It cannot be stressed enough that a good support system is one of the most helpful things a new widow (or any widow in general) can have.
In the early days of my loss, I pretty much had a whole town behind me. Bret and I had been very active in our little community of Cottage Grove, Oregon.
We had many friends there and most of them stepped right up to the plate when he passed.
A meal train was started.
Donations were made.
Bret’s favorite pub offered to be the setting of his Celebration of Life.
So many beautiful things happened, and beautiful people took the time to make sure that our family was taken care of.
Unfortunately, due to some other strife that cropped up in the months following his death, I made the choice to move across the state. My daughter and I moved back to eastern Oregon where I was born and raised, to be closer to my own family and for a new start.
I won’t say it was a bad decision, but as far as having a thriving support system goes, it wasn’t the best decision. It was shortly after my move, that I became painfully aware of another phenomenon that is all too common amongst the widowed: when your friends start to avoid you.
I had been away from eastern Oregon for twelve long years, so I didn’t really know many people anymore. My own family, who have certainly helped me and have been a few strong sets of shoulders to lean on, have their own lives though. Most of my closest friends in the area all lived more than an hour away, and also have their own lives.
And what’s worse is my daughter began to experience the same kind of isolation that I had, on account of our moving to a new area where she knew her grandparents and brother – and that is it.
I tried to keep strong ties to my former social groups, but lets face it, the bereaved can be even more easily ostracized in a virtual setting than if they are there in person.
This topic was one of the first topics I addressed when I began “blogging my grief away”. I called the piece “Congratulations! Your Spouse Died. Now say Goodbye to Your Friends!”
Honestly, when I wrote it, I was still very hurt by the perceived loss of my initial support group. I wasn’t thinking about how my move five hours away played into it. I know I may have ruffled some feathers, and while part of me felt very justified in sharing my feelings, another part of me, with time, has been able to understand things much better.
Yes, a circle of friends is a wonderful healing tool to the widowed crowd. And yes, widows can be unfairly excluded from things for reasons that we may never understand. But speaking for myself, I know that I self-excluded quite a bit as well. Socializing was just too hard.
That being said, there were some amazing early days where people went above and beyond, to make my daughter and I as comfortable as possible.
Friends checked in and brought food.
One friend even came over and colored my daughter’s hair for her.
People were there for us, and I am forever thankful!
Even if I didn’t always see it.
Hindsight is usually 20/20 and even though it is common to lose friends following the death of a spouse, perhaps I wasn’t as purposefully excluded as I had once thought?
Although I do not consider myself a very social person these days, and definitely think I could do some work on rebuilding a solid support system, I absolutely credit my friends with getting me through those early days.
If you have a widowed friend who seems to be self-isolating, please check in with them! Even if it’s just a text or an email. (Sometimes preferably a text or an email!) A widow depends on their friends more than they let on.
Trust me on this one.