It could have been a long time coming. She may have been caught by surprise. But, one day she was holding her husband’s hand… the next he was in the arms of Jesus.
Her days may have revolved around going on adventures and surviving the daily grind. She may have spent the last years dressing him and dosing out his medications. But, one day she was planning for their future… the next day she was planning a funeral.
How do we as ministry leaders, sisters in Christ, come along her during this time?
Unless you have walked this road, it is really hard to answer that questions with authority. We may feel like we are ill equipped and flying by the seat of our pants. We don’t know what we are doing, how we should respond, or even if we should respond. How much is too much? How do we know if it is not enough? When do we speak? When do we quietly hold her hand? What can we do?
The first thing, I believe, is that we educate ourselves. Nancy Gutherie has a book titled: What Grieving People Wish You Knew (about what really helps and what really hurts). Taking the time to read books like this, that discuss grief that you have not personally experienced can give you perspective. There are books on general grief, loss of a child, loss of a spouse, etc.
Take the time to read, and take the time to talk with people who have walked through grief already. Ask the widows in the church about their experiences. Learn about what things people did for them during their grief that was helpful and what wasn’t. Ask these women what they wish people would have thought about or what things were overlooked.
Bring the Men’s Ministry on board. Perhaps there are things they may be better equipped to help with, when a woman is becomes a widow. Teams that can help with simple house or car repairs, mowing the law, tending to the trees and bushes. Have a plan in place ahead of time so that when someone in the church is actively walking through grief your teams can go into immediate action.
Acquire a pool of resources related to grief. Books or booklets on grief that you can give to her, a helpful option. Build up a list of support groups, local Christian counselors or grief counselors, services that she can benefit from , and whatever else you can think of that would make this time easier on her. Include a list of phone numbers for your prayer warriors who are willing to go and pray with her, or women who are happy to just sit on the couch and hold her hand (or fold her laundry, do her dishes, etc.)
Begin a ministry in the church with the sole purpose of serving the widows and widowers in your church. It may be a support group, or a team of people who are volunteering in various capacities.
There may be occasions where the loss of the spouse is expected. Speak with her BEFORE and ask what she expects her needs will be. Let her know that you want your team to be able to spring into action as soon as she needs them. What would she like help with, who does she need during this time, begin making those arrangements in advance when her mind is a bit clearer. She may need a person to help her make phone calls to out of town family, arrange for their travel, etc. At some point she may want someone to go with her (or for her) to pack up her husband’s office or go through his clothes for donations. If you have someone in your church with a gift of administration, creating a check list of ways your church can serve might be helpful.
Remember her. Remember her on the holidays… not just Christmas morning. Remember her anniversary, his birthday, father’s day, etc. Remember her children, and help love on them through this time.
These are just a few thoughts on how we can serve our grieving women. Share your own ideas or experiences by commenting!