When did you first realize it? For me: the day after the kids went home. The memorial service was over. The van sat in the driveway with no place to go. The house held an eerie sense of emptiness, even though it was newly redecorated and fully furnished.
As a person who has spent more years of her adult life living alone than with another person or persons, I thought I’d handle the adjustment to this new aloneness with no trouble. I thought I could do it on my own without any stress. I thought I’d take one month to re-adjust and then go sailing into the future as the calendar turned to the new year.
Guess what. I was wrong. For the past 15 years, I’ve been learning how to be home alone. Two key words: home and alone.
One of my first acts was to surrender to God and invite him to be the Lord of my life and home (again). Read more about that process here.
Then I began the process of not only defining the new normal for my life, but also making a new home for myself.
At first, I stayed in the same house where my husband Gene and I had been living together. My priority was adjusting that house to become my home. Rearranging furniture. Giving away items that weren’t important to me. Changing the rooms for different uses. Taking care of (or hiring someone to take care of) a variety of household repairs that we had put off for too long. Giving attention to maintenance needs that I just hadn’t had time to do. That took up a lot of my time!
After five years of doing that, God provided me with a new job and new place to live. I relocated to the Chicago area and (after some unexpected turns) made a new home for myself there.
I’ve lived here now longer than I’ve lived in any other home except my childhood home. What an interesting, unexpected part of God’s plan!
Home alone takes on a new connotation when you are a widow. As a widow who works a full-time job and has a long commute each weekday, I have many hours and days when I am alone. In the car and in my home.
What have I learned on this long and winding journey? Here are my tips for redefining home alone as a widow.
Make your home YOUR home. Redecorating, re-arranging, re-organizing, recycling, reducing are okay. Your deceased husband and your adult kids (probably) aren’t going to live with you again.
If something in your home reminds you of painful memories, get rid of it. If your home feels too crowded, get rid of some stuff. If your home feels too empty, buy some new stuff. If colors you once loved no longer please you, redecorate. Sometimes moving furniture or re-allocating rooms for different uses can give you an entirely new perspective on life!
Play music you enjoy hearing. Listen to and learn from podcasts and audiobooks. Make a cozy, comfortable spot for yourself where you enjoy spending undistracted time. If you have a fireplace, use it.
Use your creativity to make and display things that please you. Combine memories with new discoveries. Decorate for the holidays, if you enjoy doing that.
Treat yourself to delicious, nutritious meals just to your liking. Use your best dishes, glassware, and flatware. Eat at your favorite table. Every meal. Every day. Light candles if you want to. Turn off the TV.
Grow plants and flowers in your home and yard. Seeing new life is always encouraging. Spend time outside, enjoying your porch or deck and watching the gifts from God in his creation.
Establish your home. Dedicate your home to the Lord. Remove anything that is not pleasing to him or contradicts the teachings of his Word. Be respectful of the Lord in your language, thoughts, and actions. Your home is your recharging and re-energizing station as you serve him.
Welcome others into your home. Our first temptation is to think our home isn’t clean enough or nice enough to entertain others. Let go of those thoughts! Others will respond when they enter a home filled with God’s love.
Invite friends to join you in your home for coffee, a meal, a movie, a game night, a book club or Bible study. Invite family members to join you for holiday celebrations. That may be tough at first, but it gets easier as your family draws closer together.
Avoid inviting strangers into your home without anyone else present. Get to know them well at other locations before you take that risk. If you do extend that invitation, invite others to join you.
Two of the best guests I’ve welcomed into my home are Raven and Jet, now my feline companions. They give me so much warmth and enjoyment. Remember that pets are also a responsibility to care for, requiring time and financial resources. Avoid taking on too many pets or overcommitting to them.
Protect your home. Pray over your home. That’s the first and most important protection. Keep your home secure with whatever rules, repairs, or equipment you need to feel safe.
Remember you are never really home alone. God is always with you. Watching over you. Protecting you. Providing for your needs. Pointing you to what can help you and deterring you from what isn’t good for you.
Stay strong in your faith. Stay in God’s Word. Stay close to him.
“God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. … You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping” (Psalm 18:30-32, 35-36).
All photos by Laura Wasson Warfel, unless otherwise credited.
Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know them) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2018 by Laura Warfel