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Letters to a Grieving Spouse: On The Question “Why God?”

Every day, I hear from grieving spouses. They are either in the process of caring for a terminally ill spouse or have recently lost him or her. The question I am asked most often – by a landslide – is some variation on “Why would God let this happen?” Because I’ve written a lot about the beauty that comes from battle, people often assume that I don’t deal with this question or that I’ve found a magic answer, but neither is true. I don’t have anything in the way of a formulaic answer, but I do think I’ve learned a little about what to do with the question itself. For the next couple of days, I’m going to write about what has worked for me on this and you can feel free to take it or leave it. Also, this may apply to situations beyond losing a spouse after a lengthy illness, but I can’t say that I know that for sure. I write from my battlefield and I know some principles will cross over, but I don’t know how many. Having said all that, here’s Part 1.







Dear Friend,



I know you want to know “Why?” I know the question is screaming at you for an answer. But the first thing I want to tell you, need to tell you, because I wish someone would have told me,  is: you are not okay. I mean this with all the love and grace I possess. But, really, you’re not. If you are in the middle of caring for a dying spouse, or have recently lost one, you probably also:



1. Haven’t slept well in months, maybe years.
2. Have learned to ignore your own physical and emotional needs in order to keep the needs of your spouse first and foremost.
3. Are dealing with a myriad of external stressors related to long-term illness like insurance and money and doctors and paperwork and stuff with children, friends and relatives.
4. Are perhaps even dealing with a fair amount of PTSD.

5.  Are really, really sad. 



These things are completely normal, but they do not make this a good time to tackle deep, philosophical or theological questions. Imagine a rescue diver who just kept someone afloat in an ocean for hours, treading water, dodging sharks and praying they would both survive it. Now imagine, that as that diver stumbles into the boat, exhausted and overwhelmed, he is presented with a three-page test on bio-chemistry. He might know the answers are out there somewhere, but he is going to need a little time to restore and recover before he can trust himself to think coherently, much less solve complicated problems.
And the thing about this question – this big, beefy, large-consequences question – is that it will wait. It will be there when you’re back at your fighting weight. And when you get to that place, there’s a really good chance the question will look a little or a lot differently than it looks right now.



Let me be clear: you own this question and you have every right to tackle it whenever you want to. But nine months on the other side of my husband’s passing, I’m glad I waited. I’m glad I gave myself permission to shelve some of the big stuff while I learned to know myself again. There were moments when the question thumped like a drumbeat in the background, and I would have to say out loud: “This is not the time for that.” Instead, I focused on breathing deeply, eating well, sleeping again, journaling often, running some trails, loving my tribe and letting something that looked like “normal” seep back into my being. Once I arrived at month four or so, I felt a definite shift in perspective and I could see more clearly, think more comprehensively. Was the question still there? Yes. Sort of. But it wasn’t as weighty and desperate as before. And I had a broader frame of reference to bring to the process of answering it.



I have more to say about the Why God question, but for now, just know this: even if you’re not okay, that’s okay, because you are amazing. You are still standing and still fighting for hope and that makes you heroic. You have questions, I know, but you also have my awe and respect for the way you live and love. May you find all that you need for the day at hand.



With hope,






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April 6, 2016 - 12:56 pm

Linda Poplees - Thank you for your encouragement. I just lost my second husband in 8 years. I feel alone but know God saved me from further heartache. He has a better plan, and even though I may not like or understand His ways, I do trust Him. It is hard and lonely but He is protecting the widows and is our source. I can’t wait because I know the best is yet to come. God bless you!

April 6, 2016 - 4:45 pm

Nikki - I am not dealing with the same kind of grief, but it certainly translates to many other forms. Thank you for helping the restlessness with big questions, rest. 🙂

April 6, 2016 - 6:40 pm

Karen Thomas - It’s been a long road for me. Like the one not traveled at all.Thank you for what you have shared.

April 6, 2016 - 9:16 pm

Edie - I’ve known a different grief and I can say this is good advice. Wish I had read this back then. But it will be light and hope for many I’m certain. Love you Bo.

April 6, 2016 - 9:39 pm

Alicia - Have you ever noticed that God often uses the simplest phrases to touch our hearts? He only needs a few words to shift our perspective, change our attitude, and give a fresh outlook. Today, he used your words, “you’re not okay” to do that for me. I’ve been hanging in there so long that it feels normal. I forget that this situation is far from normal (whatever that is). There is a reason I feel emotionally fatigued and find it difficult to truly study His Word the way He deserves. Those few words today gave me permission to not be lazy, but to offer what I can and not beat myself up over the rest. That, sweet lady, is a beautiful thing.

April 6, 2016 - 10:22 pm

bo - Alicia – your comment blessed me more than you could know. Thank you for sharing.

April 7, 2016 - 6:40 am

KS - Bo, YES, yes, yes 1000x YES. I’m in awe of the perspective you have a short (!) 9 months after your husband died. Just wait! Just wait until a year has passed! The clouds continue to lift for me, now 3 years later, and I am amazed, AMAZED at the clarity. I’m also amazed at the, yes, still, lack of clarity…but expect life will continue to unfold, as it does…

April 27, 2016 - 5:12 pm

Barbara Miles - Hi Bo, I just found your blog this evening. I know God had a hand in leading me here through Charisma magazine facebook page My husband of almost 42 years, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon/liver cancer in ’13. After 2 surgeries and endless chemo we are facing his growing weakness in the face of it all. I trust God, but sometimes feel that Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.i am tired Thanks for what you are sharing. I have lots of supporting friends and family but not many who have gone through these particular trenches. I will bookmark your blog and come back often. Thanks again. B