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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Filed under: Stages of Marriage
119 responses to “When Your Spouse Dies”
Hi, this article has a lot of good information. I just became a widow myself. My husband and I were married for 2 years; been together close to 5 years. He was my love, my heart and my soul. My husband passed away December 13, 2017.
We used to date back in the early 90’s, lost contact with each other and reconnected back in May of 2013.. We bumped into each other outside as he was passing by and I was standing outside talking with a friend in downtown Chicago. After 23 years thats the first encounter we had with each other. I had asked my husband why do you think God waited so long to reconnect us? His reply was God knew during those 23 years I wasnt ready for you.
This season is a tough one, but I know in my heart God will get me through this. I prayed and asked God, “Lord what are you trying to teach me from this? Why did you put someone in my life to take him so fast”?. Mind you, our anniversary date is 8-28 and God kept showing me 8:28. At first I mistaken; every 8:28 I’ve seen for my anniversary and said to myself, “oh you’re just taking everything to heart. 8/28 is just your anniversary, silly girl.” Until one Sunday I decided to take my husband’s Bible to church and when his Bible opened he had an index card with verse Romans 8:28-31. I said, “no way’ and when I looked at his highlighted verses in Romans it was highlighted Romans 8:28-31 but verse 8:28 had brackets around… at that moment I knew God answered my question as to the why and what by showing Romans 8:28.
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” I know God did this for his purpose and his will not mine. God is a good God. Grieving is a process and if widowhood is what God called for then I must trust and believe He has a plan for my life. Don’t get me wrong, some days are harder then others; some days I feel like I’m going backwards, some days I just want to give up, but I refuse to fall into depression. I see so many good memories and it hurts because I wish he was here to enjoy the weather with me to continue teaching how to fish, to express his love for me, for me to take care of him when he is sick, someone to talk to.
My husband was my better half. I love him with all my heart and miss him dearly. I know in my heart my husband would want me to smile again, he would want me to continue to enjoy life but he would say, “it’s a process; go through the process so you can heal my beautiful wife. Just because you can’t see doesnt mean i am not there. I am there with you because you are living for the both of us!”
My Name is Seemon from India. I Lost my wife of 18 years in Aug 2019. The pain is real. When it happens all of a sudden… it throws you down with such a force that you will believe that you can never be a normal person again. But our God is such a wonderful comforter. The Bible says ‘The righteous man perishes [at the hand of evil], and no one takes it to heart; Faithful and devout men are taken away, while no one understands that the righteous person is taken away [to be spared] from disaster and evil.’ Isaiah 57:1. Jesus Loves You. Keep going. Stay Strong… God is with You.
Seemon, Bless you brother for encouraging Melinda, even in the midst of your grieving the recent death of your beloved wife. We appreciate you more than words can adequately express.
Thank You Steve. Let us encourage each another there by fulfilling the law of Christ. A Proverb goes like this… Troubles come in clusters. For me… it came in a way of Sudden Financial Struggle (from which I am yet to recover), Sudden Job rotation in office where I have been working for 23 Years & then a worst satanic attack through a woman claiming that God told her that am her husband even before my wife died. I believed her. You know we are vulnerable when we are hurt. But thank GOD… by His Holy Spirit, He removed the peace and it was a sign that it was not God’s will. After many heart breaks, insults, and called a cheater… people questioning my love for my wife… oh GOD… I came out of those testing moments by His Grace. He has been TOOOO FAITHFUL to me. I survived. Hope my financial difficulty will go away. Please do pray for me. Hope to see You…in this earth or in Heaven.
August – the beginning of many more sorowful days yet to come. If it were possible things couldn’t get worse since my beloved wife of 35 year died on January 3, 2016. She was my best friend, my soul mate, and probaly the only person to hear me and bear my burdens. And to compond my sorrows, my daughter who said she loves me, and would in no way ever cast me out, did just that. I found myself homeless for almost 2 months shelling out all of my disabilty money on hotels, and sleepng in my van.
Finally my nephew I grew up with helped me settle in in a small town in Ohio. My nephew And I grew up together like brothers. But he is not saved and suddenly he, and his wife didn’t call or answer my calls, yet another betrayal which has left me with no one. To make matters worse my health has degenerated, I can hardly stand or walk, this makes everything hard to do.
August 1st I am 59 years old and alone for the first time in my life. Brenda my departed wife would be 55 August 18th, but only made it to 53. August 23, we would have been married 37 years, but her life was taken after only 35 years of marriage. I find myself seing many simularities of Job’s life as I reflect on my own loss, and betrayal.
