Grieving a Significant Loss

by Theresa M. Shaltanis

I lost my wife three years ago the week after Thanksgiving. Since then, this time of year has felt empty to me. Friends have told me it’s time I get over this, but I just can’t. What can you suggest that might make this time less melancholy?

The death of a spouse is a huge loss. Because we are created in God’s image and made for relationship with Him and one another, separation by death affects us greatly. The bond with a spouse runs deep, and the grieving process can take a long, long time. While the passage of time may lessen the pain, its impact will be with you for many years.

There are steps in the grieving process, and they often run a more circular course than a linear one. After the initial shock, which can take days to weeks, people will usually find some semblance of moving ahead with life. The feeling of sadness during this time is much sharper on some days than others. Folks often describe an eventual return of more bearable days than overwhelming ones, but it happens little by little. The ache of loneliness and grief are frequently more intense during significant times of the year, such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and the date of the person’s death. Because these days hold so many memories, both good and bad, our sadness is especially painful. Please know that feeling “empty” during such times is normal, understandable, and to be expected, even for Christians.

While others may mean well in wanting you to “get over it,” their words can hurt and leave you feeling even emptier. One of the most helpful ways to walk this journey of grief is to be with others who can respect your feelings, offer compassion, and honor the memory of your wife. I would also recommend that you contact a grief-support group, where you can gather with others who know what loss feels like. One such group is Grief Share (, a nationwide resource that offers a Christian perspective on grief and loss.

As Christians, we take comfort in Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection opens to us the way of everlasting life. And we look forward to the time when God promises to wipe away every tear and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4 NIV).

About the Author: Theresa M. Shaltanis, M.A., L.P.C., is a marriage and family therapist and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Falls Church, Va.

Questions for “Family Counselor” come from readers and, after steps are taken to assure confidentiality, from contacts made with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Send your questions to “Family Counselor,” The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address.  

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