Whenever I hear that someone’s husband passed away, I almost want to shudder. I know the path that is ahead of her. I know the denial and the numbness she’ll feel. The loneliness and isolation that surrounds her no matter how many people are near. The brokenness of her heart and the utter sadness that takes hold and makes her feel out of control of her own emotions.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” ~ Psalms 56:8
I want to hold her and tell her that all the firsts are going to be as bad as she can imagine. The first Christmas, the birthday of her loved one that won’t be there to celebrate and her own birthday that will feel empty. Their anniversary will be a bittersweet memory of happier times. Thanksgiving when she doesn’t feel like she has anything to give thanks for, and the first anniversary of his death.
I’d like to tell her that people are going to say stupid things and mean the very best when they say them. “Only the good die young.” “God needed another angel in heaven.” He won’t give you more than you can handle.” They will ask questions that are none of their business. “Did he leave you life insurance?” “How did he die?” “Were you there?” “How much did the funeral cost?” “What are you going to do now?”
Probably the stupidest question they’ll ask is “How are you?” I suspect if it was answered honestly, they’d be scared to death. No one wants to hear that you cry constantly, yell as loud as you can when you are home alone, aren’t able to sleep and how hard it is to get out of the bed in the morning, and that for a few moments each day you wish you could join him.
She’ll look around at people going about their normal routine and wonder how can they be so blind to the pain she is feeling. How does the world function without him in it anymore?
Every place she goes will bring him to mind and even the simple things become painful. Every aisle in the grocery store has some memory attached to the food that’s there because he liked to eat it. The restaurants become flashbacks to the lunches or dinners that she shared with him. She’ll know exactly every table they sat at and will gaze there as if to bring back memories shared.
Every ‘last’ thing they did together will pop into her mind. The last conversation they shared, the last movie they watched together, the last intimate moment they had, and the last place they were together. She’ll be regretful of the small things that they didn’t get to do. I should have cooked more, given him more of my time, and told him I loved him.
The home they once shared is a haven. His side of the bed becomes a place to hug. She’ll go into the closet and smell his clothes to remember his scent until it fades away and when it does it’ll break her heart again. Any small note that he wrote or a card he sent will bring a smile to her face. Things that were insignificant will become dear because he once held them. His wedding ring is priceless because he wore it close to his heart and she’ll put it on and imagine his hand holding hers.
I’d like to tell her that she can count on the friends that stood with her while she was married and hung around during the funeral, but I can’t. Most of them won’t be there to walk the path with her. Her true friends will invite her over to fill up the emptiness of time and encourage her through hugs and will go out of their way to give of themselves.
Couples that once were friends at church will drift away like your husband’s death was a contagious disease. Sure, they will hug on you at church and send you a card, but they won’t be there to walk the path with you. You’ll make them uncomfortable with tears and slowly most will drift away since they feel they can’t comfort you. I’d let her know that the phone calls will become fewer and that she’ll cry when the cards stop coming in the mail. I will tell her that she’ll make new friends with people that she never considered being friends with before and they will become her support network.
Everyday that passes brings a day of healing closer. Not by her own power does she make it through the hours and days, but by God’s strength carrying her. Every tear shed is a testament of love for her beloved, but every verse God puts on her heart is a testament of how much she is God’s beloved. God sends the people she needs to lift her up in prayer and to give her words of encouragement. The words on cards arriving on the day she needs to read words of love are sent on God’s timetable and the songs she hears speak directly to her.
Slowly, the path seems easier to navigate. I’ll tell her that time doesn’t heal the wounds, but allows her to figure out how to live without her love. One day she’ll go almost a whole day without thinking of him and she’ll be both happy and sorrowful at the same moment. She’ll wake up one day and realize that she has joy in her life again. She’ll fill her days with activity and find a purpose.
One day something will be required that was not in her job description as the wife or mother and the task will seem overwhelming. She’ll cry, but she won’t give up. I’d tell her that she is stronger than she ever thought she’d be and she’ll handle the things that once was her husband’s job and she’ll feel powerful that she accomplished what she’d never done before and it’ll bring her contentment. I’d tell her that it’s okay if she calls friends to help with the ‘honey do’s’ and accepting help is not a sign of weakness. Let others have the gift of joy as they follow God’s obedience to help you.
I’d like to tell her that her second year would be easier than her first year without him, but that would be a lie. The second year is tough. People expect the grief to be over and aren’t as encouraging as before. They don’t understand that you still feel as if half of your body is missing. All they see is that time has passed and their life has gone on as before. They’ll wonder if you are defective in some way because you haven’t moved beyond your grief. They won’t understand that you have come miles down the pathway that you never wanted to take, but the path is longer than they can see.
I’d let her know that her life will be filled with joy again. She’ll stop counting the months since she lost her love. I’d tell her that her life stretches before her with new purpose. Although it’s not the life she planned all those years ago, but that God has seen her future and it is beautiful. That there are people who’ll understand that hole in her heart. That the hole will be filled with different types of love and it will continue to beat because her life goes on. That the path is lit with God’s light, so it’s easier to navigate.
The path goes on and widens. It splits off in different directions and each one is a new adventure and has both positives and negatives. Whatever, keep going forward.
And when she hears of a friend or an acquaintance becoming a widow that she’ll step forward and give her words of hope that she WILL smile and live again because God has a plan for her life and He is beside you…always.