3 Things to Remember as a Widower in the Midst of Grief

Mike Nappa

Published Apr 30, 2024
3 Things to Remember as a Widower in the Midst of Grief

Dear Friend,

I’ve heard recently that you, too, have suffered the loss of your wife. They’re asking me to encourage you, to give you advice and tell you it’ll all get better and nonsense like that. I will try to encourage you and give a little advice, but honestly? The only thing I really know to say to you right now is…

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

When Amy breathed her last breath at 1:28 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I thought I was ready. We’d had months to prepare for her death, after all, and cancer had been cruel. By that point, I’d been begging God to end her suffering. I thought I was ready.

I wasn’t ready.

Nothing could have prepared me for the soul-crushing absence that now filled my every moment. It’s been more than seven years since Amy died, and, well, I’m still not ready. I suspect that no matter how long it’s been since your wife passed away, you, too, are still not ready for that. So, again…

I’m very, very sorry.

All right, here’s the advice I promised earlier. As always, feel free to take whatever seems helpful and to ignore everything that’s not. I’m not a doctor or a counselor or an expert on grief or anything; I’m just a guy like you who tries not to cry when he thinks of his wife.


I’d like to encourage you to remember these three things during the hard days ahead. First, you never have to stop grieving the loss of your wife. Second, God has not left you here by accident. Third, and perhaps best, joy and sorrow can coexist.

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Sad man crying grief

1. You Never Have to Stop Grieving the Loss of Your Wife

I remember, about three years after Amy died, I went to a doctor for an annual check-up. She asked about my emotional state, and I said, “I still feel sad about losing my wife to cancer.” And she scoffed. She advised me to get electroshock therapy on my brain to knock that sorrow right out of my head.

I know. Doctors are idiots sometimes.

Actually, most of your friends and family are too. They’ll tell you that you have to “get over it,” to “move on,” and that your wife “wouldn’t want” x, y, or z in your life. When that happens, just smile, nod, and say thank you—because you know they mean well and they actually do care about you. Then, when they’re gone, ignore completely everything they’ve lectured you about.

Yes, it’s important not to let grief prevent you from life—of course it is. And yes, you will get back to doing the things you did before: work, family times, events, holidays, time with friends, and so on. But—and this is important—you never have to get over loving your wife. Not ever. In fact, it’s emotionally and spiritually impossible. Let me explain.

Grief is an expression of love; we grieve deeply because we have loved deeply. We see this demonstrated in the life of Jesus when he weeps over the death of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:32-36). And if love lasts forever, then some measure of grief will also last beyond the stretches of time. To pretend otherwise is simply to live a lie. So, don’t worry about “getting over” grief—that’s just a waste of your time and effort. Focus instead on “grieving well.” (You can learn more about that here.)

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Senior man widower sad thinking looking out window grief

2. God Has Not Left You Here by Accident

It’s tempting, especially during those early weeks and months alone, to think that maybe you’d be better off dead, too, that maybe you should just give up and end this crazy little thing called life. We all think about it, “that suicide thing”; that’s actually normal. It also just makes no sense.

First of all, I want you to take stock of the absolute despair you felt then/feel now after your wife passed away. Let it loose inside you to fill your senses and wrap your heart in sorrow. You recognize that awful pain, no? Now, why on earth would you ever want to inflict that kind of agony on anyone else who happens to be foolish enough to love you?

If grief is really such a terrible thing for you, then you should want to do everything in your power to prevent adding tragedy to tragedy, to keep from spreading that profound misery to your family, your friends, your coworkers, and church buddies—to anyone. Grieving stinks, but being so selfish as to force it on others is just mean.

Second, you must remember that God makes no accidents. When Jesus came and took my wife’s hand, he left me weeping inconsolably at her bedside. Still, I’m pretty sure Christ didn’t get halfway back to heaven, stop, and say, “Oh crap. I forgot to get Mike!” That means as long as there is breath in my body, there is purpose to my life (Acts 17:28).

This breath that gives life to you and me right now? It belongs to him and to his purpose, for as long as he wants, for as much as he wants, however he wants it. After all, though I miss Amy with every heartbeat, she’s not my reason for living; Christ alone is. And he’s currently busy in you and me to finish the good work he started, even now, even in our daily brokenness (Philippians 1:6).

Remember that the next time you feel like cashing in your chips...

You are not here by accident. Death is not your only option. Your pain is not enough to extinguish God’s work in your soul. Don’t insult yourself, and God, by pushing aside his ever-active purpose for you, his presence in you, and his work through you.

Your life matters.

The proof of that is that God has kept you breathing.

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a senior man, a new survey says that pastors are feeling lonelier

3. Joy and Sorrow Can Coexist

There was one thing that surprised me in the time after losing Amy: Finding out that joy and sorrow can coexist.

I still remember the day I first discovered that. My son and his family had invited me over for dinner (because, you know, they’re really cool people). When I drove up to their home, I was overcome with sorrow—missing Amy, wishing she was there with me, knowing she would’ve love an evening with her family. I burst into tears behind the steering wheel, so much so that I had to wait a few minutes to let the storm pass. Finally, I dried my eyes, pulled myself together, and went inside.

While we were waiting for dinner, I sat down to play Jenga with my delightful granddaughter. Her eyes are emerald green—and exactly like her grandmother’s. I remember looking in her eyes, seeing Amy in them, and having a hard time not crying again. Then, suddenly, the Jenga tower fell, and delighted laughter spilled out from my granddaughter’s mouth.

And I felt such joy.

Just hearing that child laugh made me so happy, and yet I was also still feeling deep sorrow over Amy’s death. All in the same moment.

Huh, I thought. That’s unexpected.

The next day, I turned to Scripture to try to understand what had happened. I found this:

On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus said to his disciples, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you” (John 15:11, NIV, italics mine). About an hour or so later, in the Garden at Gethsemane, Jesus said, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38, NLT, italics mine).

Joy and sorrow, on the same night, within minutes of each other—fully present in the Son of God. This is, I discovered, why he can be both a “Man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3) and the fruit of his Spirit’s presence is “joy” (Galatians 5:22). And because it is true of him, it can also be true for me. And for you.

So, no, you’ll never get over losing your precious, unique, irreplaceable wife. But you can still experience joy in the midst of sorrow. You can still laugh with your children, enjoy a movie night with your friends, celebrate Christmas and Easter and every holiday in between because it really is true:

Joy and sorrow can coexist if you let them; you will see proof of that in your own soul.

All right, I think that’s enough for now. Remember, you are more than you think you are today, and tomorrow, if you listen, you’ll hear God whispering to you the same words he gave to the Apostle Paul (and to me):

“My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

With love to you, my friend,



How to Find Biblical Joy When You Are Grieving

Finding Purpose and Joy Again as a Widower

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Mike Nappa is a practical theologian known for writing “coffee-shop theology” and Christian Living books. He’s a bestselling and award-winning author with millions of copies of his works sold worldwide. An Arab-American, Mike is proud to be a person of color (BIPOC) active in Christian publishing. Google Mikey to learn more, or visit MikeNappa.com. Find Mike Nappa’s bestselling book, Reflections for the Grieving Soul wherever books are sold.

Originally published Tuesday, 30 April 2024.