When a Spouse Dies

Excerpt from a pamphlet

When human hearts no longer beat and human lungs no longer breath a person is said to die. But, as is said in the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, “We are not human beings because of our bodies but because of our spirits.” This booklet speaks to the loss of a married partner from the perspective of the teachings I’ve grown up with in the New Church (Swedenborgian). It is offered as encouragement to those of any faith who know in their hearts that they are still connected to and will be reunited with their married partners in the world to come.

Comments are from people who grew up with these beliefs as well as some who were introduced to them as adults. “Conjugial love” is used to describe a faithful, loving married relationship of body, mind and spirit that begins in this world and is perfected in the next. This love is for all who desire and work toward an eternal marriage.

The following quote, and quotes throughout the book, are from Swedenborg’s writings.

“When anyone passes from the natural

into the spiritual world, he takes all things

belonging to him as a human being

except his earthly body.”

Heaven and Hell


(from the above booklet)

Knowing that our partners are alive and well in the next life is of great comfort, but does not eliminate the need to grieve.

The intensity, of course, varies according to circumstances, but for most it is a painful process that cannot and should not be avoided. It is a necessary part of survival and growth. Grief is actually a gift that might be compared to the benefits  of going through painful physical therapy. The more work we are willing to do, the better our physical outcome will be. Grief involves physical, emotional and spiritual effort to adjust to this dramatic change in our lives. To try to avoid it only prolongs it. We have no choice. It forces us to examine what we’ve learned and what we truly believe. It is emotional and spiritual work that can strengthen and sustain us. You may identify with some of these descriptions of the grief process from members of our group.

* “The grieving process…is amazingly painful, physically as well as emotionally.”

* “When my husband died I was mostly in a daze.”

* “Loosing my wife was the greatest struggle of my entire life.”

* “The hardest part was going to church. I sat alone. People shied away.”

*”I got a new job…not on purpose…it caused my grief to be delayed…later however, grief did come.”

*”At first the pain is constant and inescapable.”

*”I miss holding my husband.”

*”When I felt I was making progress I was discouraged by relapses which I’ve learned since are normal.”

“Temptations are spritual labor in us.” Swedenborg

God does not will or cause prolonged illness or what may appear as untimely death, but must sometimes permit these for eternal reasons. This is true of all difficulties during our lives on earth. The longer we all live, the more evidence accumulates that the Lord can turn our most difficult challenges into blessings. When we dwell on the pain and feelings of injustice, we obstruct our ability to discover possible reasons and even blessings of our temporary separation. This change in perspective does not come quickly or easily, but my experience with many people tells me that after a period of time, most have no difficulty recognizing positive growth and change in their lives. The following are quotes from members of the Widows/Widowers group.

* “I have become a better wife to him since our separation.”

*”This experience has opened me to a new awareness of God and His mercy.”

*”I have become stronger and more worthy of my partner.”

*”Since his death, I feel I love him more than I ever did before.”

*”I feel her love and presence in my life.”

*”I’ve learned to pray.”

*”I feel positive I will actually see him again and be with him and that is the greatest joy and comfort of all.”

*”I realize my natural marriage is now done..but now notice my spiritual marriage.”

“A wife becomes more and more a wife and a husband more and more a husband as they become more and more interior.” Swedenborg

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