God created us to be in relationship. We are healthier and happier when we develop meaningful relationships with people we can trust. Finding fellowship with other people we have important common bonds with is essential to build this kind of friendship. God encourages us in His Word to come together often and use this time to encourage each other and motivate each other with love as our guide.
So now wrap your heart tightly around the hope that lives within us, knowing God always keeps His promises! Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.
Hebrews 10: 23-25
One of the things I miss the most now that my husband lives in Heaven is not having that one most important friend I could count on to be here for me who really listened when I had something I needed to talk about. Most of my adult life I was blessed to have a godly man who loved me even more than I loved myself. He always knew not only when I had something on my mind, but how he could best encourage or support me as we looked for ways to navigate the challenges life presents.
I read this on a Facebook page and it triggered a lot of mixed feelings. I don’t know who wrote it. I don’t think it is original from any of the Winnie the Pooh books, but was adapted by someone to make a point.
“Piglet?” said Pooh.
“Yes?” said Piglet.
“I’m scared,” said Pooh.
For a moment, there was silence.
“Would you like to talk about it?” asked Piglet, when Pooh didn’t appear to be saying anything further.
“I’m just so scared,” blurted out Pooh.
“So anxious. Because I don’t feel like things are getting any better. If anything, I feel like they might be getting worse. People are angry, because they’re so scared, and they’re turning on one another, and there seems to be no clear plan out of here, and I worry about my friends and the people I love, and I wish SO much that I could give them all a hug, and oh, Piglet! I am so scared, and I cannot tell you how much I wish it wasn’t so.”
Piglet was thoughtful, as he looked out at the blue of the skies, peeping between the branches of the trees in the Hundred Acre Wood, and listened to his friend.
“I’m here,” he said, simply. “I hear you, Pooh. And I’m here.”
For a moment, Pooh was perplexed.
“But… aren’t you going to tell me not to be so silly? That I should stop getting myself into a state and pull myself together? That it’s hard for everyone right now?”
“No,” said Piglet, quite decisively. “No, I am very much not going to do any of those things.”
“But-” said Pooh.
“I can’t change the world right now,” continued Piglet. “And I am not going to patronize you with platitudes about how everything will be okay, because I don’t know that.”
“What I can do, though, Pooh, is I can make sure you know I am here. And I will always be here, to listen; and to support you; and for you to know you are heard.
“I can’t make those Anxious Feelings go away, not really.”
“But I can promise you, all the time I have breath left in my body…you won’t ever need to feel those Anxious Feelings alone.”
And it was a strange thing, because even as Piglet said that, Pooh could feel some of those Anxious Feelings start to loosen their grip on him; could feel one or two of them start to slither away into the forest, cowed by his friend, who sat there stolidly next to him.
Pooh thought he had never been more grateful to have Piglet in his life.
I think this expresses what most widows and people who suffered a great loss are looking for. We want unwavering support without judgement. Our emotions and reactions to situations aren’t always predictable or fully controllable. We are all looking for someone who would be willing to just sit with us, give us a hug, or just let us try to express the chaos in our hearts so we can let it go. We aren’t looking for judgement or empty platitudes. We’re sometimes not even looking for real answers yet because we haven’t been able to express our pain in a way we can begin to sort it out. We just need someone who is willing to sit with us and reassure us we are not alone. Someone willing to listen and let us know they hear us.
You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.
Part of becoming a widow is experiencing such a significant loss it means you are a different person. An enormous part of you is forever changed, and the emotional needs you have are also different. The various interpersonal relationships you had with family and friends before your loss are now disrupted and altered. Many widows are surprised to discover some less-than-supportive ties and even people they expected to lean on who just disappear from their lives.
My husband suffered through an awful degenerative neurological disorder. It was extremely aggressive, and the doctors didn’t give us much hope he would live beyond about five years. Many family members and friends promised they would be here for me when he went home to Heaven. I guess none of us ever considered what “be there for me” encompassed. It’s astounding to me how many people disappeared from my life soon after the memorial services were over.
This change in social and family relationships is known as a secondary loss that occurs as a result of the primary loss. The death not only changes you, but it impacts in varying levels on family and friends as they also mourn and work their way through their grief process. It can turn things upside down as fears and anxieties due to change collide with schedules, priorities, and varying abilities to manage chaos.
So how do we find fellowship and build meaningful relationships going forward? We know we need people in our lives who can provide emotional and social support to help us negotiate the grieving process and get back on our feet. Who will fit that bill will vary and be unique to each of us. There are several things you might consider.
If you have close friends already who provide substantial support in your new situation, you are blessed and should nurture those relationships. The history you share is important. Continuing to build on this foundation will be easier for many situations and you will likely be able to grow through the process and transition to a fulfilling and purpose filled future sooner than those who lack that gift.
Finding and developing new friendships can open the door to new experiences and growth. New friends come in handy for the times when old couple friends are busy with their own lives. You can present yourself with a clean slate without any baggage from the past. New friends didn’t know you as a wife, so they see you through different eyes and have no preconceived notions about you. You’re the woman at the supermarket, in church, the Bible study, or book club — or the new neighbor.
This has been intimidating for me, and perhaps it is for you as well. My husband was the outgoing one who could talk up a storm and never met a stranger. I have always been shy and introverted. Finding the courage to put myself out there and meet people took me a long time. It’s not so bad one on one with someone, but big groups feel like they swallow me whole.
