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 hard to remember. Someday she will cherish the memories but it takes a very long time to get past the pain. Simply ask if there are any memories the widow would like to share, and then respect her answer.
Coming next time: Don’t assume you know things about the widow.
If you know a widow or are one, I can help. To move through the grief into the rest of your life, contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org . All coaching is done over the phone and the first session is offered at no charge.