Encouragement for New Widows

Dear New Widowed Friend,

I am so sorry for your great loss.  I know what it is like to lay down at night and to pile the pillows on the other side of the bed so that the bed doesn’t feel that big and lonely.  I also know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and to look over hoping that you were just having a bad dream.  I remember the many nightmares and sleepless nights... the endless phone calls and visits...the food that came pouring in and the beautiful flowers...the people that helped with my children, cleaning out closets and drawers, and the unanswered questions that would not leave my mind along with the ache in my heart.   My husband chose to take his own life many years ago when my eight children were all under the age of ten.  The days were dark, life was chaotic, and my circumstances were completely out of my control.  BUT GOD comforted me, lavished His grace on me, and has been faithful day in and day out to walk by my side as my new Husband.  Your new journey will take T.I.M.E. ~ Trusting In the Mystery of Eternity, hold on tight to God's hand.

Job is a familiar book in the Bible telling the story of a man who lost everything that was precious to him . . . his family, his possessions and even his own health.  Many people came to comfort him, but no one had an understanding of what he was really going through.  His comments during his peak grief season were, “Miserable comforters are you all!”  Precious friend, I have not walked in your shoes because I am not you (perhaps a similar style, but not the same size shoe).  However, I would like for the Lord to use me to be an encouragement in your life during this season.  The kindest thing anyone said to me at the  beginning of my new journey was— “Don’t just give yourself one year, take two or three to work through the pain of such a great loss.”  My first reaction was, “I’ll be through with this grief process as quick as possible.”  Looking back, it took every bit of two years and more!  As we approached our third anniversary of the death (our remembrance day), the light began to shine through and the sting of death was not as intense. 

God gave me some ideas that have been fruitful in walking my children through this difficult time:

1.  Devotion Time - For the first year every night we had a devotion time.  This was when we would bring the day to a close.  I asked each child to share what made them happy that day.  Even in the midst of deep hurt and pain, they were able to share something that brought a smile to their face.  Yes, they shared the candy they got to eat, the places they got to go and the things they were able to do.  A little frightening when it was so far from our normal routine, but it was a good thing in their life at that time.   Sometimes, they would share a memory of their Daddy that made them happy to remember.  I felt that the more they shared those memories, the deeper the healing would be.  We would go from sharing the happy to sharing what made them sad.  As simple as this seems, it was a defenseless way to listen to their hearts.  I never forced them to share and never knew what to expect, but they were almost always willing to share something that made them sad.  I started each of these rounds of sharing heart emotions and it was a good way for me to explore my heart as well.

As the year progressed, they added in more feelings they wanted to share:  What made happy, sad, mad and then what made me feel loved, disappointed, etc.  This time each day let them know that they were important and what happened to me happened to them as well.  It was simple and yet, profound.  Even my thirteen month baby joined in when he could talk.  We don’t do this as often now, but when we do they all participate and really seem to find comfort in sharing their hearts.

2.  Daddy Books - This proved to be very therapeutic (and time consuming—smile) for me as I created books for each child.  I took every picture of the child with their Dad and created a story for them of their lives with their Daddy.  I felt that if I had adopted a child, I would one day want them to know their heritage.  I know that my children will not always be able to remember their Daddy, but because of their Daddy books, they will be able to know who he was and the part he played in their lives.  I inserted the different memory letters giving a complete picture of their Dad.

3.  Daddy Boxes - Because of the kind of death my husband chose (suicide), I went a step further and created Daddy boxes.  I knew that they would need a balance in the good and bad of their dad.  The bad would scream out at them every time someone asked how he died.  A few months after my husband died, I discovered that the children were collecting special things of their Daddy . . . a tool, picture, or letter.  These meant so much to them—it was a way of holding onto their Daddy forever and ever.  I took some of these things and had them framed into a shadow box.  Each child finds comfort in looking over these things every night and reading the letter he wrote to them at one point in their lives.

4.  New Family Photo - One last thing I want to encourage you to do is have a picture taken of you with your children.  This was a difficult thing for me to do because it was such a statement that it was “just us”!  It was the first thing we did without him that seemed so final and began the process of grief and closure.  I knew that I would soon forget how little the children were and I wanted them to be able to look back and see how young they were.  I cherish that picture now because the kids have grown so much and we have come so far in our journey.