I guess I am asking for prayer from my brother, and sisters in the Lord. The medical community hasn’t helped me, maybe because I am part of this nation’s poor? These days all I do is pray, and cry. Life has no meaning any more. Job cursed the day he was born; I believe I’d been better off to die the day my beloved left me. When I go to sleep, I pray that I might wake in heaven, but instead I wake only to loneliness, and more pain. My favorite scripture of all of them is Revaltion 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” I keep thinking that time may come very soon. Even so Come Lord Jesus, come.
My dear brother, Patrick, I am so, so, sorry for you on multiple levels. The loss and rejection has to be overwhelming and yet I don’t sense any bitterness in what you wrote. As hard as things have been I believe God has sustained you for a reason. I also believe I’ve found a place not far from you that can help you. I looked up on the map where you are and I could see that you’re about an hour away from where they have a Rescue Mission in a large city near you. Look at what their web site says. And since you have no real reason or ties to stay in the town where your nephew is I would suggest you go to the Gospel Mission nearest you ASAP. The Mission will have so many resources to help you it could be the turning point for you to return to independent living.
I will also say that there are some really good churches in that area too. The Mission could help you find one that could provide some additional help. But most important is getting plugged into a body of Christ followers where you can get fellowship and have opportunities to be exposed to the teaching of the Word again.
I love your favorite scripture verse. Let me share one of mine: “Do not become weary in well doing for you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
I am also going to post much of what you wrote to our Prayer Wall so many others can be praying for you, but know FOR SURE that Cindy and I will be praying.
How is Patrick doing now? I just read this and my heart saddens. I have just lost my husband and thank God for my family. How can some people be so heartless?
One of the things I did with my husband in his last moments of life is pray with him asking him for forgiveness for anything over that 56 year period, and forgiving him for anything over that 56 year period and asking the Lord to forgive us both. We put that under the blood of Christ. Moments after praying that prayer with him he peacefully beautifully fell asleep in the Lord.
That closed every door against the enemy coming in later after his passing to accuse me of anything with guilt and condemnation! It was very liberating and inspired by the Holy Spirit. I believe that with all of my heart. In addition to all the other emotions I was going through there could be no room for guilt to assault and accuse me during my deep mourning that was to follow. Since his passing every accusation by the accuser of the brethren that tried to come to mind was a door closed by the Lord against me… ❤
Thank you for this article on When Your Spouse Dies. It’s been 5 months and I’m in grief’s grip after 32 yrs of marriage to an incredible soulmate, father to our 3 adult daughters and grandfather to 9 yo and 17 month old grandsons. My husband and I both were healthy 61 & 62 yrs old and required no prescription drugs, had no underlying conditions and could see a lovely future retirement. (We know God must get a laugh at human’s and their grand plan, huh?)
Then suddenly in Jul 2020 we got diagnosed with Covid-19. I survived with no hospitalization but my husband did not. He’d never been admitted to a hospital in all our years and he quickly declined after being on/off a ventilator and passed from earth to heaven in August 2020. To say I was devastated is an understatement.
My grief seems strangely different. I believe because it’s complicated by the extreme limitations brought on by covid -19 pandemic. In short here’s why:
-Our country/the world is in Pandemic
-Typically one can share an embrace with a trusted friend whose undergone death of a spouse. Not able to do in Pandemic as we must practice social distance
– Unable to feel safe to meet for lunch /coffee/ walk. We’re so restricted and we should be.
At my age there have been other loved ones to pass away, ie grandparents, brother, close friends, etc. But with my husband death (although he’s my first/only) I tend to feel a deeper sense of sorrow and loneliness. I journal daily and have for years and hope to soon learn from our Sovereign God of what exactly He’s doing and what He wants of me through this hard season. With prayer, please know when I find out, I will let you know.
I still have hope by God’s grace alone. (Psalm 62:4-5)
Thanks for letting me share – Anne
I’m positive I no longer have a desire to live.
