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Grieving But Hoping:
Life after the Death of a Spouse

Need hope after the death of a spouse? Start here.

The death of a spouse can feel like the end of the world. When you’re coping with the loss of a loved one, the last thing you want to do is read all kinds of books on grief and grieving. What are some quick tips for grieving the death of a husband or wife? As your friends and family offer advice on how to deal with death, though, what should you be telling yourself? Here are five things you can start with.

1) Allow yourself to grieve the death of a spouse in your own way.

Learning how to deal with death is always a difficult experience. But struggling through the death of a husband or wife is a uniquely painful time; expect your mourning process to be unique, too. Yes, grief follows through five stages, but how and when you move through those stages after the death of a loved one can vary greatly. Be patient and compassionate with yourself when it comes to your pain, hurt, and grieving. Don’t beat yourself up for grieving; it’s part of the road to healing.

2) Don’t be surprised if you’re all over the place emotionally.

Many people who endure the death of a spouse experience a bizarre range of emotions. All of the books on grief and grieving cannot predict the exact emotions you might feel while grieving a spouse: a strange mix of grief, bereavement, and joyful reflection. You may go from intensely missing your loved one to wishing she or he had never come into your life. You may blame yourself for your soul mate’s death and then turn around and blame your soul mate. These are confusing, frightening emotions, but knowing that they’re coming strips these emotions of some of their force. As time goes on after the death of a loved one, balance will be restored to your life.

3) Savor the memories.

Sometimes a lover tries to cope with grief and mourning by banishing the memories of a dead spouse. The grieving spouse might opt to remove photos from the house or throw away personal belongings. We encourage you to take your time with these items. The memories will cause pain at first; over the coming weeks, though, you will process this tragedy and formulate your spouse’s legacy. You don’t overcome the loss of a loved one in a couple of days, but you will overcome it.

4) Find a support system.

It may be difficult for you to talk about your grief and grieving process, but opening up is essential to thorough healing. Find a grief support system that you can interact with regularly—whether a church, a community group, a circle of friends, or a grief counselor. Your support system will help you put your bereavement and grief into the context of your life—it will help you find reasons to smile. You’ve lost a friend, but grief can be an avenue for finding new friends, too.

5) Embrace your spirituality.

The death of a spouse may be an opportunity for you to return to faith in God or involvement in your religious system. The belief in an afterlife can really ease our minds when it comes to loss of a loved one. Also, a church provides a community of like-minded people that are willing to walk with you through this valley in your life.

As you continue to search for answers on grief and grieving, we want to be there for you. As long as you’re still seeking comfort for the death of a husband or wife, why not take a few minutes to talk to God about your pain?

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Finding God and Your Grieving

The Bible is a real, authentic, genuine book-- filled with the stories and thoughts of real people. Whereas some grief-coping strategies may encourage you to deny your grief and try to convince you that your grief is just in your head, the Bible takes a different route. Your grief is real, your pain is actual, and there's still the opportunity for true healing.

Consider the story of David, one of the most prominent authors in the Bible. David was king of a whole nation, a military leader, a wise man, and a gifted songwriter. And yet his life was filled with sorrow: much of his life, he was being chased by a vengeful predecessor who wanted to kill him; his best friend was killed; his son died. And yet in the midst of this pain, David is able to sing out to God:

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. 

What is the hope that propels David through his seasons of grief? David devotes himself to loving and serving God and he finds God to be more than enough for his hurting heart. Want to find the hope that David had? Let God turn your mourning into dancing, too. Grief is hard, but God is bigger than that grief. He wants to comfort you, to sit with you as you mourn, and to carry you through to the other side.