Thursday, September 22, 2011

What to say when there is nothing to say

Recently we came across a website that we immediately bookmarked. There are just some sites that you can tell right away “this site is going to be an invaluable resource!” and Sympathy solutions is one of those sites. 

We asked for (and received) permission to share one of their articles with all of you, because it is really so helpful! After reading this article please take some time to visit the sympathy solutions website. There are a lot of great resources offered there including articles, gift ideas and more! <3 Gwen and Vi

What to say when there is nothing to say”
Offering words of sympathy is one of the most difficult things we face in this life. The fear of saying the wrong thing can leave a loss for words

We know that nothing we say or do can take away the pain. 

We know that grief cannot be fixed with a gift or flowers. 

We can't imagine what they are going through.

We may want to avoid the whole depressing situation altogether.

Did you know that most bereavement forums have a section devoted to venting about the rude and insensitive things people have said?

Did you know that many grieving people feel isolated from their friends and family?

 Did you know that many of the most hurtful remarks actually come from the nicest people?

Here's the amazing thing I've figure out. The simple things we do to express sympathy actually mean the most. It's when we start to make it complicated by trying to fix things or provide explanations that we get into trouble. That's about when our foot is heading for our mouths.

Sometimes it's the religious crowd (myself included) that really has an issue with this. We think that when something awful happens we should provide a reason why. We value having the right answer over empathy.

That's this one:
"God works all things out for good."

If you didn't know that this comment is not really helpful to someone mourning, now you do!
Simple sympathy is all about doing the little things that really make a difference to the grieving.

No advice
No solutions
No easy answers

A listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a comforting card, a phone call, a song, a poem, a thoughtful gift, a prayer, a hug and other simple things that make one day a little easier.

This also makes it so much easier to comfort a grieving loved one. You will find so many wonderful ideas here at Simple Sympathy. Not only will you not put your foot in you mouth, I bet you will be a treasured friend when it matters the most.

*Be sure to visit this link for an article on the simple sympathy website specifically for supporters of widow(er)s!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Supporting a widow from far away

When you live far away from your widowed friend it is easy to assume that you can’t do anything to help or that all of her friends who live close by are helping her so you aren’t needed, but don’t let distance keep you from supporting your friend in her time of need!
Here are just a few suggestions to get you started. (in no particular order)

1. Send a card - simple and sweet. You don’t have to say much Just a few sweet honest lines. If you have a favorite memory of her spouse be sure to share it in the card, she will cherish that. If you aren’t sure what to say, admit it and keep on writing! Even something short and sweet will help her know that she is still loved and thought about.

2. Food - Since you don’t live close by you cannot drop by with a casserole, but if you want to help her out with food items, consider ordering something from edible arrangements. They will deliver it to her, the arrangements are beautiful and it will give her something healthy to snack on when she does not feel up to eating a full meal.

If you know any of her friends that live near her you could also consider sending them money with which to order her a meal or stock her pantry.

3. Flowers- If you want to send an arrangement of flowers you can usually call a florist in her town and have them create something and send it to the funeral home, for the funeral or viewing.

4. Other gifts - If you would like to send her something other than flowers, there are several nice ideas out there. One thought, is to print out your favorite photo of or with him, frame it and send it to her. This could be included with a letter (see above) recalling a favorite memory you have of him or as a stand alone gift.  Here are a few websites where you can order sweet “in memory of” gifts as well as other gift ideas.

And here are a few more sites with more gift ideas than we included here!  one   two  three

5 - Gift basket - Could be called a care package or a sympathy basket. This is a link to one you can purchase online. It rather little pricey in my opinion, but I love the idea. This would be an easy gift to make yourself, and that way you could personalize it with her favorites as well!
Possible things to include:
“comfort food”, coffee or tea, home made photo book of her beloved, or a picture frame as mentioned above, a cd of soothing music, bath salts, a printed out list of online resources for widows. Etc. There are SO many different things you can include and it is great because you can customize it yourself throwing in a bunch of little things that she will appreciate and cherish.

This would be a good idea either soon after the funeral, or even on an “angelversary"

This is just a short list of ideas to get you started and show you how much you can do even with lots of miles between you and your friend! Get creative and step out and do something! You never know how much even the smallest gift or acknowledgement could help your friend feel loved and remembered in her time of grief. 

What about you?

Have you done anything “from afar” for your widowed friend? Please feel free to comment with more ideas of things you have done to support your widowed friend(s) and we may add them to our list.

