Monday, June 3, 2013

Widows & Church -- Not Always An Easy Fit

How do widows really feel about keeping up their faithful church attendance after the funeral? Are they confident of fitting in and feeling welcomed and comforted? Of both giving and receiving grace and ministry?

Here are the viewpoints and experiences of several different widows. I have a feeling that there are many stories to tell, both inspiring and heartbreaking. Do you fit in any of these categories?  Or should we add another category for your experience? I'd love to give you a voice today, so please add your comment or email me. Summing up these experiences could really help churches know what widows need and the best ways they could help.

Church = Loneliness
"I'm far from alone at church, but it's where I feel lonely more than anywhere else. I miss walking into the building as a family of five, having help dropping off and picking up the boys in their Sunday School rooms, sitting next to someone during the service and talking about the message on the way home. I even miss being a passenger in our truck! I may look and sound okay, but my heart is still hurting."

Church = Support & Happiness
"Church became the place I couldn't get enough of. I began spending more time in the church building even when no service was going on.  It has been my church family that I go to when the struggles become overwhelming, or when I need to share a joy in my life. God had a purpose for bringing my late husband and I there, and I'm very glad I weathered the misery to find true happiness in the Lord there!"

Church = Anger
Church was the absolute worst and most painful place for me. First it was about the only place my late husband and I went together with our young children. So there was that constant reminder. But I think another reason it was so painful for me, is because in those months after he passed away, I became invisible. People were nice enough on Sunday mornings, asking "How ARE you?" all sincere-like, and then not wait for my reply. "Call me if you need anything!" as they rush off. Once the casserole dishes were all picked up (and I was grateful for them), the silence of the church, my house, and God was deafening. If God didn't care about me, why should I care about Him?

Church = Stability & Comfort
"My attendance hasn't changed... my late husband wasn't really a church-goer, more the C & E variety. I actually like going to church alone. We have a very worship-oriented contemporary service, and when we're singing, I sometimes feel like it's just God and me, and it is so comforting. I get very centered, and when the service is over, I need to "wake up", not from being sleepy, but from my worship-space.

Has your church attendance changed or stayed the same since your husband died? Comment and tell about the difference, or please tell why it hasn't changed.
ferree

15 comments:

  1. Although I sometimes found/find it difficult to go to church because of all the couples and families that are there, I find church a true blessing. Being a widow always feels as if you are the odd person in the group most everywhere you go. Yet I feel it is vitally important to go to church. I was helped in church by finding a group of widows with whom to sit. In fact, I already knew these widows and had begun to sit with them for a few weeks before my husband's death, because my husband could not go to church the last few weeks of his life. Yes, there are awkward moments; but church is a vital part of my spiritual stability and comfort and joy in the Lord. I also belong to a woman's Sunday school class. They are not all widows, but it too has been a real blessing.

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  2. Sharon, I agree, and I wish everyone's experience would be like yours. I don't think there's any way to get past the motion and awkward moments except to battle through them. I likened it to strong medicine---something I didn't enjoy, but I knew it was good for me. The church I'm going to now uses Sunday School as their "small group" time. They have classes for couples, classes for men only, women only, and singles only. I'm finding the widows are well supported and comforted once they home in on a group of their choice; as you've found, it doesn't have to be exclusively widows to be a help and blessing.

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  3. I have been humbled by the response of my parish. As small as it is, I was shocked at the number of women that are widows and I didn't know it. Some have been widowed more than 40 years, some less than 5 years, some dating, some re-married. They have all been generous and caring in their time and support, and we're actively reaching out to each other for socializing and information. I know I can ask the men for help if I need it, but I've been careful about that. Being at church is painful at times, but only because of the strong emotions that rise up when I'm there.

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  4. I am still busy at church in my SS class, choir, kitchen, nursery etc. My church does not have anything really for the widowed group, just the elderly in general, and I'm only 62. But I join them anyway and have a good time. Staying busy is the best thing-keep active, keep seeking Gods will for the next phase of your life in our new "normal". God is good ALL the time, even when it hurts! Debbie Unser

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  5. im at 11 months and havent been to church.im sure no one has noticed.not a call from anyone from there to see how im doing in many months.how sad.eventually i will go back and be invisible to everyone.hope this changes one day, i guess.thats the problem with mega churches no intimacy.

