Many of us have already had this sad experience. As we age, many more of us will. This is one of the harder parts of growing older.
When a friend or family member’s husband dies, you want to help and you want to be a good friend. But how?
12 Suggestions for Supporting a New Widow
1. Listen, listen, listen. A woman who has lost a husband longs to share her memories. She may want to discuss how he died. Let her talk about what she wants to talk about, when she wants to, and as often as she wants to. Don’t offer clichés or platitudes, just provide a shoulder to cry on and listen.
2. Follow her lead. She may want to talk about her husband some days. On others she may want the distraction of discussing “normal” life and everyday things. Follow her cues.
3. Stay in touch. If she doesn’t want to go out or take calls or return calls, don’t take it personally. Leave her a message or send a card to let her know you’re there, thinking of her, and available.
4. Remember grief has a life of its own. Each person grieves in a different way and pace. Your friend is the midst of a trauma. Initially she may be more on automatic pilot and as time goes on the loss may become more vivid. The pain may get worse, even a year down the road. There’s no time limit or timetable on grief.
5. Sometimes just being there is what matters. Tell her, for example, that you’re just going to sit in the living room and read your book, but you’re available.
6. Don’t offer advice. Don’t tell her what she should and should not do. If she asks for advice, talk it out with her. Ask her what she’s thinking or feeling. Help her think out loud and consider options.
7. Don’t EVER tell her you understand how she feels! Even if you’ve been widowed yourself. Don’t tell her about someone you know in a “similar” situation either.
8. Invite her out to someplace new. The old places are filled with memories. As she’s ready, new places and activities that you invite her to can help her start her new life.
9. Do things that aren’t specifically couple-oriented. Spend more one-on-one time with her.
10. Don’t ask if she is “over it” no matter how long she has been widowed. She will hopefully get “on with it” but the loss will be with her forever.
11. Lend a hand. Everyday chores can be overwhelming to someone who is grief-stricken. Ease some of her burden by bringing over a meal (the first few weeks she’ll likely be buried with food brought by others but then most people stop doing this), or some groceries, doing yard work, or running errands.
12. Ask what she needs. Don’t assume you know. She may want help with practical matters like paperwork or something more emotional like getting rid of her husband’s clothes. If she doesn’t know what she needs, just do your best. (If you’re following the other suggestions here, your best will be very good.)
Many of these ideas were based on How to Support a Recently Widowed Friend. If you want more details on these suggestions, please read the full article.
What about you?
Have you been on the giving or receiving end of this? Do you think these are helpful ways to support a new widow? What other do’s and don’ts would you suggest? Tell us in Comments below.