‘A Widow’s Spiritual Senses Are On High Alert’


EDITOR’S NOTE: Acclaimed Catholic writer Amy Welborn fielded our questions about Wish You Were Here, the new book that chronicles her trip to Sicily five months after her husband Mike’s sudden death from a heart attack. Check back next Monday, May 28, for part two, when Amy shares her writing process and advice.


How do you feel about the term widow?  

I admit I don’t like it.

Not because it is a direct expression identifying me primarily with the death of my husband, but really because it makes me feel old. Perhaps I am, in a way – I’m 51 now – but I admit that I’m not comfortable with it.  In a way it doesn’t make any sense to me to identify myself for the rest of my life as a widow. I don’t understand the sense of wearing that as my primary identifying badge for the rest of my life.


When it came to your own path forward and the well being of your young boys, you worried that all the bundled grief and knotted pain would one day explode – and that when this happened, it would be your fault. How did you overcome that?

Well, it did explode, daily, in small ways, usually when everyone went to sleep at night or went to school. Any time I found myself alone for the first time in a while, the pressure would come off and tears would flow. Not in a super-dramatic breakdown, but it was clear to me what I was bottling up, mostly for my children’s sake, so I would be functional for them.


Was moving to a new house a crucial step in your healing?

It was.

I’ll make clear that moving was always in the cards. At the time of Mike’s death we were living in an apartment, awaiting the sale of our home in Indiana. So that move was going to happen anyway.

But it was a relief to get out of the apartment, which did not have happy associations for me.


I imagine your 18-year-old self didn’t expect you’d be a single mom at 51. How have you come to terms with it?

I’ve just lived life. I don’t sit around and ponder the twists and turns of my life in a “why” kind of way. I focus on where God is present in whatever is going on, wherever my decisions have led, and try to listen.


It seems to me that widows and widowers, especially younger ones, can be the forgotten group. We hear much more about those who lose spouses through divorce. Is this your sense too? Is there a need for more concerted, church-led outreach to the widowed?

I don’t know. I have different kind of feelings on “concerted, church-led outreach” to any group.

I do think that one of the things that most parishes lack that is almost a necessity is some kind of ministry that is available to provide aid to widows and widowers that goes beyond bringing lasagna to the house after a death.

I managed fine, but I often thought, as I navigated the maze of legal and financial matters that confront you after a spouse dies, that if I weren’t as comfortable with such matters and didn’t have someone to help me, it could be a real nightmare. It seems to me that the best outreach to a widow or widower is to have it be standard for someone to sit down with the widow or widower and ask if they need help in those matters and have individuals in the parish willing to volunteer to help during that first year and direct them to resources.


The exploration of Italian culture in your book is so interesting. What’s your favorite Italian word?

Sicilia. The “c” is pronounced “ch,” and I just love to say it.


The story about the electrician in your epilogue gave me goose bumps. (I’ll leave it at that and urge readers to buy Wish You Were Here to get the whole story.) Have you experienced other moments of serendipity like that one, instances that seem orchestrated by the Holy Spirit?

I experienced several, and they are all in the book.

Absolutely. I do think that these hints – and sometimes more – of God’s presence are everywhere, and in the midst of an experience like a death, our spiritual senses are on high alert – I know mine were – simply because we are looking, looking, looking for one who is not there and for the reasons, and so we are more aware of them.





Further reading

CatholicMatch member Barb Tess blogs monthly about her experience as a widow.



  1. Deborah-1145379 November 11, 2014 Reply

    I thank you all so much for responses. My husband died in 2012, came home from a bike ride, had a heart attack in our living room. I watched him die. I know my faith in God has sustained me with a wonderful church family & the blessings of family members. I found out (or am finding out) the more I try to imitate Christ’s behavior the better things are for me.

  2. David-870960 May 3, 2014 Reply

    I’m intrigued, Amy; I’ll look for your book.
    The sudden loss of loved ones is the hardest… It violates the senses and our hearts; forcing us to question…
    I don’t really accept the “Everything happens for a reason!” adage, but I do accept – and perhaps “know” – that our Glorious and Merciful God can build new wonders from any misfortune; may it be so for you.
    Wishing you the best.

  3. Brenda-74660 July 27, 2012 Reply

    Amy very sorry for your loss, parts of what I am seeing here intrigues me. I lost my only son at the age of 22 last year…..your writing seems to have a positive Christian theme.

  4. Barrie-864038 June 4, 2012 Reply

    Amy, the English language is poverty stricken when it comes to describing our emtions and our true feelings. The sense of loss leaves us with a feeling of hopelesness and a knot in our chest. We ask, “Why? Why me? Why him/her?”
    We watch TV and start crying for no apparent reason; we wake up in the middle of the night crying; we know God has a plan for us, but for months we cry throughout the Mass. We try to rationalize that in the fullness of time, God will heal our broken heart and lead us down the path that only He knows we should follow. The lonliness, the self-pitty, the guilt are like companions that follow us everywhere we go. There is no substance that will ease the pain; we want to give up on oursleves and often those around us, but our faith sustains us. We are lost: we know we can’t go back, and yet, there seems to be no way forward. We know intellecually we are to succumb to the will of the Lord, and yet, the pain of loss, the emptiness, the wish for one last touch, embrace or kiss haunts our every waking moment. Life seems hopeless, but God’s love, which is beyond all human understanding, will sustain us. We only see the here and the now, but God’s vision is unlimited. Time and faith are the only things that are going to heal us. No one can possibly know or feel what you have gone through unless they have traveled the same path, and then, it is different for each person.Thank you for your story and inspiratrion.


  5. Anne-702606 May 23, 2012 Reply

    I am a widow for the last 14 years and now i am 51 years. The life experience a widow goes through is very tough only God who can heal her and strength her and that is why all widows and widowers are advised to read the Holy Bible chapter 54 it will encourage you by knowing that you are not alone.

    1. God the Father is the Father of the Fatherless and He is the husband to the widows. Note the words God takes over when your husband has passed on. What we need to do is first keep praying and seek God’s guidance. as it is written in Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you or forsake you.

    However as time goes on you come to stand up right and move on with life but always put God first in your life and your children’s life.

    What we need most is to pray and God will guide us to the right direction.

    Be blessed
    From Kenya

  6. Ann-850106 May 21, 2012 Reply

    Hi Amy, Im sorry for your loss,I know and can feel how it broke our hearts. Your story touches me as we’ve been though the same thing, my husband also passed away from a heart attack which made me feel so devastated, lost and hopeless. But then I realized this is not what GOD wanted us to do, like you, we also have LIFE to live on and yy the Grace of God, I was able to take courage to stand up and fight for myself, live the happy and positive life and thankful for everything God Has Blessed me with!!!
    May you story will also inspires other widows and widowers out there. Wish you luck in all your endeavors!
    God Bless Us,

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