By: Elizabeth McGlathery
- Understand that people grieve in their own way and at their own pace.
Healing is a process that takes time and effort. Time alone does not heal wounds; rather, time gives us the opportunity to take steps towards healing. Some people can experience healing in a few months that may take someone else a few years.
It helps some people to look through old pictures or to tell stories, for others that would bring up too many painful memories. Some people need to go home and rest, others may need to go for a walk in the park. Some people may want a shoulder to cry on, some just want their pillow.
If you have never gone through the grieving experience yourself, understanding your spouse’s grief can be much harder for you. I encourage you to read books, ask friends or family, and even talk to your spouse to gain a better understanding. You won’t be able to fully grasp or to say, “I know how you feel,” but you may be able to learn how to better walk with her through it.
- Let your spouse know you are in it for the long haul.
Regardless of how much healing has taken place, missing someone doesn’t seem to go away. Birthdays roll around, and the tears may roll with them. Anniversaries come across the calendar and memories come across their mind. It has been over 20 years since my grandpa passed away, and of course my grandma still remembers his birthday, their anniversary, and the date he went to heaven. She still misses him. It doesn’t matter that she has had 20 years to heal.
I have always told people that the visitation and the funeral can be the easiest part. You are surrounded by people, love, encouragement, flowers, and cards. But, what about two weeks later? What about two months later? What about two years later? What about 20 years later?
Your actions toward your spouse will show whether or not you are committed to walk with her through it. Do you give her your attention when she is upset and wants to talk? Do you ask her how she is doing? Can you listen to her without trying to fix the problem? Do you pray for her? Does she know her feelings are not a burden to you?
- Remember important dates.
People forget what your spouse never will. I personally lost a loved one a few years ago and my best friend, Sam, still checks in on me on three important days of the year: the date of Kristen’s accident, the date Kristen passed, and on Kristen’s birthday. Sam never even knew Kristen, but she knows how much she meant to me. Sam puts reminders in her phone on those days and always reaches out to me. It has meant more to me than she knows.
Try putting reminders in your phone to just check in on your spouse on those important dates. Maybe write a card or send some flowers. My husband, Jon, sent flowers to my work on Kristen’s birthday. And not only flowers, but Kristen’s favorite flower, with her favorite Bible verse attached. I didn’t even expect him to remember her birthday. But in that moment, I didn’t feel alone and I knew I had someone who was going to walk with me through this.
- Pray for your spouse.
Continue to pray for your spouse. Prayers for peace. Prayers for healing. Prayers for joy. Prayers for strength. Only God can give peace that surpasses understanding. God can calm her storms and heal her hurts.
These are just a handful of ways you can love your spouse as she grieves a loved one. This is not a formula, because there isn’t one. Loving your spouse happens through the relationship you have together. Loving your spouse happens through being intentional. It will take time, patience, kindness, gentleness, and an open heart to understand even when nothing makes sense.