask for help. Take classes in areas you don’t understand: cooking, finance, car care, etc. Ask friends or relatives to assist. People want to help, let them.

• Read and learn. By reading and listening to other people’s stories, you can gain insight and support for the ordeal you are going through. There is a wealth of books on the topic at the library or bookstore.

• Keep a journal. Writing your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and encounters in a notebook can be therapeutic. This will help alleviate your stress and be a marker in months ahead of the progress you’ve made.

• Focus on today. Deal with the hurts, works, and blessings of this day alone, not the seemingly endless road ahead.

• Find kindred spirits. Look for those who share the same value system, who can bounce ideas back and forth, and guide you in your many decisions. These could be special relatives, friends, or Christian mentors.

• Be open to spiritual growth. The Bible holds the truth and the power to face the changes in your life. Begin your day in prayer, turn to God with every new wave of emotion, telling Him of your pain and fears; and at the close of the day, thank Him for bringing you through another day.

And here is another list of suggestions, which come from the book, Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies, written by Marta Felber, published by Ave Maria Press (a book you may also want to obtain):

• Greet the day. Each morning decide to have a good day, thanking God for His presence and asking for His guidance.

• Build a support network. Family and friends may be sympathetic and understanding – or they may be too submerged in their own grief. Find other people who are also mourning in church or community grief support groups.

• Accept the crying. Tears can be healthy and healing, whether they are shed publicly or with close family and friends.

• Deepen your faith. Use this time to get closer to God, depending on His strength and accepting the hope He offers.

• Start a journal. Write whatever enters your mind. Record any progress you have made, however small.

• Walk each day. Walking improves the body, reduces stress, and restores the soul. It will help with sleepless nights and bouts of depression.

• Appreciate the straight stretches. Treasure the times of laughter and silliness, and days that flow smoothly. Remembering them will help when it gets rough again.

• Postpone some decisions. Sleep on decisions for 24 hours, put others off until you must make them. Get good advice to help you make decisions. Make a master list of what must be accomplished, when, and how. Tackle these jobs when you are in a more up mood.

• Live in the present. To live in memory, however tempting, is not to live at all. Today is the only day you have. Make a list of what needs to be accomplished today, and begin.

• Forgive and make peace. In the wake of a great loss, anger can arise over unresolved issues. You may have to forgive your departed spouse – or yourself – for something that was said, or neglected to be said. Honest forgiveness brings closure and a sense of peace

• Make your home yours. Slowly and carefully, make changes so that your home reflects you. Decide which reminders you want to keep of your loved one, and what you want to remove or change.

• Prepare for celebrations. Holidays will be difficult. You don’t have to celebrate them the same way as in the past. Try to have reasonable expectations about what you can handle – physically and emotionally. Get plenty of rest and don’t attempt too much.

• Venture out alone. Although you’ve been accustomed to tables for two, you can still go out to eat, accept social invitations, and go to gatherings alone. It will get easier with time.

• Relive that day. It’s OK to review the details of the day your loved one died, then realize that you survived it. You never have to go through that day again, and neither do you have to remain locked in that day. You can go on.

Another thing you may find helpful: is to go into your Bible and take a journey through the Psalms. Many people I know who have experienced grief have found a lot of solace by reading through the Psalms. There are a lot of verses throughout it, that ministers in a very personal way to those who need a voice to express their hurting hearts and also need verses that will comfort and inspire them. Read, pray through, cry through, write out, and take into your spirit, all that God impresses upon your heart through this journey.

I pray this helps in some way. If any of this gives you a momentary bit of relief, I’m thankful. I pray the Lord brings others to minister to your needs in the ways in which you need.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit! (Romans 15:13)

Even in the darkness light dawns for the upright. (Psalm 112:4)

— ALSO —

There are additional articles that can give you additional insights that are provided below. Please click onto the following web site links to read:




— ALSO —

For those who have a friend who is a widow, the following article posted on the Crosswalk.com web site might help you in reaching out to her.


