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Guiding a Widow Toward Hope by Marilyn Nutter



Hope for Widows

For some, the death of a spouse comes after a period of long-term care. For others, it is a sudden event.


I was in the latter group. A fatal heart attack ushered my husband to heaven two days before Christmas twelve years ago while we were visiting family two thousand miles from home. 


Whether we watch a loved one decline or death comes without warning, we are never ready to say goodbye. When we do, grief doesn’t have an expiration date, even if we return to work after bereavement leave. There is nothing magical about loss ending at a one-year mark. We still enter a quiet house, make solo decisions, and face the third, fifth, and twelfth Christmas alone.


When I wrote Hope for Widows: Reflections in Mourning, Living, and Change, I used excerpts from my journals and shared my life experiences with friends who are (and aren’t widowed). I desired to encourage widows and offer support to acknowledge their grief, but know they will not always feel as sad as they do today. Through sixty-five interactive readings, widows have an opportunity to write their reflections and their story.


I also wrote the book for friends and family to gain insight into a widow’s new life chapter. It’s not only the loss of a spouse’s presence but layers affecting every aspect of their lives. What does that look like? As they turn the pages, widows will see themselves, and those who know widows will most likely read with surprises. But each time, even in fresh grief, I guided them toward hope, because that is what I found. 

  • Hope that they can trust God’s character. 

  • Hope that they see His Word is true. 

  • Hope that He keeps His promises. 

  • Hope that His Word is living and applies to them at the very minute they are reading because God is faithful.


But on practical levels, how can we bring hope to widows?


Every widow I know says, “I didn’t know it would be like this.” 


Widows shared conversations with their spouses no one else did. We made personal decisions that involved only us. We made goals together. Now life is solo, including eating meals quietly alone. But what may others see? Just like we see a blanket of snow, made up of individual unique snowflakes, we experience grief, mourning, and loss in different ways and accept help and encouragement in different ways, too. As you read, do you see how you can offer hope by your presence and practical responses?


  • Mentally: Thinking is cloudy in the weeks and even months following our loss. We speak in new ways. “Ours”  is now “mine”;” we” becomes “I.” Changing the way we speak gives a lump in our throat. The decisions we made together are now solo decisions and stressful. We learn new skills out of necessity and for survival. Do you have expertise you can offer? 

  • Relationally and Socially: Friendships change. Some people distance themselves. Friendships we enjoyed as a couple diminish. New friends-often those who are also widowed come into our lives, but our histories are unknown to new friends. We no longer hear our spouse’s name spoken. That becomes a forever secondary loss. When appropriate can you share a memory with a widow about her husband? 

  • Emotionally: God wires us to cry. He records our tears (Psalm 56:8) It may be uncomfortable for you to watch, but necessary for a griever. If God values our tears, we can respect them too.

  • Physically: When our spouse died, we were not given a 48-hour day yet we are doing the work of two people. Whether it comes as phone calls to service providers or yard care, we are doing (and often learning) new tasks. Fatigue takes a toll. How can you offer help?

  • Financially: Income may be reduced from two checks to one. Some widows go to work and they haven’t worked outside the home in years. Getting up and out each day to interact with others is added stress. Can you invite a widow to lunch? 

  • Spiritually: With the reality of initial grief-brain it is difficult to focus on Bible reading and more than one-sentence prayers. Some cannot go back to their church because of memories and if they were in a couples group, going as a single is awkward. Finding a new church alone is a lonely pursuit. Do you see a widow sitting alone in church? Can you ask, “How can I pray for you?”

It’s a surprise for many to learn that the average age of a widow is 59. She is not only the white-haired lady who was married for sixty years. She is also the thirty-something mother of two or the fifty-something woman sending her child off to college. She’s not the single parent, but the only parent. Each day in the US 1,000 women are widowed and find themselves alone. At any point in our lives, we will know a widow- mother, mother-in-law, sister, friend, or neighbor. 


Review the list and think of that one widow you know. How can you be a reflection of God’s faithfulness and fulfill James 1:27 to reach out to her? 


Hope for widows

Marilyn Nutter loves finding treasures in unexpected places: gratitude in mulch, conversations with grandchildren, and old family recipes. Most of all, she has found the treasure of hope in loss. Unexpectedly widowed after forty-two years of marriage, Lamentations 3: 22-23 has been a brilliant treasure. 


After a career as a speech-language pathologist, Marilyn pursued God’s calling to write, and is the author of devotional books and a contributor to print, on-line publications, and compilations. Her book Hope for Widows: Reflections on Mourning, Living, and Change was released in January 2024 and is available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold.


She is also co-author with April White of the award-winning Destination Hope: A Travel Companion When Life Falls Apart. Marilyn serves as a facilitator for Grief Support for Spouses and the women’s ministry team at her church. You can visit her website and blog at marilynnutter.com and find encouragement toward weaving hope and purpose in our life stories. She began married life on a Caribbean island and any beach with splashing waves is still her happy place, especially when shared with her grands. Learn more about Marilyn at www.MarilynNutter.com.


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