Widows: if some one has done something for you that was particularly kind or helpful please also share so we may also add to our list that way as well. 

By Vi - Co Founder of Friends of Widows 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Support resources for your widowed friend

When your friend loses a spouse, it is VERY easy to tell them what YOU would do or THINK you would do if the roles were reversed. The first thing you need to know is that you SHOULD NOT tell them how you think you would react or how they should react because you really don’t know! I certainly didn’t when I started giving advice to my widowed friend! What I learned is that I could be there to support my friend physically and even emotionally to an extent, but I could not help her in the same way that some one who has “been there” could. When she really started to figure out that life could and would go on is when she connected with other widows. She found widows from one extreme to the other such as “pull yourself up from your boot straps and move forward…. 3 months after he died” to “my life has ended, everyone needs to feel sorry for me, I can not function so everyone around me please raise my kids….for 10 years.” You don’t know really how she feels or with whom she should connect but we wanted to give you a list of resources for her so she can find the connections she needs to move forward.

Here are a few suggestions we have to offer. Review this list, keeping in mind that every person is different and therefore needs different things. This is a small list of things to start you off if you are unsure how you could be offering support to your friend.

1) Many widows experience PTSD, if she is experiencing this then therapy would probably be a wonderful tool to help her work through the PTSD symptoms. You could see what her thoughts are on therapy, and ask if she would like your help in finding a therapist.

2) If she has children, it is likely that they may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD as well. It could be helpful to talk to her about getting her kids in to see a grief therapist to help them work through the trauma as well.

3) Let her know that even thought you don’t know what she is feeling you really do care deeply about her. Avoid telling her how you think you do understand because when your dog died you felt extreme loss….or some other unreliable story. Be there for her in her grief without pouring out your past grief onto her.

4) Connect her with others that DO know how she feels. So many widows have expressed how their friendships with other widows has been irreplaceable to them as they walk the journey of widowhood.

5) Keep the lines of communication open with her to know what she needs; but she should also know what YOU CAN GIVE AND WHAT YOU CAN’T GIVE.

the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation has an extensive list of resources for widows here. Some of the links are articles for 'friends' to read as they support their widowed friends, but most are resources for widows to help them through different things that they may be facing and to connect them with other widows.

We hope that this post gives you some places to start as you support your friend and figure out her unique needs.

 By Gwen - Co Founder of Friends of Widows & Hope for Widows

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Don't be afraid

Supporting a widow can, at times, be intimidating. Figuring out the "right" things to say and do is difficult. Even though every widow is different and therefore her needs and the way she grieves will be different, there are some things that seem to ring true with most widows. This is a small list created to help the supporter of a widow to see some basic guidelines and ideas about how to support a widow. Also listed are a few things that may seem like the right thing to do, but are generally not helpful to a widow.

We hope that this post encourages you to continue reaching out in love to your widowed friend, and helps you to understand more what you can do to help.

1) DON’T BE AFRAID TO: Keep in touch. Don’t assume your friend needs room or space to grieve. There is already something huge missing in their life. Don’t be another missing piece. A quick call, text, email, card, etc go a long way. Many widows comment that they are terrified that after the funeral is over, that people go on with their lives yet their own life will never be the same. Losing their spouse already creates the feeling of loneliness, abandonment, and insecurity of the future; they don’t need to lose their friends as well.

2) DON’T BE AFRAID TO: Verbalize and admit you don’t know what to say/do. Be honest. Tell them, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Widows would rather you tell them that you don’t know what to say or do vs. trying to understand by telling them a story of losing your friend or even a close relative. They may be able to hear your story later, but not now. Being there is more important than understanding. Pretending to understand is never okay.

3) DON’T BE AFRAID TO: Tell your widowed friend that you want to do specific things for them. A widow’s life has been turned upside down and they deserve clear and concise conversation. Normally, they are in such turmoil, if you ask them what you can do for them, they don’t even know what they want and may turn you down because saying yes requires energy to receive your offering. Tell them, “I am going to come over and sit with you at ___ time”; “I am going to bring you dinner on _____”; “I am going to go run errands with/for you because I see you need X Y and Z done. I will be over tomorrow to do that with you.” Try some of these instead of saying “Let me know if you need anything” or “Call me if you need anything.” If you feel like you are being too pushy, tell them you will continue to do things for them until they tell you no too or that it is too much. Too much is always better than not enough.

