JAMES 1:27 SAYS THAT TRUE RELIGION IS TO TAKE CARE OF WIDOWS IN THEIR DISTRESS. There are more than 100,000 widows in Oklahoma. As death is inevitable, for each one of us, many of us will be the one left behind, to walk this lonely road alone. The impact of grief and widowhood is not something, for which one can prepare, even when the death is anticipated. In shock, a widow has no idea what she needs, when people ask what they can do to help.
Studies show that widows lose 75% of those they believed were friends when they lose their husband. No longer part of a couple, she is no longer included in couples activities. When friends call she may not feel like talking. Assuming she doesn’t want to be bothered they eventually give up trying to reach her. Friends who don’t know what to say or do avoid her. While grieving the loss of their loved one widows grieve the unexpected loss of long time friends. When no one from the church reaches out to her, a widow moves from singing in the front row of the choir, to the back row of the church and then out the door.
A LOSS OF HER IDENTITY WHEN SHE GOES FROM “WIFE” TO “WIDOW”. The loss of her partner, compounded by her loss of identity and role, as someone’s wife, has a profound effect on her sense of self esteem. The stigma of being labeled a “widow” and with no community to rely on, she feels like a misfit and experiences intense loneliness. Wondering, if there is any point of going on, she may simply withdraw from life.
Struggling with the pain of trying to go on without him the widow may put on a brave act, to appear normal, not understanding the importance of grieving. Attempting to avoid grief by suppressing emotion can have long term, destructive consequences manifesting as physical symptoms. Feeling lost, alone and worn out the fatigue, anxiety and stress affect her health, which, in turn, affects her memory. A widow, feeling deep loss and sorrow may find that she is unable to comprehend or think clearly, making it hard for her to handle even a slightly difficult task. During a stressful event, such as grief, catecholamines suppress activity in areas of the brain concerned with short term memory, concentration, inhibition and rational thought. (Simply put: Our brains lower our ability to remember or concentrate, to protect us, when life is too overwhelming or too painful.)
Yet, a widow is immediately called upon to start making important decisions as there is so much needing to be handled in a very short period of time. Left alone to grapple with financial and legal questions, while unable to think clearly, decisions based on just getting past the loss, can be very flawed. Making major life decisions or missteps, while in shock, can prove complicated or perhaps impossible to undo years down the road.
ONLY ANOTHER WIDOW CAN UNDERSTAND It is impossible for anyone, including a therapist or counselor, to understand what a widow is going through, or how to respond, unless they personally have lost a spouse. Reading books and other literature, about being a widow, is nothing at all like a widow talking to people who have been through it. No amount of therapy is going to be enough, unless a widow has other widows to talk to. Although each has a different story and a different journey, widows all have one thing in common. While the circumstances may be different, the feelings aren’t.
Often well-meaning family and friends expect her grief to be over by the end of a year. A therapist may try tell widows how they should feel and when we should be over their grief. Everyone grieves differently; coping, adjusting and healing in their own way and on their own timetable. Grief, a normal part of healing feels like being lost with no connection to anything. There are several stages of grieving in the healing process, including depression which may seem like it will last forever. It is important for the widow to understand that depression, from grief, is not a sign of mental illness.
Although anger is another stage of the healing process, the widow may be shocked and ashamed of her feelings of anger, at the loved one who died, for causing her pain. The guilt for being angry can make her more angry and confused. A widow can help another widow understand that her feelings are normal and that she is not going “crazy”, which helps her to feel safe. Sharing with other widows what she is experiencing she discovers, to her relief hat she is not alone. Someone who has endured the same crippling heartbreak, and known the absolute depth of despair can provide comfort and hope, by assuring the widow that what she is feeling is normal. Widows will confide in each other their true feelings and thoughts that they won’t share with a non-widow. What is difficult to put into words, another widow understands, having been down a similar path of loss and grief. The insights and experiences of other widows, is invaluable.
HELPING OTHER WIDOWS HELPS WITH ONE’S OWN HEALING Amazing things happen as widows share pain, sadness and tears as they talk of unrealized hopes, dreams and expectations, for the future and now the journey through life, after the death of their spouse. They become each others mentors and good friends as they share love, laughter and advice based on their own journey and experience and brainstorm solutions to problems. A lot of healing takes place as the widow moves through the healing process, at her own pace, looking to the future, with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and a deepened faith. Often it is through caring for others that we find healing in ourselves an deepening in our faith. Widows who feel accepted and welcome appreciate feeling needed and are more likely to volunteer, within the church. We grieve with hope. (1 Thess 4:13-18)
BEING A WIDOW DOES NOT HAVE TO MEAN BEING ALONE
Facebook: A Heart for the Widowed
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a
listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all
of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo F. Buscaglia