This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.


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21 responses to “When Your Spouse Dies

  1. (NAMIBIA)  I do not know how I would have coped with the loss of my wife (7 months ago) without Christ in my life. Obviously, such a loss would test one’s faith. My grief is nothing like the pain He had to endure to save my soul. That is why He, through God the Father, can console me with the Holy Spirit. They understand and mould one’s life for the glory of their Kingdom, which we are part of as followers of Christ. This is loving consolation. Besides a beautiful wife I have a loving Trinity. Can I get luckier?

  2. (USA)  I lost my husband 2 months ago from cancer. Thank you for this web page- just by reading it today, it gave me some consolation. And I want to continue reading more from the books you have mention here. But most of all from my Bible. He was a good Christian and loved to sing to the Lord. He wrote many beautiful songs to praise Him and that kept him going for l year until his voice was shut down from radiation and chemotherapy. Yet his faith kept him strong until he passed on to be with the Lord.

    1. (USA) Sara, I’m so, so sorry that you have lost your husband –such a loss — so sad. Your husband sounds like a wonderful man. His presence will be sorely missed here on this earth. My heart and prayers are with you. May God continually minister to your heart and your needs.

    2. Sarah, I am so sorry. My husband recently passed with Pancreatic cancer/liver spread. He lived 4 months and he was promoted to be with his heavenly Father. Doctor’s prognosis was 4-6 weeks. Neil could talk, only in a whisper, but! when he sang and praised the Lord he could sing loud and clear. Neil was a worship leader in the church.

      We saw God’s hand in things that happened during the 4 months and it was truly amazing. This is only week 3 for me. Trusting God and His word for me, He is my husband now! I am, a widow We have finished the race and we both kept the faith. He is coming back soon… How exciting is that! Praying for peace and comfort for widow’s and widower’s, that they would continue to trust God. Stay in the word, find His peace and joy and rest in Him.

  3. (US) Thank you so much for this web site. My husband went to be with our LORD and Savior 6 months ago. My strength and comfort comes from the LORD. Thank you for the scriptures. One day I was feeling alone crying out to God that if he was anywhere near me to give me a sign or something. I was driving crying as I held on tight to the steering wheel with my hands closed tight a klenex on my hand. I felt the beat of my heart on my hands and knew GOD was with me holding me and letting me know I was not alone. How much comfort this was to know he answer my cry. Thank you and be blessed.

    1. Dearest Jane, My heart cries with yours. How much I pray God will continue to comfort you and help you as you reach out to Him. My prayers are with you.

  4. (USA) My husband just passed 8 days ago, from a long 19 mth battle with cancer. He left me 31 yrs of age, and with 3 small children, 11, 8, and 18 mths old. I don’t know what to do. My heart is broken. There is a piece of me missing. My anxiety has sky rocketed; I think I’m losing it. I try to stay strong for the kids, and on the outside I look strong, but inside I feel like there are 1000 pieces of my heart. I’m so sad, and scared. I seem to be leaning towards others for his absence. He has older sons from another marriage, and I feel I am to clingy with them. I feel inappropriate, but they remind me so much of him, I can’t seem to let go. Please help me with these feeling I’m having.

  5. (U.S.) Hello – My wife lost her battle with cancer after 7 years on Jan 29th 2013, from ovarian cancer. I met my wife in 1982, after I came out of the service. We married in 1988, and were inseparable. She passed away at the age of 59, and I’m 54.

    I can’t describe the pain I feel after being the caregiver one moment, then not the next. I had to go on F.M.L.A., because I’m a wreck. Can you please advise how long the pain is going to last? Thanks.

    1. Dear George, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your wife. I can’t even imagine the pain you are going through… so, so sorry. You ask how long the pain is going to last. From what I know of so many family members who have lost spouses (including my dad losing my mom and my husband’s dad losing not only his first wife –how we loved her… but eventually his second wife after he had remarried) and friends and those who write to us who have lost spouse’s, you can’t put a set time to how “long the pain is going to last.” It varies for every person.

