Friday, April 29, 2011

What Can You Say To a Widow To Make Her Feel Better?

Daily conversations, what an ingenious concept.  As if widows cannot do this?  Well, surprise, most of us can.  Some of us will get a bit teary eyed, but so what?  This is normal.  Certain thoughts, events, scents, and so much else will trigger a memory.  It doesn't mean we are so fragile that we're going to break into a million pieces.

What hurts worse is when we are left out of casual conversations.  The type of conversations that include laughter, jokes, what is happening in the world around us, and even though you are married and we are not, many of us do care and understand relationships are important!  We were married remember?  Just because the one we loved is not physically with us, does not mean we are not happy for your accomplishments.

Sure, sometimes we may feel sad and jealous.  But doesn't everyone go through these emotions?  Its normal.  Do you not have a casual conversation even with those who tell you, "I'm so jealous, my husband never buys me flowers?"

I had an unusual incident the other day.  A friend of my husbands, who honestly really never could remember my name, came up to me, while I was in the midst of a few single male friends and said..."Hey, you are Rob's wife.  I am so sorry.  We were good friends."  The person with him had a sudden reaction of "Oh God are you OUT of your mind" and his eyes were the size of saucers.  Not to mention the deathly silence amongst everyone else.

I smiled and said, "yes you are right.  Its okay to say this.  I was his wife, and I don't mind that you still think of me this way.  He passed away, we did not divorce.  It keeps his memory alive for you and reminds me also how much he was loved.  Its okay because to some of you, I will always be his wife."

Absolutely no harm was intended.  He hadn't been in town for a few years, but at least he knew my husband passed away, and he was kind enough to acknowledge it also makes him feel bad too.  He really just wanted to acknowledge he knew and feels bad.

So we are really not that hard to approach.  Here's some simple tips:
  • Most of us don't mind you talking about your husband.  We used to have a husband we spoke about too.  When we converse back, we will probably use our husband's name.  Remember, we had a relationship too.  This is not to make you feel bad, it actually makes us feel a part of your world and not so isolate.  Why can't we talk about our husbands too?
  • Please don't gossip or give us news updates of other widows and their personal private lives comparing us.  We're glad that they are doing well, and updates are good, but how about leave the salt out of the equation.
  • You feel weird around us...well how do you think we feel?  Its just as odd for us as it is for you.  So maybe be honest.  Tell us you feel strange and don't want to hurt us but want to continue the friendship and spend some time with us.  We'll let you know we're interested and we feel odd too.  But a workable solution to this exists, it is called communication.
Gee, it wasn't that hard was it!

As for being scared you'll say something stupid, to be honest, we have all said stupid things in our life.  If you do say something stupid, we'll let you know.  Most of us will anyway.  What hurts is the silence.  The avoidance we feel when we do try to reach out.   Please remember, we are frightened, and will be this way for awhile.

Sometimes we hide out and avoid you.  We don't want to tell you about our rotten hands in life.  We would like this ability, as it's nice to have someone to talk to, but we understand no one appreciates a depressing conversation.  It is very hard to keep a happy face and tell you we're doing great, couldn't be better, when in reality it isn't that way.  We're just pleased someone stopped to speak to us.  So when its not going so well, we'll probably hide out.  Don't force the issue and don't be offended never speaking to us again.

Please keep in mind,  many individuals have gone through a family loss.  However, losing a spouse, it is a whole different ball game.  Words cannot begin to describe what we are going through.  Just because you lost a family member doesn't mean you understand how we are feeling.  Empathize with us, but don't take away our right to our pain.  To us, it is worse than an uncle, aunt, sister, father or mother.  I've suffered loss also. In fact I lost my mother to cancer just a couple years before my husband.  I will tell you now, it really hurt to lose my mom, but gawd I can't begin to say how much pain I felt when my husband passed on.

It is the end of the world to us.  Realize this.

Do you really want to say something beautiful to us to make us feel better?  How about, "I've been thinking about you."  Isn't that easy?  If you really mean it, give us time to think on how to respond. 

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A Widow's Perspective
Time does not heal all wounds.


  1. Very nicely stated. You spoke for many of us. I love it too when someone says, "I've been thinking about you.

  2. I have had a couple of phone calls when someone just said, "I've been thinking of you." It was such a good feeling! I mean the thought someone really did care and was thinking of me. It's always nice to know even if i have nothing to say back!

  3. Indeed! There is nothing more frustrating when you happen on a conversation about a joyous occasion when individuals turn to you and the conversation stops or worst when their eyes become filled with pity. We have enough pity for ourselves without adding theirs to our bucket. However, you have to appreciate that they are all well intentioned. Wouldn't it be nice if individuals would turn instead and ask about your moments? How was your day when you got married?

  4. Ginette, this is an excellent point especially with marriages. I happen to feel joyous when two people are in love and make that commitment. I did have one young lady who was so excited call and ask, "I don't want to hurt you but I have to know, what was it like." The first person ever to ask me since my husbands death what it was like to be in love with him! :) I see greatness for this persons life! I was very happy to talk about it!

  5. wow, thank you for this. Written beautifully. thank you so much for taking the time to write this out. things like this are very helpful for friends of widows. I spent hours searching the internet for different posts like these when my friend was newly widowed, just trying desperately to figure out how I could support her (and what I was doing wrong!)

    A friend and I recently started a blog for friends of widows, to provide information and support for friends so they can better know how to serve and love on their widowed friends. to know what helps and what NOT to do/say. We also made it as a resource that widows can share with their friends that need help understanding more what they are going through without the widow having to make a huge effort to spell it all out or try to articulate what she means while she is still raw with grief.

    Just thought I would share that with you in case you are interested.

    (I hope you do not mind me posting this here. I will not be offended if you want to delete this post if you feel I am out of line sharing this with you here. )

  6. Something I struggle with is when "friends" who have lost adult children tell me that 1) because I have never been a mother (I have cared for lots of children in family and for friends), I can't possibly know the pain of losing a child, 2) that losing a child is much, much worse than losing a spouse (which they have never experienced). Their pain is worse than mine. I don't usually talk about my pain, their remarks just pop out. I respond that I don't think pain with loss of a loved one can be graded but when you lose a spouse you also lose what you thought your future would be and must reinvent your life, goals and future. But they don't seem to think it's as major a loss as their child.


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