A Widower's Thoughts on the Six Month Anniversary of His Wife's Death By
A Widower's Thoughts
on the Six Month Anniversary
of His Wife's Death
| "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" |
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
-- I Corinthians 15:55-57 (NASB)
| Just four weeks after Dienne’s death, a well meaning friend sat with me in the lobby of a conference center and asked, “How are you doing?” I was only a month into being a widower, and already I was tiring of that question. |
My answer was a sincere, “I don’t think that’s the right question.”
I should have anticipated my friend’s response, “Then, what is the right question?”
Some of us will move into new relationships in what would appear to be a relatively short time. Some of us will seek to remain single. Some of us will want to remarry. There really is no such thing as “too soon” or “too late” as long as God is honored in what we do. Offer us wise counsel, but allow us to move through our grief into joy on our own God given schedule and plan.
Then, ask real, answerable questions. The two hardest questions to answer are “How are you doing?” and “Is there anything I can do for you?” (or even worse is the statement “Just let us know if there is anything we can do for you”; it takes more than courage for us to ask you do something for us). Most of the time, I don’t have a clue how I am doing or what someone can do for me. Or better said, I just don’t have a measuring rod against which to answer these questions. Sometimes, I’m doing very poorly, though it may be in ways completely unexpected.
Sometimes, I am doing very well, but compared to what? “How are you doing?” is subjective and impossible to answer. In early grief, offer practical help that is directed and specific. Instead of, “Is there anything you need help with?” try “I am free Saturday morning. May I help with your lawn (or go grocery shopping for you or take you grocery shopping or do a load of laundry or bring you a meal)?” As time progresses, try finding questions that have specific answers. I think most of us are looking for someone who will hear our answers. We are open to questions that help us talk through our experience.
What have you found most surprising about your grief journey? What part of your journey has been the hardest? Is there any part of your grief process in which you have seen God work in a special way? Is there something in the process you wish you had done differently? What advise would you give to someone in your situation? There are two very critical points to which you must commit when you ask questions. We assume you really care and you want to be of true assistance to us. When you ask a question, be ready to listen. If you don’t have time to sit for half an hour and let us pour out our hearts and tears to you, don’t ask anything. Secondly, just listen. We don’t want you to fix anything; we don’t want you to correct out theology; we don’t want platitudes. Hold us (if we want), cry with us, and listen. Your presence means more to us than anything you can say.
I used the personal pronouns “our” and “we” regularly to relate to you some answers I’ve discovered to that searching request, “What is the right question?” I don’t want to presume or assume that everyone in grief will agree with me or find helpful for them all the things I would find of benefit to me. Yet, I can’t help but think that there is someone in our families, someone in our congregations, someone in our neighborhoods, someone one in our communities who is in grief who needs to hear and feel and know that we, God’s people, care in a deep, compassionate, and personal way. With a little time and thought we can help make the journey a lot easier.