Eight Do’s and Don’ts for Widows and Widowers
When you lose a spouse, you find yourself navigating unknown territory. At least, unknown territory for you.
Widowhood is a subject very familiar to God and dear to his heart.
There are over 100 scriptures in the Bible that reveal his great love for those who have lost a spouse, as well as his desire for the church to support these individuals.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” - Psalm 68:5
Even so, you may find yourself feeling forgotten.
Here is what I want you to know today: you are not a burden.
You are seen. You are loved. You are not alone.
According to Statista, “In 2021, there were 67.54 million married men and 68.33 million married women living in the United States. This is compared to 3.58 million widowed men and 11.61 million widowed women.”
Here’s another statistic to help you look at these numbers in a different way.
“There are over 14 million widows in the U.S. today and an average of 40 widows per church” (rf. Encore Ministry).
Sadly, even though many widows have church homes, they find themselves feeling lost in their church families. The Alabama Baptist reports, “Data shows 50% of widows leave the church they attended as a couple, which means a second loss for the church family.”
The days, months, and years following the loss of a spouse will have their own kind of hardship – hardship you shouldn’t face alone.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you navigate the widowed season of your life among others.
Do Recognize Your Pain
God created us with feelings, and He has given us the ability to express those feelings. It is important, healthy, and necessary to allow yourself to grieve your loss.
Recognize your pain – even if it is months later.
Even if the casserole drop-offs may have ended, you are still allowed to feel the loss deeply.
Don’t try to hide behind an “I’m fine.” Be open with God in your prayers about your hurts and be open with others.
The Hope for Widows Foundation explains, “We need to be honest with ourselves first. Then we can be honest with God. We can pour out the pain and emotions trapped inside and let them free. God is big enough to handle anything we throw at Him. […] Once all the chaos that was trapped inside is let loose, we will feel better and start to heal. We are free to accept His love and healing. We make room for Him.”
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” - Psalm 34:18
Don’t Make Important Decisions
One of the most common pieces of advice passed along to those widowed is to avoid making major decisions for the first year after a loved one passes.
The reason for this advice is that grief tends to make it difficult to think clearly.
Even though you feel like you are alone to make decisions you would typically make alongside your spouse, you’re not.
When you do need to make big decisions, such as financial and living issues, take time to seek advice and pray.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” - Proverbs 3:5–6
Do Ask for Help
Many people have a hard time asking for help, but we really shouldn’t. Part of the beauty of the church is our ability to help one another in our time of need.
Unfortunately, many widows feel like asking for help will make them a burden. Don’t give in to this lie.
Gay Clark writes for The Gospel Coalition, “A grieving widow often feels second (or third) to everyone else. Months after my husband, Jim, died, an ice storm crippled our city. Power outages citywide and downed trees littered homes and businesses. The damage was so widespread that I couldn’t possibly ask church friends to leave their own homes to address mine. But leave they did. A tree had fallen through the roof of one church friend’s home, yet he and his dad headed first to my place.”
Do ask for help when you need it and be willing to accept help when it is offered.
Don’t Wait. Reach Out.
Again, many widows and widowers feel like they aren’t a priority and put themselves on a waiting list of sorts. They wait for someone to call them, message them, or invite them.
This is understandable, but you don’t have to wait.
If you are feeling lonely, you can reach out to a friend.
If you want to get out of the house, invite someone to join you.
Do Go to Church
As mentioned, around 50% of widows end up leaving their home church.
There are several reasons for this, but before you walk away from church, keep giving it a try.
Worshiping can be hard in seasons of grief, especially with other believers who seem to be doing okay. Instead of leaving, ask God to meet you there and to give you peace to worship in a new way.
Don’t Live Life Alone
You may be tempted to stay in and isolate yourself.
This is understandable, but God designed us for community. That doesn’t become any less true after losing a spouse.
You may find it especially helpful to spend time in community with others who are widowed. Look for grief groups in your community or church.
I’d highly recommend finding a local GriefShare group. Click the button below to find a group near you.
Do Seek Encouragement from God’s Word
Numerous biblical heroes, such as Ruth, were widows. You may find comfort in reading their stories and discovering how God used them in this unique season of life.
God’s Word is a tremendous source of comfort, especially for widows and widowers. Furthermore, spending time in God’s Word can remind us of his continued faithfulness.
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” - Lamentations 3:19–25
Don’t Avoid Serving Others
Your spouse may no longer be with you, but your gifting still is.
As a widow or widower, you have an opportunity to serve God in a significant way.
For example, the nonprofit, Widows Harvest Ministries, is a group devoted to prayer and community.
The NCF explains, “Their [the widows’] dependence on the One who loves them is a model for all of us. That dependence leads them to be powerful and beautiful ministers, praying for the churches in their town, speaking into the lives of teens, and supporting ministries.”
In other words, your experience as a widow or widower enables you to minister to others in ways you were previously unable to.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God..” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4