Finding our way forward after the death of our husband is not as easy as some would like us to believe. The grief we face is far more than being sad we lost our husband. Depending on how long we were married, it is a complete lifestyle change and can impact multiple areas of everyday living including finances, relationships, health, place of residence and more.
One of the phrases people say a lot to widows is move on. It might be “when are you going to move on?” Sometimes people just come out and say, “get over it already!” It may be hidden in “put that behind you” or “what are you going to do now?” “You shouldn’t be grieving this long.” Depending on who says it, how they say it, and when they say it, most of the time it hits a sore spot and evokes a reaction—not necessarily a very good one.
Why does it feel like people are so quick to want us to put the life and relationship we knew… especially if it was a long one that entailed most of our adult life… somewhere out of sight and out of mind? It’s hard to watch people suffering, so some may think they are being helpful. Some don’t want to deal with the feelings this brings up inside them. It is really about them with no regard to how our loss affects us.
I don’t believe we can prepare for life as a widow. I was my husband’s caregiver for over five years. My brother, exasperated with me just three months after the memorial services were over, asked me why I didn’t prepare… after all I knew it was coming.
Whatever I may have thought my life would be when my husband was no longer here, I had no grid to guide me. Not only was I suddenly completely alone, his death was the first significant one for me. The loss of grandparents and even his mom were my only taste of permanently losing the physical presence of people I knew and loved. I only had personal contact with them on occasion, so the impact was much smaller.
Finding how I’m going to keep going since my husband moved to Heaven is an ongoing battle. A widow faces a unique kind of displacement, entirely different from any other kind of separation. Initially I felt nearly paralyzed and had to focus on how to breathe. An unsympathetic world forced me to make major life decisions when I was in my most vulnerable state. The onslaught of the pandemic ripped any meaningful support systems right out from under me. Grappling with severe loneliness and misunderstanding, I withdrew into myself and turned to the only light I could find… the Bible and my personal relationship with God.
There are two moments in life…
Those you miss and those you seize.
I admit, life’s been incredibly hard for me since I became a widow. I had no idea my life could derail so fast and change so completely. The plans I thought would protect me and help me were completely inadequate and foreign in my new reality. The people I thought would be here to stand with me and offer comfort and counsel disappeared after the memorial services were done. I was left screaming unheard in the deafening silence alone.
Choices empower us.
I knew the only way I was going to survive this new life was to turn to my faithful God and give it all to Him. It’s been a process. I chose to seize the singular and proven relationship I had left, my creator God who sent His Son Jesus to die for me so I wouldn’t have to figure this out by myself. I began to spend more time reading the Bible and praying. I pour my heart out to Him and ask Him to show me what to do.
You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside
and my intricate outside,
and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.
I thank You, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything You do is marvelously breathtaking.
It simply amazes me to think about it!
How thoroughly You know me, Lord!
You even formed every bone in my body
when You created me in the secret place;
carefully, skillfully You shaped me from nothing to something.
You saw who You created me to be before I became me!
Before I’d ever seen the light of day,
the number of days You planned for me
were already recorded in Your book.
Psalm 139: 13-16 TPT
God’s been writing our story from the beginning. It didn’t start with that beautiful marriage, or with the addition of a child, or all the other great moments we are immediately drawn to. It didn’t start with the death of our beloved husband. It didn’t end there either. God is still writing our story with us.
Through our union with Christ we too have been claimed by God as His own inheritance. Before we were even born, He gave us our destiny; that we would fulfill the plan of God who always accomplishes every purpose and plan in His heart. Ephesians 1: 11
The only sure path to find forward is to walk hand in hand with our caring and capable Father God. He is faithful to reveal each step we should take if we ask Him. What does that look like?
For me it involves forgiving the people who hurt me when I needed them the most. I’ve accepted the fact I can’t control how they will act and what choices they will make. I choose to forgive them and continue to pray God will restore those relationships in time. I pray for God to bless them and draw them ever close to His heart and to strengthen their relationship with Him.
I am finding the courage to venture out and create new relationships. I find most of these are with fellow widows. Our shared pain gives us a starting point and a common ground where our vulnerability is more tolerated. This provides a freedom to be honest and to try new things. It’s ok if I decide I don’t like it. I don’t have to guard everything I say or think. It’s making it possible to discover who I will be going forward.
I’m also exploring ways to help me discover who I am now. One way was to start writing these blogs and giving myself a platform to share my story and thoughts with other widows. I did a lot of journaling in the beginning, and I enjoy writing so it was a good fit for me. It lets me dig into the topics I’m exposed to as I keep pressing on. Writing about it and researching gives me food for thought and exposes me to opinions and ideas I probably wouldn’t get otherwise.
I’ve been taking some online seminars to help me grow and learn. These are other ways I can discover new interests or get new insights into myself. I don’t think we should ever stop learning and expanding our level of experience. Exploring new things opens our minds and broadens our creativity and imagination. It can lead to even more options for growth and accomplishment.
I found a local widow’s group to become a part of. We have monthly meetings and plan various outings. This gets me out of the house and back into the world. Sometimes we just meet for lunch somewhere and enjoy a nice meal. This beats eating alone. Other times we plan an activity we can all enjoy together. This was one of the best things God led me to do.
I’ve gotten involved in another writing project, a women’s Bible study group, and a couple prayer groups. Each new step I take to expand my world beyond my grief and allow myself to engage with other people brings its own special remedy to help me heal. I pray God will direct my steps and He has been so faithful to align me with people and activities I can engage in and begin to find joy in living again. It is a process. Healing takes time. I have a long way to go, but I can finally say I can see real progress in my life.
Look how much encouragement I’ve found in my relationship with the Anointed One! I am filled to overflowing with His comforting love. I experience a deepening friendship with the Holy Spirit and feel His tender affection and mercy. Philippians 2: 1
God has been very faithful to me in my journey. I can assure you He can do the same for you. He is sustaining me through the darkest season I ever faced. There is still a lot I need His help with. I am confident He will stick with me and see it to fruition. The key is spending time reading my Bible every day and praying. I turn all the things that are too big for me to handle over to Him.
What are some things you could do to help you take that next step forward? Finding forward is an action we take. I shared some of the things I am doing to help you start considering your list. You could well have a good start already. Perhaps you can explore some new ideas.
For the Lord God is brighter than the brilliance of a sunrise!
Wrapping Himself around me like a shield,
He is so generous with His gifts of grace and glory.
Those who walk along His paths with integrity
will never lack one thing they need, for He provides it all!
Psalm 84: 11
God will NEVER withhold anything that is good for us. He is our creator and can see what we can’t. He knows what we need and when we need it. He loves us, so He will gladly provide when we ask Him. I encourage you to put your trust in the only person we will ever find to be completely trustworthy. Grief and widowhood are hard. It’s not something we get over quickly or easily. There is hope for a good and happy future for us when we let God take our circumstances and turn them around for good. It might take a little while, but it will happen when we trust Him. It is my prayer you too will learn to trust God and lean on Him through your journey. God bless you.