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  6. My church is my constant. I was mobbed for the first few weeks. I never think of my husband there because I am focused on the Lord and what he wants to say and do through the body of Christ. I've had little but enough one to one people around but I know I can ring my pastor for anything at anytime and he will ensure I have the appropriate support. E.g. My house-group meeting folk stopped coming to my house. I was left alone with one married man. I called my elder. Next week, I was in a new home-group. So, no complaints. Actually, the Lord told me to bake cakes after my loss, and so I did. For months, I'd take a ginger cake to give to someone. Babs Barratt.

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  7. My husband and I attended church together for 41 years, so going alone was terribly difficult. Our large church had nothing in place for widow(er)s. I didn't want to leave my church and go somewhere else because my kids and grandkids are there. So I got together with another widow and we started a small group -- Widows Connect, we call it. We meet at church once a month using Ferree's book, and then also hold a social event each month. In June we will have a game night at a member's home. I have met so many wonderful women who I never would have otherwise. And we all seem to have the same needs and concerns, and so much in common. One of our widows told me she hadn't been inside the church for 4 years, and now she's back! To "Anonymous" who posted ahead of me: You will be invisible unless you take the leap and start a group. I was surprised how much support I got once I did. There are over 30 widows in my church (2 widowers, both over 80) and I bet you would be surprised how many are in your church too.

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  8. I have to ditto exactly what Sharon V.W. said. Being in a widows class for sunday school and then sitting with them, gives me comfort. They are much more seasoned as I'm a baby (8 months) in being a widow, they have given me great wisdom, advice and love. I feel like I have several moms who is looking after this little chickadee.

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  9. This post is very timely in my life. It has been one year this past June 1 that my dear husband has been walking around heaven with the Lord. There have been many mountains put in front of me since that time. First,I want to say I am very thankful for this website. God brought me to it about one month after Gordon went home. Many of those mountains, I was able to walk through as I found help, care, and wisdom from other widows here at WCP. I will be forever grateful to them and Ferree. There were two mountains, Mt Everest and Mt Kilimanjaro lets call them. These two I still needed to address. I know when the time was right the Lord would lead me through. One was sitting in church alone. I had not sat in the sancutary of my church since my husband died. One year almost. Sunday School no problem because it is a ladies class so he was not in it. But the memories of sitting were we sat together where to much to bare. Watch other couple holding hands like we did.. too hard to bare. Well I walked through this mountain last Sunday. After the casual meeting on Wednesday of another believe who said you will not go in alone Jesus will go with you. I said this is it.I had told myself that atleast 50 times but something about hearing it stuck. I am very sure this lovely young woman was praying for me. On the Sunday I went in I decided to sit on the pews against the back wall. You have to picture my church is large. This way I wasn't in the middle of couples. There was only an elderly woman sitting there and I sat next to her. The music and sermon was beautiful I was so glad the Lord lead me through this. Just before it was time to exit the woman I was sitting next to leaned over and said "Thank You sitting here I thought I was going to have to sit alone." Then she walk out. Lord you are amazing. His message to me - there are people in here who also do not want to sit alone. I'll take you to one of them. After church the second mountain - I went to the cemetery by myself. It was hard, I cried and cried alone but then a widow in the section next to where I was heard me and came to offer comfort,fellowship and we had a great time in the Lord. With Jesus Christ in us and by our side we will conquer each mountain in the right time.

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  10. Ginny
    My husband and I attended the same church for 48 years. When his health, distance and other factors all changed, we decided to look close to our home. After a few weeks of attending various churches he became very ill and had to be hospitalized. After 9 days there, the Lord took him home. I was without a husband and a church. I visited SBC and found they were starting a grief class, so I went and also started attending the church. The grief class was led by Ferree and helped me so much. The ladies in the group were so nice. When I started to Sunday School, they took me in as one of them. The people have been so wonderful to me that I feel much comfort. I thank the Lord constantly for leading me to a godly congregation of His people.

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  11. aww, hugs all around....! Dee, God's timing is so amazing, wow!