4) DON’T BE AFRAID TO: Talk about and mention your friend’s spouse. Let your friend know you still cherish the memories you all had together. Refer to our husband’s acts or words—serious or humorous. Widows are comforted by knowing that their spouse has not been forgotten. Many widows say that 2 to 3 years after their spouse’s passing, they long to hear someone mention the person who is still encompassing their thoughts yet seems to be forgotten by everyone else.

5) DON’T BE AFRAID TO: Invite your widowed friend to events. Even if they decline a few, keep trying. Don’t assume what they will or will not be up for. Let them know you thought of them and still would like to include them. Do not assume they will not be interested in participating in couples events. Many widows discuss how they were close with other couples and then they lose touch because the couples stop inviting them along which further isolates them reminding them that they are alone.

6) DON’T BE AFRAID TO: Accept where a widow is in their grief process. Marriages are brief, long, healthy, dysfunctional, intense, and remote.. Death comes suddenly or in tiny increments over years. Their marriage experiences are so different, as are we. Grief is a journey and there isn’t a specific timeline on when a widow should move from one stage of the grieving process to the next. Allow them to be where they are and don’t try to push them to the next stage because you believe they should be moving forward at a faster rate.

7) DON’T BE AFRAID TO: Follow up on what you said you would do. If you are not sure that you will be able to follow through on an offer (to take dinner, or do something with your widowed friend) then don’t make the offer at all. A better solution would be to merely say “I’m thinking of you” than to not follow through with what you said you would do.

*This post was originally a "status series" that we did on our facebook page. We made it into a blog so that it would be easier to find and read in the future.

By Vi - Co-Founder of Friends of Widows

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Supporting a widow: it's a journey not a destination

By Vi - Friends of Widows Co-Founder

Being an emotional supporter for a widow is not easy. Our widowed friends don’t come with instruction manuals about how to handle their bouts of crying, their bitterness, anger, silent treatments, and everything in between.

If you have chosen to be an emotional supporter to your widowed friend try to remember that she is on a journey. She does not know her destination, or what her “new normal” will be… and neither do you. You may feel that you know best how she should be progressing through grief. You may feel that she should be “past” this or that by now, but as her supporter and friend, it is not your job to tell her where she should be or what she should be doing. It is your job to support her where she is, not where she isn’t.  

Supporting a person who has lost their significant other is completely different than any other type of emotional support you could give some one. In a normal friendship, most tough situations that your friend might be faced with come and go relatively quickly. If you help a regular friend through her break up, you are quickly helping her back onto her feet. She can “get over it” in a few weeks/months and will usually be back to normal. Supporting a widow is completely different. Her life is FOREVER changed. Acknowledge that. Respect that. Don’t try to change it. Her life and future plans have been completely altered and affected by her widowhood, and they can’t be “put back on track” in a few months, or even

I think often times we begin supporting our widowed friends the same way we would support any one else through any other crisis big or small. We then wonder why our witty sayings, our profound things we believe will be “her answer,” or our fruit baskets don’t make it all better. It is important for us to understand that supporting a widow is completely different than any other supportive relationship you may or ever will participate. One of the most helpful things for me to hear was the phrase (spoken to me by another widow) “you cannot fix her”. That took awhile to sink in, because I am naturally a “fixer”, and I think a lot of the struggles in my relationship with Rachel were coming from me feeling like I was a failure of a friend because I was not doing a good job “fixing” her by having the right answer how to alleviate her grief.

Do not go into your relationship with her expecting to be the “one” who says the magical right words that get her “back on track” and allow her to embrace life with a smile again. Those magic words do not exist. Nothing you say or do will “fix” her. Allow that to sink in….Nothing you say or do will fix her. Just as nothing can bring her significant other back. You can give her all the love you have in your heart, and it will still wont be enough because it is not be the love of her beloved.

This may sound depressing, and for a go-getter/problem solver like myself, it would almost make me want to give up. “If I can’t fix it, then why bother?” The answer is because you can offer love. You can offer support at whatever stage of the journey she is in. She has been abandoned by her best friend, lover, and the one she was committed to spending the rest of her life with. The future that was once bright and filled with wonder, now seems dull, cold and gray, and filled with nothing but lonely tears. She may be at the point where she can not see light and not feel love. What she needs is some one to come along side her to be a little warmth, light and love.