I prayed a lot for God to help me find the courage and to lead me to the right situations. I went to a GriefShare group and it was wonderful. It offered a structure where they spend the first half hour or so introducing ourselves and sharing about our loss. Since the grief was so raw, it was very comforting to be with people who were willing to talk about a common bond. Then there was a video presentation centered on a specific topic about grief. They have a workbook that goes with the videos and offers questions for discussion, testimonies, and Scriptures that tie to the theme. After the video, they break up in small groups and discuss how the video impacted us and answer questions. This made me feel seen, heard, and accepted.
Unfortunately for me, I only got to attend a few of these meetings when the plandemic hit and it got shut down along with all the other support services and churches. Then I had to move and was in a strange place, with everything closed. After a few months, GriefShare began to offer classes online through Zoom. I joined a group and got some support, but terribly missed the personal interaction. I still highly recommend this course to everyone and now things are back to meeting in person.
After I moved again, I learned of a widow’s group that meets in person. I was nervous to go, but I was very glad I did. Finding fellowship with other widows has been a wonderful opportunity to make new friendships. Our common situation was the door opener, and as we gather each month we share our hopes, dreams, and struggles and help each other navigate this journey. We plan outings and meals together. We try new things and build each other up. This kind of environment is especially good for fellow introverts because the friendships build from a starting point that puts us on a level playing field. We don’t even find the need to always bring our widowhood into the conversation because it’s comfortably cushioned around us and frees us to explore our interests and dreams.
I knew I needed to find fellowship outside the auspices of grief and widowhood. I needed to find a way to expand my horizons and meet people where I could be known as just me… not me as a wife, not me in grief, not me the widow. I had an opportunity to join a women’s Bible study group. Now I could use my love for Jesus and knowledge of the Bible to create new friendships. This was good. It took me several months before I had the courage to speak up in the discussion. I’m still trying to remember names of some of the members. Slowly but surely I’m developing new relationships.
Each new group I join I slowly start to feel healing in my life. God uses each new challenge as an adventure to spark new ideas, give me opportunities to help others, combat the fear that wants to stifle my growth, and add new opportunities to grow and heal. New friendships are developing and growing.
Healthy fellowship is a vital part of our Christian journey. Jesus encourages us to uplift and support one another. When we deepen our connections with other believers, we not only fortify our bonds with each other, but we nurture and strengthen our walk with God. When we unite and share our faith and lives, each person reaps the benefits. Sometimes we are the ones who give something into another one’s life, and sometimes we receive from others. I believe most of the time when we give encouragement, insight, a listening ear, or whatever it might be… we are simultaneously blessed right back in the process. This is why finding meaningful fellowship with others is so vital for everyone and why we are created to engage in relationships.
We all need a goal to reach for. Goals help drive us forward with purpose. I encourage you to be open to opportunities to make new friends and find fellowship in your life. Consider joining a group of some sort that offers something you are interested in. It could be a class at a community college, a cooking school to learn new recipes, or a political or travel club. Perhaps you could volunteer for an organization. You never know who you might meet.
Be careful and use discretion to be sure you are safe in whatever you consider. Don’t put yourself in a position where you could be in danger of predators. Remember too, if you try something and it’s not for you, it’s perfectly okay to stop it and try something else. You are in control of your future. You might be surprised and find you like something you never thought you would. Choose to be open to possibilities.
As I close this, I thought I would share with you a prayer I started praying some time ago. I knew I needed to engage in the world around me again. Part of this is adapted from a prayer someone shared with me. Feel free to adapt it to fit your situation. Prayer is simply having a conversation with God. Just speak from your heart. He hears every prayer we say.
Father God in the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I invite you into my situation. I invite you to show up here and move on my behalf. I praise You for solutions. Lord, please pierce the layers of protective coating I put around my battered heart with Your Love and breathe new life into me. You know me better than I know myself. Please help me find fellowship with others that will help me heal, grow, and move forward on this journey. Father, release upon my life the riches of Your kind favor and heavenly peace through the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Restore the covenant foundation promises on me today. Fulfill the covenant promises, provisions, dreams, and Words spoken over me to fulfill my destiny. Bring God’s will for my life to pass.
In the name of Jesus, I decree I am blessed in my relationships. I have close, covenant friendships with people who love me and care about me. I love my covenant friends with the selfless, agape love of Jesus, and I am willing to love and care for them. I receive the heart of God from the Holy Spirit. I am filled with the fullness of God’s love. I love myself like God loves me; love God back with all my heart; and love His people. I see people with His eyes and hear them with His ears. I have grace to love and honor people, no matter what.
God’s love exudes from every pore and fiber of my being onto those around me. I have courage and boldness to reach out to others when Father desires me to do so. I am a place of safety, comfort, encouragement, and refuge to my friends. I have the ability to make friends easily. I’m friendly!
I decree I can ask others about themselves and truly care about the answers. I have friends who ask about me as much as I ask about them. I have a heart to serve, honor, and protect. I am trusted and trustworthy. I call forth the absolute fullness of godly relationships Jesus Christ paid the price for me to have. I speak to every new friendship the Father desires me to develop, and I command those friendships to be manifest right now in Jesus’ name.
I prophesy life and renewed hope into seemingly impossible situations. I stand firm on the goodness of God and speak life over every circumstance in my life. I walk in my destiny God ordained for me to His glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
May God bless you in your efforts to find fellowship. May you have great success as you courageously step out in faith and try new things. May God open the right doors for you to step through to fulfill the plans and purposes He created you for.