In 2008, I had two friends suddenly lose their husbands within a few months of one another. Since we were only in our 40s at the time, this was a real shock and it got me thinking about the reality of life and death. How one moment in time can forever change your life.
Both friends (one a homeschool friend, the other a pastor’s wife) were dependent on the income of their husband. So they were left with little to nothing to support themselves.
It got me to thinking that except through the grace of God, this could be me. It also led me to realize the plight of many pastor’s wives who had been left with not only a loss of their husband but in many cases,
- no income
- no home to live in, (if they lived in a parsonage)
- and even more: no identity as a pastor’s wife.
This is when God began to work on my heart to support grieving friends, especially the pastor’s widow. I contacted the district church office and came to find out that other than a list of names in the district journal, widows of pastors are basically thrown to the wind. The district office did not even have records of their birthdays.
God spoke to me and called me to begin writing to these ladies. So I picked up some cards of encouragement and began writing notes as I was able to do so. Sometimes I even create my own cards. What a blessing this has become as I have cultivated new friendships not only with these ladies but at times with their children as well.
I have received many encouraging letters and one day, I received a box in the mail. It was a beautiful Christmas quilt made by one of these precious ladies.
Not long ago, I picked up a little book called The Widow Coach by Joann Filomena. Joann was a widow and as she worked her way through her grief she learned how to move forward. She decided to get certified as a Life Coach for widows. I figured the book might be helpful for me as I try to encourage these women.
Here are a few helpful things to Support Your Grieving Friends
1. Just Be There – no empathy needed.
Holding Space is walking alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judgment, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of any judgment and control. Widows need to know that they can be vulnerable and weak without fear or be judged.The Widow Coach,
2. Don’t Identify
The moment that we start sharing our own stories we make it about us instead of them. Keep your stories for another time. Just listen and let her talk. That’s what she needs to talk it out.
3. Direct Her Beliefs & Feelings
She may have a lot of feelings and worries. “What am I going to do now?” Help her work through them by asking, “Why?” It is common to attach our feelings to our beliefs, such as I am nothing without my husband so I won’t be able to live beyond today. This is not really true. Help her detach her feelings from wrong thinking.
By asking questions we can help her make a new list of goals. You can help her find her own identity by looking for her own gifts and talents. She probably had goals that she put aside when she got married that can now come to the surface again.
4. Direct Her Thoughts Towards Good Things.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9
Remember, don’t tell her, ask her about good memories to renew good feelings and move away from the sadness. Yes, she needs to grieve and be sad. After all, God created those emotions. But remembering good things is a way to balance the sadness and help her realize that yes one day she will be able to move on.
This little book wasn’t a hard read, but a good reminder of how any of us can support our grieving friends. It actually made me think again about getting some kind of Life Coach certification myself.
Have you ever thought about being a Life Coach?
P.S. I recently read Lysa Terkhurst’s book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way She wrote it during a very dark time in her life. Some may find walking through this study may help those grieving from unimaginable sorrow.
Pastor’s Wife (retired) & Chronic Pain Warrior blogs about how to make it through anything by relating her own life experiences to her writing. She is passionate about her love for the Lord and desires to spread that passion to others. She has a great desire to encourage women who are following behind her.