A Report from One Who Has Been Grieving the Death of His Spouse

Cliff Williams

November 5, 2022

Linda died three months ago today, on August 5, 2022. Even though I had many months to prepare for her death, it was more painful than I ever imagined it would be. When I discovered that she was no longer breathing first thing that morning, the image of her lying completely motionless, with her eyes shut and her mouth open, instantly began to haunt me.

During the coming weeks I had tortuous fits of sobbing. Though they lasted less than a minute, they were excruciating.

I could scarcely get up in the morning. Although I sensed that life could be good again whenever I talked with someone via video call or in person, that sense left me as soon as the call ended or the person left. I felt paralyzed—I could not do the things I had previously loved.

At times I wondered why there is such a thing as death. Actually, it was less wondering and more a piercing resentment at death’s having taken my Linda.

Mostly, I simply went through the motions of staying alive.

There was no precise moment when things began to change. I kept doing numerous video calls. I saw people, sometimes on the front porch and sometimes for walking. They listened and gave warm affection. I started going to lectures and music events at nearby Wheaton College, Illinois, occasionally running into people I knew. I gradually increased the length and speed of my walking to recover from hernia surgery several weeks after Linda died.

Doing these functioned as something of a rescue operation. The people I encountered helped deliver me from constant, incapacitating sorrow. I now wake up sometimes with anticipation. I have largely stopped being paralyzed. More of what I do has come to feel worthwhile.

My sorrow is not gone. I don’t know whether I will ever adjust to an empty house. Sometimes those initial pangs of grief return and overwhelm me. I have not yet fully accepted the fact that Linda is actually gone—I continue to wear my wedding ring, and the answering machine for the landline phone continues to say, “This is Linda and Cliff’s. Leave a message if you’d like. We’d love to hear from you.”

Still, it feels as though I might be able to love life all over again. The gratitude I have for those with whom I have spent time itself feels life-giving. I have gotten beyond the interlude I have been in.

Numerous times while Linda lay dying I gave her a Julian-of-Norwich reassurance: “Everything will be okay. You will be okay. God will take care of you. She will hold you in her large and loving hands. And I will be okay.” For a while after Linda’s death, I was not okay. But now I am, mostly, sometimes even more than okay.

Linda Williams' obituary is at https://www.hultgrenfh.com/obituary/linda-williams, and a video of the Wheaton memorial service is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kI_tTn1OrnU, starting about minute eighteen.

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