Saturday, May 3, 2008

How To Help A New Widow Or Widower

I found this article today that really hit home. I have always wondered what I would say to someone that now finds themselves bereaved, something that would be helpful, not hindering. I don't want to be a Don't Get It (DGI) for someone else! I did attend a funeral a year and a half ago, and I'm not sure I said anything helpful to the new widower. But then I wasn't really there for him anyway — I went more to grieve for myself in a place where it would be acceptable for me to cry publicly (which I did from the moment I walked in the door ;-).

Anyway, as soon as I saw this article, I knew I needed to post it so others could benefit, as well as myself. You might even want to print it out and send it to people you know. Enjoy!

7 tips to help a widow/widower

This really helped me the first few times I felt abandoned by family/friends/church members who had insisted they would be there for me...and then a couple of months later... "life" happened to them as I was desperately trying to stay still and not lose the fragile state of denial I was in. LOL I copied and sent via email to all the people I know. The ones who responded have said it really helped them to feel okay about feeling awkward and not knowing what to say. They have an awesome article about friendships and changes in those also. Just FYI it is a faith based webpage. Hope it helps.


1. Please do stay connected. There is already a huge hole in our universe. Do not assume we need 'space' to grieve.

2. Please do say you are sorry for our loss. We would rather you tell us you do not know what to say than tell us your story of loosing your friend or even close relative We may be able to listen to your story later, but not now. Do not tell us you understand.

3. Do call and ask specifically, "Can we go for a walk together? May I run errands for you? Meet you for coffee?" Do not say, "Call me if you need anything."

4. Do refer to our spouse's acts or words - serious or humorous. We are so comforted by knowing our spouse has not been forgotten. Do not leave our spouses out of the conversation.

5. Invite us to anything. We may decline but will appreciate being asked. Do not assume we no longer want to participate in couples events.

6. Do accept that we are where we are. Marriages are brief, long, healthy, dysfunctional, intense, remote. Death comes suddenly or in tiny increments over years. Again our experiences are so different, as are we. So is our journey through grief. Do not assume we go through the outlined grief process 'by the book.'

7. Walk the talk. Do not make 'conversation only' offers. "We'll call you and we'll go out to dinner." — and then not follow up. Yes, we are sensitive in our grieving, but we'd rather hear you say, "I've been thinking of you," than make a 'conversation only' offer.


Jon said...

This article hits home as my wife passed 12/16/09 and I am a fairly yougish 53 and i heard people saying all the things that were discussed in the piece. People are freaking out that I want to try to get back to my life. My wife and I discussed this scenario as it might happen to either one of us maybe. I will always have the wonderful memories of our 20 years together and will never forget her but know it's now time to LIVE again.

Vic said...

Hi Jon,

I'm very sorry for your loss. You are right, life is for the living. The biggest change in my life is that I now live much more in the present (I used to live always thinking about the future).

I wish you the very best, and I hope you find some comfort here in this blog and elsewhere on the web.

May you find peace,


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. As you can see, you are still touching people long after you posted this. My friend recently lost her husband and I want to comfort her if I can. Just looking for ideas, as I don't want to be offensive in any way. Thanks again.

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous,

Blessings upon you for wanting to help your friend! A huge way you can help her is to simply be with her and listen to her. Sitting with someone who is in pain and listening to them express that pain is a tremendous, tremendous gift.

Another way to help would be to help her find a grief support group in her area. If you need help, drop me a line and I'll do what I can to help.

Thanks again for your comment!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info. My friend just lost her husband and I wanted to express my condolence but I do not want to ever forget how much he meant to us. I really want to continue to include her and her family in all we do just as we did when He was still alive but we live miles apart
we will just have to make it work just as we did before.

amber said...

I came across this page and it really hit home. i have been looking and looking all the time for a way to get over the grief. I realize now that the grief will never go away. people don't understand what it is like unless they have lost someone themselves. the phone calls that don't come or the friends who tell you to move on with life to let it go. they don't understand what it is like to live everyday knowing you are part of the reason that the one you loved is gone. knowing your raising two kids all alone and now trying to figure out how to explain all of it to your 7yr son who was six at the time.Or want to tell you how to parent your children when one wants to pull away and hide and the other just wants to hurt himself when he is angry. it hurts so much and no one understands. people say it gets easier everyday and over time but, i doesn't it gets harder every single day and yes you learn how to put on that smile cause thats what everyone expects but inside you are dieing all over again every try for the kids sake but it is so hard to hold it together when in reality you are all alone. people think if you do not accept an offer you are blowing them off and they don't offer again.its not the case.i don't want to be all alone and people don't get that. they keep saying i need to concentrate on the kids and myself that i need to be alone but i don't need that i need someone who understands who wants to help me who wants to be there for my kids i need someone who gets that life truely sucks at times and no amount of time makes it go away or all sunshine and rainbows. i'm sorry this is still so hard and its been almost a year. i have moved and have to movve back again to the house it happened in and that is the hardest part. seeing my son and daughter upset and crying or for my son to hurt himself.i have had him in counseling but it doesnt seem to help. my daughter has just retreated back into herself all over again. i am so tired of making all the descions and praying that they are the right ones. knowing a lot of this is my fault. i miss my husband so much even with all the bad there was a lot of good too. no one understands that the tears are not always sadness. i am sorry for rambling just sometimes it needs to come out. don't suggest counseling for me it will not happen. no insurance no help. i will be okay i just need to rant sometimes. my husband died October 3,2010.