5.  Grief Support Group - Some churches offer grief programs for families and children.  The one was participated in was called “Rainbows”.  My children took this class during the 2nd year—it was a WONDERFUL experience for them. For months afterwards, they continued to ask if they could go back to Rainbows.

6.   The One Year Bible -  You will receive all kinds of counsel and well-meaning advice; however, the best counsel and encouragement you will ever receive comes from God's Word, the Bible.  You are in a numb state . . . emotionally and possibly somewhat physically—do not allow yourself to go numb spiritually.  If you have a strong walk with the Lord, this is a blessing.  He will speak to you through His Word during this time in ways you’ve never heard Him speak.    Cherish and guard your time alone with Him.  God is your new husband and this honeymoon season is so very important.  If you do not know God, then may He use this difficult time to make Himself known to you.  He wants to be your Husband, friend, comforter, and Savior.

I would love to hear from you so that I can pray during this initial time of pain.
May the Lord hold you close my new friend.
In His Love,
Lori Apon

 * * * * *
To a New Widow from Elisabeth Elliot
Dearest One,
I know the proportion of that pain, and there is no minimizing it here and now. I also know the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:17, "These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain."  The bigger our pain now, the bigger that "weight of glory" will be.  It’s mysterious, it’s unimaginable, but it’s going to be, and for that we give thanks.

You are alone now.  You go to bed alone, you are having to learn to say "I" instead of "we," you find yourself catching your breath as you turn to say something to the man who isn’t there, you put off a decision until he gets home to help you make it, and then you know, with a pang, that you’ll have to make it by yourself. 

The children come with needs, needs that Daddy could meet, but Daddy won’t be there – today or tomorrow, or ever again, so there you are.  You open a drawer, and you find a book his hands have handled, you come across his handwriting (so very personal a sign of the man), you see his shoes with the shape of his feet which you know so well, and the sting of the arrow in your heart is not missed by Him who loves us as no one else ever has.  He puts those tears into his bottle, for He gave you the love that brings those tears and He made you so you could cry, and you cast it all on the Rock that never moves.  You find everything else shaken, tottering, the mountains moved into the midst of the sea, the earth "roaring," the things that seemed changeless all changed now, except for the Rock. He seems sometimes a very absent help in time of trouble, but He’s there. Be still, know that He’s still God, wait for Him.      

I know how your memory goes over every inch of his body, for you loved every inch of it, and you remember just how it felt and the smell of him and the sound of his breathing and his voice and the taste of him, and each day you find it a little bit harder to remember just exactly how it was and you know you have forgotten some of it, and this too, is pain.  You don’t want anybody telling you that "time heals all things," for you don’t in the least want to forget, not for a second.

People will be very kind for quite a long time.  They will remember, and their hearts will go out to you and they will be utterly at a loss to know how to look at you, what to say, how to keep you from talking about your husband.  They don’t know how to cope with the emotion in themselves so they simply cannot imagine how you cope.  They are not practiced in being open and honest with their true emotions, and at a time like this they are at a loss to know how to fake, although they feel that faking is what they ought to do.  So you have to accept that and try to believe that all they want is to be kind, though they blunder at it most touchingly. 

But after a while they will not remember much anymore, or they will assume you’ve "gotten over it," and you will become a worse threat to them because they won’t know how in the world to fit you into their world.  The couples who were your good friends will want to do things for you, but they won’t know how to do things with you, and finally, although they would hardly admit this to themselves, you become a burden, a nuisance, and a dangerous person to have around susceptible husbands.  (I write this not so much from personal experience, since most of my first widowhood was spent in relative isolation from the civilized social scene, but from talking with others, and from observation).  You are a widow, a social misfit, not single, not married.  You’ll find it hard, I think, to relate to single women again, but you can’t expect to be included in couples’ groups again either.  Perhaps it’s cruel of me to tell you so much so soon, but then again perhaps, as it happens to you, it will be of some help to know that this is the way it is!  And of course, to be able to accept things that can’t be changed is a mark of maturity.

There will be those who can "explain" to you God’s purposes in all of this.  They’ll "see" what it’s supposed to mean for you.  Don’t worry about them. They are blind.  No explanation this side of Heaven can possibly cover the data.  It’s imponderable, inexplicable, and far, far beyond any explanations.  You have to cast all that nonsense on the Rock too.

