Monday, July 16, 2012

The Secret Lives of Widows---A Wake-Up Call to Churches

Here's a conversation among widows from Lifeboat, my private widows support group on Facebook. I'm printing it with their permission. I've replaced their names with numbers to protect their identity. We say that Christ is "the captain" of our Lifeboat, and we're always steering towards better, not bitter. But today's conversation highlights a variety of experiences, and some of those experiences certainly must grieve Him.

#1--  I've started feeling lately like we (me and my boys) have been forgotten by those in our church. No one other than my couple of close friends invites us for dinner, pool parties, offers to watch the boys for a while, mow the yard...
         I'm so tired of needing to ask for every kind of help. Part of it is my firstborn resistance to needing help, but the other is just becoming resentful that we are on the hearts of no one. I've been dealing with a pretty major conflict between me and a married couple in my church. It occurred to me that there is no one with skin on to defend me, to talk me down from the ledge (figuratively speaking ;).
         And, no male in the 3 years since their dad has died has offered to spend time with my boys and followed through with it. This had to bum God out -it's really bumming me out.
#2--  I am so sorry, #1, that you are having to deal and struggle with these situations. Like you, I am also concerned that my boys don't have a Godly male role model that can come along beside them. Our church is a very small congregation and my husband was the youths Sunday school teacher. I don't have a strong support group in our church. I have family where I live including my husbands but I don't like it that I have to keep calling them myself to ask for help.
I will be praying for you and specifically for the conflict with this couple at church, some more people to come beside you and help without you without having to ask every time. And for a Godly male to come beside your boys and be consistent.

#3-- I will join #2 in praying for you.
#4-- Been there, done that, bought the T shirt!! Know just where you are coming from with this dear #1. Hang in there and take it to your Father who knows your every need, even when people are being disobedient.

#5-- I'm so sorry, #1, and #2 too, that people, especially other men in the church, haven't stepped up to the plate to help with the boys and just for practical things you might need, too. It's a problem for many, many widows. I think people who haven't gone through this can't put themselves in our place and know what to do. So yes, we do have to be proactive and ask for the help we need. But in asking for help, I think that in itself can help educate people as to what we need, so that's a good thing. It does no good to anyone to suffer in silence.
#3 --I don't attend any church so I know virtually nothing about church ministries, but I would think a Widow's Ministry would be an obvious need. I don't get it.
#6--- Yes, #3, one would think so - however, so many churches just don't "get it" and I am at a loss to say why.
#7 --Oh, I understand that too...bless your heart! Why is it so hard for the ministry to really get it? are they just so wrapped up in their own lives? are they intimidated by the idea of taking a boy/young man and teaching him the ways of God? I have really been struggling with this too! I think Discipleship is the key/answer---- if done in love and nurturing. Hang on to that life preserver—our Lord Jesus Christ....we may not be able to do much else, but cheering you on, and praying.
#4-- People in church seem to think it's ok to say, “I just don't know what to say or do.” So they say or do nothing  and that makes it ok for them.
#8--  Sadly, many of us understand your position. I left my church 14 months after my husband passed away. I just couldn't live with the constant rejection! And since I have been gone 4 months, I have yet to hear from anybody as to where I have been. It's just a sad commentary about 'some' churches, certainly not all! I will pray that God speaks to the hearts of a few who will put up the mantle and help where it is needed!
#3-- #8, it was YOUR frustration that got me started wondering why your church family was not on your doorstep asking to help you. And what about the youth ministry? Don't they see the need in children who have lost a parent?
#8 -- #3, what I am finding is that smaller churches don't have the experience with widows and fatherless children. It is a necessary ministry but one that isn't a Top priority! Many churches have wonderful ministries for widows and their children, it just takes time and commitment from 'someone' who really gets it! Possibly a ministry for women like us who have walked the walked and have a desire to help others do the same.!
#3--- And I think people don't understand that your family has been torn to shreds by the loss. I guess they just think you are sad because you've lost your husband and "in time" you will get over it. They have no clue of the degree of devastation your family is in. I guess they just see that everything is the same except one person is missing. No big deal.
#9 --- I have not been to church for 6 weeks .  For different reasons, but only 1 person has messaged me and said she missed me. No one has called me, not even our pastor. I try not to let this bother me. I don’t want to be the person who thinks the church revolves around her, but an “I miss you” goes a long way. The church has dropped the ball in this area and I don’t know why. I think about heading up something in our church and maybe that’s what we need to do. But I still struggle with getting close to people, even after 3 yrs. I wish I had the answers but I don’t. Keep praying, that’s all i know.
#4-- Praying for divine intervention and courage, as your church family deals with something they obviously know little or nothing about.  Be strong, #9 and take all your cares to our Lord and Saviour at the foot of the cross. ((((HUGS))))
#10--- Its another struggle to deal with that we don't need. I have 3 boys and they don't have that Godly male role model. I do have 2 brothers who are good but they live out of town so we don't see them that often. We are also in a small church and its tough. If I don't go to church for a couple of weeks and I don't contact people myself, I rarely hear from anyone. It’s sad. People don't understand us. I’ve started going to a ladies group at a bigger church once a week and its encouraging and I’ve made some new and amazing friends there. The kids are not keen to leave our church. The Lord understands and cares.
#4-- Thank you Lord, for the blessing of these new friends and a new place for #10. xx
#10 – Amen, #4.
#3---Well, #10, this is the real deal. Step boldly into your new future and fear not for God is right beside you. Do not be afraid. I am praying for you and wish you all the best life has to offer.
#11-- Let me know if you want to get together,#1!
#12---#1, me too. My sons still live with me. We haven't been invited by anyone in my church for any fellowship. Plus the Father's Day message last Sunday, about mens’ (fathers’) need to mentor others in our fellowship. I always write down sermon notes, I must of really spaced off because when I reread my notes I wrote a letter to God, crying out how my heart hurt, that my sons really have NO MALE ROLE MODEL.
#10-- You can't help but ask 'why did God take our husbands and leave us with our sons (and daughters) to bring up alone?'