Vic said...

Hi Amber, I'm very sorry for your loss.

By all means, rant! These feelings you have, they need to come out. I'm not going to suggest counselling -- I never got any myself, nor would I have gone. But you did state that you need "someone who understands who wants to help me." You will find many people like that at your local grief peer-support group. Mine did wonders for me. And especially because you have kids, try to find a grief peer-support group close to you, and then go there. Just once, to try them out. Likely, they will have a program to help your kids as well as yourself.

It's funny -- lots of grieving needs to be done alone, but lots of grieving needs to be done with others who are in the same boat as we are. People who won't judge us, tell us what to do or not do, or tell us to "move on." People who will simply listen to our pain, listen to hear us say how hard it is, and hear about our concerns for our kids.

You said that you've been looking for a way to "get over the grief." I don't believe that people get over grief -- I believe that people get through it. I speak from experience. I got through it, one ugly, angry, painful, empty, frustrating, heartbreaking day at a time.

Now that it has been almost a year, you will have noticed that grief changes. It isn't some static monolith, always present, silent, omnipresent.

Grief changes. And as it changes, we change too.

Grief doesn't go away. It is a process. One we can complete, just like a journey. That's why I love that African proverb about the desert -- the only way out is through.

I'm reading a fair bit of guilt in your post. You know what? You did the best you could at the time. And you know what? You're doing the best you can now. And you know what? It's enough. What you can do is enough.

May you find peace,


Jim said...

I lost my lovely wife of ten years last August of 2012. I gues I'm on this blog as, like I'm sure everyone else has, experience good days and bad. I'm 58 and, right now, do not want to get into the dating scence again. My younger sister has given me sage advice in saying never say never. The worst part is finding a coping mechanism. I try and convince myself that she is not suffering and in a much better palce and my want for her is stricly a selfish indulgence. Nonetheless, I realize that everyone finds themselves eventually. Yes. Life is for the living and I am very slowly making adjustments in my life. Thanks and to widows and widowers, maintain an even strain.

Anonymous said...

My wife died less than a week ago and the one 'hint' that was the closest to home was 'Don't tell me you know how I feel'. That is a guarantee for fire in my eyes and a bite to my tongue. The other thing that really sets me off is people suggesting counsellors. I don't need no stinkin' counsellors. What I need is a friend with some free time.

I am 66 and have to redefine my life.

Michael in Nelson

Anonymous said...

My husband of 18 yrs died suddenly on oct 14 2013. Still do not have a cause of death. I just turned 60 this week. It hurts so bad. Everyone was around for the funeral and burial but now nothing. I go to work and home. No energy to do anything else. I miss him so much.

Jerry said...

I lost my wonderful wife of 38 yrs suddenly on Dec 6 2013. It feels like my whole insides are being torn out of me. My daughter and son have been terrific, and some very close friends. But I wonder what the future holds, when the phone calls no longer come, and the support system vanishes". I'm 58,disabled and she was always my rock. It's been almost a month now, and the rawness of it is as real now as when she first died. I came upon your article by searching the web for at least some little comfort. Your article hit home as some of these are already happening. I feel no anger toward my friends, for they really don't know the loss, the emptiness,the utter sorrow and sadness that comes with this. I've lost both my parents, and though that hurt mightily,this is so much different and deep.

Nicole said...

Dear Jerry,

I'm so sorry for your loss. My father, my mother's husband of nearly 60 years, died a month ago, on December 22nd. She is completely devastated. Like you, it is as painful for her as when he first passed. We knew he was sick for years, but it still felt so sudden. Looking back, I wish so much we had paid more attention to the signs, and been more understanding.
I wonder what the future holds for my mom, too. I want to be there for her, but she keeps pushing me away. In a few minutes I'm headed out to take the kids to visit her, which seems to help, even if sometimes she's initially annoyed.
I have no idea how to comfort you, but I had to reply. All I know is it sure can be hell here on Earth, and my dad knew this. Even in the most painful states of his illness, he knew how to find pleasure in things. He enjoyed being around his loved ones, and has taught us to appreciate each other so much. He enjoyed good food, and the comforts of so many things like watching great movies in his pajamas, holding hands, and good coffee. He was so compassionate towards animals, and took such interest in technology and the goings on of the world. These are the kinds of things we try to focus on as we are still here in this life, and look forward to the time we will all be a family together again in the mysterious hereafter.
(Continued the next morning)
Visited my mom last night, she actually seemed better, although she had been crying on the phone with me earlier that day. She actually sang a little song, something to do with a story she was telling, and then said it was the first time she had felt like singing.
She lives with my sister so she isn't alone.
Anyway, Jerry, please stay close to your support system, and know from others' examples that it will get better. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Vic. My friend/colleague has just lost her husband of 9 1/2 yrs. They were childhood sweethearts and she's now left to deal not just with her own sorrow, but with a load of debt, 2 young kids and his aged parents who live with them. She's Hindu, and we live in India, so it's unlikely that she will ever find spousal companionship again. Your post has helped me understand what I can do to be of emotional support. Thanks again.