Your ringing assertion of faith in God’s Sovereign design was a great encouragement to me.  He’s there, He’s God, He’s in charge, and we do not flounder around in a sea of pure chance.  Our hope is "For that future day when God will resurrect his children.  For on that day thorns and thistles, sin and death, and decay – the things that overcame the world against its will at God’s command will all disappear, and the world around us will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy"  (Romans 8:19-20, Living Bible).

With ever so much love,
Elisabeth Elliot

The Godly Widow Confiding in the Widow's God
By:  Octavius Winslow of the Reformed Reader
"Let thy widows trust in me."
—Jeremiah 49:11

It is well!  All that He does, who speaks these touching words, is well.  It is well with you, for He who gave in love, in love has taken away the mercy that he gave.  The companion of your youth, the friend of your bosom, the treasure of your heart, the staff of your riper and the solace of your declining years, is removed, but since God has done it—it is, it must be well.  Look now above the circumstances of your deep and dark sorrow, the second causes of your bereavement, the probable consequences of your loss,—God has done it; and that very God who has smitten, who has bereaved, and who has removed your all of earthly good, now invites you to trust in him.  Chance has not brought you into this state; accident has not bereft you of your treasure; God has made you a widow,  that you may confide in the widow’s God.

With your peculiar case the word of God in a pre-eminent degree sympathizes.  It would seem, indeed, as if a widow’s sorrow and a widow’s desolateness took the precedence of all other bereavements in the Bible.  It is touched with a hand so gentle, it is referred to with a tenderness so exquisite, it is quoted with a solemnity so profound, it would seem as if God had taken the widow’s sorrow, if I may so express myself, into his heart of hearts. “Ye shall not afflict any widow,”—“He doth execute the judgment of the widow,”—“The sheaf in the field shall be for the widow,”— “He relieveth the widow,”—“He will establish the border of the widow,”—“A judge of the widow is God,”—“Plead for the widow,”— “If ye oppress not the widow,”—“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the widows in their affliction,”—“Let your widows trust in me.”  What a cluster of divine and precious consolations for the widow is here!  How do their extraordinary appropriateness to her case, their extreme delicacy in dealing with her position, their especial regard for her circumstances; above all, their perfect sympathy with her lonely sorrow, betray the heart from whence they flow!

And who is the object of the widow’s trust?  “In me,” says God.  None less than Himself can meet your case.  He well considers that there is an acuteness in your sorrow, a depth in your loss, a loneliness and a helplessness in your position, which no one can meet but Himself.  The first, the best, the fondest, the most protective of creatures has been torn from your heart, is smitten down at your side; what other creature could now be a substitute?  A universe of beings could not fill the void: God in Christ only can.  O! wonderful thought, that the Divine Being should come and embosom himself in the bereft and bleeding heart of a human sufferer—that bereft and bleeding heart of yours.  He is especially the God of the widow.  And when He asks your confidence, and invites your trust, and bids you lift your weeping eye from the crumbled idol at your feet, and fix it upon Himself, He offers you an infinite substitute for a finite loss; thus, as He ever does, giving you infinitely more than He took; bestowing a richer and a greater blessing than he removed.  He recalled your husband, but He bestows Himself.  And O, the magnitude of this trust!  It is to have infinite power to protect you, infinite wisdom to guide you, infinite love to comfort you, infinite faithfulness at all times to stand by you, and boundless resources to supply your every need.  It is to have the God who made heaven and earth, the God to whom the spirits of all creatures are subject, the God who gave His dear Son to die for you, the God of the everlasting covenant to be your shield, your counselor, your provider, your God forever and ever, and your guide even unto death.

