If you’ve found this page on our website, you are a friend or family member of a widow and are unsure how to support her. My journey as a widow supporter began when my best friend’s husband died during a triathlon while she was pregnant with their 5th child in 2002. They were both 34 at the time of his passing. I have many tips I’ve learned along the way due to mistakes, talking to other widow supporters and discussing widow’s frame of mind with therapists. I will list below the items I feel are most important based on experience and feedback from widows. For more detailed suggestions and ideas, go to http://www.friendsofwidows.blogspot.com
- Nothing you say or do is going to alleviate her pain and normally they don’t hear what you are saying or notice many of your efforts. She is grieving. If you are supporting her, do it because you love her not because you expect a thank you because you may not get it for years to come.
- Regardless of her age, financial situation or ability to marry again will make the grieving process any easier. She’s lost the person that all of her futures memories are engulfed in and has no idea how to move forward because her hopes and dreams of the future are gone. She’s going to need a lot of time to figure out how to recreate future hopes and dreams. We call this the 2 year widow’s fog where they don’t quite know how they functioned or even events that took place during that 2 years.
- The first year is hard. She is encountering all of the firsts without him. Her first birthday alone, her first Christmas alone, her first parent teacher conferences alone, but that’s not the worst. The second year is even harder because now the firsts have past and now it is real. The second year will be harder than the first.
- If she is under 70 yrs old, she is definitely suffering from post-traumatic stress on some level. If you can convince her to see a therapist, try and make sure she is seeing a therapist that knows how to work through PTSD triggers and doesn’t just diagnose her as having anxiety and depression. She is going to have constant flash backs to the moment she heard about his accident or watching him take his last breaths. She will have panic attacks where she thinks she is having a heart attack. She will believe she is going crazy and is afraid to tell you this is what she is experiencing.
We have access to 2000+ widows nationwide who share their deepest fears, secrets and stories with one another. The 4 items listed above are the most frequent topics of conversation within our community. If you as a supporter can learn and apply these 4 tips above, it will help her feel more secure in their grieving process.
Hope for Widows
For additional help we recommend the following resources:
- Friends of Widows ›
- Friends of Widows Facebook Page ›
- Friends, Families and Churches page on Widow Might ›
What Widows Want You to Know
We asked for feedback from widows on our closed Facebook page about the things that they wish their families and friends knew about becoming a widow. Here is the list compiled from our wonderful community.
As a friend or family member close to a widow it is so hard to know what to do and say, read through this guide, and while keeping in mind that everyone deals with grief differently these might be helpful comments from the women who have been there.
- I am not the same person since my husband passed away. Even though I don’t seem very interactive, I do need you.
- I am devastated. I’ve lost half of me and my identity. All my future goals and aspirations are intertwined with him being part of those and I have no idea how to formulate my future without him.
- He’s dead but don’t treat me like I’m dead too. Look at me. I’m still here under all of this grief.
- Please remember that grief lasts longer than sympathy does…be patient with me as I try to put my life in some order.
- He was my past, present and future. Please cut me a bit of slack if there is sometimes an edge to my voice. I’m at the end of my rope at any given moment.
- Please talk about my husband and don’t worry if I start to cry. Crying is part of the grieving process. I want to hear his name. I want to hear your memories of him.
- The first couple of years of widowhood are unstable emotionally. Please be there for me through the good times and bad.
- I need your support not your judgment. When I talk, please just let me talk without trying to fix me or my predicament. It might help if you ask me if I am talking to talk or if I want you to give me your opinion and how you think I should be handling things.
- Please don’t jump on every comment I say during my hazy widow brain.
- Don’t judge the timeline to my grief. Don’t tell me I should be “over it” by now. Year one is a complete fog. Year two is even harder because all of the firsts have past and now the reality is set. The third year is the first year I may even have the ability to move forward.
- Don’t tell me to “move on”. I will never move on. I’ve love the man I love. Hopefully, I will be able to put one foot in front of the other and slowly be able to move forward but I will never move on.
- Please don’t compare my grief with your divorce or the death of your family animal. The bottom line is that my husband is in a box in the ground or in the urn on my mantle.
- Don’t tell me you are going to be there for me and then not return my calls or show up seeing what I need.
- Don’t tell me after he dies what I did wrong while he was sick. I was alone and did the best I could.
- Don’t tell me “he’s in a better place”. That’s bull—he belongs with me!
You can see why we created Hope for Widows—this is a situation that most people are unprepared to help support. If you find this information helpful we urge you to consider making a financial donation in your widowed friend’s or family member’s name. Donate