Monday, August 18, 2014

Are Widows Invisible In Their Churches?

Today I'm adapting a conversation among widows from Lifeboat, my private widows support group on Facebook. Although it was first posted a couple of years ago, many widows still say the same things today. 
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 the Lord. SEVENTEEN women participated in the original conversation, but I've  condensed it to make it easier to read. Although it might look like only two women are having this conversation, please keep in mind that this is the experience of many. And please add your constructive comments and experiences for all to learn from too---just click the word comment to open a response box. If you don't have a blog, use the Anonymous identity and remember to click the "Post" button.
 ferree

A widowed mother of young boys opened with this comment-- 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.
Widow who also has boys-- I am so sorry 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 teen 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.

The following responses are from a number of widows who can relate--
Been there, done that, bought the T shirt!! Know just where you are coming from with this. Hang in there and take it to your Father who knows your every need, even when people are being disobedient.

I'm so sorry 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.
So many churches just don't "get it" and I am at a loss to say why.

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.
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.

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!
What I am finding is that smaller churches don't have the experience with young 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.!
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.

Praying for divine intervention and courage, as your church family deals with something they obviously know little or nothing about. Be strong, and take all your cares to our Lord and Saviour at the foot of the cross. ((((HUGS))))
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.

I thank you, Lord, for the blessing me with these new friends and a new ladies group for this other widow.
Amen!

I've had this problem 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, but during that sermon I wrote a letter to God, crying out how my heart hurt that my sons really have NO MALE ROLE MODEL.
You can't help but ask "why did God take our husbands and leave us with our sons (and daughters) to bring up alone?"

Yes!--"Why, God? Why?" My "type A" personality children need two parents to raise them! . . . today has not been the best.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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....
Well, dear reader, that's just a small sampling, but it demonstrates the vast differences between churches and between widows themselves. I hope to hear from you, too. Not to mount a case against your church, but rather to help our churches see if there is a problem, and some constructive and practical ways to solve it. I truly believe most churches and pastors are unaware of this gaping wound in their church because most widows hate to complain. While that's a virtue, it's also up to us to honestly and lovingly help bridge this gap, don't you think?
If you receive this post by email, we'd love to hear from you too! Simply click the title on the email and that will take you to the website where you'll be able to enter a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!

9 comments:

  1. It has been 4 years and 9 months since our pastor spoke at my husband's graveside. I haven't heard from him nor anyone from the church since that day. It is as if I died too.

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  2. There is nothing at my Church for Widows. There is Hope Ministers, and I finally got one into my second year of grieving. But other than that there is nothing for Widows. When I ask about it, they tell me, well there's the Singles Group. Really?!?!?! No Thank You.

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  3. Thank you again, Ferree, for addressing such an important issue! Your post validates the need for widow-support and education in the churches on this topic. Many churches have singles groups, but widows need a deep sisterly love and support that are not addressed in such a general setting. S.E.

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  4. It saddens me also that one of the main functions of the N.T. church is to help and alleviate widows. I'm not sure that scripture teaches anywhere for churches to fund a youth minister and entertain the youth and spend mega $$ on trips....etc.....and etc....
    As Mother Teresa once said "I can't help or feed a million, but I can help someone"
    There was only one Elijah and that was all the poor widow and her son needed to help her during the time of famine.
    So may we trust God that He will send us that (special) one, in our most desperate of situations. Robin

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  5. I have been widowed for 22 months now. I sold our home and moved to our planned retirement location. In doing so, I have lost my wonderful church family that we both loved so much. No local churches offer a consistent women's group/support group for socializing or grief support. I am just lost and alone...my sister is still working and really doesn't understand my grieving "for so long". I am still seeking groups/churches/friends.

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  6. Thank you all for your insightful comments. Each one uncovers needs that get overlooked and forgotten. I think that's one of the hardest things about widowhood---feeling forgotten, and the reality of loneliness. Like the first comment stated---It is as if I died too.
    Trudie highlights the loneliness that is caused by relocating---and this is a real problem too, as now the widow has not only lost her husband, but also her familiar home, her community, her friends, her church.... Trudie, I'd urge you to see if there's a GriefShare group nearby. Put your zipcode into the searchbox on their website for the nearest location. Also find out if any other Lifeboat members are in your area and maybe you could meet for lunch or coffee. And pray. Sometimes I feel kind of silly asking God for friends, but then I remember I can ask him to meet all my needs, and he does answer prayer. God loves you and will not fail. Here's the GriefShare website, and please let me know what you find, OK, Trudie? http://www.griefshare.org/

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  7. I found u whilst i was researching griefshare groups. Thank u for your response...I appreciate the contact and info. God blessings.

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  8. Ferree, The issue of children involved really has to grieve God's heart. I think that they forget that so often when the baby is baptized/dedicated to the Lord, there is almost always a question to the congregation/membership to be a part of that contribution o raise the children in the admonition of the Lord...I don't see loopholes for this pledge that people take. Then they wonder why the kids have behavioral problems and the church is quicker than anyone to brush them off to secular counseling and I know that can be beneficial but I also know that if some men would step up to an outing of fishing, or an hour of catch and an ice cream cone, it would go much further than "counseling". I am tired of their excuses...they don't like to hear our needs or frustrations.... think we are just single women --- but not all single women are feminist!

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  9. I don't see loopholes either, dear Anonymous. You bring up some excellent points!

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