Coping with widowhood

Society & Culture | By Peggy Goredema, Mother | 09 May 2015

Being a housewife – a fact I am proud of and grateful for– the death of a husband is a traumatic affair, the loss of a provider, protector, companion, lover. You are left with many questions of how you are going to cope, how to sustain yourself, whose shoulder will you lean on, how will I pay rent. Being a widow is no different than any other woman, only you don’t have an earthly husband, your husband is now God. God assures widows in the book of Isaiah 54:4-5 ‘For your Maker is your husband’, and he is very protective of them (Exodus 22:21-22). I decided from the word go I would be a widow with a difference. I would follow Jesus as my guide, telling Him everything happening in my life. I have learnt to stay in the word of God, listening, obeying and doing what it says.

Now after 12 years as a widow, I have things I have learnt which have sustained and comfort me, and have continued life in happiness. Let me share and encourage you with what has worked for me.

Some have been taught not to express their feelings in public, I say cry, as long as you don’t lose hope. It is normal to cry, it relieves the pain inside you and the emotions that can affect you later. Jesus wept (John 11:35), King David also wept for his murdered son Annon. 

King David grieved at the loss of his treacherous son Absalom who had tried to usurp the kingship. Let yourself grieve, why? Because grieving is a necessary emotional release. Releasing your feelings can relieve the pressure you are under. Some take longer grieving than others, grieving should not  go on forever, learn to let go and accept death. It is God’s law that everyone should die (Job 14 1-5). God has set a boundary which no person can pass, put your trust in God.

Don’t feel guilty
Over what happened, saying if we had gone to the hospital earlier he would have not died. No! Death is God’s law, it only worsens the situation and prolongs healing. Some in looking for closure saying zvinoda kufambirwa. This does not bring closure, only opens up more wounds leading to more hurt and finger pointing resulting divided families.

Live a life of prayer
Don’t fall apart when tragedy strikes, I asked God for strength to withstand the situation, “the lord is near to those of a broken heart” (Psalms 34:18). King David went to the temple after the death of his child, seek God’s counsel and comfort first. Pray for the family that they live a godly life and for strength to continue with daily pressure. Pray for patience to deal with different kinds of people in their thinking, action, and speech, some may say hurtful words. Trusting Him in times of sadness and in times of joy has been my pillar. Asking for help, strength and wisdom to overcome. Consult god in all your decisions.  

Give Thanks
What can a widow be thankful for? Thanksgiving has been on my lips always, thanking for what He has done for me in the past, for what He is doing for me now, and for what he has planned for me in the future.
Thanking him instead of complaining, being content in every situation of life has been my shield. If you have food shelter and clothing, give thanks. Be honest to yourself and deal honestly with all people and God will be honest with you. Understanding that nothing is impossible with God and that all things work for the good to them that love God (Romans 8:28).

Get Out More!
Expose yourself to life outside your home eg. go to church, join clubs, start a hobby and don’t hesitate to let others help you if they offer to, maybe its their way of showing sympathy and may not find the right words to say. You will find yourself helping others in their times of distress too so it will be an opportunity to minister others in similar situations as you but have lost hope. As a widow God has opened doors of service that may have not been open for married women. Be prepared to serve in his kingdom in a different way.

Keep Good Company
It is always easier to cope with a good support structure of children, family friends and the community. For young wives and families, now is the time to ‘Train your children in the way they should go, so when they grow up they will not leave it’ (Proverbs 22:6). The prosperity of your children will be a source of comfort if they have been raised well. Keeping good relations with neighbours and family as they will be the ones who will stand with you in times of need. That said, being faithful to God, he will constantly send people you would not expect in times of need to meet your needs.

Stay Healthy
Don’t neglect your health, you need to eat because you get worn out especially in the beginning, even though you may lose your appetite, its important to continue eating healthy.

Postpone Major Decisions
Do not make any major decisions during your time of mourning and grieving as you may not be in the right frame of mind to make sound judgements. eg selling house, changing job or town, familiar surroundings help you heal faster.

Avoid Drug Dependency
Do not resort to alcohol to help you cope as this creates a cycle of dependance and a temporary false sense of comfort. Refrain from resorting to tablets especially where they have not been prescribed.

Follow God’s Way
Find comfort in scripture, during mourning its a time to reflect on the word which you have kept in your heart. It maybe difficult to read during mourning but after that go back to reading scripture again. Recall God’s promises “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) then believe it. He is the supplier of my needs (Phillipians 4:19). Take one day at a time, don’t worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:33), forgive and you have peace of mind (Psalm 51:10-12). I encourage you to be consistent in the word and you will enjoy the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Love all people, being merciful coupled with living by faith has filled my life with grace. Giving generously of my time and resources (Proverbs 11:25) and working hard all the time. Therefore I encourage you to dwell in the word trusting, believing, obeying, and doing what it says, always praying. Let god show you His way and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Accepting death and making a conscious decision to continue life without your partner are important steps in setting off on the journey through widowhood, it is not the end of your life, but the beginning of a different chapter of your life. My perspective has been from that of an over 60 year old housewife and may differ from that of younger widows, who may need to remarry as sexual desire may still be high. Or from women who are fully employed outside of the home. But these are foundational principles which may help you keep your life together after the death of a partner.