Allow the widow to lead the conversation.

Now that life has changed for your widowed friend you may feel uncomfortable when you talk with her.  What should you say?  Should you always start by asking how she is doing or should you just pretend everything is the same as before?  Should you ignore her new identity or dwell on it? A common misconception is that talking about the person who has died will make the widow sad and prolong her grief.  However, talking about the person who died will really allow the widow, and you, to process  the loss.  Pretending the deceased person is “away” doesn’t allow the brain to fully accept the reality that the deceased person is never coming back.  Not accepting the fact that he won’t be back keeps a widow in a state of suspended animation.  It is very hard for the widow to move into the next phase of her life when she expects that her husband will walk through the door at any time. Talk about how he died; talk about what life was like when he was healthy, what it was like while he was ill, and what it is like now that he is gone.  Tell funny stories and laugh.  Tell touching stories and cry.  Feel all the emotions.  These emotions will cleanse the soul of sadness. Always, always allow the widow to determine the direction of the conversation. If she is very sad, even good memories may be too

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Allow the widow to cry.

Widowhood equals crying.  It is just that simple.  Widows need to cry in order to relieve the stress and pain associated with loss. Most widows don’t want those around them to see them cry. Crying shows vulnerability.  Even those going through extreme grief often want to hide their pain.   Crying is a God-given way to express sadness but even those who are in great pain tend to cry in private.  Widows often tell me that they cry in their cars.  I understand.  When I was a widow I cried many tears in my car when a certain song came on the radio or I passed something that reminded me of happier days. Sometimes well-wishers are uncomfortable when the widow begins to cry so they try to stop her from crying rather than just sitting with her while she cries.  Stopping her from crying will lead her to “stuff” the feelings that must be released for healing.  Ultimately, not crying will prolong the sadness.  Putting your hand on her arm or your arm around her shoulder while she cries will show that she is not making you uncomfortable, and will give the widow permission to cry. Rather than look or walk away when your friend starts to tear up, please persevere with her.  Say things like, “I know”, and “I’m sorry you’re hurting.”  But please, always allow the widow to cry. Coming next week: Allow the Widow to Lead the Conversation.

Oh no, he didn’t really DIE, did he?

Oh no, he didn’t really DIE, did he? Her husband died and now your friend is a WIDOW.  You ask yourself what you should or shouldn’t do to help and you come up blank.  Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzes you.  You want to “make it better” or “make the pain go away” but the overwhelming sadness of this situation clouds everything.  You may rush to your friend’s home only to find that you are in a crowd of people all milling around trying to be supportive of each other while the widow is not even there but at the funeral home or trying to buy  a gravesite. Some people are able to walk into the home of a friend whose husband just died and take over the day-to-day needs of food, child care, cleaning, etc.  Others aren’t comfortable in that role but feel the need to be at the widow’s home to be emotionally supportive and just “sit” with the widow as she cries or stares into the air.  The widow needs both types of friends. Please don’t expect the widow to tell you what to do for her. Questions of what she needs will probably go unanswered.  If you are at the widow’s home and see a need, please just fill the need…wash the dishes, clean the cat box, take the dog out, supply more milk.  Don’t ask, just do. Your deeds may not be remembered

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