I am reluctant to speak. I look at you and I have some idea of what you are going through. More than that, I have some idea of what you will be going through. Ten years after losing my wife I am just beginning to get some feel of the solo dance we need to learn after we lose our spouses. It will be a long and hard road. I will be lying if I pretended otherwise. But things will get better. Eventually.
The road ahead will take everything you’ve got. And more. It will need divine help. Part of the problem is that as men, we look at life as a series of problems to be solved. We are not so hot on processes. And grief is a journey to be walked, not a problem to be solved.
Having said that, I think it is still possible to narrow down what needs to be done to three things.
First, we need to let go of the past. No I don’t mean we stop feeling for our spouses or forget what they mean to us. (I suspect that like most men, we know we have received so much more than we gave.) But we have to learn to say goodbye to our spouses. Their spirits are with God. Their bodies are in the ground. We will meet again in the final resolution of all things, but this side of heaven, we will no longer have our spouses with us. And it’s the finality of this parting (yes I know it’s only for this side of heaven) that kicks us where it hurts most. You will understand the meaning of loneliness in a new way. You will miss her most in the quiet of the night. They weren’t kidding about the “one flesh”.
Second we need to function in the present. In many ways the world we knew has ended. Yet the same duties remain. Bills need to be paid. The kids need rides. At some point we need to get back to our jobs. But many days we just feel so tired. Grief will do that to you. The body shuts down to help you cushion the pain. I hope you will have friends who will be there to help take care of the things that need to be done. Sure beats friends who tell you to “trust in God”, “learn from Job”, “don’t feel bad, your wife is in a better place..” etc. etc. etc., and don’t have time to help pick up the kids from soccer practice.
Third, we need to retool ourselves for the future. If you have been married for any number of years, your wife and you would have mastered a “two-man” act. You may or may not realize it but when you lost your wife, you lost the following at least:
*your closest friend and confidant *your lover *a co-parent *your house manager *the one that stops you from making a fool of yourself in public *the family historian who remembers the other half of your shared memories *the only one who understands your weird sense of humour *your main cheering squad
I am sure the list needs to be fine-tuned for each couple. The final list will be much longer. You must now function without your partner. It slowly hits home that we need to acquire a whole set of competencies pronto. But how do you do that? Not overnight that’s for sure.
You may not want to hear this now, but in time you may find yourself becoming a better person. You will find that you will acquire competencies you never knew you could. You will have to. Becoming a widower is definitely not for wimps.
It doesn’t help that few will understand what you are going through. Many will avoid you. Many will be scared to see you because it is too graphic a reminder of their own mortality. Others may be held back by the fact that they don’t know what to say. This is truly ironic because you don’t want them to say anything. No words could do justice to the enormousness of what has happened. All you need is someone to sit with you, someone to give you the precious gift of presence.
Trouble is most guys see life as a series of problems to be solved, remember? And they stay away because they don’t know how to fix you. Or they fear they may do more damage if they try. (Ladies know much better about processes and journeys but it’s not wise to let the ladies come too close at this time. Yea, I know: bummer.)
My friend, if this memo has been a bit dark, it’s because I needed to tell you the truth. But the truth includes Romans 8:28. I know that God is in your life. And that makes all the difference. Losing your wife will serve to underline one fact: God is the only foundation of life. And He is one foundation that will never go away.
Indeed God is more than just your foundation. He is also the architect of your future. In time, and there will be no short cuts, He will help you rebuild your life. It may be a life quite different from the one that you had envisaged. But it will be a good one.
I pray that He will also send you a few good friends who will walk with you. If you allow me I will try to be one. And let me say up-front that though I have also lost a spouse, I, at no time, assume to be an expert on you or your loss. Each loss is unique because each life is unique. (Hey, maybe we can start a support group, the WWW, Widowers Who Win!)
I close with this reminder from the Psalms:
“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5
I know the night is very dark right now. But please believe me. There will be a morning.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan