After the fabulous RLEE told me I was the hottest WILF in the room—at the funeral—he followed up with, “That’s probably one of the Top Ten Things Not To Say To A New Widow.”

Well, a little longer into widowhood, there’s been more than ten. But it sounds better as a Top Ten list, so here’s the top ones for me. These are some of the things that get said, how they get heard and what we can do to make this a little easier for each other.

For the friends: these may have blurted out from you to the bereaved, or you’ve wondered what on earth to say or do for your newly widowed friend. I know there’s lots of things I didn’t understand until after I was widowed. Unless you were downright thoughtless or cruel, whatever you said or did is generally OK. Why should we know exactly the right thing to do, because after all, who knows the right thing to do about death? The answer: no one. But we all face it at some point, perhaps we can help each other out a bit.

For the widowed: think of these as a primer for what you’re going to hear (and I promise, you will) and how to grin-and-bear-it when you do. For the most part, they mean well. It’s hard, but try to look for the love behind the silly comments.

  1. The Big One: or “If there’s anything you need, let me know.”
  2. As Time Goes By or “How long are you going to drag out this widow thing”?
  3. Hearse Chasing 101 How’s that life insurance policy working for you or “Did he leave you enough money”?
  4. At Least You Got It All“I just got divorced so I know how you feel.”
  5. Good Luck With Your Next Fifty Years. “So-and-so lost their spouse years ago and they’re still not over it.”
  6. My Death Is Better Than Your Death. One-upping the newly bereaved.
  7. Get Back On That Horse or “When are you going to start dating”?
  8. What About Me? “You were prepared for his death, but I was shocked by it!”
  9. Well, Aren’t You The Merry Widow? “You’re so brave”!
  10. The Sound of Silence: The sin of not saying anything at all

Born in 1961. Married in 1990. Widowed in 2007. Blogging in 2009.

70 comments On Top Ten Things Not To Say To A New Widow

  • widowed too soon

    Barb, Kim
    I have given up on the shrink. I am already on my second one and the ones that I am getting are there just to push the pills and to make sure that I am not suicidal. I will go again tomorrow because I forgot to change my appointment. I will also see my regular doctor next week. As far as having grand plans, Yes, my husband picked out some land for us in a different state and we were going to move their once I retired and my youngest got her bachelors degree which would be 2016. Well, we did not close on the land before he died which was a mixed blessing because it was not involved in his probate. I did close on it after wards and I am going to finish living our dream. I don’t have much of his items around me right now because they are in a storage container but once I move, I will have them in the house and will work on living our dream. I have family that what to move there with me so I won’t be alone. But I have told them straight out that if they move there with me then it would not be OUR dream. I also plan on burying my husband and his father on the land. This we had talked about before. We expected him to die before me but not 4 months after the wedding. It was a big challenge for him to get on an airplane, go through airport security, travel to another state and deal with people that he did not know. My husband is a Disabled Combat Vet with artificial hips, knee and numerous parts rebuilt with metal. He also has PTSD and anxiety issues along with flashbacks. He was so scared that he would mess up or have a flashback while he was in flight or with the real estate agent and the horrors it can cause. I made phone calls prior to my husband taking off and letting the individuals know what to do if certain things happened and what not to do. My husband was so proud when he got home and had picked out the land for us. He was able to do it without incident because of his love for me. It was so funny because he thought that after all that he had done he started thinking that I would not like the place or the land. We are so much a like that this is actually impossible. I ended up buying the land without seeing it for myself and will be going down in July to check it out and also talk to my perspective builder and the Real Estate Agent that worked with my husband. I know that between now and the time I move out there the time is going to fly by. But this is something that I have to do. I will finish living life for us and also live our dream. I still haven’t been able to mourn the loss and it seems like all I do is fill out the paperwork for probate every month and deal with a mortgage company that refuses to foreclose on the house which is keeping me from closing out probate. I am still waiting for his tox report to come in and it will be six month on May 9th. I hope it is done by then because I am getting tired of waiting. I have an insurance company that won’t pay until the word “Pending” is removed from the death certificate. I am a DAV myself and they say it takes 12 months to find out whether I will receive DIC and I am still waiting on them to get my claims done right which they dropped two items from my claim. So, needless to say this hurry up and wait is getting very old. But until something happens to where I actually mourn the loss of my husband, I am going to continue to talk to him, tell him I love him and miss him and since I have no intentions on being back in the “singles” market again I will continue to live our dream. Am I wrong? In some goofy stage? In Denial? If so, I could care less. I will deal with each day as it comes and do what I can and hopefully I can get my heart back into the hobbies that I like to do. But one foot still goes in front of another and although I still don’t have the answers, Job had it worse than I have ever been through and the Lord provided for him and he was more blessed after all his trials. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have Jobs strength and faith that Job had but he is my inspiration on getting through this and I know that the Lord has plans for me and will make it happen. I pray for all of you suffering through this unspeakable loss. I know it is hard and we just have to remember the good times and be thankful that they passed quick or different suffer as much as they could have. But most of all to be grateful for the times we shared with them and to remember them in our every day lives. I know these words aren’t all that comforting but time does have a way to mend the pain some. I have also lost a baby and I know how time does help.

  • Just found your site. I don’t even remember how I came across it but I’m so glad I did. I was widowed for five years after 26 years of marriage, met and dated my 2nd husband for 1 1/2 years. Five years later I was widowed again. The comments people make are cruel. Being from the South (US), I have to say “Bless their heart. They just don’t know any better”. Sometimes I get the feeling women in unhappy marriages are secretly jealous – in a very sad and strange way. Really enjoy your blog and the other readers comments. Thank you!

  • Mike died May 25, 2010. At first I was strong, learning how to run things on my own, making decisions, or as one of the kids said, learning to crawl, stand and walk in 6 months. We were retired and had come to Florida as snowbirds for the first time. He died after 4 months, although he had never told me he had cancer. There are 4 grown, married children and 11 grandchildren. First surprise, the kids, after the initial shock, were, and are, of little help. They have their own busy lives, are scattered all across the country and they were raised to be independent. I made my first huge decision, bought a little house in Florida and never returned to our Vermont home, which I finally sold a year later. I gave up bridge, learned mah jongg, tried to join in my new community but was totally rejected. Life is for couples. I don’t go out much; the main reason is it hurts so to see old couples out and about. Since I am a newcomer to Florida I don’t have any old friends who could remain close after his death because they knew him for years. However, I am the mother who raised her kids to be independent and I am glad to be alone, reading, watching the NY Rangers and the Red Sox. I don’t really dream of Mike, I hear him talking offstage but can’t get to him. So I wake up and don’t go back to sleep because it is too upsetting to be unable to connect. The worst thing, the very worst thing, is being useless, unneeded, taking up space till my turn comes to die. This sounds depressed, but I have carved out a serene, pleasant life for myself. I just can’t make it matter. After 40+ years with Mike and the kids I do love being alone, but for the most part I can’t find anything good about this inevitable stage of my life. There are no courses to take, no practice runs, no new beginnings. At 72 I look back, not forward. You know what, I wonder what I would have thought if someone had told me what it is like to lose one’s split-apart, especially at an advanced age when eharmony.com is not in the cards. I thought we had longer to enjoy the last of life for which the first was made. A normal part of life shouldn’t be so hard. This makes childbirth as easy as making a bed with new sheets. Thanks for listening.

  • Emily,,I feel ur pain,,,it has only been three weeks for me,,,long tough road ahead

  • Emily, sounds like you wrote my story & Angie you know my pain. I too, lost my husband three weeks ago after being married almost 53 years, since we were 18 yrs old. I need not say anymore, as it’s understood how I’m hurting. S.C.

  • my world ended this morning. sitting up at almost midnight. scared to death.. i’m 45. he was 48. i don’t know what to do. so many family friends saying let me know what we can do. i would if i knew. can you get me my life back. i do for everyone. he was only one who did for me. i don’t know how to go on. please let it be a dream. please. i did cpr. they did what they could in ambulance. he died seven minutes before i got to hospital. i want to go with him. please don’t leave me. please honey.

