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Remembering the Widows

Marlene Craft implements daily online sessions to minister to those who have lost their husbands.
Being a widow is hard, even with a good support system. And as stay-home orders continue in varying degrees for many states and cities, it’s even harder.

Marlene Burrow Craft knows the challenges. A widow since he husband Wayne, died in 2011, following years of pastoral ministry with her husband, she had to find a new path, eventually reaching out to other widows as a U.S. missionary. Through Widows Link, she serves with Missionary Church Planters & Developers, a department of U.S. Missions. She provides churches with resources for ministry to widows, and also hosts conferences, cruises, and other fellowship opportunities. As the COVID-19 crisis escalated, she knew widows might need help coping.

“I knew of many who were just starting to socialize a little, working through the grieving process,” says Craft, 62. “Now that’s been on hold.”

Craft’s son Brian, who assists with media for the ministry, urged her to create an encouraging Facebook presentation, which went live on March 20. On March 22, she developed a list of “22 creative things to do at home,” and started doing daily Facebook sessions.

Each session includes “time with the Son and time for fun.” A devotional, focusing on God’s provision and His promises to widows, is followed by a game or project, using items people are likely to have on hand.

According to Craft, grieving is different for everyone, but nights are especially difficult. Not being able to get out and vary the schedule makes them seem even longer. Another need is community, including hugs and eye contact.

“Words are so important,” Craft says. “Even women of strong faith miss having someone to talk to and process things with.” Although many widows have learned to turn to other relatives and friends after losing their husband, the restricted schedule imposed by the pandemic can create discomfort.

An upcoming Widows Link retreat has been canceled, and the annual cruise postponed, although a virtual conference is planned that will include talks from a grief counselor. In the meantime, though, the Facebook sessions provide interaction and remind women that others are there for them, even if not in person.

Comments show the sessions are appreciated. “Thank you so much,” wrote Glenda, a recent widow who also had surgery right before the pandemic. “I was alone before, but it’s been even harder. I really needed this!” Another viewer commented that her entire family has been doing the activities, such as a paper chain of things for which to be thankful. “We’re making good memories with these ideas.”

Sherry Muzeka, a widow for five years who lives in Eufaula, Alabama, says the “short but impactful” videos have been uplifting, but she also hopes they remind people of God’s instruction in James 1:27 to care for orphans and widows.

“Even after the crisis, what can we do as a church body to see that this continues to happen?” asks Muzeka, 60. She had been married for nearly 39 years before her husband died from complications of cancer treatment.

Craft agrees. “These are hard times for all of us,” Craft says. “We need to reach out to widows, maybe a phone call or a surprise small gift on their porch to show them Christ’s love, letting them know they are not forgotten.”

Cynthia J Thomas

Cynthia J. Thomas worked for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions for six years before becoming primary caregiver for her father, a World War II veteran. She has served as a counselor for victims of domestic violence and women facing crisis pregnancies. Cindy and her husband, Phil, a schoolteacher, volunteer in youth outreach and have three adult children and one granddaughter.