Monday, June 25, 2018

What's Surprised You Most About Widowhood?

A few weeks ago widows from Florence and Darlington met with me at Bethea Retirement Community. Jenny Doll, the Director of Marketing and Admissions had arranged for me to give a talk about my book, Postcards from the Widows’ Path. With a delicious platter of refreshments, comfy seating in Bethea’s lovely parlor with a beautiful courtyard and fountain view, Jenny’s warm hospitality made for an afternoon of budding friendships and heart-felt connections.

Whenever I speak in public I know there will be people listening who have overcome their own sorrow and hardships. I should be listening to them! So I count it an honor and privilege to speak. I love meeting people afterwards and hearing some of their stories. Often, my talks are conversation starters for grief and widowhood topics that are essential but often silently tabooed in society. I provide respect and a “safe” place for people to tell their stories and discover the relief of knowing they are not alone.  

It’s also an honor to speak to widows because they hold a special place in the Bible. Did you know that in the geneology of Jesus four out of the five women named were widows? And who was the first woman to tell the world about Jesus? A widow! There are many other surprising things about widows in the Bible but they all point to the fact that God cherishes widows and never overlooks or forgets them.

Widowhood, too, is full of surprises. We talked about many physical challenges such as fatigue, insomnia, lower immunity, weight loss/gain, etc.; it’s also hard to concentrate and deal with unexpected grief “attacks.” Yet we have to make monumental estate, financial or medical decisions at this time!

A collective sigh went through the group as I mentioned the social surprises of widowhood, especially how some friendships change. While everyone was grateful for supportive friends and family, each had experienced some friendships that disintegrated. Some people you thought were your friends treat you like a contagious disease. They’re blind to the huge, lonely hole in your heart and no one seems to “get it.”

When I was a young pastor’s wife I didn’t know any of this. Sure, we had some widows in our little churches in Ohio but they said they were “fine,” and I happily took their word for it. The widows group nodded in agreement; they could relate to telling their pastor’s wife they were fine when they really weren’t. What else do people expect you to say?

We touched on many other things too: how long grief lasts; that it’s different for each individual; that the essence of grief is love—if we’d never loved we’d never grieve; and the courage it takes to get this far along in life.

Most surprising of all is that God chose to put a book in the Bible that’s all about widows and the choices they make—the Book of Ruth. From the older widow Naomi, full of despair, to her daughter-in-law Ruth, full of determination, we can take heart and take hope because God loves widows. Nothing surprises Him. 
What's surprised you most about widowhood? Next time you meet with your widows or grief support group ask them this question. It'll give everyone a good chance to open up. We don't need answers--God has all of those, widows just need to have a chance to tell their stories and discover that they're not alone.  

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