#12--- Yes!--Why, God? "Type A" personalities--they need two parents to raise them! . . . today has not been the best.

#13-- My church was really wonderful, loving and supportive. As the weeks rolled by the visits, phone calls etc reduced and there is nothing put in place to help widows. I believe churches really need this as not many people realize the pain widows go through and that grieving takes time. I also noticed that some church people are uncomfortable around widows and don't know what to say or do to help even when they want to. So far I have not found any support group in any church.
#14---There have only been a few people in my church that have helped me over the nine years I have been a widow. My children grew up seeing a lack of help for them and for me. I have even had to BEG my church helping hands group for help when I really needed it and could not afford to hire someone. My oldest son wants nothing to do with any church because of that lack. I am alone now and so many things I know how to do but I'm not strong enough to do.Many churches have their youth do a help work day once a month.
#15---Today I received a call from a church that has a widows housing fund set up for me. It is a small church but they said that the Lord had laid it in their hearts several years ago to help widows of pastors/missionaries who didnt have a house. I don't know much of the details only that they will pray and do what they can to raise the funds to purchase a house for us. It is bittersweet, ladies. One of my desires was that when my husband retired from the ministry, if the Lord willed, we would have a place of our own. It looks like the Lord is blessing me with this desire. It still hurts though, that I won't share this blessing with my love. I don’t desire it like I used to, either. But I thank the Lord. He is working mightily in me and my children’s lives.

#16--- This an area in my church that is sadly overlooked. Most of the time I am left to myself, rarely does someone call just to chit-chat.
#4--- I asked the head of Women's Ministry at our denomination if they had widow support she said "No, only for pastors/ministers widows." I thought my asking would ring a bell and they would look into something, but nothing as yet.
#17--- My church was wonderful while my husband was sick. They visited, gave us gifts of money, prayed with us, etc. After my husband died, one of our pastors called once and left a message to call him back. No other phone calls for about 8 months till someone realized I had stopped going to church. I think they don't realize that after a horrible illness, and then the death, you are all but immobilized. I couldn't make phone calls to save my life! I still haven't been able to really reply to them.
Ferree Hardy--- I wonder if we could make a list of specific things a church could do for a widow. What would you recommend??? I'd love to add your comments to a list for churches, and tomorrow I'll post the list these ladies came up with.
Our Free Book Give-Away is still going on! Comment today on this or any of the July posts and you'll be entered. See the free books listed here.
ferree

8 comments:

  1. Feree,

    what you shared is spot on. Going through more or less what other ladies have shared above. I am not responding to attack any church rather to make suggestions on what can be done to help widows

    I would suggest the church needs to be sensitive to some of the comments they make about the lost spouse let alone the family that have been left.

    The church should seek help and teaching materials to educate the church about widows, widowers and their children(regardless of the age of those affected).

    Sometimes the creche "call me if you need me "is not helpful rather "how can I help you" through asking, phone or texts.

