After your best friend and confidant is laid to rest—the man with whom you have built a life, your true love—what do you do? Once the fog clears, you are left with the question, “Now what?” There is no one to cook for, no one to thoughtlessly chide about life’s little annoyances, no one with whom to share a sunset or your traditional Sabbath meal. The plans to grow old together on your way to being born into the Kingdom are now disrupted, and you have to continue alone. You look forward to the resurrection, but what about now? What can a woman do to pick up the pieces and move ahead?
An Issue for All
If you are younger, single, or happily married, you may be wondering why an article about widowhood would be of interest to you. The unfortunate truth is that widowhood is more likely than one might think. According to the resource Statista.com, in 2017 there were almost 12 million widows in the United States, representing about 7 percent of the population. In fact, one-third of the population over the age of 65 is widowed, and 70 percent of them live alone (“Widowhood,” Encyclopedia of Aging, Encyclopedia.com). Two major factors contributing to women facing widowhood are that women tend to live longer than men, and that women usually marry men who are older than they are. You probably know someone who is widowed, and there are things you can do to ease her situation.
You can remember the widows who are in your family, your congregation, and your community. God tells us that true religion involves visiting widows (James 1:27). A big part of the burden of being a widow is loneliness. You don’t need to make special plans; most widows would enjoy being included in your family’s plans. Invite a widow to share a meal with your family—perhaps a Sabbath dinner. Knowing that widows are often ill-equipped for simple repairs, and may not have the resources to hire someone to make them, ask if there is anything around the house that you can help with. If so, make it a family service project; take lunch, and bring your children—of course, with the widow’s agreement.
You can engage widows in conversation and listen to their stories. Each one has stories to tell about her life—where she has lived, how she met her husband, the family and home they built, how she came to understand God’s truth. You may be surprised by how interesting “everyday lives” can be. A widow may miss having someone with whom to discuss current events, so those can provide appropriate topics of conversation. She will always enjoy talking about her deceased husband, especially if you have particular knowledge or a kind story about him. Tears may be shed, but don’t be afraid of them. Emotional tears are good for her. The medical community agrees that tears release toxins, relieve stress, and increase endorphins. Crying actually does make one feel better.
Comfort and Opportunity
If you are a widow, you know that—try as they may—your family, friends, and brethren cannot be there most of the time. Do not fear feeling lonely, but know that you are not alone. God has promised never to leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). You can take comfort in knowing that God has a special affection for widows, and that He established statutes and laws to protect and provide for them (Deuteronomy 10:17–18; 24:17–22; 26:12–13). God has promised to be your defender (Psalm 68:5), and you can rely on Him to keep His word because He is all-powerful and does not lie (Titus 1:2)! Though circumstances may be difficult, never forget that God is with you, making a way for you, providing for you, leading and guiding you. As time passes, you will no doubt see that more and more clearly. When the burden feels too heavy, let our Lord, Jesus Christ, carry it; it is not too big for Him (Matthew 11:28–30).
As a widow, you may find that you have considerable time on your hands, which can contribute to the feeling of loneliness. You may wish to find a new, enjoyable hobby that enriches your life. Traveling to visit distant family and friends can also be fulfilling. There may be activities in your community that are worthy of your time, such as volunteer opportunities to tutor young children or work in a food pantry. If you feel like you need company, invite guests to your home. Showing yourself friendly is a great way to make friends (Proverbs 18:24). The Apostle Paul recognized that widows, along with others who are unmarried, have more opportunities to serve in the Church (1 Corinthians 7:32). There are always things that need to be done in any local congregation. You may like spending time with other widows, babysitting for younger couples, or sending notes of encouragement to members who are going through trials. Ask your minister for ideas about how you can serve your congregation.
Family and brethren often want to help, but don’t know how. Sometimes they may use the wrong words to convey a sentiment. It is during these times that you must look at the heart of their intentions and express your gratitude. If help is offered, and you need it, don’t be too proud to accept it. If you don’t need help at that time, graciously decline, perhaps requesting a rain check, because there may well come times when you do need help. As difficult as it may be, if you find yourself in need of assistance, ask for help (Luke 11:9–10).
On God’s Team
Remember that you are not “just a widow,” but an important member of God’s team. God used a widow in Zarephath to keep Elijah alive during a famine (1 Kings 17). He listened to the prayers of Anna the prophetess, a widow of many years, and allowed her to see the Christ, the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:25–38). God has called you to be a part of His family, and you share in the responsibility to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world. In God’s family, everyone works. Your prayers for the Work, the ministry, and God’s people are not in vain; they propel the Work forward. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong often said that the Church of God moves forward on its knees. God can multiply your widow’s mite and use it to call others into the Church. When those new people come to services, God can use your example and hospitality to help them make the decision to come again.
Widowhood is a state in which many women will find themselves at some point in their lives. The life of a widow can be lonely and filled with challenges, but those around her can make it more bearable by taking time to fellowship with her and include her. If you are widowed, you may find rewarding activities to engage in, such as new hobbies or travel. You may also have more time to serve others, especially those in your own congregation. Be comforted in knowing that widows are special to God. God has been with you through every stage of your life, and He is with you now. You are a part of the most important mission on Earth; you are on “Team Jesus Christ,” and can look forward to the time when all of the saints will be united with Christ in the Kingdom of God. In the meantime, life after the death of your husband will not be the same; nothing can change that. However, life after his death can be fulfilling, purposeful, and yes, even happy.