6 May 2013 by James Hoh CM –
As Christians, not only we need to be sensitive to widows who come from homes with non-Christians family members and relatives but to lend them some helpful comforting words.
Dr Edmund Ng, the grief therapist and Resident Director of Grace to Grieving Outreach shared some lights on its research. He has also listed some of them to guide those who are helping widows who may not have any knowledge on Chinese cultural beliefs, especially widows who come from homes with non-Christian family members and relatives.
We need to understand and be mindful of the following:
1. To many, the house in which a person dies is seen as a place that radiates bad energy. In their fear of bad luck, outsiders will not visit or even go near the house for three months.
2. Those who lost their loved ones are expected to stay away for 49, 100 days, a year or even three years, from happy occasions such as wedding and birthday celebrations, while many widows will not even visit the homes of others over the chosen period of mourning.
3. Discussing family matters including the disclosure of grief to outsiders can be seen as disloyalty or betrayal to the honour of the family.
4. It is common for Chinese widows to be clamed for bringing bad luck to the family and causing the death of her husband through her fate and bad elements in life. The Chinese old folks generally label widows with stigma and shame.
5. Traditional Chinese women are socialized to be dependent on their husbands and conform to the identity of a caring wife. Hence, the husband’s death will often threaten her self-worth and purpose in life.
Dr Edmund Ng has given some advices on how the address the prejudices:
1. It is stressful to have to have someone die in the family, particularly the loss of one’s husband. If the widow permits, visit her regularly at her home and journey alongside her over the months following her loss.
The Bible says,
“Visit widows and the fatherless in their time of distress” (James 1:27)
2. The widow may want to stay away from her relatives and friends while others will distance themselves from her.
Accompany her on leisure of shopping trips and invite her to your functions to reduce her level of social isolation.
3. Encourage her to process and openly express her experience, thoughts and feelings, not just facilitate the mere venting of her emotions. Assure her of confidentiality and being non-judgemental on your part.
4. People often want to blame a convenient target for anything negative that is beyond their control as they also need to vent their emotions. While a widow cannot control what they do, she can choose to forgive them and live without guilt or shame.
5. Our self-worth is mainly defined by what we think of ourselves. Help her to find the right interpretation of her loss so that she thinks of herself more as a survivor and less as a victim. To improve her perceived sense of competency over her new circumstances, we can help her to learn and master new coping skills.
Ultimately, the widow needs to redefine her source of self-worth from being based on her husband or any significant other to one that is based on the approval of God, who accepts us as we are and not how good we are.
God’s approval is eternal and cannot be lost through death. Indeed, the season of grief for a widow can be God’s window of opportunity to turn her spiritual life around to know God or draw closer to Him.
Let us not miss out such golden moments to express the love, compassion and good news of God to those who are bereaved, in order that we may impact lives and extend His kingdom through deaths and losses.
GGP Outreach seeks to assist grieving persons who, regardless of race or religion, have lost their loved ones and help them come to terms with their loss, cope with the present and live with hope for the future.
For help please call GGP Outreach 012-387 8668 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.ggpoutreach.com.
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