    The youth ministers in churches should be educated on children that have lost a parent

    The church should be aware that no two widows are the same. I think there is need to make a deliberate action to find out the social physical, financial needs of a widow in order to avoid the obvious mistakes


    To my fellow widows, moving out of the church where you are now is not the best decision at the initial stages of loss. If any thing ask the faithful Husband and faithful
    Father of all times, how to respond when one needs as a widow as well as your children are not met, who knows your experience of widowhood, God wants to turn it into wine. By this I mean one wife's loss may be the gain of another woman. widowhood can be a start of something new -the birthing of a ministry to help others who might find themselves in a similar situation that we find ourselves today.

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  2. I really pray people and churches that God can use to help widows will get to read what these widows have written. It grieves my heart and I know it grieves the Lord considering what He says in James 1.27. I also think d best person for the 'job' might be a widow. If d Lord permits I don't mind being used to start something. The focus in my country is on giving widows food stuff @ christmas or offerring food or clothes from time to time to widows cos most are considered poor after the loss of the bread winner it is true in many instances especially since many families of the man take everything he has leaving the widow and kids with nothing in some cases even the kids are taken. The truth however is that not all widows are poor but all widows need emotional healing sadly grief support is lacking sorry for going on and on but I notice some people believe for a young man to die there was sin or disobedience and so the widow is regarded as same and avoided like a plague I have felt this personally and sometimes other women don't want their husbands around you in case you decide to snatch him from them. This makes it difficult for me to ask men for help.

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  3. I and my family have also gone through what seems to be the "church doesn't care" time. I have come to believe that so many churches are hurting. Hurting in membership, attendance,workers, etc. and I also have come to see that churches are full of hurting people. It has become an area where the enemy is able to take hold and keep people hurting - that way people cannot heal, cannot grow, cannot serve. We also have become people who have to some extent bought into the world's ways of thinking and we believe someone else will take up the slack. Now, I am not saying all churches are like this, as some are very caring, loving and helpful. But I am beginning to see that if we have a need, we really do need to speak out, maybe even during a service to share what it is like for grieving families. I also believe that as the Lord strengthens us, it is up to us to take up our cross so to speak and start whatever type of ministry is needed for widows and orphans. I am not at that point yet and neither are my children, but I do feel that God uses us in our hurts and experiences to help others. Not all of us will be able or willing to lead such a ministry, but we all have the experience and know what is needed and can work behind the scenes to make someone else' life better as they go through it. Maybe even as small a donation to a list of what you needed or were lacking. I along with all of you will be praying for you and I think now is a good time to start praying about exactly how God wants to use me to help others. Thank you Feree for sharing this segment, it was somewhat of an eyeopener and a niggling of what God had already put in my heart.

    Jean

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  4. I remember this conversation clearly and with sorrow! My heart aches when I hear others have experienced the same pain I have. I have actually started writing a book (to church leadership) on this very issue. Whether it becomes more than a work in progress, we will see, but my heart is very grieved by this subject. Thank you for sharing this conversaton :)

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  5. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. Widows should never feel like they are on the outside looking in. I have found much comfort in reading articles and books. I have recently finished an amazing book that has touched my heart. It is called, "I'm a Widow, What Now? Embracing Life after Loss" by author Patricia N. Muscari. This a non-fiction self help book to encourage grieving widows written from the author's personal experience. This book talks about the ‘whole experience’, touching on all parts of life and experience. http:///www.yourfuturewithin.com/

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  6. Great comments everyone, and don't forget, if you'd like to be entered in the drawing for free books on Aug 2, your comment is your entry. BUT, if I draw your name, I need to be able to contact you. Please send me an email at WCplace@gmail.com thanks.

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  7. Thank you Ferree for compiling this list - we have a few men widow in our church also and I recently had a visit with one of them and we brought us a number of these issues. He said that because he was a man that many thought he did not "need" any help with anything. He is 75 at least so I would think that he could use some help with stuff. So it is not just ladies that need this list but it would be for the guys also. In my last church their was a family that lost their mother to cancer and now in looking back, I should have offer to help more - a "new" dad with 3 kids must have been hard. I know that since I lost my husband I look at life a lot different and my heart is looking for ways to make a difference in others. Again, thank you.

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  8. Jeanie, Your name was drawn from your comment today. You can choose a book from out list and I will mail it to you----BUT I need your contact info. Please email me at WCplace.com right away. Otherwise I'll have to let someone else have it.

    ReplyDelete

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