(Taken from “When a Spouse Dies“/Dr. Kenneth J. Doka)
Sometimes a loss will shatter your assumptions about the world or your beliefs – however deeply held. Not every loss will do that. Don deeply mourned the death of his wife. Yet, her death did not shake his faith. She died after a fullness of many years, physically frail but mentally intact. She died surrounded by family of many generations.
Some deaths, though, will shatter our beliefs. You may find it hard to believe that there is any meaning to the universe or any point in life. The circumstances of the death or the extent of suffering may make it hard to believe in a benevolent God. You may feel lonely and abandoned. Your faith may seem to offer little comfort.
One of the tasks of grief, then, is to rebuild faith or philosophies that have been challenged by our loss. One of the biggest mistakes you can make during this period is to isolate yourself from your beliefs. You need instead to share your struggles within your faith community. This is a time to identify those within your faith communities who can journey with you, who are comfortable in hearing your conflicts and sharing their own. Sometimes you may have to look hard to search out and find those people.
When Tom’s wife died, he tried to share his own questions and conflicts with his minister. His minister, however, could not seem to relate to Tom’s struggle. Instead, he seemed to offer platitudes and empty reassurances. Tom found that his daughter’s minister was willing to engage in serious discussions about Tom’s concerns. Together they studied and conversed. Tom credits those conversations with, over time, deepening his own faith.
Maintain your own spiritual discipline, whatever that is. Prayer, meditation, ritual, and readings are all ways to connect with your faith traditions.
Finally, you may find value in reading of the spiritual struggles of others. “Where is God when you really need him – a door slammed in your face?” These dispirited words were written by no other than the author C.S. Lewis. Lewis writes of his faith struggles when his wife died in “A Grief Observed.” Lewis himself was a deeply religious man. Much of his writing reflects his abiding faith. Yet, when his beloved wife was dying even Lewis felt abandoned. His writing not only reminds that such moments are natural and normal valleys in the journeys of both faith and grief, they offer insight and suggestions on how to best cope. And they offer hope. C.S. Lewis, after time, his spirit now restored, was able to admit that his own frantic need had shut the door.