  • Hi Melissa….I was in a similar spot to you 7 months ago. I was 47, he was 49. I did CPR too. It was a second marriage for us both….only had 5 years together, but they were awesome. It sucks being the one left behind, but it does get easier. Plenty of emotional rollercoasters along the way….some days/minutes are better than others. It changes your viewpoint on everything. Be gentle with yourself….let your emotions do what they need….it’s all part of life and healing…get whatever help you can from other people….if you’re heading into clinical depression then go on medication…that’s what it’s for….there are no rights or wrongs…do what feels right for you when you are ready…but reach out to others…you’re not as alone as you may feel

  • I love my husband Tom on July 3rd 2015. 7 weeks ago and it seems like forever. All the things that you’ve already written are exactly me. 40 years together. We have just retired November to Florida. Had a fuzzy eye, in January and he was full of cancer. Male breast cancer metastasized to his brain behind his eye, liver lungs everywhere and he was gone in just a few months. The love of my life gone. Everything you guys wrote it’s true. I’m living at my sons saving up for an apartment at 66 years old in some ways it’s like you said just waiting to die. I don’t see a life for me I don’t see anything but couples everywhere I look. I live in Minnesota for 4 years now but my whole life was in Connecticut and that’s where all my friends are.. came here to help our son with the children something, & I wanted to do together. But no its just me. My career is done for 8 years now I don’t know what to do with myself I know there are women that have survived this and I hope to be one of them. I just don’t know how I will ever ever get over loosing my husband. I think of him every minute of every day I cry day and night I’m so lonely for him like best friend. Thanks for listening

  • I lost my husband on January 7th 2015. He was 43, I am 39. We were married for 15 years, and together for just short of 18 years. He died of a sudden brain aneurysm. One minute he was there standing and speaking to me, 7 minutes later he was on the floor unable to speak to me. 24 hours later I was told he wouldn’t survive. Grief does different things depending upon the person. We were completely unprepared in every way possible. I have had three comments that just floored me. A close family friend approached me right after my husband went into the hospital. After hugging me and sharing his condolences, he said to me “I am offended that you didn’t call us first” meaning him and his partner. My mother in law, days after leaving the hospital were out to lunch with another close family friend. My amazing support group, made sure I had enough funds to get through a couple of months worth of household bills and expenses, it was an incredibly generous outpouring of support. Upon receiving the bill after lunch my mother in law said “Oh let Chris get it, she’s Miss. Moneybags now”. Now understand her and I have a very special relationship and have always been close. She didn’t mean it in a mean-spirited way, or a jab to me. I think it was an attempt to lighten the mood. However of course it noticeably effected me and I excused myself from the table. When I returned she had paid the bill and gave me a big hug. The last one has been more recently. A co-worker had gone through a nasty divorce and of course had to give me every single detail. She exclaimed one day while working together “It’s so cute you still wear your wedding ring”. I just smiled politely and excused myself. I have of course had other comments from people that have made me think, wow, you just said that to a woman who lost the single most important person in her life. But of course unless you have experienced this depth of loss you can not even begin to understand and process the incredible pain, loss and grief that accompany it. I try to be as kind and understanding as possible, because in all honesty, I use to be a kind of person who avoided those who had lost someone completely because I couldn’t even allow myself to think about what it would feel like. However I do kind of feel like I have a scarlet letter on my chest as very well meaning and well intentioned friends and family avoid being around me for whatever their feelings are. Grief effects everyone so differently.

  • I don’t want to kill myself but I want to die. My husband died on February 10 2015 less than two months after being diagnosed with cancer. It was a nightmare. His suffering was hideous.
    I try to avoid a certain lady as all I hear from her is how her MIL died from cancer over 30 years ago. My doctor wants me to be happy not sad because “You’re a funny person”. The counsellor I saw viewed it as her role to “listen” and not actually help me develop some strategies for coping. Others think I should be creative instead of grieving because “You’re so artistic”. My father thinks he can talk rubbish about my husband if he feels so inclined. I had to endure the shame of actually overhearing my FIL running me down and saying that I was a money grabber- I was in a bank and he came in with his daughter unaware that I was there. (Thankfully they were ushered into an office.) So many others have told me “You’re so strong” because they don’t want to hear that I’m not.
    My husband died without a will and still the legal process drags on, I have a house I don’t yet own and so can’t sell, but I have to pay rates etc. The same applies to his car, I still have to pay the insurances etc but can’t sell it because it’s caught up in the legalities.
    I am now living with my adult children which at times is a strain on all of us.

  • I lost my husband Tuesday, Sep. 22nd at 3:19 pm. I want off this ride. I didn’t buy a ticket.

