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Photo of widow with on husband's coffin and flowers in hand. foreground has John 14:27 on it.

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Although there are some who lose their spouse to divorce or death when they are young or middle-aged, saying good-bye to your beloved is the most difficult good-bye you will experience. It is more common to suffer this loss as part of the aging process. That doesn’t diminish the loss whenever it comes. But the more years you spend with each other, the more connected you are. That is assuming it is even a moderately happy marriage. The pain after divorce or death is huge. It takes awhile to get over it. You need help. Plan on it. And it is not something you “get over.” I liken it to an amputation of part of your soul. Often that is what it feels like from all I have observed.

I haven’t lost my husband to death yet. I have observed friends, family, and acquaintances over the years. No, not the same, but I have learned from them.

I have not lost my husband to death yet. I have been slowly losing him over the past 8 years, probably 6 of them have been to vascular dementia, but there was damage from his original stroke in 2015 that affected his personality. Despite the fact that I began losing him back then, it is not the same, nor as final as death.

I have watched people close to me lose their spouses to death, over the years. There is no way to get around how hard it is. Your hearts, souls, and bodies have been knit together in varying degrees. Even in marriages that haven’t been overly happy, you are often closer than you realized.

There is no getting around how big a loss this is. The oneness of marriage is real. The death of your spouse rips out part of your heart.

But I will spend my time talking most about those who are struggling with the grief and loss of someone they loved and felt close to. It is a loss you may never get over fully, even if you remarry. I remember when my dad died suddenly after my parents had been married a little over 25 years. As time went on, I discovered, my mother was a different person than I thought in some ways. It was partly because of my dad’s influence on her and partly because of the combination of the two of them together kept me from seeing what she was like as a separate entity. I don’t say that as an insult at all. When we marry, it is not a bad thing to become one in a healthy way. The longer we are together, the more difficult it can be sometimes to tell the difference between one or the other of us because we tend to rub off on each other. That can be both good and bad,

Over the years, Ron has calmed me down considerably because he is calm and faces life with a calm attitude. Since he has been sick, I’m not as calm as I was for a variety of reasons. One of them is because I don’t have him to lean on and I’m back to having to lean on myself and my resources. I have to manage money now and I struggle with it a lot. He was able to plan ahead for finances much better than I do. Yes, I am learning to depend more directly on the Lord in ways I didn’t before. Of course, we prayed about major decisions. But I find myself praying about more things than I used to because I really have no idea what to do. Some of you may be able to identify. I find that all my daughters understand more about finances than I do. He taught them a lot as they were growing up and they learned a lot too from other sources. My brain is totally not wired that way.

Don’t underestimate the loss you are going through as you say good-bye to your spouse. Get the help you need. It may be a grief group or a counselor. It’s advice I need to take, come to think of it.

For those who have lost their beloved one, I recommend taking time to get the help you need along the way. If you are an introvert, do not stay in your home without social interaction. You may not want to get out in large groups, but make time to be with close friends for lunch or coffee. If you have been in a Bible study or small group at your church, keep attending it. I have known people who are afraid they will cry. But that is a normal response and people aren’t surprised by it. Come anyway. With time, it will lessen.

Continue worshipping in your church as well. You will find comfort in the service through the prayers, songs, Bible readings and other parts of the worship service. It can also be comforting to be part of the group worshiping together.

Just seeing and embracing a few friends can lift your spirits. For awhile, you may only be able to manage one hour instead of two. Then do that. It is a start. Find simple ways to serve as you find yourself getting stronger.  Underline simple. Don’t start with complicated. It may be just reaching out to people you notice are struggling. Or offering encouragement to someone you see having a hard time.

Try not to be overly critical of the things people say to you as they try to comfort you. I know how often my words have felt so inept at times when friends have lost a loved one. They are trying to say something helpful and hopeful for you. It may not help you, but they are trying to help. Personally, I remember almost nothing of what people said to us after my dad died. I do remember the hugs and tears that showed they were sad too. Their inability to come up with words was helpful too because they were in shock just like we were. The hugs were very meaningful.

It is during the weeks and months after the loss that your help is really needed. While the widow is adjusting to her situation, adjusting to her loneliness, trying to learn to live alone, finish the paperwork needed for her new situation and all that is involved. These are what is involved when it comes to helping a person through a loss. That is when she needs a phone call, a card, maybe a short visit or meal invite. Anything to keep her for being alone all the time and feeling cut off. Are you going to a fun social event? Check to see if she would like to go along. She may need to get out of her house.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:1-4, 26-27 ESV

For those who have walked this journey, feel free to comment below. What was helpful? What didn’t help you?