Types of Loss: Grieving Loss After a Long Marriage by Sharon Engram

I was driving home from the grocery store on a beautiful day in the desert when my cell phone rang. It was my husband’s doctor calling to say that I needed to take Don to the emergency room immediately. My husband had not been feeling well for several weeks, but I was not prepared to hear the news that Don had a blood disease. After more diagnostic tests, we were shocked when told that Don had two weeks to maybe two months left to live. 

God was gracious, through prayer and a trial drug, to give us two more years together. During that time, we celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary with family and friends and enjoyed reminiscing over our life of full-time ministry and many mission trips around the world together. At the time of Don’s death, God had blessed our life with four grown children, 14 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. 

Where do you run when you receive news like this? Don and I clung to the Scriptures that we so often had claimed. We could trust God even with this news. A favorite verse for us through the years was Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” We had walked through many dark and painful days throughout the years. We had said goodbye to our parents, a precious daughter-in-law, a sweet great-grandson, and a wonderful son-in-law. We had shared this pain and sorrow together.

When Don took his last breath, I had no idea the depth and intensity my grief would hold. Through my ever-present tears, I wondered how I could even navigate this life alone. I couldn’t make clear decisions, as my mind was overtaken by what I later learned was a “widow’s fog.” Everything in my life seemed to change. My calendar changed, my checkbook changed, some friendships changed, where I sat in church changed, and the list continues to grow to this day, even where I do my early morning quiet time has changed.

No matter how much I wish life didn’t change, it did change. Philippians 4:16 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I like to read this “I can do all [seasons] through Christ who strengthens me.” I have learned that I have a choice about how I will walk through this new season of life called widowhood. I can let it define or destroy me or I can let it strengthen me.

Losing a spouse changes our life, but God promises to give us strength to walk through the dark valley of loss. He says He will never leave us or forsake us. And, I have found Him to be faithful to me. 

Hanging on my wall across from my kitchen counter is a large, framed Scripture written in beautiful calligraphy:

 “Rejoice always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” ( I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).

 Even my pain and sorrow can turn into praise! I found that being grateful for all that God has done for me through the years has helped me heal and become content. Our omniscient God knows the depths of our suffering, and He promises His comfort and care as we walk through it.  I can choose to trust God as I live out my days as a widow with purpose. As I trust Him, He opens new opportunities to encourage and bring hope to others.   

I believe everything that comes into our life is filtered through God’s fingers of love, and nothing takes Him by surprise. I love the quote by Elizabeth Elliott, “Do the next thing and trust God.” 

Widow friend, give yourself grace as you walk through your grief journey. The journey takes time and is hard, but I encourage you to lean into Jesus and His words, “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20, NIV)

Co-Author of Surviving Widowhood, 40 Devotions of Hope