Five surprising areas of struggle for the widow/widower in the first 6 months. These are just a few of the struggles of widowhood that I have encountered. Many others that I have talked to have identified some of these same issues. This post is to encourage the widow/widower…you’re not alone! Your feelings are normal. Or, maybe you can use this list to encourage someone you know.
1. Paperwork. There are so many forms, things to file, and official changes to be made when a spouse dies. These documents can be overwhelming and painful to navigate. It’s very hard to bring oneself to visit with a stranger, even over the phone, and have to talk about the passing of your spouse. I found myself trying to avoid this type of sterile, official work.
2. Social Events. With my wife, I had never considered going out with friends, married friends, to be a challenge. After the loss of Jana, this most comfortable situation became uneasy and awkward. The key, that I have found, is to keep spending time with your married friends as a single. It’s ok. Soon, “roles” will be solidified again, and the awkwardness will go away. This is especially true when number 3 is ironed out.
3. New Identity. All of a sudden I didn’t know who “I” was anymore. My identity was “Chris and Jana.” Slowly my interests, hobbies, and goals began to creep back into my thought process, but this takes time. I still don’t feel fully “myself.” My first goal was to solidify who I was in Christ, which did not change, and work out from there. Stand on His promises and then consider life and how it has changed.
4. Denial. Denial takes on many forms as the waves of grief penetrate life. At first, the denial keeps a person insulated from the reality of the magnitude of loss. This helps you to function and get things done, such as plan a funeral, visit with loved ones, and keeps you from going crazy. As time goes the familiar words, “I can’t believe they’re gone,” keeps popping up. This, too, is a form of denial. It’s not an outright accusation that the event didn’t happen, but an unfolding understanding in one’s mind of the current life situation. It takes a long time to wrap your mind around such a change in circumstance and loss.
5. Intense Loneliness. Of course, with the loss of a spouse, a person will certainly feel lonely. But, the intensity with which this feeling of being alone hits was surprising and extremely difficult. I have never had these feelings before. I am thankful for good friends, family, and especially the Lord. I am not alone, by any means. But, there are the moments and times that, even around people, the loneliness sinks in and grips my heart. It’s not just the fact of being alone, it’s the fact that I am left alone by my best friend.
There are many other areas of struggle that can occur. Branches off of each of these areas also create painful moments in the widower’s life. It cannot be overstated how far-reaching the grief is and how pervasively it intrudes on life. Did you experience these things? What other areas were surprising to you?