Visiting Widows and Widowers in Their Affliction

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MP3 Audio (7.5 MB)


Visiting Widows and Widowers in Their Affliction

MP3 Audio (7.5 MB)

Recently a neighbor, Ann, was found dead in her condo above us. Her husband had died six months earlier. I knew that she had taken it very hard, but she seemed so strong and was going on with her life.

I would see her in passing when she was out walking her dog. I remember her mentioning to me that she hoped she did not disturb me while she was crying so hard the night before. After she was found dead, I was laden with guilt. I had been too busy to take the time to chat more with her and find out how she was really doing. Now she was gone. Could a little of my time with her have prevented her death?

Always ask God to encourage those who are going through loss.

Ann was not very old and seemed to me to be a picture of good health, so her passing took me by surprise. Her daughter lived about four hours away, so it was hard for her to check in on her. Ann seemed to be busy working at what she loved doing, which was singing. In fact, that was how she met her husband—they were both in a jazz singing group here in our city. She was scheduled to sing on the day she was found dead. Sadly, even her singing didn’t take away the hidden pain she was going through.

Losing a spouse can be devastating. A study has found that when a husband or wife dies, the remaining spouse’s risk of dying is 66 percent higher in the three months afterward. Grief can even affect the immune system. There can even be what’s called “Sudden Adult Death Syndrome,” a cardiac condition that can be triggered by emotional stress.

How can we help those who’ve lost the love of their life, their life’s partner, their spouse? People may seem okay on the outside, just as Ann did to me for the most part, but on the inside grief has overtaken and overwhelmed them.

Here are some positive steps you can take to help:

Reach out!

Call, text or e-mail them often—even if they don’t respond. Let them know you are there for them. This is especially important after the funeral when other people return to their normal routines and aren’t there to provide support. Stay involved!

Include them in your family’s activities.

As time permits, make sure they are not spending their days alone. 

Listen, and don’t try to “fix” their feelings.

They will need a listening ear so they can vent their emotions. Some of the most common feelings and concerns after the loss of a spouse are reflected in statements like these:

“I’ve lost my best friend.”
“I’m angry.”
“I feel guilty I didn’t do enough for him [or her].”
“I’m afraid.”
“I worry about lots of things, especially money.”
“I suddenly feel very old.”
“I feel sick all the time.”
“I think about my own death more.”
“I seem to be going through an identity crisis.”
“I feel relieved that his [or her] suffering is over, then immediately guilty for feeling that way.”

Widows and widowers need your time so they can express all of these confusing emotions. Through this they can begin to heal and move forward. Studies clearly show that mortality rates are higher among those who don’t articulate their grief; this is especially true with men. Always ask God to help you say and do the right thing to help them.

Offer to help with paperwork, housework and grocery shopping.

This is especially true for a widower whose wife might have done all those things. On top of the death, these day-to-day chores can be overwhelming. Bring frozen meals. Just make yourself available and offer support, stating directly, “Please tell me what I can do for you.”

The Bible says much about caring for widows, but the need is also there for widowers.  New research has found that a grieving husband is more likely to die shortly after losing his wife, while a widowed woman is more able to carry on with life.

Professor Javier Espinosa, who led a study at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said: “When a wife dies, men are often unprepared. They have often lost their caregiver, someone who cares for them physically and emotionally, and the loss directly impacts the husband’s health. This same mechanism is likely weaker for most women when a husband dies” (quoted in The Telegraph, Oct. 22, 2012).

If you are going through a loss or know someone who is, remember Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (New International Version). Always ask God to encourage those who are going through loss.

Never take for granted that people are doing okay by the brave face they put on, as I did with Ann. Be involved, take their hand, and encourage them through this. Don’t forget widows and widowers in their time of need!

(This Beyond Today article first appeared as a blog post on April 13, 2016.)

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  • Todd Sauve

    When I was 34 I was in a car accident that wasn't my fault but has reeked havoc on my life ever since. I will be 58 in 3 weeks. Initially I was laid up in bed for months on end. Finally after 6 months and no improvement my doctor informed me that I would never likely get better or be able to work again. Two years after the accident my wife abandoned me and ran off with another man. To top it all off I could not get any financial help from the federal or provincial gov'ts of Canada or Alberta, and neither would the old WCG under Joe Tkach Jr. provide any financial help. In August 1996 our divorce was finalized, this from a woman who had grown up in the church.

    There are so many people in our churches going through trials that have them hanging on for dear life, sometimes literally, but many others that are simply colossal in scope and even life long!

    Personally, I thought I might lose my mind at times and can understand something of what Job went through, though his problems were even worse. Divorce is a terrible thing, the worst I have ever experienced, and does not aleviate for many years. These people need as much help as anyone else, so don't forget them please!

  • Janet Treadway

    Wow Todd , your comment brought tears to my eyes. I can't imagine. I know in my own personal life it has been God that has gotten me through the worst times and I am sure that has been for you. I wrote an article "Father Please Heal my Broken Heart". It touches on how God is there every step of the way to help you through the grieving process, no matter what you have lost in life. Certainly divorce is devastating and a huge loss. Thank you so much for reminding us about the heart ache of divorce. We tend to overlook the people going through that. May God continue to reach down and give you great encouragement and healing both in body and in spirit, from the heart ache. You are a example to all of us of someone who did not give up even in the worst of times.

  • Tim Duncan

    James 1:27 says: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and keep himself unspotted from the world." Visiting these people is put right next to being unspotted from the world! How important is visiting these people! I'll be asking this question to my Spokesman's club members as the Topicsmaster! Thanks so much for the article!

  • Janet Treadway

    Thank you Tim. It is so true that pure religion is looking after the fatherless and windows. I can't stress enough that our widowers also need to be looked after, especially in their time of loneliness. They are the ones that tend to get neglected because they are men. Thanks again for you kind comment . I think we all need to be reminded as I was recently to slow down and take the time to engage in those who have lost a spouse. . This will be a great topic for Spokesman's club.

  • EvanToledo

    Wonderful article, Janet. I am suffering through a health trial right now and the goodness of friends and brethren is heart-rending. Just helping with chores like taking out the trash, washing the dishes, mowing the grass or doing errands are monumental helps to people who find their lives completely turned upside down due to a loss or illness. I was telling my friend who drove me to the doctor that GOODNESS is not just avoiding sin, but actually doing deeds for those in need, etc. Notice in James 1:27 ".....Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: TO VISIT THE FATHERLESS AND WIDOWS (or widowers)IN THEIR AFFLICTION and keep himself unspotted from the world." Money can't buy the feeling you get in serving or helping others---even if it has to be at your expense. This is how our Heavenly Father feels about us and why Scripture shows we must learn this too. Matthew 25:31-46 is engraved in my mind. Please pray that I can recover in time to keep the Passover. There is a big difference in saying or a "Get Well Soon" card and visiting
    and helping that person in an active way---THAT is the essence of the scriptures above as well as your reference in Psalms 34.

  • Janet Treadway

    Thanks Evan. I am so glad you added a list of things that people can do for even a widower because of health issues or a loss of a spouse. Sometimes during a huge loss you lose your energy to do anything, So for people to step in encourage and help lighten to load until the person get's going again is huge! Evan I am so glad you have people looking after you for this indeed is well pleasing to God. Will pray for you that you are able to keep the Passover.

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