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Widows Share How Family and Friends Can be of Help

by Kerry Phillips

Death makes people uncomfortable. We get it. You’re unsure what to say…what to do.

As widows and widowers, we often internalize the comments and actions made by family and friends that offend us. This can strain relationships and cause families to grow apart. Instead of assuming you know what we need from you, we thought it only fair to share what many of us found to be the most helpful:

Tell Me You’re Proud of Me
Let’s face it; unless you’ve lost a spouse, you have no idea the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and financial toll it takes. Managing a household while raising children and working – in the midst of grieving – is quite the juggling act. Remind me that despite the circumstances, I’m doing a great job.

Allow Me to Be Weak
We hear it all the time: “You’re so strong”. The truth is we don’t always want to have to put on a brave face and pretend we’re acing widowhood. Let me vent about how much it sucked removing my spouse’s name as my emergency contact. Lend an ear when I need to cry because my son came home with an invitation to a “Daddy & Me” fishing trip. Be my shoulder to lean on.

Respect My Grief
As humans, we often seek to find common ground. Telling me about Ms. Johnston from your church who lost her husband or how you had to explain death to your children after the family pet died, isn’t as comforting as you may think. An alternative approach could be, “I won’t pretend to understand what you’re going through but I’ll be thinking of you and the children”.

Avoid Telling Me to Call if I Need Anything
Seriously, if we called every time we needed something, your phone would be ringing 24/7. My water heater is making a funny noise. My teenager just said he hated me as he stormed out the house. My car’s “check engine” light came on. I’m missing my spouse so much that I can’t even get out of bed today. We really don’t want to be a burden. We already feel like an outcast at times. Please just call us to see if there’s anything you can do for us.

Give Me a Hug
A hug goes a long way. Research shows hugging can reduce feelings of depression and loneliness. The next time you see me, offer a hug. You never know what kind of day I’ve been having.

Be Silent
There’s an expression that says, “Silence is golden”. For many in the widowed community, it really is. We don’t always need a solution to our problems (unless you can perform a miracle and bring our spouses back). Sometimes we just need your presence. We want you to sit with us as a reminder that we have a supportive group of family and friends…that we aren’t alone as we go through our widowed journey.   Read More...

One widow recalls the most touching words she’s received: “My neighbor said it best and I’ll never forget it. She said, ‘Justine, I don’t know what to say to you but I’ll always be here to listen.’ It was the best thing anybody ever said to me.”

Mean What You Say
We appreciate your offer to stop by and watch the kids for a few hours. It was nice of you to suggest we catch up over lunch. Now that you’ve mentioned it, please follow through. Honestly, I won’t remind you. At times I feel I have the plague and everyone is intentionally avoiding me anyway. I don’t want to be seen as the “needy” widow.

Talk About My Spouse
You’re afraid that mentioning my spouse’s name will send me into a meltdown. But, that’s simply not true. I want you to share your favorite memories. The time he won the big game in high school…how proud he was when he told you he was going to be a dad for the first time…when he pulled the epic April’s Fool prank. I want to hear those stories. My kids need to hear those stories. We should all treasure those memories. Share them often.

Don’t Forget About Me
It’s been six months since the loss of my husband and though you may think I’m doing great, I’m really not. I’m still hurting and so are the children. The grief waves continue to come, sometimes threatening to suck me under. We’ve all been taught the lie that time is the healer of all wounds. Not in my world. I’m only learning better coping skills. The pain is still there. Check on us. Stop by. Remind us that we’re loved.

Mom to a feisty preschooler, Kerry Phillips became widowed at age 32. She runs an online support group for young widows and widowers venturing back into the world of dating and is a blogger for The Huffington Post. 

Visit her blog at https://youngwidowedanddating.com
Check out her book at https://youngwidowedanddating.com/theonethingwidowbook/