Saw a note about this posted on Julie D.'s blog - a woman named Carol lost her husband recently. I read some of Carol's recent posts to have a better sense of how to pray for her, and, thanks to her honesty, I know.
But, in a sense, there is only one kind of prayer that works for any of us, especially in that situation: intercession. The kind where you get still before God, and lift up the person and their dear ones to Him, trusting Him to guard them from fear and the ploys of the deceiver, and enfold them in His love - even when they, in their fear and misery, can't even believe He's real.
I've mentioned the loss of my mother many years ago. Spiritually, it was like being knocked down and dragged for miles over rough ground. I'd dreaded her death for years. If Carol stops by and reads this, she'll recognize the same stubbornness in refusing to notice purple feet and swollen ankles, and trying to keep going without medical care. It clouds your sympathy and compassion because you're angry, dammit. Furious. Especially when their pig-headedness ends up costing you so much in so many ways! Grrr.
The good that came out of it (and there always IS good, as impossible as it may be to see at the time) was twofold, spiritual and physical. I waited with my sister in a quiet room at the hospital while our mom had a terrible, invasive operation which was ultimately without purpose as it addressed a comparatively minor something. (Neither the doctors nor we were aware of the underlying problem at that time.) Anyway, I sat there with a copy of the Life Application Bible, NSRV version open on my lap (betcha didn't know it was ever published in that version - well, it was) and just let God... just let Him. Surrendered. Gave up. Quit fighting. Allowed Him to rampage all over my life, if that's what He needed to do. He didn't - not in that moment. She survived the operation and stayed alive another month or so. My sister and I were at her side as she died. I was never the same after that. I was much stronger, because I'd learned how to be weak, letting God be the strong One in my life.
The other good thing is my sister and I never allow the other one, or anyone close to us, to get out of taking care of ourselves. Screenings, scans, preventive care, good nutrition, exercise, all of it - we make pests of ourselves. But it's a Cause, dammit. Not only do we not want to give up all that our mom did without due to her stubbornness, we don't want to worry those who love us.
I still have that Bible. It's bristling with Post-It Notes, underlined, marked, the gilt worn off, beat up - but, when I'm dealing with that sense of the black beyond, it is my tool, my shield, my nourishment, my staff to lean upon. With its help, I came to know God as I'd never known Him before. And I know for absolute certain that, if He had not gotten me into that corner where my only option was to surrender to His Will, I'd still be wandering heedlessly, flinching at each tiny threat to my happiness. Now one of the things people notice about me is my calm. Trust me, it's not me; it's Him. More specifically, knowing that He is there and in control, no matter what's going on. Just reach out. He'll hear you. It may be better for you that you don't sense His presence; just trust that He's there. My favorite prayer from those times: "Thank You, God, for the good we cannot yet see."