First know this: The one who chooses suicide is experiencing torment – to them, death was their only alternative. Their struggle was not against flesh and blood. Even Christians will wrestle against the spiritual forces of darkness.
Being a friend to a widow is a special calling in itself. It requires patience, compassion, and a lot of prayer. If you are a friend to a widow, please don’t think for a second that your relationship isn’t important to her. Whether you knew her before her husband died or you became friends after, you are important. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my friends being there to be a listening ear or a helping hand.
So, you may be wondering what exactly to do or say to encourage your friend but aren’t sure how to go about it. There is no honest way for me to give you an exact guideline of how to be an awesome friend to a widow, because I only know my own grief and my own needs—but, I’ve made a little list that I hope and pray will help you to come alongside your friend in her grief and get to know her unique needs so you may meet them the best you can.
“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12
Oh, what a joyous time it is to watch and experience the birth of Spring! The miracle of life after death is simply glorious. Although the widow may feel encouraged by the warmth and beauty of spring, frost may continue in her grieving heart. As society makes plans for getaways and summer fun with their loved ones, her monotonous routine remains the same–alone. Alone to figure out ways to dust off her home, make repairs, and manage her lawn. Perhaps God would use you to lighten her load by considering meeting one of these practical needs.
The job of the widowed-mom is hard and heavy. One out of every four children in the United States is being raised by a single parent, most of which are single moms.
Gift cards for food and gas will help make a simple retreat possible.
Make arrangements to come and conquer her “to-do” list—paint a room, re-arrange furniture, or fix that leaky faucet.
Loving on her children is a gift to her. One of the main concerns for the young widow is her children.
Out of all the widows we surveyed, their greatest ongoing struggle is loneliness. Take time to pick up the phone to let her know she isn’t forgotten.
Widows love a hand-written note just to let them know you care.
Give your time away. Be intentional about planning a time to listen to her, keeping in mind that adult conversation may be limited in her new season.
Dear God, thank you for showing us that life comes after death. We thank you for Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the grave, so we can experience new life in Christ. Please remind the precious widow of this truth. May she experience life after her own season of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Please let her feel your Presence as she waits on you in this season.
“They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain.” Job 29:23
The days after John-Michael tragically died were painfully long. I never knew how painful it could be to watch someone walk through such intense grief. Alex had lost her husband, her best friend, all of her future dreams with John-Michael, and the only person who could truly make her laugh and smile on a wretchedly long work day.
I’ve never felt more powerless as a friend. There were so many moments where there was nothing I could do or say to take the pain away. It felt as if the only way this was going to get better was if we woke up one day and realized this all was just a horribly long, bad dream.
When Alex asked me to write this, my first response was an awkward laugh. I failed horribly at this whole “being a best friend to the widow” some of the days, weeks, and months following John-Michael’s death. All I wanted was for her to have joy again and it felt like that would never be possible. I plead constantly with God to provide her reprieve and peace and to restore her joy.
There was one moment when I was ready to throw in the towel on the idea that this God I claimed to follow was still “good.” Alex woke up one night at 4 a.m. because she couldn’t sleep and decided to read her Bible. She softly read 2 Corinthians 4 aloud and when she got to verse 16 the tears started falling… hard.
“For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:16
I remember being so angry in that moment. “LIGHT?! HOW INSENSITIVE, GOD. Nothing about this is “light,” I thought to myself.
I proceeded to beg God to give me something to say to help her respond to this scripture. I was pleading with him to show up and provide me something that would fix everything she was experiencing in her heart.
Then, Alex, tear-soaked-Bible in hand, looks over at me and says, “If this grief, that is saturating my entire being is considered “light,” then how beautiful will the glory of Christ be.”
I was speechless. Here I was—the friend trying to be a fill-in god that could fix this pain, but God was doing His job, the job that was never mine. Being a sweet, tender, loving Father to her and showing her that even though it feels like all of her world has crumbled, there is purpose, meaning and beauty in this pain that will make Christ’s ever-satisfactory glory completely worth it.
I still get chills thinking about how surreal that moment was. I now have story after story of the Lord’s faithfulness in the months following.
I learned a lot of “hard-way” lessons when it comes to walking with people through grief. But I’ve found three things that are certainly vital to walking through these seasons faithfully:
for you to sit in the pain with her without trying to give answers or reasons, without changing the subject. She just needs affirmation that the reality of this circumstance is painful, that her heartache is justified, and that this world was not created to be this way.
Even Jesus asked James and John to sit with him in his grief as he sat in anguish before he went to the cross: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:37
when her mind is plagued by fear, hurt, and lies or her circumstances have caused her to doubt everything she’s ever believed to be true. Gently remind her of why God is good and point her to eternity. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 it says, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who do not have hope.”
What sets us apart as Christians in grief is that we are able to grieve with hope. The Lord doesn’t ask us to replace our mourning with thanksgiving. Rather, he uses our sorrow to proclaim a type of thanksgiving we wouldn’t be able to express otherwise. The thanks be to him who says our grief will be worth it. The giving of ourselves to say that even if our earthly hopes have been deferred, our eternal hope will never be lost.
Critics come out of the woodworks when tragedy strikes. Everyone has opinions on how a widow should grieve, when it’s okay to talk about it, or when they should pursue another relationship.
Be the friend that helps fight for joy when it starts creeping back in. I know right now it’s impossible to believe when I tell you that the days won’t always seem this heavy. But eventually, there will be a day when it feels like she has started to get her laugh back. Celebrate that alongside her. Find ways to embrace it and create more of it. You will not and cannot bring healing. Only Christ can do that. But life and death are not distinctly separated from one another in the seasons of our lives. Mourning and dancing—they don’t always take turns. While people celebrate engagements, new babies, and the sweetness of life, the fallen world will continue to break our hearts, often times simultaneously. The tension is constantly there, leaving us wondering when to celebrate and when to cry. Often the best thing we can do is recognize the tension and do both, trusting and remembering that when Jesus left this earth, He didn’t leave us alone to discern the timing of our responses. He gave us the Spirit to help navigate these complexities.
The last 2.5 years have not been easy, but I can tell you that mine and Alex’s friendship is one I will forever hold dear to my heart. It has been stretched, challenged, and deepened through this season. We live 1,000+ miles away from each other now, but when we do get time together, it is clear the foundations of our relationship run deep, to the depths of suffering and pain to the joys of life and celebration. Nicholas Wolterstorff said,
“I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that, dry-eyed, I could not see.”
This will be hard and there will be days when you will feel inadequate, insufficient, and like you’re failing. Press on, my friend! Through tears and pain, you will see and know the Lord more intimately and so will your friend. Joy comes in the morning, and it will come through this seemingly unending mourning.
The cold days and long, dark nights that are characteristic in the winter leave the widow feeling like the winter of her soul may never end. We have all had seasons like this, when the biting cold outside matches the biting hurt we feel on the inside. Without the comfort and love of her husband, the winter months have way of intensifying the loneliness and grief the widow feels. Thankfully, God gives snow in the winter as a beautiful picture of His grace, and before we know it, the snow melts away reminding us that there is life after death. We invite you to be another picture of grace for the widow and fatherless this winter season. This list of practical ideas, compiled by widows, will help you bring light into otherwise dark places. For all you will do, we thank you!
“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10