With the loss of a spouse, many widows find themselves surrounded by
friends and family, offering well-intentioned support, love, and offers of much-needed practical help or advice. Ultimately,
though, even in the midst of caring friends and family, the one left behind, alone, may feel just that: alone. Left to cope
alone, to grieve alone, to make important decisions alone. Even with those she loves and trusts surrounding her and sharing
in her grief, the widow, alone, experiences the loss of a long-time soul mate and best friend; the other half that along with
her own once made a whole.
There are no hard and fast rules as to the duration of grieving for a spouse. Some
widows find with support from family and friends they are soon able to once again look forward to living; others grieve for
many years before they are able to even cope with the idea of trying to find a life for themselves. Still others are never
quite able to pick up the pieces and carry on to a life lived alone; depression over the loss of a spouse can be devastating
and can take quite a toll on the emotions and mind set of those left behind to start anew.
However the grieving process is lived out, there are hardships that arise to each
widow; unfortunately that is one term of widowhood that is universal.
A Future Disrupted
Thousands of mornings may be awakened to with someone familiar, and loved, at our
side. Whether it’s a workday or a weekend, whether there will be pleasure ahead or a long tiring day, it is spent with
the knowledge that when once again it is time to bid goodbye to the day, that same loved, familiar person will be lying beside
us. It is routine, this expectation, and like so many aspects of our lives, lived day to day with the comfort that familiarity
can bring, it becomes expected.
One morning we awaken, however, and find that familiar one gone, no longer at our
side. We walk through the very beginning steps of grief, numbly, and once the initial shock of loss has left us, we realize
that the mornings alone are but a beginning to a life lived without the one on whom we have depended for so long. The one
with whom we had planned a future is no longer there to share and shape the hopes and dreams of coming years. This sorrowful
realization can be devastating, but take heart. In time, with the support of friends and family, pastoral counseling, and
perhaps even in joining some of the dozens of chapters available to widows, the road to finding purpose becomes easier. Like
so many other aspects of our lives, we tend to find comfort and reassurance by interacting with those who are in similar straights.
Contacts with widowed or single friends are often a very good beginning; they have traveled already the road we are just beginning.
We are not alone in our sorrow and confusion.
The Battle of Loneliness
The toughest battle, perhaps? In the hearts of many widows, the answer is a resounding
yes. The quiet in a home of two people is much, much different than the quiet found when we are alone, very often for the
first time in our entire adult lives. Being at home, enjoying a peaceful afternoon alone with no interruptions, is a welcomed
respite; being at home with the knowledge that the front door will not be opened at can be totally overwhelming.
Even the sound of the newspaper being flipped through can be a comforting sound,
or, small as it seems, the shuffling of another through the rooms of our home. These are things we take for granted through
the years of marriage and togetherness, these sounds. Once alone, the quiet from the disappearance of these familiar sounds
can be deafening. When our children leave and go out on their own, there is a quietness we have not experienced in many years;
there is also, though, still another with whom to share the peace. When a spouse dies, we are alone. We hear only our own
footsteps, our own voice; after years of togetherness we no longer hear the comforting words of a spouse, to which we have
Once again, we can find support from our friends and family, and from those who
once walked the quiet road themselves. Many times, our pride will not allow us to phone those who would at a moment’s
notice be grateful for the opportunity to visit. These are the same people we have known and loved for years, and have loved
and enjoyed us, in return. While there are some who find themselves uncomfortable in not quite knowing what to say and what
not to say, the majority of our close friends and family have no such qualms. An hour’s visit on a lonely Friday or
Saturday evening can do wonders for the loneliness that can at times be literally overwhelming. Some good advice here is warranted:
It helps no one to sit and be lonely when there are good friends and family with whom to share time and happy memories. If
you find that Sunday afternoons are too much to bear, try faithfully each week to plan an activity for that time. It can be
passed with a movie and a friend, a long-distance call to a favorite niece or nephew you don’t often get to visit, or
volunteering. If you have children and they are able, Sunday afternoons are a perfect time to have them over for supper or
a piece of pie. In our attempt at conquering loneliness, often times we find ourselves the maker of plans rather than on the
receiving end of an invitation; it seems wise to accept this. It makes no sense to let our pride stand in the way of finding
comfort when it is so needed.
Part of our lives since childhood, holidays are a time for family and friends and
the comfort we find in sharing these special times with those we love. Memories abound and when we are fortunate enough to
have our families and spouses to share such happy times, holidays can be one of the most comforting of times. When we find
ourselves alone after the loss of our spouse, however, they can be very far indeed from comforting. They can find us depressed
and feeling unwhole.
Many widows report that by choosing to take a small vacation during the holidays
they can escape a bit of the pain and loneliness that accompanies these special times. Whether it be spending a few days with
one’s children or making plans to stay with close friends, it is important to have company if the holidays are especially
rough. While we may still find them difficult to experience, being with those who care for us can help much in lightening
We are so fortunate to live in this day of compassionate resources; not too long
ago it was almost impossible to find any type of support group, or even information, for the needs of widows. That is certainly
not true of today.
