You would think the church is the safest place for a widow, after all God is there! However, many reminders of her husband are within those walls, and that can make it very hard for her. Familiar people and places often bring up tender emotions.
5 reasons why church can be hard for the widow:
- It can trigger grief as it connects her to the past—the funeral, a wedding, baptism, or maybe even the regular Sunday trips she used to take with her husband. Trips to the grocery store are unavoidable; however, eliminating church attendance is surprisingly desirable.
- In cases where her husband was a church leader, teacher, elder, volunteer, or maybe even the pastor, his absence requires replacement. Not only does she grieve the loss of her husband but also other losses because he’s gone.
- Staying in a couple’s class is awkward no matter how hard everyone tries to make normal. Many widows avoid these gatherings to escape the third wheel feeling.
- Even though this could be the very source of strength she desperately needs, the widow-mom can’t possibly think of adding another outing to her plate, not to mention getting the kids out the door alone.
- Church may have never been their thing. Weekends were for family and fun with no consideration of church attendance except perhaps at Christmas and Easter, so taking this new step alone to consider her faith without her husband can feel like betrayal.
Do’s and Don’ts to showing compassion to widows concerning church:
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge her loss and talk about her husband. “He sure was a man of integrity!” or “I miss his leadership and teaching. It’s hard not seeing him here with you.”
- Don’t assume she has turned her back on God. It is hard to get out of bed during the early days of grief much less leaving her home alone.
- Don’t require her to feel comfortable where she always found comfort.
- Don’t expect her to return to life as normal, even in her areas of service within the body of Christ. She will need time to grieve and seek the Lord on what’s next.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word. “It is good to see you!” or “I can’t imagine what it is like to come to church alone.”
- Love from a distance. A card, call, or visit goes a long way during her transition (without expecting anything in return).
- Invite her to church extending an offer for her to sit with you. If she denies your invitation, give her time and then ask again.
- Include her in your social activities. If possible, include several women who have come to church alone, so they won’t feel like the odd one out.
- Research resources within the church that would be helpful: GriefShare, support groups, care ministry, financial counseling, or a small group for widows or women only.
- Provide opportunities for fellowship like including her in lunch afterward the service.
- Connect her to volunteers willing to assist with home, auto, and lawn maintenance.
- Care for her children. She may not be ready to come to church but may be willing to send her kids. In time, God may use their involvement to bring her in.
- Pray for her and her children. Be intentional about asking how you can pray and have follow up conversations regarding her requests.
- Initiate meaningful conversations regarding her faith. She may have questions she doesn’t know how or who to ask. Actively listen for an opportunity to share your faith with purposeful questions regarding hers.
- Provide opportunities at the right time for her to experience the joy of serving. Scripture highlights several inspirational stories where the widow was used in the body of Christ.
- Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and follow His lead in caring for her.
- Celebrate her courage in taking steps to experience the hope of Jesus Christ.