Suffering Well… After the Loss of a Spouse

Suffering Well… After the Loss of a Spouse

A reflection by Craig D.

How does one suffer well?

In my case, unintentionally. Yes, I’m a follower of Jesus and I know all the stock verses and sayings. But that presumes my brain and my heart were functioning normally. Neither was. My heart was broken. My best friend, my precious Judi, was gone. My mind was a fog, it couldn’t put thoughts together and process them.

So, if I suffered well, it wasn’t because of me or my actions. I was just trying to put one foot in front of another.

Early on, two decisions were made.

The first was implicit. I’ve been a Christian long enough that it was just assumed I’d continue. I never put this into words, thoughts or even prayers, it was just there. And understand, I was asking God questions, sometimes yelling at Him.

The second decision was more conscious. I found a notebook of Judi’s writing. It was her responses to a book called The Gifts of Imperfection. I asked three men if they’d form a Zoom book club with me and they accepted. Imagine four old farts trying to grow!

This is not a “Christian” author. It’s a how-to-thrive book. It’s about being vulnerable, valuing relationships, admitting we’re all human.

A thought was offered: Positive and negative emotions emerge from the same “engine.” When we hurt it is tempting to shut down the system, but there is a cost. Yes, I could avoid the hard emotions. But doing so would shut down my ability to experience the good ones.

I chose not to shut down. The book suggests the only way through is through. Even better with a few people who love me walking with me. I accepted that and opened myself to trusted friends (and only later recognized the gift of having trusted friends).

The rest was gift. People cared. People listened. I let myself shed tears.

Magic happened (I did absolutely nothing, I just received and didn’t realize until looking back). Slowly, scar tissue mended some of the broken places in my heart. Slowly, my heart started doing “heart things” again.

About 18 months in, a man who knew my story commented about seeing me laugh … really laugh. He was right, somehow enough healing had happened. His comment allowed me to see. But please understand, dear reader, this was not the result of my initiative, my action plan.

Now, several months later, I am both/and. I will always deeply miss Judi. I still come home to an empty house and experience “the absence of her presence.” And God has given me people who care. Not my plan, not my project, yet I’m not walking alone. I’m loved and healed enough to walk forward both missing Judi and appreciating the gifts. I never worked any of this out on my own. God simply took care of me.


Judi died of thyroid cancer in 2021. She was 72. Craig and Judi were married 38 years.


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