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)