Public libraries have entire sections of books and guides devoted to widows; devoted
also to answering many difficult questions and issues that arise from the burdens that often accompany such an unexpected
life change. Many of these guides offer support from women who have also experienced the anguish and confusion of being left
on one’s own after so many years of togetherness with a spouse. Their stories are often told forthright, in their own
words, and offer good, common sense advice on learning how to cope on your own.
Your local church or synagogue can be an oasis in your search for finding solid,
recommended groups or clubs that serve the needs of widows. Most churches have outreach programs that help connect those in
need to the very support groups that were created with them in mind. Even if you are not a member of a church or synagogue,
you may find help in locating these wonderful groups. Most church secretaries or even pastors are more than happy to pass
along the names of volunteers who so unselfishly give of their time and efforts to help ease the load for those in need.
There is an organization known as Oasis that serves the needs of those fifty-five
and older. It is a national organization, and one that comes highly recommended. They offer through the help of thousands
of volunteers hundreds of workshops and lectures on a very wide variety of subjects, including discussions on widowhood and
its aspects. There is a very small fee in becoming a member; well worth it for the outstanding programs and workshops they
offer, most of them free after having paid your membership dues.
Not only are there classes, offering everything from macramé lessons to Civil War
history, but by becoming part of a group that holds the same interests and desires, it becomes much easier to form friendships.
By taking part, when you’re ready, you are taking one of the first steps in creating a new life on your own. New paths
are created when we make new friends with whom we have much in common.
Life cannot again be the same after we lose a spouse, but it can be enjoyed and
treasured. With time and friendship we may carve out a new and comforting path to not only contentment, but to happiness,
Have patience With YOURSELF
It's said that patience is a virtue. I personally
think patience is much more than that. It's absolutely necessary for a peaceful existence. Patience is easy during easy times,
but put us in difficult, stressful situations and patience seems impossible!
As parents, we have to be patient with
our kids as they grow and learn. At work, we often must be patient with our co-workers, and sometimes, even our boss.
In life, we seem to need and want so much, yet we have to learn patience because, "All things come to those who wait."
how do we learn to be patient with ourselves? Sometimes this is the hardest form of patience to develop. Especially when we
During my own period of grief I would become so angry with myself when little things would throw me back
into despair again, especially when I thought I was finally getting past that period in my grief. "Get over it!" I would
shout in my head. "How long will I keep doing this to myself? When will I learn to move beyond this period of grief?"
It has only one requirement. In order to have patience, you must have some amount of emotional strength. During grief, most
of our emotional strength is gone. We feel empty inside. We don't have the strength for patience, especially for ourselves.
drains emotional strength. It drains it until you're completely empty if you let it. But you have alternatives that will help
you get your emotional strength back.
First, remember that you have the capacity to choose what you think about.
When you're lost in despairing thoughts, the drain on your emotional strength flows quickly. So, during these times, try to
choose something else to occupy your thoughts, even if for only a little while at a time. Remember your good friends, read
a book, crochet, take a walk and search for different plants, visit the public library or a museum. If that doesn't work,
then for a few moments during your most depressed times, force yourself to think about mundane things, just to keep your mind
off your grief until your emotional strength can replenish itself somewhat.
I did my share of mundane thinking: I
counted the number of holes in a ceiling panel, counting the number of florets on a head of broccoli, and used a toothbrush
to clean the bathroom tiles. I daydreamed about where the sand from an hour glass comes from, who rolls the little cotton
on the ends of Q-tips, and what's on the inside of a gourd. Ok, it sounds crazy but it was well worth it. ANYTHING
to get my mind of my grief, even if for just a few minutes at a time.
Next, remember that God is your strength. It's
not your own strength that He builds up, but HIS strength living within you that can help you through troubling times. HIS
strength is sufficient for you if you remember to rely on Him. He is faithful to meet your needs - even to replenish your
emotional strength so you can learn to be patient with yourself until the worst part of your grief subsides.
part of self-patience, is self- acceptance. In the words of St. Francis de Sales, "Have patience with all things, but first
with yourself. You're a perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. No amount of triumphs
or tribulations can ever change that."
Losing a loved one creates a great loss in your heart. But it does not diminish
your own personal value. You are so very important - to someone. Maybe it's your children, your friend, your father
or mother, or maybe it's someone you only know casually. But you are important. And you are so very important to God.
That's why you are still here, and that's why He is still here for you.
Spend some very quiet time with the Lord. Allow
yourself the time with Him that you can actually feel His presence. Tell Him all of your fears, worries and concerns. Allow
Him to bear your sorrows with you and bring you to that place of healing.
May you draw close to Him and may He comfort
you and bring you Peace. My prayer is that you will become as acutely aware of Him as He is of YOU. For there, you will find