When we marry, our goal is to “become one flesh.” It’s talked about in the Bible 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 his or her spouse dies?
That’s a question we’ve been asked many times here at Marriage Missions. It’s a type of “ripping and tearing” that many have experienced after their other “half” is no longer physically with them on earth.
To Help You After Your Spouse 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. First, here is a listing of several web sites that you might want to visit.
Web sites that minister to those left behind after a spouse dies:
• GriefShare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. You don’t have to go through the grieving process alone. Thousands of groups meet weekly around the world. Visit or join a group at anytime. And attend as many meetings as you like. There are thousands of GriefShare grief recovery support groups meeting throughout the US, Canada, and in over 10 other countries. Also, you can sign up to receive an encouraging email message every day for a year. These short messages will inspire you and provide practical information as you grieve the loss of your loved one.
• Widowschristianplace.com is a ministry where their goal is to let you know that “you’re not alone. Here’s a safe place, a growing place, a way out of the shadows of grief… This blog provides resources and Biblical direction for helping you trust Jesus through one of life’s most difficult challenges.” They “are an organization dedicated to helping widows, widowers and their children in times of loss. Our goal is to assist widows and widowers walking the unwelcome path and devastating loss of a spouse by providing educational, emotional, spiritual, physical and financial resources needed to move forward.”
• Widowconnection.com This is a web site devoted to helping widows in a time of need. It is put together by author Miriam Neff, widow of Robert Neff.
• Widowmight.org “The Widow Might ™ organization exists to serve today’s community of widows, and is an expression of God’s Might at work in their world.” This is “a Christian organization, obeying God’s command to care for widows.” They “are led by servant leaders who are part of, and in intimate contact with, the widow community.” They “understand the burden the widow carries is fit for her shoulders alone.” And they “desire to extend a helping hand and walk beside her in her journey.” Plus, they “are available to widows of all ages.”
Doing what it takes:
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. They 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.
• “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.”
Fear of losing contact
• “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.”
Shedding tears is cleansing after your spouse dies
• “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.”
Adjusting to a life turned upside down
• “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.”
Shattering Pain After a Spouse Dies
• “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.”
Keep eyes open
• “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.”
The following are quotes from the book, Will I Ever Be Whole Again? Surviving the Death of Someone You Lovewritten by Sandra Aldrich. In it, Sandra wrote what she learned after she was widowed. I HIGHLY recommend that you obtain this book. 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.”
• “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.”
Trying to make sense
• “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.”
Also consider that:
• “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.”
Questioning After a Spouse Dies
• “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 [don’t rush into it if you aren’t ready], 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, etc] 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].”
Allowing tears AND laughter
• “How soon laughter or even quiet grins return to our lives depends on how we handle 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 does good like a medicine‘, it’s true!”
• “FACE THE LOSS. 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 a frail imperfect human —to cry.”
• “In facing the grief, it helps to remember that some of the dumbest things are going to get to you. …Talking through those ‘dumb’ symbols of loss with a trusted friend or a knowledgeable grief counselor can be important 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 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. 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?‘ Once we’ve accepted the reality of our situation, we can begin to work through it with the Lord’s help.”
“Should haves” brings false guilt
• “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.”
Tears can be healthy after your spouse dies
• “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 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.”
Steps in helping children and you after your spouse dies:
• “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.”
• “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.”
More advice to remember while grieving after your spouse dies:
• “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.”
“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 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 had valuable insights to give after she’d gone through her own ‘valley of sorrows.’ She writes, ‘When my beloved husband died, I was left with a void the size of the Grand Canyon.’
‘Shortly after his death, I enrolled in a college class and met Bob, who was attentive toward me. I was surprised by how his attention eased the ache in my heart. I looked forward to each new day. Within one week my new friend and I were sitting together for lunch, lingering behind the other students, and having private conversations.
“One night after a lengthy phone conversation, Bob came to my home. 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 much needed grieving.
“Experts say it takes 2-5 years to adjust to a new normal. It took me that long to gather the pieces of my shattered heart. Finally I’m at a place where I can give my heart away to someone else. It was worth the wait.”
Quotes to Minister:
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.
Difficulty getting to sleep
• “One of the common complaints of grieving spouses is difficulty in establishing a regular pattern of restful sleep. A friend of mine recently witnessed the long, 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 an early hour, such as 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. One 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’s helpful to recall certain verses and promises that God has given us. 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 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 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, here are some scriptures that might help you with this journey.
Scriptures that minister after a spouse dies:
- 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’s something 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).
Helpful suggestions after your spouse dies:
• Make no big changes. During the months after a spouse dies 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.
Make sure you:
• 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.
Below 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).
Suggestions that may help you:
• 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 after your spouse dies. 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.
Also, After Your Spouse Dies:
• 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 after your spouse dies:
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. It’s also helpful for those who need verses that will comfort and inspire them. Read, pray, cry through, write, 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 after your spouse dies 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 Crosswalk.com article might help you in reaching out to her.
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
If you have additional tips you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.
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