Losing your wife is so all-encompassing that it may not be comparable to any other loss except possibly the death of a child. The complete intertwining of your life with your wife in marriage makes her death distinctly life-shattering and life-changing. For this reason, many men find they need both informal and formal help in growing through their grief.
My church contacted me about the grief support groups held several times each year through our Stephen Ministry. The groups were conducted on an “as needed” basis, and the next group wasn’t scheduled to begin for about five months. While I waited, I learned online about several other grief support places: other churches, hospice care, and hospitals.
I was the only widow-man in the group of eight I joined; the others were all women, and only one was a widow. Everyone in the group had lost a family member through death, generally siblings or parents. Some had lost loved ones only a week or two earlier; some were grieving deaths from a few months ago. It might have helped me more if there had been another widow-man in the meetings, but I found I could learn from those experiencing other sources of grief. Perhaps I encouraged the others.
I later learned of a program called GriefShare, and I was invited to be a discussion leader for small groups at a church where the meetings were held. GriefShare looks deeply into experiences of grief when a loved one dies. It is presented from a Christian perspective, but it can be valuable for those of other faiths. You can find locations and meeting schedules online at Griefshare.com.
A good friend in a distant city lost her husband six weeks before my wife died. She and I had known each other for nearly fifty years. After we both lost our spouses, we became our own two-person support group through a constant stream of emails. We reminisced about our spouses’ final illnesses, our families, and the struggles we felt in our time of grief. When we found a book for grieving people, we began to email about the readings every day. Our two-person group was a rare discovery, and we both felt it preserved our mental health during that most challenging times. We still email often, but not about the loss of our spouses now. Our communications back then have had their healing effect.
You may want to list the names of three people with whom you could speak freely. If you can meet in person, that may be best, but even email and text messages can help. If you have a pastor, a priest, or a rabbi trained in grief counseling, they can be a great help. There is help for your grief.
Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, Widow-Man, every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at email@example.com.