Volunteers

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.

  1. Don’t minimize the loss – they are not better off without their loved one and they do not need to find someone better at this moment. Don’t think that because they have children or “have so much to be thankful for” they are not in deep grief.
  2. Don’t give uninvited advice.  You could suggest, “Have you thought about …?”
  3. Don’t over spiritualize the loss – he’s in a better place, God will use for good, you are better off. Proverbs 25:20 says it perfectly, “Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.”
  4. Do show up, even if you are afraid you might do or say the wrong thing. Your physical presence in their time of hurt means more than many words.
  5. Do listen actively – speak less, listen more.
  6. Don’t ask about details of the death or discuss how they died or what method they used.
  7. Don’t try to relate because you know a story of someone else who “did the same thing” and then give the graphic details. Even if you share similar circumstances, every story is unique.
  8. Don’t place blame – did you see this coming, this is genetic, is he bi-polar, someone probably said something to “put them over the edge.”
  9. Don’t make negative comments about the one who died. It is never ever okay to say negative things about the one who died to one the person who is grieving.
  10. Do allow your friend the gift of telling their story over and over again. “Suicide is awkward to talk about with well-meaning people who asked how your loved one passed away. But because it wasn’t a “taboo” topic in our family, I never felt ashamed or embarrassed to explain my dad’s story to others. I was thankfully able to recognize that this was his choice, not mine.” – Kayla
  11. Don’t make assumptions – he/she is in Hell, what a selfish thing to do, they must have not had faith in God.
  12. Avoid gossip, slander, and malice – these are the enemy to healing.
  13. Don’t try and fix the problem because you can’t.
  14. Do allow them to grieve while you hold their hand as you would when visiting a friend laying in a coma in the hospital bed. You would never try to physically fix them, but would sit by their side until healing takes place.
  15. Don’t attempt to explain even when the one left behind is wrestling through explanations. There are many sides and perspectives to the story. It is never helpful to try to diagnose the reason the loved one chose to take their life. Just love the grieving person and be there for them.
  16. Do allow them to wrestle with the same questions. It will take a lot of patience, love, prayer and time for them to work through this.
  17. When necessary, carefully – very carefully, speak truth in love at the right time (it may be months or years later).
  18. Don’t evaluate their process in grief giving them a report card or grade on their emotional status. Emotions will change and it really does take time.
  19. Do know that suicide is numbing. It is brutally painful and so shocking that it leaves the grieved stunned for years. “I was very young when Daddy passed away so my memory isn’t clear. It took several years before it finally began to sink in that I’d never see my dad on earth again.  As we all know, those first few years are always a blur. But now as I look back, I can see there was a peace surrounding me even in the midst of the horrible things that had happened. It was almost as if God was saying, “It’s okay, I’ve got this and you.”  So even though we experienced an incredible “bad,” I could see God using it for good the whole time.” – Isaac
  20. Do trust God with them. Trust that God is sovereign over all.  Suicide is not the unpardonable sin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

  1. Don’t be afraid about not having the “right” thing to say, because honestly, she probably just needs you to just listen more than anything else.
  1. Don’t be afraid to sit in silence. There will be times when a widow doesn’t want to talk but still wants to have someone there. Hours after I found out about the death of my husband, a few women came to simply be with me. They said their condolences and then they just stayed around the house. It was nice to have people near, while not having the pressure to communicate. Ask her if she wants to be alone, but don’t assume it for yourself.
  1. Ask her questions. Almost all of my friends would start out with something like this before asking me a question about grief or widowhood or my late husband, “I don’t want to offend you, or pry, so if it’s too much you don’t have to answer.” And then I would laugh because I actually enjoy being asked! Questions meant someone cared. And if you still aren’t sure if it’s okay to ask then simply begin your question with line above!
  1. The obvious thing to do may be to cry with her, but it is so important to not forget to laugh with her. A widow needs friends who aren’t afraid to laugh with her. And she also needs you to know that it doesn’t mean she is “done grieving.”
  1. Invite her. Having a birthday party, holiday party, Super Bowl party, or any get-together and think it may be too soon to invite your widowed friend? Invite her. She may say no, but it’s good for her to know that she hasn’t been forgotten or ousted. After the loss of my husband, I felt like a complete outsider. I knew grief made people uncomfortable, so to have friends that I knew still wanted me around, grief and all, was uplifting—even if I turned the invitation down (which I did a lot).
  1. Acknowledge the hard days. The anniversary of a husband’s death, Mother’s Day (if she is a mother), and her birthday can be hard days. I have had amazing friends who have surprised me with handwritten cards, flowers, and gift cards. Their awareness of tender days for me has been so encouraging to me, and I could never thank them all enough.
  1. Be there to help. Not having a husband to help me with things around the house left me feeling like a burden on others. I’m so grateful for the friends who pushed me to allow them to help me before I was able to humble myself and learn to ask. I could be wrong, but I think every widow will be grateful for yard maintenance—and some house cleaning. Also, having friends she knows she can call on to watch the kids if something’s comes up and family isn’t available. Let her know she isn’t burden, and you enjoy being able to help her.
  1. Pray and get into the Word. Pray for her (and her children) to draw closer to the Lord in their time of suffering and pray for yourself to help them along their journey. Read the Bible with her, text her scripture, encourage her in the Lord. Align your own heart to the Word so that you may be encouraged to encourage, as well.
  1. Lastly, be sensitive. Be loving. There is no real timeline or order for grief. Grief is as unique as each of us are.

