Invaluable advice for friends of a widow/widower

This letter was handed to me by a mother at Evie’s nursery and it proved sooooo useful to all my family and friends. I think it may originate from the Way Foundation. Please forward on, print, learn it word for word…if you know someone going through this.

HOW YOU CAN HELP ME
Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.
Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.
Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You can’t catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I
most need to be cared about. If you don’t know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, “I’m sorry.” You can even say, “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and want you
to know that.”
Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.
I am not strong. I’m just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don’t see me.
I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I’m not sick. I’m
grieving and that’s different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after
my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I will be over it in a year. For
I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was
with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for watching our
children and grandchildren grow, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled
and I will never be the same.
I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and
love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be,
and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.
I don’t have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable.
When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don’t make it worse by telling me I’m not doing this right.
Please don’t tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start
dating again. I’m not ready. And maybe I don’t want to. And besides,
what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren’t. Whoever comes after will always be someone different.
I don’t even understand what you mean when you say, “You’ve got to get on with your life.” My life is going on, I’ve been forced to take on
many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget
and there will always be times that I cry.
I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.
Please don’t say, “Call me if you need anything.” I’ll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:
(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.
(b) Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday, and the
anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can’t
make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the
opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach
out on this difficult day.
(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I
may so no at first or even for a while, but please don’t give up on me
because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you’ve given up
then I really will be alone.
(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples,
to walk into events alone, to go home alone, to feel out of place in the same situations
where I used to feel so comfortable.
Please don’t judge me now – or think that I’m behaving strangely. Remember I’m grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I’m experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before and one that can’t be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.
Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don’t tell me you know how I feel, or that it’s time for me to get on with my
life. What I need now is time to grieve.
Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding. Thank you for praying for me.
And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss – when you need me as I have needed you – I will understand. And then I will come and be with you. 

9 thoughts on “Invaluable advice for friends of a widow/widower

  1. Excellent letter. However, I neded more good advice on being the friend of a widow. My friend is behaving so much differently from the way she always has. Since we live on opposite coasts, we have to rely on letters and phone calls. Since her husband died two months ago, she acts like she doesn’t want to hear from me on the two times that I’ve called her. Tonight, she actually interrupted our conversation and said that she had lots of chores to take care of and needed to end the call. We had only spoken for five minutes! I think that I should leave her alone for a while. She has grown children nearby and friends, and maybe I’m an intrusion. What do you think? Thank you very much.

    1. I am not sure she will know what she wants or needs. I never did. And I hated people thinking I was weak or needed them. I simply needed people when I needed them. Just try to be there when she asks for it and pre empt when things may fall apart on certain big dates. But really it sounds like she is trying to prove to the world that she can do this and do it her way. So you can’t really force your support upon her. Not sure this helps but…

    2. Reread and reread the letter you are commenting about. It is obvious you did not “get it” if you are looking for more advice for you the inexperienced non-widower….

  2. Since the death of my best friend, husband, father of my children I have questioned myself many times about “how am I doing”, “should I still be grieving so deeply”, “will I ever feel normal” and how do I tell my loved ones how I feel without them worrying about me. This letter says so much that I can’t even begin to tell others how difficult it is to go on with your life when there is such a big hole.
    It helped me…

  3. You know I’d be there for you if we lived nearby but we’ve moved away. Danny was a wonderful guy. You couldn’t help but like him. We feel lucky to have met you both. It wouldn’t have happened without swimming and kids but the memories of the times we shared Re there. I can’t say I know what your life is like, but I can say I can relate. In a way I know as Ben has changed so. He walks around but isn’t really there. I will continue to pray for you and your family. That was a great letter you sent.

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