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About the Writer:

Nancy chooses to look at life as opportunities to know more about God's people and desires to pass on His unfailing love to those around her. As a young widow with growing children, Nancy's life experiences are a blend of hope through hard times and faith that has moved mountains in her life. Her writings are effective storytelling with humor, biblical insight and deep compassion.



Healing for the Heart…
A Guide for Survival in the World of the Widow

By Nancy Hughes

On a hot August afternoon, with no warning, I was instantly and unceremoniously initiated into the club known as “Widowhood.” No one asked me if I wanted to join. No one asked my permission to place my membership with this club. No one explained what would happen once I became a member. The clubhouse door was opened and I was thrown into a world unlike any other I had ever experienced. No explanation. No instructions. No encouragement.

I joined the widow ranks early and unexpectedly. Before that time I had felt a great deal of sympathy toward women who had lost their spouses. I just never truly understood how my life would totally change and absolutely could NOT have predicted how other people would respond to me…without my husband.

My heart tells me that there has to be something positive that comes from being a member of this club. Is anything to be gained from sharing my experience with others? I believe there is. I believe there is help, hope and healing for members AND non-members as we journey on this unfamiliar path in our lives. Here are just a few of the lessons that can be learned by members of the “Widowhood Club” as well as those who are unsure how to minister to widows.

Lesson #1: We need to realize that our strength comes from our Father and we do not have to be strong in our own power.

The evening my husband passed away, everyone finally left our home about midnight and I fell into bed. To say that I was exhausted does not begin to cover how I felt, but the shock of the last several hours glossed over that exhaustion and smothered it in numbness. I laid on my right side, looking over at my husband’s pillow, but unable to focus because of the tears. Sleep did not find me during those hours but it was replaced by something else: along with the incredible sadness that I felt was an even more incredible peace that I simply cannot describe. My eyes did not close that night but neither did my Father’s. I stayed on His lap all night as He held me in His arms. I could hear His voice over and over: “I am still in control. I have a plan. Trust me, Nancy, trust me.” When my sadness gave way to extreme exhaustion and I could hold on no longer, my Father held on to me. And He did not let go.

Lesson #2: Whether or not to keep your husband’s clothes is entirely a personal decision. As long as your closet is not a shrine in his memory that you bow to each day, it’s entirely up to you. But only you.

A well meaning friend called me a few days after my husband’s funeral. “I’ll be over tomorrow and we’ll get rid of LeRoy’s clothes,” she said. I couldn’t help my immediate response: “Why? Why would I do that?” She continued, “They will be a constant reminder that he is gone. Every time you look at them you will be reminded of his death. It’s much better to get rid of them.” My friend has not lost her husband. I tell her as kindly as I can that I have no immediate plans to get rid of his clothes. Maybe later I will do that. But not right now. She seems to be satisfied with that answer and we hang up. What I don’t tell her is that I go into my closet, sit on the floor, and bury my face in his shirts. And cry? Yes, I cry. I grieve. I’m not a masochist, inflicting pain intentionally on myself. I’m pulling his shirts to my face because they smell like him…and I will keep all his clothes until they no longer carry his scent. Then…maybe then…I will give them away.

Lesson #3: I may appear perfectly healed from my grief and loss on the outside but don’t assume that “what you see is what you get.” Sometimes I have a “public” face and sometimes a “private” face. My look depends solely on what I decide to show you and what I think you are able to handle from me.

Several months after my club membership began, I received a call from a caring person concerning a mutual friend who had also lost her husband. “She comes to work crying, she cries off and on during the day, she leaves crying.” was the comment. “Can you talk to her? It needs to get better.” It struck me as rather odd that I, a recent widow, would be contacted to talk to another recent widow about getting it all together and moving on with life. I wondered why? Could it be that, because I do not happen to cry in public over my loss, it is assumed that I am now healed of my grief? There is a perception that grief is like a bad cold: 10 days and some TLC and its over. Not so. Not so. I may grieve and rest of my life over the loss of my husband. Oh, life will go on. And I will go on. That’s my choice. And that’s God’s plan. But allow me to show you my hurt and my tears once in a while. And some day, I will allow you to show me yours.

May I encourage those of you on this journey to stand firm and hold tight to our Father! The grieving may continue for months or years but the words of our Father will continue for eternity. Do you feel like your strength is almost gone? Psalm 73:23-24 (NIV) says “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel…” Are there moments when it seems that no one wants to listen to your sadness? Psalm 62:8 (NIV): “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Do you need a place to hide when the pain of your loss threatens to overwhelm you? Consider Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV): “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

I am a survivor in a club not of my choosing. It is my prayer that those of you who have joined the ranks of widowhood or who will someday become members as I am will never lose sight of the One who will guide you through. May you find comfort and compassion in His words of encouragement and love as you travel this path of “The Widow” Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”


These are a few excerpts from Nancy’s book “Healing for the Heart…A Guide for Survival in the World of the Widow.”

Copyright © February 23, 2006 – Nancy Hughes. All rights reserved.


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