Choosing to be that friend, that warmth and the little light of love is a selfless act. She probably does not have the same personality that you have known and loved for so many years. She probably cries more that she laughs, and may speak many a harsh word to you when you are trying to help. Don’t regret choosing to help. She may not have the strength to thank you today, or even this year, but continue sharing love with her. Continue walking down the path with her. Don’t choose her destination for her. Don’t tell her that she has to have any specific destination. Sit with her when she does not have the strength to walk and remind her it’s ok to cry. Show her she is not abandoned and forgotten. Take your cues from her. Figure out her needs and minister to them. Each widow receives and responds to the love of a friend in different ways, so you have to discover for yourself the best, specific, ways to support and love your friend. Just know that being there on the journey with her is a good place to start.

Be willing to be the friend that she needs. Be willing to be the one that loves her through her tears. Be willing to be the one that may never be publicly recognized, but is slowly, step by step, helping her find herself again.

It is a heart wrenching, delicate journey of recovery and love. Don’t be afraid to step on the road beside her and be a hand to hold, and a shoulder to cry on. She will travel this road at her own pace and in her own way. Don’t tell her how to travel it, just tell her you will be with her along the way.

Keep in mind that when supporting a widow you will not get the physical encouragement of watching her “recover” in a week, as you would when supporting some one through a small hardship. But you will know that you are helping her life have a little bit of light, and sharing love with a person who may be wondering if there is any love left in the world for her.

There will also be times that you receive the silent treatment or receive bitter, harsh words from her.  It is easy for a supporter to say, “I would never treat anyone this way if my spouse died.” Here is the truth: We do not know how we would be functioning if the roles were reversed. Do not compare how you “believe” you would grieve to her grieving process.  Try not to take her anger that is being displaced toward you personally.  This is not easy. I know. Just know that she probably doesn’t realize how she is acting.  There is a fine line that you will need to determine regarding supporting her through her anger and maybe needing to take a break, and let her know that no matter how much she is grieving, it isn’t ok for her to treat you this way. This is a very touchy subject, something that needs to be handled carefully and with much grace.

Don’t give up hope supporters. Remember the beautiful heart of your friend, even as it is broken, is hidden under much grief. Remember her, and remind her through love, who she is. <3

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Supporting a widow: after the funeral

*This post is the first in a series we will be doing called “supporting a widow:” Each post will give ideas and/or resources for supporting a widow through different stages of grief and in different walks of life. But because each person grieves differently there isn't a "5 step" easy process to helping your friend through her grief. These posts are just to be used as guidelines or starting points for you to use as you figure out how you can best support your friend. Each widow is unique just as each person is, so part of your job as a supporter is to “custom build” a plan about how you can best show your support to your friend. We offer you support, and a place to begin. *

The time between your friend losing their spouse and the funeral seems to pass in the blink of an eye.  There are so many to-do’s that everyone stays busy and adrenaline keeps everyone moving.  Once the funeral is over, we as supporters often ask ourselves, “Now what?”. The first question you should ask yourself is:

Are you a physical or emotional supporter?

I (Gwen) am a “doer” which makes me a physical supporter. After Michelle’s husband died, I immediately jumped in doing the dishes, laundry, shopping, etc. Of course, I was a emotional supporter also but, many of the lengthy cries with Michelle, were filled by other friends while I was in the background doing the dishes! I am not sure why I seem to leave the dishes in the sink at my own house though!

I (Violet) am also a doer by nature. So since Rachel and I live in different states after her husband’s funeral I assumed that because of our circumstances, there was nothing I could really do to support her. But now, I have become an emotional supporter for Rachel, I call her every few days, check up her via email, send her cards in the mail on important days etc. I do these things to make sure she knows she is not forgotten. Even if you are a ‘doer’ by nature you may find that because of circumstances in your own life or family emotional support may be how you need to show your love for your friend.

In this article, I (Gwen again) will mainly address the physical supporter with some resources that cover the emotional supporter.  I realize that there is a fine line between supporting and enabling your widowed friend.  I have heard many widows’ supporters ask how to define this line.  (blog post on this very topic coming soon!) Unfortunately there isn’t a specific answer that fits every relationship. My suggestion is to imagine the time when the widow will be able to start reengaging in life an how that transition is going to affect them.  In my situation, many of us supporters jumped in and fulfilled every duty of Michelle’s life for many months.  She literally sat on her couch and cried for months while everyone not only was fulfilling the physical needs of her house but, people were stepping in to discipline her children, get them bathed, etc. because she had ‘shut down’. I now know this "shut down is 100% normal and to be expected. I personally believe doing EVERYTHING for the widow is a disservice.  She was continually saying she was afraid people would forget about her and continue living their lives when her life was never going to be the same again.  Because everyone was performing every function of her household and child rearing, when people finally did need to get back to their lives, it added to her feelings of abandonment and loneliness and it took a lot for her to reengage since everyone had been doing everything for her. 

