Joanne Lewis is the daughter of a pastor and an assistant to pastors, the mother of two adult children and former missionary in Vienna, Austria. Her current pursuit is learning to cook and eat an entirely new way—Paleo.

Here is Joanne’s story:
I became a widow at the age of 47, after 25 years of marriage. My husband’s death was very sudden and immediate as the result of a car accident. It seemed like I had no time to prepare. My world was turned upside down in an instant. At first I was numb and I carried along only by the love and help of friends and family.
After the funeral, everyone else goes back to their normal life. Unfortunately for the widow, there is no normal life to go back to. Widowhood hurts a lot—emotionally and physically. Heartache is real. It’s like having surgery, except that the pain and discomfort seem to go on and on. But healing does come.
I went to God’s Word and let his messages of love, care, and honor bring comfort and healing to my soul. Messages like these brought healing: “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13) and “Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.” (Psalm 71:19-21)

Even though I had trusted Christ since I was a little girl, there were moments of doubt after my husband’s death and I had to consciously decide that I would follow Him through my personal “valley of the shadow of death.” Jesus was my companion through grief. God became more real to me during this difficult time than ever before in my life. It would be impossible for a life event so foundation-shaking to not to change you and cause you to consider God and eternal things.
The range of reactions to a loss like this can be from doubting God’s existence, believing there is a god but he is evil or incapable or doesn’t care and therefore can’t be trusted, or to an increased faith in God. Faith by definition is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” I had already lost so much. I didn’t want to lose my faith as well. I sought Him in His Word and He was there for me. He provided strength to face each new day. He gave me rest when I was worn out from the hard work of grieving.
I read books written by women who had already lost their husbands and yet still believed God. Their testimonies were very instrumental in my decision to trust God through this time. It seemed to me that if they could still trust God after their loss, then I could too.
If you are married, the statistics say that at some point you will probably join our “club.” Enjoy life with your husband, keep short accounts with him and pack away good memories, but build your life upon the Rock. It’s wise to have sufficient life insurance, know how to pay bills, know where important papers are, etc., but even more important than those things is to grow strong in your faith. Get to know Jesus because he will never leave you or forsake you! Prepare your mind and heart in the same way that you prepare for the day your children will leave the nest, realizing that your husband may be called home to heaven before you.
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I’m sharing my experience with you to encourage you to seek God diligently when you are facing your own loss—whatever form that may take. God has blessed my family through His people and through His Word. His Word is full of truth and love and comfort! Psalm 119:92 sums up my walk through the valley of the shadow of death—“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”

It used to be that widows wore only black clothing for one year or longer after their husband died to show the world that they were in mourning. We don’t do that any longer and it’s easy for people to forget that the widow is hurting. Sometimes people expect you to be over it in six weeks or a few months at the most. I know…I felt that way before my husband died. Then I found out that the loss of a husband is not so quickly grieved.

If you know someone who is grieving, allow your  friend/sister in Christ to be sad for as long as it takes. “Weep with those who weep…” You may worry that she is losing her mind, just being weak or she that will never be herself again. The truth is that she will be changed by this experience (and hopefully for the better) and though sadness will be nearby for some time to come, she will not grieve forever. Be careful with your words because you are dealing with someone who has been deeply wounded.
You can help her carry her burden by remaining her friend or becoming her friend. Include her in social activities and keep inviting her even though she may turn you down. Call her often to find out how she’s doing and to see if she needs any help. Pray with her and for her. Give her grace for her tears, her forgetfulness, her confusion. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
It was the kindness of others that has helped me through the most difficult times. Whether they brought a meal, offered transportation, painted my kitchen, gave me professional advice, took me to breakfast, sent flowers or cards or just called to see how I was doing…all these things—and more—were the love of God that I could not have survived without. No one could make my pain hurt any less, but acts of kindness helped me to feel that I was not alone and not abandoned in my sorrow.

I’d like to wrap up with this story: My engagement ring has always been very dear to me and I have continued to wear it since Ed’s death. One Saturday I noticed, after a day of house cleaning, changing sheets on beds and even packing a box of Beanie Babies to send to children in Afghanistan, that the diamond was missing from the setting. Although not a very large diamond, it was a huge sentimental loss to me. I searched everywhere for it but couldn’t find it. I even entertained the possibility that it had fallen into the box, was on its way to Kabul and would end up confiscated by the Taliban! I asked my mother and other friends to pray. Exactly one week later I was ready to give up on it but decided to pray one last time and kneeled beside my bed just before removing the sheets I had put on the week before. I said “Amen” and as I pulled on the sheets, a sparkly little thing came bouncing across the mattress at me. It was my diamond! This was a tangible demonstration to me that God hears my prayers and cares about even the little things that matter to me. He has been good to me. I have learned that he can be trusted even in the loss of a mate. I praise God for His faithfulness and goodness to me and my children.

“With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise Him. For He stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him.”— Psalm 109:30-31

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