The phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” is widely used in American culture. However, I didn’t realize this adage’s truth until my partner died suddenly and unexpectedly last October, and I became a widowed parent.
I received a ton of help in the days immediately after my partner’s death, especially during the week of her funeral. As time has passed, though, I have found myself in many situations that are difficult to navigate as a single parent. It’s hard to juggle multiple jobs and conflicting schedules while still trying to provide the best possible childhood for multiple kids. When you lose your partner in crime, you are used to sharing these duties.
I know this is a common issue amongst younger widows, but I don’t think it’s something people think about. Therefore, I want to use my experience to help others learn how to help widowed parents and become part of a grieving family’s “village.”
1. Invite Them Over for Dinner
Dinner can be a stress point for many working parents. However, it’s even harder to prepare a meal for your family when dealing with grief, a sudden reduction in your household income, and raising children on your own. Sometimes, having an evening where dinner is taken care of is such a lifesaver, especially when it doesn’t come with take-out prices attached.
One of my friends has invited us over for dinner several times since my partner passed, and it’s been such a blessing. I don’t have to worry about cooking for one night, and the kids all play, so I get time to relax and talk to other adults. It’s probably one of my favorite things my village has done for me.
2. Offer Assistance
As a newly widowed parent, my life comes with many extra tasks I didn’t consider before because my partner and I tag-teamed everything. I still have my full-time job, complete freelance work on the side to make ends meet, and now only have myself to complete all household chores. Even on my good days, I find it hard to fit everything in.
If you have some time and energy to spare, you can help your widowed friend out by offering to assist them in any way they need help. This could include cleaning the house, watching the children, or running errands. It could also involve going through belongings, helping with paperwork, or accompanying them to appointments for moral support.
If you aren’t sure how to help, you can say, “I know you’re dealing with a lot. What’s one thing I can take off your hands for now?” You can also say, “I am great at (insert activity). Let me help you with (activity) until you get back on your feet.” Just offering to help a widowed parent means a lot.
3. Check In Frequently
Losing the love of your life causes a form of loneliness that cannot be explained in words. That makes it hard to open up to others and share when you need a friendly face or someone to talk to. Even if you tell your recently widowed friend, “Call me anytime,” chances are they will feel like reaching out will bring you down or push you away.
Instead, you will need to be the one to check in with them and ask how they’re doing.
Phone calls, text messages, and other forms of communication may seem minor to you. But to a new widow who is also trying to raise kids? These tiny gestures mean the world. It helps your widowed friend feel less alone, even if just for a moment.
4. Make Events Kid-Friendly
Finding childcare is difficult. It’s also hard to leave your kids alone with someone when your kids are grieving the loss of one of their parents. This makes it hard for widows to go places or attend events without the children. So, if you’re hosting a dinner party or planning another event, consider making it kid-friendly.
Personally, I have appreciated friends and family members making space for my children. I have also loved when groups and organizations I’m a part of set up childcare for events. This makes it easier for me to still be around others and continue participating in activities without worrying about what to do with my kids.
5. Remain Empathetic
There are many things you can do to help out someone who lost the love of their life. However, the most important thing you can do for a widowed parent is remain empathetic. Grief is excruciating, but it’s even harder when you’re also trying to maintain the status quo for your children. Remember, their whole life just turned upside down — it will take time and patience to heal.
It takes a village to raise a child and an effective support system for widows to work through the loss of their spouse. If you’re willing to stand by your friend or family member who is newly widowed and put these tips into action, it will help them as they learn how to continue life without the one they love the most.
Mark your calendars! Hope For Widows Foundation’s annual virtual Widows of Hope 5K event has returned on Friday, May 12, through Sunday, May 14, 2023. Anyone can join! Everyone is welcome to participate, whether you are a widow, widower, or a friend/family member showing support or walking in the loss of another family member. The proceeds will directly support widows through the annual financial Restoring Hope and Peace Grants, Sunshine Boxes program, and Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program. Do you have or know a business that would like to sponsor? That’s an option too! To register and frequently asked questions- please go here: http://getmeregistered.com/WidowsofHope5K.