If you’ve lost your partner, there’s the Being The Widow category. I ruminate on coping with death and loss and share things about being single again in Newly Single? Surprise! And something I wish I had known more about when I was newly widowed was things people say to you. I would have appreciated bracing for a few of the doozies. (They really happen!) I might have been more open to the depth of feeling hidden behind the words had I been expecting them. I hope it helps you see the kindness behind the awkwardness.
If your friend has become widowed, go here first. Read it and do it. For more, there’s a Being The Widow’s Friend category. And there’s the Top Ten Things Not To Say To A New Widow, hopefully providing perspective on both sides of the death fence. Look around and see what resonates with you.
Everything here is written in the straight man/woman marriage, feminine form, such as “she”, “widow” and “husband”. You can alter it however best fits your needs. John and I did not have children, so I don’t speak to being a newly-alone parent. I can’t even imagine what that’s about. If you are, I hope you’ll start a blog for those like you, or add some thoughts in here.
Most importantly please, if you’re in too much anguish or feel so overwhelmed you can’t go on—seek professional help immediately. It really does help to talk to the pros to get you through the darkest times. Believe me, I’m no professional anything. Go to the ones who know how to help: talk with your doctor, clergyman, therapist, support group… whatever gets you through.
Or join in. There’s plenty of room. Let’s try to help one another.
Here’s some observations from the widowed side and suggestions for the other side that might help:
Some things that helped me get through the final days. Things you can do and things you can do for your friend.
Please don’t say you don’t like talking about such things. I think we’re all with you on that one, but come on. I’m not asking you to write a thesis on the subject. I’m asking you to reach out to your friend. Acknowledge it and move on.
If you’re skilled at writing or artwork, helping with the obituary is a great kindness. Even if you can’t get something done that quickly, a memorial book or website can be much appreciated.
Do your honest best to get there. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but ceremony binds us together. Spouse, parent, sibling, friend, dog—it doesn’t matter who died, it means a lot to the bereaved if you are there. You don’t need to say anything (ok, you do need to do this) but please know it’s so comforting to see that someone cared enough to show up for a few hours.
Giving your time is a great kindness. Being the widow also means being a hostess to a certain extent, but you don’t always have the time or ability to spend emotional energy. Here are alternatives to supporting your widowed friend after the whirlwind slows down but grief hasn’t.
What to do with those days that once were reminders of joyous times, that relentlessly come around year after year and that remind you of so much you have lost.
The death makes her cry. The loss and the loneliness and the fog that’s blocking the future: that’s just some of what makes her cry. You didn’t do it. But sit down and listen to her anyway, that’s why you are friends.