Part II Embracing Widowhood

Physical, emotional and spiritual changes

Part II — The Emotional Changes of Widowhood

Read Part I here.

The death of a spouse is rated as the most stressful yet a normal life event. This loss is 3 times more possible to occur for women than men and leads to twice as many women as men over the age of 65 who live alone. Loneliness is real.

Emotion: a natural instinctive state of mind derived from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. If we would don an Emoji mask and go around showing our feelings right up front, perhaps the insensitive inquisition would stop. Questions like, “How are you doing,” or “Is it getting better yet,” or my personal favorite, “Are you ready to jump back into the game? Six months are passed, don’t you think you should move on?”

Emotions will run high during staggering life events; sometimes for years following them. It is normal for grief to affect all aspects of life. 

Our pain is not the same. My emotions express themselves different than yours. This is because our lives and the relationship we shared with our spouse differed. Our personalities and our environment all play a role in how we process our sorrow. You may undergo a season of helplessness as you face life alone. You question how you can survive the next 10 or 20 years. 

Jesus experienced emotion too. He wept at the death of Lazarus and grieved the death of a wonderful friend. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants.” (Psalm 116:15 NIV) If losing someone moves you to tears, it moved the Son of God to tears too. “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NIV)

I might be dealing with emotions of survivor’s guilt as I bring to mind all the plans we laid out for as a couple. Retirement shone on the horizon, travel to new places, extra time to spend with family, perhaps pursuing a dream held close to your hearts for so many years.

What about the weeping? Those unplanned expressions of sadness which overtake you in an instant. They pour down your face at the least convenient time or place. You can’t control them. We often view tears as a sign of weakness, but they are a symbol of healing. Let them fall. Many of us would never consider crying anywhere but alone. Tears embarrass us. We rather relegate them to our private times, in the basement, the backyard, in the car, while on a walk; never, in front of someone. Goodness, what a lot of pressure we put on ourselves.

Another emotion we deny ourselves while in the state of grief is laughter. We are afraid what others might think if they see us laughing only a few weeks into our widowhood. Don’t let someone else dictate your behavior. Again, we are all different and face differing experiences. 

Your emotions are real. Emptiness can overtake you without warning. Do something to fill the void. Call up a memory which brings a smile, recall a memorable time you shared. Don’t try to escape but allow yourself to embrace them. They are healing and are part of the process of grief.

Are you experiencing the guilt of relief? Perhaps your spouse, a prisoner to his bed, lay ill for a while. You stood by, helpless as he struggled for breath or writhed in pain. They are pain free now and take comfort in this realization. If you shared a common faith in Jesus, now is the time to embrace you faith.

I experienced a special gift during worship one Sunday, not too long ago. I sensed my husband praising and worshiping his Lord and Savior, and I was right there with him. What a gift God gave me. I stood in church, in front of the altar at the foot of the cross of His Son, while a wave of perfect peace washed over me. 

I turn to Him to His Word to receive confirmation that God understands my heart and wants to heal it. He knows you too. Let Him embrace you in His love and mercy. “In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.” Psalm 25:1 (NIV)

Embracing Widowhood

And the Physical, Emotional, and
Spiritual Changes of this new life

Part I – The Physical Changes of Widowhood

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord, your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Almost nine years ago I placed a mark in the box designated, “widow.” I remember taking a deep breath, shocked at the severity of the word. What a nasty tasting pill for sure, and difficult to swallow. For a short season, I took on “widow” as my identify. Now, after some years of healing and prayer, I realize it’s only my marital status.

As widows we are forced to face an empty house. We are alone for the first time in years, the absence of another body in the house is our striking new reality. Our spouse, who once listened, shared, advised, and disagreed with us, is gone. That certain someone we came home to after work, processed life with during dinner, and sat next to at worship on Sunday morning, is not there. 

Widowhood transforms us in many ways, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual. Things change, we don’t always accept these with grace. We did not ask for our lives to be turned upside down, and some of us are barely hanging on. Let’s examine these individually over the next three weeks, starting today with the physical side. 

For me, one of the more stunning physical changes happened in my head. Decisive no longer described me. After I lost my husband, I second-guessed the simplest choice and I would not make any changes I couldn’t undo with ease. As a former take-charge individual, a confident decision maker with the ability to move forward without hesitation, I did not recognize this new woman. The term, “widow’s brain”, was once foreign to me, but now explained the fog I daily moved around in.

Mundane and everyday tasks challenged me. An avid reader, I always loved to spend free time with a book or my Bible. When I became a widow, more than a year passed before my concentration returned and I finished a chapter without starting over. At the time I worried I would never be able to enjoy these things again.

The absence of physical touch is a biggie. The first time I went to get my hair done following my husband’s death, I fought off tears. I sat in front of the mirror and remembered that for years, I cut his hair. Those sweet memories I cherished turned into lighter moments in our life together. We joked and enjoyed this time. He would taunt me about something, and I would remind him of the scissors I held in my hand. 

Besides the loss of our intimate mate, as widows we must do without the simple touches of comfort, impromptu hugs, and strolls through the neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine never experiencing this companionship again. One day I realized I couldn’t remember what my husband’s voice sounded like. I wondered if I would soon forget other things about him. I watched a video of my husband and heard him speak. I listened and I recalled thinking his voice didn’t sound familiar. Was I forgetting him? 

Enough years are cinched under my belt and I can say I am leaning into the reality of my life. I am physically healthier, due in part to the fact I am the one responsible for getting the yard work done, walking the dog, and cleaning the gutters. I understand I must stay healthy and take care of myself. I don’t consider me a victim, or a vulnerable widow. Rather, a strong and confident believer, who knows God is always with her. I face my new normal with a sense of “God’s got my back.” He loves me and is watching out for me.

I know God’s plan for me and for the rest of my life is perfect. He brought me this far by healing my heart in so many ways that now I feel a compassion for others who are on this same journey. There is wisdom in their experiences, and I treasure meeting with them. 

Again, I can hear Him encouraging me with the words…“Be strong and courageous.” 

Note: Come back to this blog the next few weeks to read about the emotional and finally the spiritual changes we might experience when we invite God to move in our lives.

God is so good.