Here is a plan for life after loss of a spouse: Goal #1: Survive. Goal #2: Cope (see
previous blogs). Goal #3: Grow. It is not the mere passing of time but what we do
with our time that determines whether or not we achieve our life goals.
No human being goes through a crisis without being changed. Extreme
stressful experiences have an impact. They can cause us to become negative
people. Bitter. Resentful. Critical. Apathetic. Crises, though, can also stimulate
growth. We do not choose our crises, but we do choose our reactions to them.
We can choose to grow after loss.
Spousal loss is an unparalleled painful experience. The loss is one thing, living
with it (every single day, every single night) is another. Both are crises. They
challenge those of us left behind. We have to decide how we are going to react.
Choosing to grow, i.e., changing for the better, is a wise decision. It is actually
taking the burden and using it to make a blessing.
- We can grow faith. An unchallenged faith can become weak, not unlike unchallenged muscles which lead to weakness of the body. Loss can motivate us to seek a closer walk with the Lord, the rely more on His direction.
- We can grow insight. One of the ways wisdom is gained is by experiencing hardships. A lot can be learned about life, ourselves, people, human nature, relationships, etc. while dealing with difficulties. The loss of a spouse can bring clarity to our view of earthly life.
- We can grow empathy. Loss can soften us up, cause us to not just have more compassion or sympathy for others but even empathy. It can prompt us to be more naturally vulnerable to the feelings or experiences of others. Empathy can become a motivator to minister to hurting people.
- We can grow ministry effectiveness. When we know little to nothing about what others are going through, it is hard to know what to do to help them. The experience of loss teaches us more effective ways of serving hurting people.
- We can grow gratitude. Life is a gift we should never take for granted. Yet, we do. When do we appreciate our health? Often, not until we lose it. I thought I appreciated my wife. After her passing, I found out…not nearly enough. I look back now with less grief and a whole lot more gratitude.
- We can grow endurance. If we survive…if we learn to cope…we are raising our endurance level. Runners build stamina by experience. Long distance runners challenge themselves with plans that can include pain. Increasing our ability to endure life’s challenges often comes from experiencing them.
Loss and all that goes with it can ruin us. Grief can become our taskmaster. We
can degenerate into a shell of the person we once were. That, though, does not
have to happen! We can choose a different reaction, a different result. It is
summarized by a book title: Growing Through Grief.
Flatt, Bill. Growing Through Grief. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1987.