Sitting in a crowded ballroom at a fundraiser, I forced a smile and nodded politely as I listened to his painful words. Though well intentioned, they couldn’t have come at a worse time. The loneliness that had plagued me since my husband’s death had intensified over the past few months. I had shed more than a few tears in recent weeks wondering how I would ever raise my son without his father.
The days leading up to our encounter had been full of relationship announcements from other young widows. Hearing how God had provided husbands and fathers for my dear friends brought joy, but at the same time, I started wrestling again with old lies: I’m not valuable without a husband. No one loves me. I can’t do this alone. My son is doomed without a father to raise him.
When the man beside me asked if I was dating anyone, I tried to steer the conversation toward other topics. But it was to no avail. He insisted that I should be looking for a husband, if not for my sake, than at least for the sake of my son who he thought needed a dad. He asked me what activities I was involved in and told me I should be looking for potential husbands everywhere I go. On and on he spoke while I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, feeling increasingly desperate for our one-sided conversation to end.
Eventually, it did. But not before his words had made their mark. All the things I feared most had been spoken as if they were true: I was not enough and would never be without a man in my life. I was failing my son. It was all my fault.
Widowhood is not a problem to be fixed
This man wasn’t the first to try to steer me toward remarriage. Since the very early days after my husband’s death, I’ve learned many people see widowhood as a problem to be fixed. They see a woman without a husband and children without a father and think the solution is to replace what was lost.
I, too, can be tempted to think this way. After all, no one knows how much my son needs a dad more than I do. My late husband and I fought hard against his disease for over a decade, trying to preserve his life at any cost. He went through much pain and suffering to be here for our son and me.
When my husband died, we didn’t just lose a husband and father; we lost our husband and father. We lost unique relationships with an irreplaceable man.
Yes, I miss being married, but what I really miss is being married to him. I miss the sound of his footsteps on the stairs and catching his eye across a room. I miss our inside jokes, nicknames, and his huge laugh. I miss holding his hand. I miss his hugs and the way we fit just right.
If God brings someone into my life, he will not replace the husband I lost. A new relationship would be the start of something new—not the return of something old. I wouldn’t miss my husband less because there was a new man in my life. I would simply learn to love again while still carrying the love I have for the man I lost.
You can’t replace a dad
Likewise, my son didn’t just lose a father figure, he lost his daddy. He had a dad who eagerly took every child safety, childcare, and childbirth class our little town offered. He had a dad who could calm him down when I couldn’t. A dad who gave the best sink baths and refused to buy anything but the highest quality diapers. He had a dad who prayed over him, sang to him, rocked him, and snuggled with him every chance he got.
My son had a dad who protected him fiercely even when it cost him greatly. He had a dad who modeled trusting Jesus in hard times, led him in family devotions every night, and was the best at getting him to sleep when his little mind was full of worries. He had a dad that apologized and asked for forgiveness when he messed up and who modeled humility and repentance.
My son’s dad might be in heaven, but he will always be his dad. If God chooses to bring another man into our lives while my son is still young, I hope, in time, they develop a bond and my son would see him as a father figure. But that man is not, and would never replace, his dad.
There are worse things than not having a husband or father
When I’m lonely, overwhelmed, and afraid of the future, I’m tempted to lower my standards and jump into a relationship to have the companionship and partnership I long for. I’m tempted to believe that any relationship is better than no relationship. But I know it’s not.
Over the years, I’ve spoken with many young adults who lost their fathers at a young age. None of them expressed gratitude that their mom rushed into a new relationship to provide them with a father. They taught me there are worse things than being fatherless.
Having a mom that dates a bunch of men because she is lonely is worse. Watching a mom lower her standards out of desperation is worse. Being forced to accept a man you barely know as your new father is worse. Your mom marrying someone who isn’t ready or interested in the responsibility of raising a family is worse. Having a mom who is distracted by the thrill of a new relationship and inadvertently ignores your needs is worse.
I’ve also met young adults whose moms waited on the Lord’s timing. Some remarried wonderful men that God brought into their families at just the right time. Others experienced the faithfulness of the Lord in their singleness. Either way, the goodness of the Lord is what sustained their families, and even the best stepdads never filled the hole left behind when their dads died.
Widows need a better hope
God wrote loss into my story, and each day I have to trust He doesn’t intend to make my life a tragedy. When others present remarriage as the solution to my grief and pain, they feed into the lies and temptations I face as a widow. They’re unintentionally offering me weak hope and putting pressure on me to fix something that I can’t.
God’s Word offers me something far better.
To the widow, God promises to be “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows” (Psalm 68:5). He tells me I can be “strong and courageous … for it is the LORD your God who goes with you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). He reminds me that my peace comes from meditating on who He is, not relationships with others (Isaiah 26:3). He doesn’t promise to give me a new husband, He says that He Himself is my husband, “For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:5, NIV).
If you want to offer a widow hope, encourage her to hope in God. Not in God changing her circumstances or providing her with a husband and father for her children, but in being with her no matter what comes.
And remind her of these things:
- God sees her and has not forsaken her.
- Fatherlessness is not too big of an obstacle for the grace of God.
- God has good in store for her children, even without their father.
- God has a plan even when we don’t understand it.
When we point widows to God instead of marriage, we give them a sturdy hope—the hope they need for the journey that God has them on, no matter where it leads.
Copyright © 2023 by Elise Boros. All rights reserved.
Elise Boros lives outside of Washington, D.C., and spends her days raising her son and investing in the lives of college students through the campus ministry of Cru. As a young widow, she is passionate about helping other people walk with God through grief and sorrow in an authentic way. Elise blogs monthly as part of the content team for Songs in the Night, a widow discipleship ministry. You can read about her and her husband’s journey through and beyond heart transplant at Waiting For True Life or follow along as she tells their story on instagram @waitingfortruelife.