And what are you invited thus to entrust to God?   First, your own self.  It is one of the greatest, as it is one of the most solemn peculiarities of the Gospel; that it deals with us as individuals.  It never, in all the commands it enjoins, and in all the blessings it promises, loses sight of our individuality.  This, then, is a personal confiding.  You are to trust yourself into God’s hands; God seems now to stand to you in a new relation.  He has always been your Father and your Friend.  To these He now adds the relation of Husband.  Your present circumstances seem to invest you with a new claim, not upon His love—for He has always loved you, as He loves you now—but upon His especial, His peculiar, His tender care; the affectionate solicitude of the husband blending with the tender love of the father.  You are to flee to Him in your helplessness, to resort to Him in your loneliness, to confide to Him your wants, and to weep your sorrows upon his bosom.  Secondly, your children. “Leave your fatherless children; I will preserve them alive.”  A state of half-orphanage is one of peculiar interest to God.  A fatherless child is an object of his especial regard and care.  “Thou art the helper of the fatherless,”—“A father of the fatherless is God,”—“Enter not into the field of the fatherless; for their Redeemer is mighty, He will plead their cause with thee.”  Encouraged by this invitation and this promise, take, then, your fatherless ones, and lay them on the heart of God.  He has removed their earthly father, that He may adopt them as his own.  His promise that He will “preserve them alive,” you are warranted to interpret in its best and widest sense.  It must be regarded as including, not temporal life only, but also spiritual life. God never offers us an inferior blessing, when it is in His power to confer, and our circumstances demand, a greater.  He will preserve your fatherless ones alive temporarily, providing all things necessary for their present existence; but, infinitely more than this, He will, in answer to the prayer of faith, preserve their souls unto eternal life.  Thus it is a promise of the life that now is, and also of that which is to come.  Thirdly, your concerns are to be entrusted to God.  These, doubtless, press at this moment with peculiar weight upon your mind.  They are new and strange.  They were once cared for by one in whose judgment you had implicit confidence, whose mind thought for you, whose heart beat for you, whose hands toiled for you, who in all things sought to anticipate every wish, to reciprocate every feeling; ‘who lessened his cares by your sympathy, and multiplied his pleasures by your participation;’ whose esteem, and affection, and confidence, shed a warm and mellow light over the path of life.  These interests, once confided to His judgment and control, must now be entrusted to a wiser and more powerful friend,—to Him who is truly and emphatically the widow’s God.  Transferred to His government, He will make them all his own. Your care will be His cares; your concerns will be His concern; your children will be His children; your need the occasion of His supply; and your fears, perils, and dejection, the period of His soothing, protection, and love.  And just at this period of your life, when every object and every scene appears to your view trembling with uncertainty and enshrouded with gloom, God—the widow’s God—speaks in language well calculated to awaken in your soul a song in the night,—
O! have faith, then, in this word of the living God, and all will be well with you.  It will be well with your person, it will be well with your children, it will be well with your estate.  The God who cared for the widow of Zarephath, the Saviour who had compassion on the bereaved widow of Nain, is your God and Saviour; and the same regard for your interests, and the same sympathy for your sorrow, will lighten your cares and cheer the desolateness of your widowhood.  Only trust in God. Beware of murmuring at His dealings, of doubting His kindness, of distrusting His word, and of so nursing your grief as to refuse the consolation your God and Saviour proffers you.  The sweetest joy may yet spring from your bitter, lonely sorrow; and the richest music may yet awake from your unstrung and silent harp.  If a human power and sympathy could “make the widow’s heart to sing for joy,” O! what joy cannot God’s power and love create in that desolate, bleeding, widowed heart of thine.  Place it, then, all stricken and lonely as it is, in God’s hands; and, breathing over it His loving Spirit, He will turn its tears, its sighs, its moanings, into the sweetest midnight harmony.
“Long have I viewed, long have I thought,
And held with trembling hand this bitter draught;
’Twas now first to my lips applied;
Nature shrank in, and all my courage died.
But now resolved and firm I’ll be,
Since, Lord, ’tis mingled and reached out by thee.

“Since ’tis thy sentence I should part
With the most precious treasure of my heart,
I freely that and more resign;
My heart itself, as its delight is Thine.
My little all I give to thee—
Thou gavest a greater gift, thy Son, to me.

“He left true bliss and joys above,
Himself he emptied of all good but love;
For me he freely did forsake
More good than he from me can take,
A mortal life for a divine
He took, and did at last even that resign.

“Take all, great God! I will not grieve;
But still will wish that I had still to give.
I hear thy voice; thou bidd’st me quit
My paradise; I bless, and do submit;
I will not murmur at thy word,
Nor beg thy angel to sheathe up his sword.”
Copyright 1999-2007, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved
Italics and bold font are mine