      Sadly, what you are going through is so new and fresh. It’s not at all unusual to be feeling extreme loss –especially at this point. It’s like you have been ripped in two. That type of a grievous injury does not heal quickly, and when it does, your “normal” will be forever changed. It’s not that you won’t eventually find a type of peace in your life again and laughter eventually, but it will be different and it’s difficult to say when you will start to experience this again. You may consider going to a grief counselor or a grief-recovery group to help you work through the various stages of grief that you will be experiencing. I’ve known of many who have found this to be helpful –my sister-in-law included, after she lost my brother.

      I hope with all of my heart and pray for you that you are able to find ways to grieve and release the incredible pain in ways that are healthy… so that eventually you will be able to better cope and live out each day. I pray the Lord helps you, and comforts you. I also pray God infuses hope into your heart that you will eventually experience better days –ones that will bring a smile to your heart (even though right now you may not think that will be possible).

      1. George, I would also like to add to what Cindy shared with you. In almost every community there are “Grief Support” groups that meet regularly. Some are facilitated by a trained counselor and others by people who have gone through what you are experiencing and share and comfort from their own life experiences. Often times these groups are put on and held at churches and other times they are at community centers.

        You didn’t say if you are a Christ-follower, but I urge you to take your pain to the One who understands grief and loss better than anyone – God.
        Just Google “Bible verses on comfort” and see what comes up for you to read. Allow God to minister to you right where you are – in the middle of your grief.

        As Cindy said there is no “right amount of time” to grieve and then move on. Don’t listen to others who may tell you that you “should be over it” or “you need to move on.” While they may be well meaning, they don’t have a clue as to what you’re going through. That’s why being in community with a group of people who do understand it can make a big difference in your recovery.

        I pray you will experience “…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

  6. (INDIA) My wife of 12 years became dearer to God 7 months back after silently but bravely accepting the brain cancer diagnosed in the final stage, for a period of just 6 months. I feel so overwhelmed inspite of trying to put up a brave face, but inside there is a raging storm without an idea of what to do.

    Reading through the various comments by people in this situation does give you a feeling that you are not alone on this road. But the pain that you have to tread on through the rest of the journey alone because it’s our cup of drink and nobody can drink it for us, is the feeling of loneliness being in the crowd.

    1. So sorry Jigu, My heart goes out to you. I’m glad that you feel some type of comfort, while reading comments, so you are able to feel “you are not alone on this road.” That is a very empty and frightening place to be. I hope you can grab onto God and keep looking for the help you can gain in some ways here and there so you don’t feel quite so lonely. Sadly, this is part of life here on earth, because we live in a fallen world. Prayerfully, though, you will lean into whatever healthy comfort you can, and look to God to help you to feel less alone and not be quite as overwhelmed. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out for you.

  7. (UNITED STATES) Hello Cindy and Steve -My apologies for taking so long with a reply. I have not been doing well lately. To be honest, life is very difficult right know. I can’t get used to the fact that my wife is gone forever. There’s not an hour during the day that I don’t think of her.

    She was way too young to leave this world at 59. I had a baby a long time ago, and my baby passed, so I didn’t want to bring anyone in this world. I met a woman that I would love, and take the task of raising her kids. Now I find myself very lonely. The kids are all grown up and gone.

    I consider myself a good Christian, going to church. I still can’t get over her not being there with me every Sunday. We would go to breakfast after church, then for our “Sunday” drive. It’s hard, very hard. I can’t do anything about it. So I’ll need to learn to move. Thanks for your words wisdom both you. I appreciate it. George

  8. I lost my wife 16 months ago to cancer. Before she became sick we had talked about life without one another and how we would continue to live. We both wanted each other to be happy and live a fruitful and fulfilling life. She would often say to me that she did not want me to become a hermit and that I should move on. In her life experiences she had a sister who lost her husband and for seven years her sister had not “moved on”. Actually she did “in Christ” but my loving wife did not see it that way.

