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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11

Widow for a Season: Finding Your Identity in Christ

Chapter One: Who am I Now?


   The most well known stages of grief prior to death and dying as identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While a widow may experience some of these same emotions as she tries to move on with life after her husband’s death, there is another continuum of recovery that she needs to understand in order to grieve in a healthy way. Recovery after death for the victim of loss can be examined by using a continuum of three stages: victim, survivor, and thriver. To understand the progression from victim to thriver is to be equipped to identify healthy, predictable patterns of behavior and thought as well as unhealthy ones.  

    As women we are so often defined by the roles we play. Our sense of function can become entangled in those roles so that when a role we have played is taken away we may feel lost and begin questioning our worth and identity. In this chapter we will examine how to develop a God-centered perspective and find footing through our identity in Christ.

    Additionally, there are several areas of response that others may use against the widow’s attempt to redefine her identity outside of the victim role. Some of these responses may stem from relationships that involve subtle co-dependent tendencies and so identifiable dynamics of co-dependency will also be discussed.


Chapter One - Who Am I Now? 

Defining who we Are

     Have you ever been invited to a women’s gathering that was held in a roomful of unfamiliar faces?  Usually the first order of business is for the leader to ask everyone to take turns sharing something about who they are.  Of course, we begin with our name and then we typically share something about our personal circumstances like whether we are single, married, widowed, or divorced.  Some may have jobs — others are “stay-at-home moms.”  We may proceed by telling about our role as wife, mother, grandmother, etc. but isn’t it true that no matter where we find ourselves in life, we have very definite perceptions about who we are.  Those perceptions are the basis upon which we relate to others and to ourselves.  Let’s look at the three most critical factors that enter into this process of defining who we are.   

     The first factor concerns how we perceive ourselves in relationship to our circumstances and the roles we play in them.  This is our self-perception.  The second factor concerns how we think our family, friends, and others perceive us.  How we manage these perceptions will determine whether or not we have healthy relationships with them.  The third factor that emerges in the process of defining who we are is the most critical.  It concerns our relationship with Christ, and I will refer to it throughout this book as our “identity in Christ.”


Bringing Healthy Balance to the Roles we Play


     Even with a healthy closure, our loss will always be a part of who we are. We must learn to live with that loss, but at the same time we must not permit it to define us. In fact, we will not be able to operate from a God-center if we allow any experience or role to define us. For example, we can be mothers, but if motherhood is the total essence of who we are and if it consumes us, who will we be when our children eventually step out from under that canopy? At the same time we can be a wife. But if being a wife is what defines us, who will be left if our husband dies before we do?

That may be the question you are struggling with now: “Who am I now that my husband is gone?” Losing a role we have become accustomed to can be a tremendous source of grief.[i] The role itself is often tied to our worth and significance in life. How we perceive ourselves outside the roles of wife and mother will comprise a huge part of our redefinition as women. What is most important to a healthy recovery is to allow Christ to be the primary source of our definition. We must give Him permission to assign identity and value to our life. Everything must be evaluated against the backdrop of our identity in Christ. That is what it means to be God-centered and not self-centered in our outlook.

    If we don’t understand what it means to have a solid identity in Christ, we cannot see how this identity can help us work through our difficult issues. First, however, we should talk about the expected and predictable patterns we may already be exhibiting as a result of our loss.


[1] From author’s notes from Gregory Schad workshop, “Care When It’s Critical: Helping Others Recover from Trauma,” (Columbus, Ohio: Citywide Training Facility), July 10-11, 2002.