Surviving After the Death of My Wife

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If she was still here, she would tell me, “Paul, pull up your pants and live life. You can do it.”

My wife, Karin, died suddenly of a heart attack in July 2020. I found her lying on the floor in her sewing room. I never had the chance to say goodbye.

My life changed drastically that summer night. I was now a widower with an unknown future. We were planning to move from Iowa back to her former home of Wisconsin. I was uneasy about that move and often prayed, “Lord, if this isn’t your will, please blow it up.” I never imagined he would blow it up with Karin’s death.

We were married for seven years and knew each other for 10. I was a bachelor until age 56; Karin had previously been married. She was a planner, and I would often joke with her by saying, “Well, Karin, what do you have planned for July 4, 2025?” But plans came to a quick halt. No more trips, no more grocery runs, no more doing life together. I was devastated. I was alone.

The first few days after Karin’s death, God gave me a song. The group I Am They wrote a piece titled “Faithful God,” where part of the lyric states, “I know my story; it isn’t over.” I thought, “Karin’s earthly journey is over, but my life continues.” Through many tears while listening to that song, God gave me hope when I desperately needed some.

My grief journey has been difficult. I lost oneness with Karin. When the Bible says a husband and wife are one flesh, it is correct. You realize that more when it is taken away.

Although the grief process has improved, I still have moments of despair. Recently I suffered a long bout with a sinus infection. That triggered feelings of major fear and loneliness. Karin wasn’t there to soothe me with her encouraging words, hold my hand, or give me a hug. Grief blindsides me at other times too. For example, I can shop in the produce section of a grocery store, where a memory will be triggered, and I’ll feel the tears start to well up.

I have tried to look at my grief rationally. Karin is with the Lord, so why am I so sad at times? As much as we would like to deal with death from heaven’s side, we cannot. We are still on the sin side of life dealing with loss, pain, suffering, and the negative consequences of this broken world. I yearn for the day when that ceases.

I hope to build on Karin’s legacy of quiet service. She was a social worker and mental health therapist for more than 30 years. Karin loved people who were poor, disadvantaged, or society’s outcasts. She was the most giving person I have ever known. Whether she was providing a meal for someone in tough circumstances, sending a card or gift, buying a meal for a stranger in a restaurant, or encouraging someone with words, Karin displayed the hands and feet of Jesus.

Another thing I appreciated about Karin is that she overcame much in her life. She endured a childhood with difficulties that bled into adulthood. Karin was not a quitter, and she simply persevered on numerous occasions.

Karin had her faults, too. She was opinionated, extremely driven, and at times laser-focused. But overall she was a great lady, and many people loved and appreciated her.

Karin had a profound impact on my life. She loved me, took care of me, and encouraged me. If she were still here, she would tell me, “Paul, pull up your pants and live life. You can do it.”

When I think of that, it makes me smile. My grief is replaced with hope. God still has a mission for me here.

About the Author

Paul Delger is a long time professional writer and inspirational speaker to young people and lives in Kanawha, Iowa.

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