Spiritually Speaking

Question: We have a beloved aunt who is now 93. She is really in good health for her age. She still drives and attends our family gatherings. By the way, she is a safe driver and hasn’t had a ticket since the mid-1980s, which she said wasn’t fair.

What concerns us is that she keeps saying she wants to die. She has had a wonderful, fruitful life, raised two children and fostered three children. Our uncle (her husband) passed away three years ago. Perhaps she’s missing him.

She says, “I’ve done it all and I just want to go.” We’re all Christians and we tell her we go to heaven in God’s time, not ours. Is there anything we can say to her to help her understand?
~ Loving Nieces

Dear Loving Nieces,

I admire your love and care for your aunt. She has indeed led a long and fruitful life. When one’s spouse passes, there are many emotional, and even psychological, changes that take place that are scientifically supported.

Everyone is unique, so mood function varies in how individuals react to their spouse’s death. Those who suffered more depression post-loss had more changes in their mood function compared to those less sad and depressed. The fact is older generations often experience these deep feelings and we never even know! They keep them inside and emotionally suffer. 

There are clinical cases of physical changes when someone loses a spouse: higher levels of systemic inflammation, immune system genes are more likely to respond inappropriately and the body produces fewer antibodies when given vaccines. (But the emotions are what I am focusing on with your aunt.)

Then we add age.

Your aunt’s feelings are real and to be expected. I heard similar thoughts from both of my grandmothers when their husbands passed. My own mother this past year, in relation to being ready to go be with Jesus, was focused on these topics in her conversations the year prior.

Individuals can get physically and emotionally weak, yet their spirit and relationship with Christ stays strong. So they hold hope – a powerful thing. They “know” they will be with Jesus and any loved ones who have passed. So they truly feel the desire to go and that their time here has been complete.

Honor your aunt’s feelings. Ask her, “Tell me about those feelings.” Affirm her, “I can see how you might feel.” Listen and reflect back. Then tell her how blessed you are she is still here. The things to not do are blatantly dismiss how she feels or assertively try to change her feelings. Honor who she is – and pray.

The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian


Dear Loving Nieces,

The emotions stirred up by conversations with loved ones like this can be intense and overwhelming. On the one hand, we want to be supportive of them and their desires, but on the other we don’t want to lose our loved ones.

You are right in assuring your aunt that none of us know when it will be our time to leave this flesh and enter eternity with the Lord and our loved ones who’ve gone before. You can certainly be thankful that she sounds like she has led a full life and doesn’t look back with regrets or shame! And, of course, after being married and sharing life with someone for so many years you can understand how she longs to be with her husband again.

Jesus told His followers that He was going to prepare a place for them. And if He went to prepare a place for them, He would take them to be with Him where He was. (John 14:1-3) That’s the hope that believers have – that there is something better waiting for us on the other side of eternity.

You asked the question: “Is there anything we can say to her to help her understand?” Knowing how to comfort an aging loved one is challenging at best and heart-wrenching at its worst. Whether you feel pressure to come up with the right words, or you are just not sure where to begin, your feelings are normal. Even though she seems in good health, obviously she can’t do everything she used to do, which can lead her to begin thinking, “I don’t want to get to the point of being a burden on family.”

Another concern of aging people is that they have probably lost many of their peers and friends that they shared life with. Fortunately, there are things you can say or do to help you and your aunt feel loved and more at peace. One of the things a person misses the most after they lose a former spouse of many years is meaningful shared experiences and conversations. I would suggest that you and your family members make opportunities to engage your aunt in meaningful conversation. Talk with her about the fullness of her life and the relationship she had with her husband, her children and her grandkids. Listen carefully, respond calmly and be sure to let your aunt take the conversational lead. For instance, when she says, “I’ve done it all!” ask her to talk to you about the highlights of her life. You can begin with questions like: “What is the most adventurous thing you have done? The most exciting place you have visited? The greatest accomplishment you have made? Something you wished you could have done but were never able to?”

Most importantly, let her know that you understand that it is normal for her to long for eternity and for her husband who has gone on before. And when the Lord chooses to take her home it will be in His timing not ours. In the meantime, enjoy every moment you have with her and let the love of Jesus flow through you to her.

Pastor Randy Foster 


Question: I have a good friend who is getting a divorce – not because she wants to. Her husband has been cheating and has decided he wants to marry someone else. They’ve been married for over 20 years. My problem is she keeps telling her “story” over and over to me. I could probably play it back to her word for word.

I really care about her and could use some advice about telling her I’ve heard it all and she doesn’t have to keep repeating it. Her negativity often, to me, ruins our time together. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.

~ Caring Friend


Dear Caring Friend,

First of all, I’m sorry for your friend’s pain. I know what betrayal and being cheated on feels like. Please tell her you’re sorry (I’m sure you have already told her). Next, when she launches into her sob story – and I’m not making light of her pain – tell her as gently as you can that you have heard her story. But now she needs to move on.

How do you move on from such a devastating loss? Speak to a therapist. Tell your friend that you know she’s not “crazy” and that her pain is real. But a therapist can help. I personally have seen a therapist and I feel the experience did me a world of good.

Your friend seems to be “stuck.” She can’t seem to move beyond feeling crushed and betrayed. To get “unstuck” and to move along with her life, speaking to a therapist can help. Otherwise, she will wallow in her pain forever, and you will be forced to listen to the same sad story over and over again. So having her speak to a therapist will not only help her; it will also help you

Good luck and thank you for caring.

The Rev. C. L. “Skip” Lindeman


Dear Caring Friend,

I don’t understand why your friend would want to stay in a marriage with someone who has been “cheating.” You say she doesn’t want a divorce, but has agreed to it because her unfaithful spouse wants to leave her for another woman. The Serenity Prayer has taught me that the only person, place or thing that we can control is ourselves. His choice to behave that way has nothing to do with your friend, whether she was a terrible wife or a great one. It takes two to make a marriage, yet it sounds like your friend is not willing to move on and is holding on to her victim story.

In New Thought philosophy, we often say that we may have bad times, but we don’t want to build a condo there. Unforgiveness, anger and hurt (and your friend has every right to feel all of those things) will eventually poison all aspects of her life if she does not move through those feelings and get to the other side of them.

People cheat. People lie, and steal, and hurt each other. However, each of us has a choice as to how we respond to feeling hurt. In reality, no one else has the power to hurt us unless we give them that power. Sometimes that’s exactly what we do.

Author Marianne Williamson said, “All human behavior is either love or a call for love.” A 20-year marriage that is unhealthy, and is now over, is a chance for your friend to love herself more fully and discover who she is and what she wants in her life and in her life partner.

I suggest that your friend get some professional counseling, to gain clarity and perspective. And when she begins to tell you her tale of woe for yet another time, it is okay for you to say, “I’m here for you, you are my dear friend, and it is time to move past this. Tell me something that you are grateful for.” Gratitude is the best way to shift us out of self-pity and into that inner place of knowing that love is truly all there is, and that we always have the strength of spirit within us that can overcome anything.

Rev. Karen Mitchell