Grief is patient, it has a way of coming out of nowhere and hitting you over the head when you don’t expect it. I’ve experienced this first-hand. As you may know, I lost my bride of 31 years just a few months ago.
In trying to wrap my head around the new life I am forced to navigate, someone recommended a podcast to me called Widow We Do Now? (www.WidowWeDoNow.com). I recommend it to anyone who has lost a spouse. It is hosted by two young widows. It is very conversational but anyone who has lost a spouse can definitely get help out of many of the episodes. After I listened to the first one – I wondered why it was recommended to me. However, after I listened to the second one, I was hooked. I’ve listened to almost all the past episodes and it has given me some solace hearing the stories about other people who have had the same kind of loss. You can listen to a podcast from anywhere in the world and I highly recommend it.
I’ve learned a lot from these shows that will help me in my journey AND just as importantly, will help me when I’m talking to other people that have had such a close and personal loss. Even if you haven’t lost a spouse, the things I’ve learned will help me and possibly help you when talking to someone who has.
Here are some lessons on grief that might be of value to you:
- The Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief was written for people who have been told they have a terminal disease. It does NOT apply when someone has lost a spouse. Check out this article from Healthline.com. The Seven Steps mentioned at the end are relevant to the loss of a loved one. https://www.healthline.com/health/stages-of-grief .
- When talking to someone who has lost a spouse – go where the widow/widower is at that moment. If they are depressed, do NOT talk to them about things getting better over time. It doesn’t help them and it can actually shut them down from talking to you. Instead, ask them to talk about how they feel and don’t try to fix it. [Note, the obvious exception to this is anything involving suicidal ideation – that requires a response that I am not qualified to offer you.] If they say they are feeling better, ask them to tell you about that and support that feeling for them.
- Don’t judge them! If they still wear their wedding ring – don’t ask them why. If they took off their wedding ring – don’t ask them why. Just be present with them and don’t judge them.
- Do not tell them they will find someone else someday and will have the chance to re-marry. Trust me, that doesn’t make them feel better (people have already told me that and it did NOT sit well with me).
- Be there and help them in any way you can. Offering an ear is good but I can say firsthand that almost everyone says that and it is overwhelming. Anything you can actually do for them will most likely be appreciated. For example, I heard the podcast hosts (and others) talk about neighbors taking out the trash for them, helping them clean the house, babysit the kids, go shopping for them, and help the kids with homework. When you offer these kinds of things or something else – be understanding if they say no “thank you.” They may have reasons that you don’t understand (go back to “don’t judge them!).
- Don’t ask them when they plan on dating again. If they happen to bring it up in conversation be understanding and. . . (you guessed it), don’t judge them.
- If you’ve lost a spouse, it’s ok to say you understand some of what they are going through. However, if you’ve lost friends and/or family members do NOT compare. One person told me that they lost several family members over the years and they understand. They do NOT understand. I’ve lost family members and I have lost a spouse. It is not the same. Not even close. It’s not a competition. Don’t make it sound like one.
Here is a networking recommendation of mine that actually fits very well with this topic. When you are talking to someone who has lost a spouse, remember that you have “two ears and one mouth and should use them both proportionately (actually, pretend you have more than two ears).” Listen, listen, listen. Don’t judge, don’t advise. Just be a friend and help them in any way you can. Sometimes the best gift you can give is silence. Just quietly be in the moment with them.
The Widow We Do Now podcast also has a private Facebook page to support people who have lost a spouse (by the way, men who have lost their spouse are welcome in the private group). The private group is at : https://www.facebook.com/groups/widowwivesclub. You’ll need to answer some questions in order to participate on the page.
My thanks to Anita and Mel for doing this podcast. It has helped me greatly. Please recommend the podcast to anyone you know who has lost a spouse.
Do you have any suggestions or ideas that you believe have been helpful in a situation like I’ve described? If so, post it below, I’d live to read it.