Excerpt from COPING WITH LIFE AFTER YOUR MATE DIES by Donald C. Cushenbery & Rita Crossley Cushenbery
Whether or not your mate was a Christian, the present hurt of his or her absence is still very evident. For some people, the intense grieving process may last six months to two years; for others, dealing with the loss may continue until their own deaths.
There are several basic principles that you should remember as you deal with your grief.
1. It is both proper and sensible to grieve. It may bother some people to see you cry, but that is their problem, not yours! God gives us tears and understands that they are a necessary part of healing. They do not imply that you do not trust in God. Some people have the idea that they should not show outward signs of grieving because some of their friends might think that they lacked faith or courage to live a triumphant life. Furthermore, some persons may “assign” a length of time for grieving.
2. It is not a sign of personal weakness to seek help from others during your bereavement. The death of a loved one constitutes a major event in the life of any caring human being. Unless you are exceptional and are endowed with precise coping skills, there is a good chance you will need help in adjusting to a new life.
3. The crisis of grief may serve as a stimulus for you to get involved in creative activities, both in and out of the church.
4. Your grief is different in significant ways from that experienced by others. Depression and the feeling of isolation are common emotions after the death of a spouse, but no two people have exactly the same feelings.
5. God has not deserted you. When someone is taken from us after sharing our lives for many years, there is a tendency to feel that God’s loving power has deserted us.
6. Time and patience will be partial relievers for your present hurt. The death of a mate may seem to be both untimely and unfair, but be assured that God will be with you for the remainder of your life, however long that is.
7. You should not expect any words of comfort that come from friends or relatives to reverse your grief suddenly and miraculously. Although pain does eventually subside and the hurt slowly heals, you have scars left to remind you of this traumatic event. Will life ever be the same? Of course it will not be. You can never replace the mate you have lost, because no one else has his or her identical physical or emotional characteristics.
8. The age of a mate when he or she dies has little to do with the amount or kind of grief you may encounter. If you are well past middle age, do not let others minimize the painful significance of your mate’s death. Your situation may be different from that of a younger person, but the hurt is just as intense.
9. The grief resulting from the death of a mate may tempt you into believing that your faith was not strong enough. We should not place ourselves in the position of judging another person’s faith or understanding God’s plan.
10. You should not expect your friends and relatives to undertake impossible tasks with regard to easing your grief. Many people will say, “If you need anything, just let me know.” There are many things that they cannot, in fact, do. If there are specific things that friends CAN do, however, you should tell them.
11. Some friends may try to lessen your grief by making statements to explain the death of your spouse. When someone we love is gone, it is difficult to dismiss our memories of them and pretend they deserve less grief than another person who has left us. Don’t let anyone minimize the importance of the life of your mate. If you want to talk about your grief, do it. Your friends who love you unconditionally will understand. The fundamental fact is that a large majority of surviving mates will grieve for a lifetime at some level. The best thing your friends can do for you is to tell you that they love you and are praying for you.