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  12. i was going to church but people arent caring except one who has become a good friend. god knew i needed someone to help me to find my way back

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  13. Thank you for tackling this very difficult subject, Ferree. I can identify. I have never been back to my old church. There was so much miscommunication and confusion surrounding the arrangements for my husband' s services that when I even think about going there, I feel deep pain. The Pastor's wife treated us with such disrespect. She wanted to have her regularly scheduled prayer meeting, and not knowing exactly how they operated, I scheduled the service at that time. Someone else from the church was helping me...the head deacon's family. So, I assumed they knew how to arrange things. I thought I was going to have to move the services to another place. I felt so lost and helpless. In addition, I had planned for an open casket viewing, but the funeral home did not properly prepare the body along with other things that made it such a terrible time for me and my daughter. I felt so humiliated. We sued the funeral home (paid them almost ten thousand dollars for the funeral) and won the case, but no amount of money could ever make up for what we went through. So, we associate that church with such horrible memories that I don't see myself going back. However, I love going to church, and I'm currently in another church. I'm not sure if this experience will help others. I pray that no one else will have to suffer through anything like that. My daughter and I both were in counseling. I still am...don't go as often anymore. I kept in contact with the Pastors. I have forgiven them now, and I pray they will do better with others. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express my feelings.

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  14. My husband died on this past Easter morning. He was only 53. My husband attended the same small town church his whole life. Our pastor appeared at the outside the exam room within 2 minutes of the time we were given the news of cancer. amazing. There was so much pain in our lives even before he went to the hospital. Our son had an addiction to pain pills that hurt us terribly, financially and emotionally. The day my husband's back pain came on (feb. 6) was when we heard the news our son had abandoned his children and left state to start a new life. So we thought the back pain was stress. But we are Christians and chose to trust God and draw close to Him. I will not lie, there was depression and hopelessness for him and I. Yet God taught me not to rely on what I saw with my physical eyes (which would cause fear and dread) but with my spiritual eyes I saw a healing going on inside my husband. He had a rough childhood and been abused by an alcoholic father. The pressures of this world wore my husband down and he was negative but in those last days I saw his heart change....I saw so many God moments in the last days. So Easter am when the male hospice nurse informed me that he was taking his last breath we were surprised as we had been told he had 3 months approximately. Anyway...God's timing prevailed to give us a message of hope that Easter morning. I was right there at my husband's side to say goodbye, my daughter was there too. She is a Christian and we sang hymns softly as he entered the gates of Heaven. My daughter too had caused stress in her younger years but what a testimony she is now. She had debated on going to church and felt led to stay with me. Our son had called the night before right after my husband (who was near coherent) had said "I need the phone" three times. My husband got to say I love you and my son could not even talk...just cry...he never came to the funeral. I don't even burden myself with worry about my son anymore...I have given him over to God. Anyway it was a dark rainy morning on Easter and as soon as he passed the sun came out and a warm wind came in the window by us. There was peace and had been peace even in the midst of pain and worry and my body was tired from lack of sleep for 2 weeks straight. My husband ran the sound system at our local church, he founded a motorcycle club at church too. As soon as my husband passed my daughter called her husband who was at the service and a message of his death was given to pastor as the praise team was singing "In Christ Alone" one of my husband's favorites. The pastor announced his death and my son in law and grandson went to the alter. the whole church went up to comfort them and the praise team played "In Christ alone" My husband's funeral was a celebration. The motorcycle group members got up and shared and I almost feel guilty that I could not cry...God's love was pouring out on me so strong. I was told that people were amazed at my strength but God showed me his love so greatly I knew I could trust Him. The day after my husband's death my dryer broke. A friend from the church was at my house when it happened and she announced she had a 4 year old dryer in her truck in my driveway and I could have it! The message was loud and clear...God is ahead of me and I am in his shelter. Now as time as passed I cry often but God is with me. My church family lifts me in prayer and I feel their prayers. I know my church family is not perfect but God is and He is faithful. Yes. Its hard to go to church alone...its hard when I pick up my fatherless grandchildren and struggle to keep them behaving in church when I would rather be just sitting with the other single ladies and enjoying worship...but God is faithful and I seek Him only for my reason to go on.

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  15. I am the last entry...I didn't know how to show my name...its Janet. Today my daughter's husband (wonderful Christian man) age 33 had a stroke. I have had PTSD like symptoms with him being in the hospital. It was a slight stroke but I was so shaken for my daughter and grandson. He will be in the hospital for a couple days to observe him and figure out why he had a stroke. He is tall and average build and works a physical job. I cant carry this worry and am giving it to God but its been a day of tears. I also got bit by a dog picking up my grandson at his friend's house...feeling beat up. God is bigger and He has this I know. Just shaken and need to find keep my armor on and keep on fighting the good fight.

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