Laura and Gene were married for seven years and had known each other for 27 years before that. Their love story is a plot twist: decades after they attended high school together, their friendship turned into romance. They were married in 1995.
But in 2002, Gene passed away. Suddenly, Laura was forced to trade "wife" for "widow". For a while, that label defined her — and, sadly, disabled her.
More Than A Widow
Thirteen years since Gene's passing, Laura is no longer confined by labels; instead, she is spending her heart on a mission to help other widows.
She remembers the shock of heartbreak and major life transition. She relates to the women who find themselves in the same position she found herself in over a dozen years ago, sharing pieces of her story at LauraWarfel.com: I'll admit that it took me at least five years after my husband Gene passed away to realize that I am more than a widow.
"You can't let society dictate how your life will be just because you lost your husband," Laura said in a recent interview.
It's a process, not a destination. A mindset, not a solution. A heartbeat, not a love affair.
From experience, Laura knew that many widows don't ask for help and rarely admit their loneliness and struggles. "Anytime someone feels different in our culture, the temptation for many is to isolate," she said. "It's much easier to isolate than it is to be an activist."
It was God who reassured Laura that she was much more than just a widow.
And it was Jon Acuff who inspired her to turn that lesson into a mission.
Laura describes Jon Acuff as "a motivator of dreamers". During his 2013 Start conference, Laura found her dream. "It was Friday night after a session and I was in my room, praying about what God wanted me to do next. He laid it out for me and I wrote it all in my journal," she said.
What would one day be known as More Than A Widow began to take shape.
"It was exciting and terrifying all in one."
Laura had to face fears — fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of publicly sharing about what it's like to be a widow — before fully allowing herself to dream. But ultimately, she caught the dream securely with both hands: Encouragement, hope, and resources for widows so that no widow has to walk alone.
As Laura builds up other widows according to 1 Thessalonians 5:11, her audience also continues to build. Today, More Than A Widow has an active Facebook page, Twitter account, and twice-weekly blog at www.LauraWarfel.com. Laura's words have reached hundreds of widows as well as pastors, friends, and family who want to better understand and reach out to them.
"I still get scared," Laura said. "What if I put all this effort in and nothing happens?"
That's when she remembers to focus on the few, and to punch out fear.
Laura often reflects on the message she received from a former coworker asking for prayer for a 23-year-old who had just become a widow.
"It gives me chills remembering. That was the spark I needed to know that I wasn't just sharing cool things; I had a responsibility to the people God put in my path. So I made a commitment to regularly pray for everyone that I can identify who is a widow. That can always bring me back to 'If it's just one person that I help, then it's worth it.' Keeps me focused on the right thing, not on numbers or statistics."
Laura has taken the greatest heartache of her life to help ease the ache in others' lives.
"I know that each of us have different struggles and challenges and needs, and most of us don't express those. That just shows me that there is a need for a place where widows can feel comfortable and safe to share when they're having a crummy day or when they're having a great day. The need is there. That spurs me on."
Laura has launched her online resources, but she is still writing a book. Also keep an eye out for Bible study resources as well as Laura herself — as she wants to engage more with widows as a speaker and motivator.