Almost everyone who is married, or will be married, will have repeated some variation of this traditional phrase, “‘til death do us part“, which is common language in wedding vows, especially Christian weddings. This vow reflects God’s design for marriage, one man and one woman married for life. Marriages are to be for life, so in the best of marriages the death of either partner ends the marriage. Just today at our church a couple received a standing ovation and loud applause at the announcement of their 50th anniversary. They obviously are happily married but that happy marriage will end when one or the other dies.
My wife’s marriage ended to her beloved Terry in August of 1997. At only 52 years old, Terry was much too young in our view to die with a sudden heart attack. In December of that same year my wife Jeanine also died suddenly with heart failure and only 10 days before her 44th birthday. Out of those two shared experiences, several months after Carol and I were married in 1999, she suggested to me that we should reach out a helping hand to those, who like us, had lost a spouse or some other loved one. Since then we have facilitated, or co-facilitated, grief groups for well over a decade. Some of those who read this post will have been in some of our sessions. If so, part of what I am going to share will be repetitive, but just hang in there with me, some of this I have not said before.
I have some challenges for those readers who are “single again”. I particularly have in mind widows and widowers, but if you are single again because of divorce this applies to you as well.
If your spouse has died you are not married any more.
Your marriage ended the day your partner died. You will never be married to that person again. No, not even in heaven. That marriage, as much as you cherished it and loved the one who died, is over. Marriage is for life on earth only.
Since you are not married, don’t continue to try to live as if you are.
Many widows and widowers live for years after the death of their beloved spouse as if he or she was still living. You are no longer bound to a marriage vow. You no longer need to consider a husband or wife before making a decision, about anything. You are single, live like you are single!
I’m not advocating that you join a dating service at once. Dating might be way down the road for you, or never for some of you. While that is true, you are completely free to do what you want to do! If there is some activity that you have always wanted to be involved in, but didn’t because it wasn’t something your mate enjoyed, do it! You are single!
Spend some of the inheritance and take a trip to Europe with your friends, buy a convertible, redecorate the house in a way that suits YOUR tastes. Sell your deceased husbands old truck, or boat, he will not be using it. Do something nice for you!
And, when the time is right, accept an invitation to dinner or a play from a nice member of the opposite sex. It’s OK, you are not married, so stop living as if you are. You are not married and unless you remarry, you will never be married again. Live your life, it’s yours alone now, enjoy it with God’s blessing.
Don’t allow your emotions to do your thinking.
When I was a child I would go to downtown Asheville to the theater with my cousins and friends and we would watch scary movies. There were times I was sure that I was in grave danger! I was horrified! My emotions were lying to me! The truth was, I was sitting in a padded seat, with a big soda and pop corn, just as safe as could be.
Women especially tend toward making emotional decisions rather than rational decisions. “I just don’t feel that I should….”. “…he liked that old thing so much I…”. I suggest this exercise. Sit at your desk and take a sheet of paper. On one side put PROS and on the other CONS. Each time you face a decision that you seem to be struggling with, go back to that sheet of paper and write down your objections, negatives, reasons not to… And on the other list the reasons you should, or why it would be OK. Do NOT let your emotions rule you. You be in charge with clear, Holy Spirit controlled thinking!
Men, though not as prone to making emotional decisions as women are likely to get trapped too. Men, largely because we are so utterly HELPLESS, tend toward making snap decisions. When the lawn mower stops running we want to fix it as soon as possible. We are geared for the Quick Fix. Guys, do not allow yourself to have romantic thoughts about someone until at a minimum of six months to a year. Loneliness will drive you to do things you will deeply regret later.
Don’t be controlled by grown children or nosy neighbors.
“I would do ( fill in the blank) but I don’t know what Mr and Mrs Busybody across the street would think”. “I don’t know if the kids would approve or not”. Really? Are you going to let some neighbor’s opinion dictate your life? Will you now go from parent to child because your spouse died? You should do what you want to, period.
If you want to remodel the kitchen or move to Florida or get a new hair style, or God forbid, go to dinner with the nice widower down the block, DO IT. I think it would be good to tell your children of your decision, after you have made it. You might sit them down and tell them in a loving way how the “cow ate the cabbage”, if you know what I mean. You might start by affirming your love and respect for their father (or mother), and assure them that what you learned from him or her in those years is a treasure. “But, daddy is not here now and I must make my own way and make my own decisions with God’s help. I have never liked some things about this house, so I have decided to put it on the market and I’m going to move close to town in a zero lot line home where I don’t have to be worried with yard work. I love you and appreciate your love and support as I make this big change in my life.”. If they support you, great! If they don’t, acknowledge their complaints, and repeat again, I’m single now and I must make my own life by myself”, then do what you want.
You are single again, live like it!
Of course you want to be smart and loving in all that you do. And, you don’t want to unnecessarily offend those you love. And, you need time to grieve, maybe six months to a year, before you make any significant decisions. This is especially true of finances, real estate transactions, and romantic relationships. But when it’s the right time, and you will know it, You be the boss (under God) of your life and live it to full for Jesus sake and to God’s glory. It accomplishes nothing for your to spend the rest of your life with the constraints of marriage and none of the benefits. Single is good. Single is no less holy than marriage. May God bless you as you live your abundant life under His beautiful Lordship.
Royce thanks for the post. It is a great post. After 35 years of marriage it all came crashing down. I am divorced. Everything is goner family, my dreams, all the things we had built together. I had preached all my adult life. Now that is gone. I rarely blog anymore. I believe It would have been much easier if one of us had died. The grief is real. How do you adjust after 35 years? I have found no solace among brethren. In fact I now attend a different religious denomination because of how I have been treated. Your blog struck a cord and I just needed to vent. Thanks for giving me a means to do that.
I am so sorry Dell. I have prayed for you many times and still am.
It is unfortunate that on the whole there is little grace in our churches of Christ
for hurting people. It is very, very odd to me that Jesus died for sinners and people
who call themselves his followers regularly reject sinners in his name.
Oh how I wish you were here at WFR. Love and forgiveness, a second, third, fourth…chance is what we are all about. If I were you, I would not look back. Go where you find people who love people unconditionally and worship God with them. If only Jesus’s supposed followers were only half as quick to forgive as He is.
I bless you brother. Keep looking to Jesus.