  • Laura, I’m so sorry that you lost your husband. I lost mine on May 27, 2015, and I remember the first couple of weeks after that as being in a fog. So many details to take care of. The nights were and still are so hard. I don’t want to be here either. I won’t do anything about it because I have a grown daughter and son and I don’t want them to lose me so soon after losing their father, plus I’m too cowardly. Every day is just something to get through…like Life is some kind of crappy job that you hate, but can’t quit. I’m angry all the time except when I’m not heartbreakingly sad. Maybe some day I’ll find a reason to have some interest in living and I won’t spend all my time searching the internet for something that will give me some peace. Good luck…

  • I lost my husband of 38 years on August 13, 2015. He had had lots of health issues and had always been such a fighter. He ws an inspiration to everyone. He just got tired and had too many things to fight. He decided, with my blessings, to enter Hospicea and let it be. He was at peace with his decision, as was I. Having said that, I grieve, oh how I grieve. I grieve for MY loss. I know he is in a better place and released from a body that was very cruel to him. I have cried so much, I ended up with an eyelid infection (from rubbing my eyes). Most of my friends have done and said all the right things. They have DONE. They showed up to sit with him when I brought him home to die. They brought food. They’ve kept in touch with me since his death. They have been wonderful. Having said that, there are always those few. How about the guy that said to me, TWO WEEKS after my husband’s death, “You know, you need to think about having another relationship.” Really? Two weeks and I should be thinking about another relationship? (I actually said that to him, haven’t heard from him since…good riddance.) Then the people who compare the death of my husband, the love of my life, my soulmate (I used to think that a silly word, but came to realize that, yes, there is such a thing) to the death of a parent. Not to say the death of one’s parents is easy (I’ve lost both of mine), but there is no comparison to the death of the person you’ve made a life with. Ugh. I know I will NEVER get over this. With time, I will just learn to cope with it.

  • Sorry for the typo…that should be Hospice

  • JUly 31 lost my husband, it does not get any better, I was independent, capable, strong, that person is gone.I afraid the happy , enthusiastic, enjoy the moment person I was died with him. I am scared of the years ahead, lonely, almost ghostly,
    Have wonderful children, they must continue with their lifes…

  • My husband died Feb 28, 2015, he was 54. We were married for 24 years. It has been hard, but it has gotten better with a lot of family support. I am glad I came across this web site because it gave me comfort to know there a women out there who feel the same emotions I feel. I have a anniversary, birthday and Christmas in December, I will be 47. Reading your posts have given me strength and comfort. God Bless you all

  • My soul mate passed away November 27, 2015, 7 days after our wedding. Massive heart attack at 42 years old. I did CPR and the paramedics did too. We couldn’t get him back. I miss him so much I ache all over. I can barely sleep and I forget to eat. This pain is unreal. I loved being with him and we were over the moon to be married. I can’t believe he is gone. My mom is a widow and she said eventually I will find a new normal. When?

  • Dear Paige,

    Somehow, we share almost the same story i think. I am 28, got married sept28, 2015 and had a 10day chance to experience a normal married life because my husband worked abroad. last november he got an accident, comatosed for a month and died few days before christmas. Pain is very deep, people are sending messages to comfort but nothing, just nothing can lessen the pain, But i wanted to say to you, Paige, Aida and Sheryl, you are not alone, and even though i am crying every night for my own loss, i will include you i my prayers.. that we, and all other widows here be able again to find the meaning in our lives. I often read sites like this and get to talk to people who had the same experience as ours, they are the people who truly understand us. I realized only when you went through this kind of sorrow will you be able to really understand the pain. Please take care of yourself. Eat. And sleep even though it’s always impossible 🙁 let us not give up ok?

    Berna

  • A day after myhusband’s death, I was told “at least you have your pictures.” Wow, how daft!

  • I lost my heart, my love, my best friend, my soulmate on May 4, 2016. We had been together for 16 years. In the first couple of days I had the wildest comments, one from his best friend of over 50 years who remarked that he was sorry for my loss but his grief was equal to mine? Let’s not forget the distant cousin who wrote me to ask I call her 84 year old mother to comfort her over my husbands death. When I replied that I was in no condition due to my own grief to be consoling others her reply to me? But THEY were first cousins and she is SO upset.

    His children and mine have been the greatest comfort thank goodness. Huggzz to us all.

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One more thing…

How else do I know what hurts and what helps? Because not only were they done to me… I learned through this process that I am certain to have done the very same "Don't" things to others at some point along the way. If you're one of them, I am genuinely sorry. I'm trying to learn.