“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.

1.     Help her with spring cleaning:

  • Service her air conditioner, change the filters, maybe even leave a few extra filters for the months ahead.
  • Give your time to help her clean out a closet. She may be ready to tackle her husband’s possessions, but she may need someone to hold her hand and wipe her tears during the process.
  • Offer to dust ceiling fans and window blinds.

2.     Help her usher in spring:

  • Deliver a spring bouquet just to let her know you are thinking of her.
  • Plant flowers in her yard as a reminder that when her focus is on God, she can bloom where she is planted.
  • Trim her bushes or spread fresh pine straw.
  • Provide consistent lawn care through the warmer months.

3.     Remember her on Mother’s Day!

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.

  • Pampering baskets, including gift cards for a manicure, pedicure, or massage, will help her take care of herself.
  • Ice cream and/or restaurant gift cards will provide her and her children with a fun outing.
  • Send notes of appreciation, affirming a job well done!

4.     Include her in your summer outings and plans:

  • Invite her to share a time of fellowship with you. Keep in mind that the widow often feels like the “3rd wheel” when couples gather together. Perhaps you could invite several widows to join you.
  • Consider giving her the keys to your beach or mountain home, trips away can be very healing for the grieving heart.

5.     Provide for a day trip or weekend away

Gift cards for food and gas will help make a simple retreat possible.

6.     Offer transportation

  • Drive her to medical appointments
  • Help with running errands
  • Pick her up for church or a community event

7.     Enlist a trusted handyman for home repairs

Make arrangements to come and conquer her “to-do” list—paint a room, re-arrange furniture, or fix that leaky faucet.

8.     Provide summer fun for her fatherless children.

Loving on her children is a gift to her.  One of the main concerns for the young widow is her children.

  • Summer camps
  • Butterfly gardens for kids, reminding them that life comes after death
  • Day passes – White Water/Aquarium/Movies

9.     Call:

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.

10. Write:

Widows love a hand-written note just to let them know you care.

11.  Visit:

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.

12.  Pray:

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:

First, there are times when silence and your presence are all she needs;

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

Second, there are times where she needs to be reminded of the gospel;

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.

Lastly, she needs you to be her cheerleader, not her critic.

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!

1.      Winterize her home:

  • Service her heating system and change air filters.
  • Check batteries in smoke detectors and fire alarms.
  • Bring firewood
  • Trim tree limbs that could be hazardous in a storm
  • Provide flashlights and candles in case of power outages
  • Change lightbulbs inside and out

2.      Help her prepare for the year ahead:

  • Financial planning
  • Tax preparation

3.      Give your time to preserve her memories:

  • Offer an evening or weekend to help her sort through pictures—having someone to share these special moments with is a blessing.
  • Take time to write out a specific memory of her loved one, and deliver it to her.

4.      Thoughtful ideas:

  • Buy her warm and cozy things:
    • Winter gloves / scarf / warm socks / blanket—something to snuggle up to on the chilly nights
    • Candles—these always have a way of making the holidays warmer and brighter, especially on the cold and dreary days.
  • Fill her pantry with love:
    • Tea, hot chocolate and coffee are always a safe bet.
    • Stock her freezer with casseroles and soups.

5.      Give her a good book:

“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley

6.      Send gift cards: food and gas are always needed

7.      Care for her fatherless children

  • Babysit her kids or come with an activity to share with her and her children

8.      Provide help with medical attention, if needed

9.      Call:

  • Be available if weather isolates – make sure she is okay.

10.  Write:

  • After the rush of the holidays, it’s easy for loneliness to set in—send a card letting her know you are thinking of her. Hand-written notes may be her greatest friend.

11.  Visit:

  • Invite her to join you at the movies, for dinner, or take her to run errands.

12.  Pray:

  • Dear God, please show the warmth of your love to this precious widow during the winter months.  Thank you that you promise to be her covering.  May she experience your protection in the storm and provision from the cold. As she faces the year ahead, remind her that your plans are good, you are with her, and you will help her. Amen.

“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