Lorraine V. Murray

Advice on widowhood from a two-year survivor

Two years ago, I was initiated into a club no one wants to join. On that brutally hot August day, I drove to the hospital as a wife — and returned home as a widow.

I’m still learning to navigate life as a solitary woman, and often cringe when I check “single” on legal forms.

Still, I’m well aware many of my readers also have endured the gut-wrenching loss of a spouse, so here’s some advice from a two-year survivor.

First and foremost, even if you’re miffed at the hand God’s dealt you, don’t give up on him. It’s easy believing in God when you’re young and carefree and your biggest problem is counting calories in your frappucino.

The true test of faith comes when tragedies hit. If you disagree, I suggest you read the book of Job, which tells the tale of a man who lost everything — except his faith.

For me, daily Mass in a nearby, quiet chapel has become a treasure illuminating my darkest days. There, I hear Scripture proclaimed, pray the Rosary and receive Holy Communion, which is balm for a weary soul.

Catholicism emphasizes that suffering is never meaningless because Christ’s agony on the cross gave rise to the resurrection and the promise of eternal life.

Running away from grief may be tempting, but when you accept this heavy cross, God’s grace helps you shoulder it.

Second, be patient with yourself, because grief has its own timetable. After a year, I thought I’d surely be “over it,” but then my longing for my husband intensified.

Sometimes I’d think, “Well, I must be better, since I haven’t cried in a week” and then something would trigger a memory, and the floodgates would open.

Seeing his favorite coffee in the grocery store, glimpsing his well-worn shoes in the closet and hearing a favorite song on the radio were emotional landmines.

Gradually, I sifted through his shirts, jackets and painting supplies. I gave items to his beloved friends, which made the parting less painful. At times I could picture him, standing beside me and nodding approvingly.

Third, grief can open your eyes to the ordinary heroes all around you. You see these brave folks at the grocery store — buying single-serving frozen meals — and sitting alone at church.

Widowed people can attest that courage means getting up, eating breakfast and walking Rover on days when you’d rather hide beneath the covers.

Courage includes facing root canals, mammograms, and even church suppers, without your sweetheart at your side.

For me, it meant tying on an apron, Googling a recipe and marching into the kitchen to tackle the art of pan-frying chicken.

Finally, keep your heart attuned to receive the Lord’s boundless love, mercy and kindness. As author Oscar Wilde put it, “How else but through a broken heart does Lord Christ enter in?”

In my life, God’s messengers of mercy are ordinary folks at church, who rush up for a quick hug, neighbors who tuck chocolate muffins into my mailbox — and a cat that bestows love nibbles on the back of my legs.

The Bible tells us, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Let me assure you, this promise comes true, but it takes time. Even on that fateful day, when my title changed to “widow,” I was comforted by friends and neighbors, who filled my house when they heard the news.

Dear readers, keep your eyes open, because God’s comfort comes in small, steady ways.

For me, that means glimpses of hummingbirds, cricket concerts at night, dazzling moon rises — and the deep-seated assurance that if I play my cards right, I will someday see my sweetheart again.

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Lorraine’s most recent book is “Death Dons a Mask.” Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com