“I’m sure things will get easier after this first year.”
I’ll take “Phrases that Aren’t Helpful” for $1,000, Alex.
When my husband died, I suddenly became surrounded by people who thought they knew all there was to know about navigating the death of a spouse. I heard everything from “Everything happens for a reason, dear” (*shudder*) to “Trust God’s Plan” (Screw this plan, G-man).
It became clear to me that there are so many myths surrounding widowhood, and I feel it is part of my new life purpose to set the record straight to at least a few grief adjacent folks out there.
Here are my top 5 Misconceptions about Widowhood:
1. She probably got a hefty life insurance payout.
This one probably irritates me the most, seeing as my husband was 30 years old, and he just hadn’t gotten around to opening up a policy since we just got married SIX months ago! There are a great deal of widows out there who receive nothing because there wasn’t anything to begin with. Please do not ever assume that there is life insurance money. However, for those widows who did inherit a life insurance benefit from their late spouse, good for them! They deserve every last penny. And then some.
2. She’s Dating Someone Already?! She must be over him.
Listen folks, the judgment that surrounds widows dating again is out. of. this. world. Yes… she’s dating someone already. Why? It’s none of your dang business, that’s why! Your person didn’t die, so you have no idea what it feels like to be in her shoes. Let her date, let her get remarried, let her do whatever is going to make her heart happy. She deserves that.
3. She Hasn’t Started Dating Yet?! It’s time to move on.
“It’s time to move on.” That’s a common phrase we hear in our community. The truth is, every widow knows that the concept of moving on doesn’t exist to us. You can’t move on from your dead husband because you will never stop loving him and wanting him here. So, go easy on the widows who aren’t ready to date now, a year from now, or even ever again! It’s their choice, and you don’t get to have a say. Not your circus, not your monkeys.
4. She’s young…she has time to start over.
Pay attention here, and say it with me: That. Is. Not. Comforting! I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this one, seeing as I was 25 years-old when Luke passed away. My young age doesn’t negate the fact that I am devastated, and I will live with the grief of missing my husband for the rest of my life. Do not, under any circumstances, assume that a young widow has it easier. You can be married for 60 days or 60 years, and guess what? The pain is the same.
5. She probably doesn’t know who your other widow friend is.
This one might sound odd, but it truly happens a lot! Bear with me on this… Think of this as asking a stranger from LA that you met at the airport if they know your cousin’s best friend who also lives in Beverly Hills. There are a lot of widows out there, unfortunately, and no… we don’t all know each other. Sometimes I wish we did, though! An army of widows sounds like one hell of a powerful group.
If the world became more comfortable with grief, I could probably avoid the need to share myths about widowhood. Until then, I’ll keep sharing and hoping that it helps someone who truly wants to comfort their sweet, widow friend, but just doesn’t know the right thing to say. You can at least start with what not to say. 🙂