EJ, while it is true you cannot live the life you once lived, you can and will still live. God has so much more for you and if you ask Him -He will show you, day by day. Please join me in praying:
Father God, here I am with my broken heart. I give it to You, to fix and mend. This life has become unbearable for me and I need more of Your grace, mercy, peace and comfort. Carry me through each day so that I might find it is possible to experience Your love, peace and joy and share it with others. When my heart gets too heavy and the days too dark, remind me of Your love and care for me and give me the strength to persevere. Lord, help me to carry on and never give up. You are faithful and You will see me through. I will experience Your goodness in the land of the living and each day will bring new mercies. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
What a treasure to find this page in my moment of most need. My husband, a GP, was taken suddenly and senselessly by COVID-19 on the 8th of July 2021. I’ve spent 21 years with him as his wife and prior to that as his girlfriend. At age 44 I must navigate life without him, leading our three children with firm and unconditional love. Your words, scriptures like prayers have rescued my day. Thank you.
Oh Bulela, how very sorry we are that you find yourself in this place. My heart cries with yours. This virus has brought so many tragic stories and has torn apart so many lives. This is so very, very sad. In reality though, anyone who reads this article has experienced that type of experience whether their spouse dies of COVID or by another way. I’m so very sad for you. Please accept my/our heartfelt sympathy. May the Lord comfort you and bring you peace, even in the midst of this horrible storm that has hit your life together! May you experience the peace you need at your darkest hours that passes all understanding and may others come alongside you to comfort and help you. We pray God will show you His love even in the midst of the confusion you must be experiencing. Please know our hearts and prayers are with you.
Advice help! My wife of almost 39 years died suddenly and went to be with the Lord last year. I am having trouble dealing with a couple of unresolved issues. We loved each other tremendously and were always going to be together.
SO sorry, Janes. 39 years is a long time to be cleaved together and then suddenly have your marriage partner torn from you physically. Yes, she’s in a great place, but missing her until you reunite in heaven must be so very painful for you! Our hearts cry for you.
As far as unresolved issues–those are especially difficult to deal with because you can’t work it through together. But I have a couple of suggestions that could be helpful. Some people/spouses have used the empty chair technique. They make the time to go alone to a quiet place, pray, and place an empty chair in front of them. Some people put a picture of their loved one on that chair. And then they imagine their spouse is sitting there in front of them. And that’s when the talking begins. Here’s what William Drake says about that technique:
“The empty chair technique is a talk therapy exercise in which you express your thoughts and feelings as if you were talking to a specific person. Even though that person is not present, you direct your words and gestures at an empty chair and imagine that person sitting in it while you talk. …All you need to do is say whatever comes to mind. Some people find it difficult to get started. If you have trouble imagining that the person is sitting there, don’t worry too much about it. [Some people even put a picture on the chair to help them visualize that person.] Just go ahead, and start saying whatever you want to say. As you speak your mind, you’ll likely begin to feel as if you’re talking directly to that person.” [If not, try, try again at another time or multiple times, or maybe you need a grief counselor to help facilitate your conversations.]
This technique “can help you work through the death of a loved one. Since they are no longer around, the empty chair technique can help you have a conversation with them. That can help you process the grief and express emotions to the loved one who has passed. Sometimes, you may feel anger and resentment that you need to express, and it’s important to release these emotions during the grief process.” [But make sure you pray first. You want the guidance of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Also, realize that you may need to do this several times before you feel you are able to let go of these important matters in healthy ways.]
If this doesn’t work on your own you may need to find a grief counselor that can help you handle all of the emotions you’re trying to work through without having your spouse physically there with you. The counselor may or may not use the empty chair technique. I don’t know; that’s a decision you’ll both have to make. But we’ve heard that this can be very helpful–sometimes with a counselor present, and sometimes without. (I used it myself to work through some very disturbing emotional issues with my mom that were never resolved. It was VERY helpful. I now see her in a MUCH more positive light and feel I’ve been able to put those issues behind me. Those unresolved issues are not dangling there in front of me any longer.)
But I really encourage you to do something. Unresolved issues can hold you back from moving forward in your life. You may or may not be thinking about that right now, but it’s important to work through the grieving process and work through past issues in healthy ways. You don’t want to remain stuck with a cloud hanging over your future forever. It may take years to get to a better place; it may not. It’s hard to say. But don’t give up. It CAN happen. Again, please find a grief counselor to talk to if you need one. Sometimes we need that. I’ve know of MANY spouses who find this has helped them tremendously. I hope and pray that is true for you.
Again, my heart is with you. In all of this remember: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) You may or may not feel His presence, but He is there. Just know that. And eventually, as you continually lean into Him in faith, I have no doubt that you will be able to experience His comfort and peace, and eventual joy. Again, we’ve seen that to be true over and over again with others who have lost their spouses. It’s a painful journey, but you will eventually get to a place where you experience peace in your thoughts and in your life. I pray that for you.