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
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? 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
It’s February, and along with cold weather and snow in many parts of the world, there are red Valentine’s Day hearts everywhere! TV commercials are for jewelry stores with heart pendants, candy hearts abound, and Valentine’s Day cards are in all the stores…you cannot seem to get away from them. These hearts are supposed to make you feel warm and fuzzy but instead, because of the loss of your loved one, you feel sad and perhaps angry. As a widow, you remember the former Valentine’s Days when you had someone who loved you; someone who gave you cards with big red hearts; someone who gave you candy and flowers and jewelry. But now, you may feel that you want to move to the moon where you won’t be hit on every side with the pain of loss. What can you do? Well, when it comes to the pain of loss…you have a choice to become depressed, cry, rage, sulk, whine, and be generally miserable OR YOU CAN GET THROUGH IT. Getting through this time may seem to be easier said than done. Here are a few things you might try which will help you to get through the most romantic month of the year. ACKNOWLEDGE THE PAIN Trying to deny the pain of loss and grief only pushes it down deep inside where it will fester and perhaps become toxic bitterness. Feel the pain and think about
“Who I Was Born to Be” is sung by Susan Boyle on her first CD, “I Dreamed a Dream”. This song’s lyrics have touched my heart. Here are some of the lyrics: When I was a child I could see the wind in the trees And I heard a song in the breeze It was there, singing out my name. But I’m not a girl I have known the taste of defeat And I’ve finally grown to believe It will all come around again. And though I may not Know the answers I can finally say I’m free And if the questions Lead me here, then I am who I was born to be. Wow, how true those words are in my life, and probably in yours. As a girl I had a life filled with parents who loved me and who wanted the best for me. I had a twin sister with whom I grew up. Although we didn’t always get along, we always knew we had each other’s back. There were great expectations that I would go to college, then get married, and have a carefree life. The problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life with respect to college or a career. I started college but found that being away from my family was too hard and so I quit college after the first semester, my first defeat.
Getting back into life after being widowed is difficult but not impossible. I speak from first-hand experience since I have been widowed twice by cancer. I had married my first husband while still very young and living at home. When my first husband died of cancer I had my son at home so he was the reason I got up every day and moved about. However, when my second husband died, I felt that I had no real reason to get back into living. I was alone for the first time in my life. I was miserable and in excrutiating pain as I grieved his loss. I didn’t really care if I got on with life or if my life ended. After several months of misery, I began to realize that living in that state of dispair had to end. I began to realize that there was one thing in particular that I had done prior to marriage which I had loved and could go back to doing…ballroom dancing. As a young girl I always loved ballroom dancing. My mother was a dance teacher for Arthur Murray Studios before I was born and when I was about six, I attended her ballroom dancing classes in her private studio. As a teenager, I even danced on a TV show similar to American Bandstand, called “The Larry Kane Show”. Even though dancing was of utmost importance to me as a teenager,