Vic said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for the positive feedback. I'm very sorry for your friend's loss. You are a good friend.


Anonymous said...

I lost my son of 37 yrs on
Thanksgiving morning in 2011, this year on Thanksgiving it had been 4 weeks since my husband of 31 years had died on October 30, 2014. I miss him very much and feel sick every day since. (He died a horrible death)Not sure why hospitals put people through such stuff. I'm not sure what I'm on here to say but it seems like it is getting harder this fifth week. I also have custody of my three grandchildren and I love them dearly but Im tired of well meaning people telling me that they will help get me through. I already know I am blest to have them in my life but right now a couple weeks to rest would be a God send. Are there any other widows or widowers out there that have physical custody of their grandchildren? I sure would like to know just to talk to one. This is a very busy time with Christmas and all and I will make it somehow but I'm not sure quite how at the moment. I need extra rest right now and time to grive by myself but there is no time to do so. I try not to keep crying in front of the children but every time they see me they ask me whats wrong. I just want to be hugged and my little 9 year old did that today. I think he has more insite than his older sisters. He didn't say a word - he just hugged me. I know this is so hard for them too because their fathers and mother are out of their lives.My husband, their Poppa, was dad and grandpa rolled into one. They all loved him deeply. Sorry for going on but I just had to talk outloud. Thanks for listening.

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm very sorry for your losses.

I only have children, not grandchildren, so I can't really relate to your situation. Is there a grief peer support group anywhere near you? That would be an ideal place to find someone in a similar situation to your own.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

I have a newly widowed acquaintance whom I've known since kindergarten but we were never friends in school. We are now 65 years old. He reached out to me on Facebook in Dec 2014 when she was in her last stages, then she died a month ago. I don't know what to do to console him or if there's anything I can do. I can't really go around his house to help him pack to move because I didn't know her and all their friends would probably resent me and I'm sure he would feel improper about me being in places where they used to go together. I lost a husband 30 years ago after a long illness. When that happened, I got rid of everything that reminded me of him and I couldn't even bear for anyone to mention his name. I sought physical comfort. Reading other accounts, they want to talk about their lost spouse by name. So, I fear that I'm doing everything wrong out of ignorance, not lack of caring. I feel guilty about joking with him, or feeling tender toward him. I don't know if I should hold him or stay completely away. I'm a mess, so I can't begin to imagine what he's going through. I don't want to alienate him by doing the wrong things.

Anonymous said...

Hi All,

I am a new widow my husband of 40 years passed in April. We lost our only child only 6 moths ago to a massive heart attack, his wife found him in the car. I think his loss was the final straw for my husband. I just don't know what to or how to do anything it seems. So much work to straighten out all the accounts. I feel a bit helpless and for a confident business women that's way out of control.

I am a God fearing spirit filled Christian women. But at this time I feel like silly putty. Very mushy. I took care of my husband for the past year and a half. Changed bandages cleaned him fed him and now he's gone. I am lonely and sad.

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm very sorry for your loss.

I can't imagine losing a child and then a spouse in such a short period of time.

Is there a peer-based support group in your area? I found my local group to be immensely helpful. People there understood my pain and together we helped each other. It made a huge difference in my grief journey.

Take care,


debbie kaufman said...

I lost my wonderful husband less than a month ago. I'm miserable although I try to be out doing stuff most of the day. Your 7 comments/suggestions are wonderful. I just wish people would see them and obey. If one more person says, I'll call next week and doesn't. If one more person tells me about losing a parent (I have and it is awful, but this is so so so much worse). It's nice to know I'm not alone, although I am very much alone.

Vic said...

Hi debbie, I'm so sorry for your loss. Yes, we sure find out a lot about people when we grieve. I'm glad you find the 7 comments and suggestions helpful. I hope some of the other posts prove useful also.

Take care,


Dorothyy M said...

I lost my husband two months ago- we were married 67 years ago , tomorrow . We liked the same things , especially Rving , and he was also a Musician.We were in the RCAF and moved over forty times , so I am used to change ,,I thought . We shared a cabin on my daughters farm , after leaving her house to fix the cabin as we wanted it. Now I am finding myself giving way to fits of blinding tears as he chose assisted death due to over a year of CA treatments , and I sat with him for 15 hours until his last breath., andnow that I have done all the paper work etc , I fnd myself wondering , at 91 , what do I do now , as we are Rural
My daughters want me to move back to the house we all shared before this cabin , I keep wondering if I should ,loving as they are . how do I decide ? Blessings to all who suffer this loss .

Ron T said...

I lost my wonderful wife of 25 years to the covid vaccine. I am dealing with the usual grieving process, but what is infuriating me is the way the CDC and government are keeping it all quiet. The people need to know that this is not 100% safe.