    Now here is my issue that I would like some feedback on. Shortly after my wife’s death I began to get rid of many of her personal things by either giving them to charity. My family was appalled at this but I did it anyway because it was right for me. Also, I joined a dating site (3 months after her death) and began meeting people. I didn’t tell my family this at first but after about 6 months after her death I did and they seemed to accept the fact that I too needed human interaction. I subsequently met a woman, also a widow, who had lost her husband many (20) years before this time. After over a year of dating we’ve become very serious but even though I have met all her children and family who are very nice and accepting, she has yet to fully meet my family. She has only met my two boys recently, my brother, and my late wife’s sister (the widow).

    At this meeting all my family was very polite but a bit nervous, which is understandable but the problem is this. She has yet to meet my grandkids, which she would love to do and she wants desperately to be integrated into my family. At our recent family vacation I talked with each family member about this issue and while they all said that they found her to very nice and wanted the best for me but they were still grieving and they were concerned about introducing her to my grandkids. All my kids and her son, who by the way is a Minister, advised her that integrating her into a new family of a recently deceased member is a process and will take time. She is a very strong woman, which I admire dearly, but this issue has put a strain on our relationship and causing a lot of stress for us both. After last weekend she has agreed to back off this issue for a while but knowing her like I do, it will surface again. Any advice would be appreciated.

  9. I needed this. My husband of 22 years died December 2014…it’s been 5 months. I am in stage 2. It was good to be able to read this though. If I weren’t smelling his cigarette smoke, feeling his presence a few times a week, I feel like I could maybe move on.

  10. Hello, Gee, life keeps rolling on. I didn’t think I would be the one left behind. Sam, our basset Hound died of old age. Meredith (my wife) missed him very much. Seven weeks later Meredith died in her sleep unexpectedly. That was March tenth of two thousand fourteen.

    I am feeling that I am coming into my own now. Like being a freshman in college. The world is starting to look something like it did before Sam and Meredith started to wane. I have always liked Elvis Presley’s version of The Garden. “He walks with me and he talks with me and tells me I am his own”. ~ Lee

  11. Cindy, 4 months ago I joined the marriage insight for couples and 2 months down the line I lost my husband. Today I find myself on the other side and I cannot ask God why. By reading peoples experiences I can only ask God to make me useful. My loss was so hard as my husband’s relatives fought me during the funeral and took his body for burial on their own. I did not bury him the way he wanted. Above all his young brother took over my husband’s businesses and me and the children are finding it hard to go on financially. The situation forced me to dry my tears before time, but now I cry each day. I lost a hero, a friend, a companion and a dad to my children and an asset to the community. Hoping to learn more here. May God bless your ministry

  12. I am desperately reaching out for prayer for my special friend. His wife died from cancer, they had been married for 40 yrs. I met this man through his son whom I work with. That has been over 2 yrs ago, I carry this man so much in my spirit. I am awakened at night praying for him, throughout the day praying for him. It’s almost as if I feel his grief. I have never prayed for someone so much in all my life. I am an intercessor, I embrace this assignment. My heart aches for him. I pray and ask God what else can I do, for his grief is so very great.

  13. Thank you for this site. I lost my husband from Multimyeloma the 12th of March, my birthday. I am happy for him, the loss is becoming overwhelming, so I appreciate all the scriptures you share. We were buddies and always together. What more can I say?

  14. I lost my husband on March 1. It was unexpected, he just quit breathing while we were driving. I am lucky to have so many friends and family. I now feel I need time to be by myself and talk to God and try and figure out what life holds. You plan for retirement for years and years and then all of a sudden it is undone. I wish I had my husband here for his wonderful hug and to discuss with me what to do. I understand the other comments on this site and am sorry we have to go through this grieving and hurting and thank God for his comfort.

    1. Jenny, you are in my prayers. My husband of 43 years died during this past January after he suddenly quit breathing. Stay strong! Char from Pittsburgh, PA