As soon as death is confirmed, news begins to spread like wildfire. It seems that the announcement of her husband’s death reaches the ends of the earth before the new widow can process the news herself. Honestly, that’s okay and even necessary. But, please know, she will need support from the very second her life starts its transition into widowhood to much longer than most friends will stick around.
This shift in her life will feel vulnerable. She’s suddenly exposed by the news and now living her life in a fishbowl, with people looking on to see what will happen next!
Everyone will begin to watch, evaluate, and judge her every move. Of course, it’s usually by well-meaning spectators, but never-the-less for a season, her life is on display for observation and ongoing commentary:
She’s eating too much or not at all….She’s crying or not crying enough…She’s better off without him…She will get remarried…She’s not going to be able to stay in that house…She has more money than she knows what to do with…She’s doing great…She needs immediate counseling!
And on and on and on…
Life as she knew it just minutes beforehand, shifts to a new season that is completely out of her control. This experience has been described as taking the pieces in the box of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and turning it upside down. Immediately people come in like a flood to try to help put the pieces back together again. This is overwhelming, to say the least.
What if feels like in the fishbowl:
- She is in a fog and will stay that way for the first few months.
- She is overwhelmed and will continue to be for the first 6-9 months.
- She is sad and there may be no end to missing her husband.
- She is unable to think clearly. Her brain turns to mush.
- She wants to stay in bed from exhaustion on all levels. Grief is very hard work.
- She is in overdrive trying to process so many practical, emotional, and spiritual things all at once.
- She is vulnerable and in need of God to defend her. Thankfully, Defender of the widow (Psalm 68:5) is a job He takes seriously.
- She likely has never been a widow before. She will learn to swim, even upstream, but it will take time.
- She will make mistakes.
- She will say things she may have never said before. Widowhood comes with no filter.
- She will be grateful but doesn’t know how to show appreciation because she would rather be on the giving end instead of being forced to receive.
- She doesn’t like being a widow and wants to discover it’s all a dream.
What you can learn from the outside the fishbowl looking in:
- You have no idea what she is experiencing, truly. Even if you have been in the fishbowl of widowhood yourself, every widow is different. Caring for her in this time of distress is defined by God as pure religion (James 1:27).
- No one knows the work that God is doing from the beginning to the end (Ecc. 3:11). He has a way of working all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and can even take what was meant for evil and use it for good (Genesis 50:20).
- God is a miracle-working God. He loves making the impossible possible (Mark 10:27).
- There are lots of fish in the sea of widowhood. No two fish are alike.
- Her way of processing and timeline of grief will vary from others. However, a lot of what she is going through is common to all.
As her friend, remember to pray for her, and when you notice something that could be hindering her healing, try to carefully share your observations with her, knowing that a lot of what is playing out in her life is likely completely normal and all part of the grieving process. God is at work. He has great compassion for the widow and will take care of her.