I AM NOT SAYING that supporters should sit back and let your widowed friend figure life out on their own. I am saying to assist them into learning how to single parent and run a household on their own and don’t take over their life like I did.  Ask them what they think they can do and what they would like you to do. I know all of us "well doers" caused Michelle’s transition back into life a lot harder.

There may be some things or decisions that your friend cannot handle at first, that is okay. But instead of doing the grocery shopping for her every time, offer to do it with her instead. Same goes for laundry and cooking. You can do it for her some, but oftentimes offer to do it with her.

Something else you can do to help your friend is to connect her with other widows. A great avenue for this is the Hope for Widows Facebook Page - a closed group for widowed women. There, she can find people to emotionally support that really understand what she is going through, because they are going through it too.

There are so many resources that weren’t available 4 years ago when Michelle’s husband died.  I have recently found the resources listed below.  People gave Theresa quite a few books but Theresa was not ready to read a book for many months after her husband died.  After a few months, I started reading the books people had given her and that when I felt I finally started to gain some understanding. Chances are, your widowed friend won’t be ready to read a book either so you will probably need to read the book yourself to know how to help your widowed friend.  Here are a few resources I wish had been available after the funeral:

1. For the immediate household organization, financial things to figure out, and just figuring out how to help her get her ducks in a row, I like the book “SOLO-Getting It All Together When You Find Yourself Alone” by Roslyn Reynolds, you can buy it here.  She is LDS which is a Christian faith so a few of the things on her to do list are related to the LDS faith.  Most of those items can be substituted for any religion.  Her to-do list is the most thorough I have read thus far regardless what religion you choose to believe. 

2. For learning how to single parent, How Tough Mom’s Succeed In Tough Times by Tiffany Berg and can be purchased here.  It is my understanding that her website is being reworked so if you don’t find the actual place to purchase the book, you can email her at tiffany (at) tiffanyberg(dot)com and she will give you the correct information.  This book is EXCELLENT for any parent either single or married.  I laughed and cried through this book because I was able to look at my parenting skills and apply a few things.  (I use the word few loosely!)

3. The basics for a widow to quickly learn how to function immediately after the funeral through the next 90 days, I really like an article written by Linda Della Donna called For the New Widow: Ten Tips To Help Her Survive…After the Funeral.  She has an entire series of articles, they are great resources for a new widow. She has written many articles for friends of widows as well. These articles will be in your best interest to read to know what the widow is thinking and feeling. You can find these articles and more great resources on Linda’s website.

For those of you offering emotional support, we could write an entire novel on what to do.  Ellen Gerst has the perfect saying to describe the decisions ahead for a widow.  She says, “You will either DECIDE to just SURVIVE by going through the motions of life without the emotions, OR you will DECIDE to THRIVE. THE DECISION IS YOURS. You can make a conscious decision to move forward through your grief journey in order to find a place of peace, acceptance, and personal renewal, or you can decide to stay stuck in sadness forever. Over time, you must learn to put your grief in perspective and let it work for you, rather than be its slave. It is not possible to go back in time before your loss. Your ultimate power lies in how you respond to the new circumstances of your life.” This is a very touchy subject for a non-widow to discuss with a widow because we have not walked in their shoes.  If the widow you are supporting is choosing to survive, Ellen’s website has a great article called, “101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief”. 

Remember that has the friend of a widow, it is not your job to tell her how to grieve or when she should be doing or not doing things. Your job is to support her as she grieves in her way. Offering emotional support to a widow can be a daunting task because she will not be “fixed” by you. All the support and love you can offer will not make it all better, but it can help her to know that she has not been abandoned by every one, and she is still loved. And something a simple of that is essential to a widow (and every one really).

I hope these resources and tips can assist you to gain a bit more insight into what a widow is feeling and how to best support her after the funeral.  As the supporter of a widow, I had many people judging me on if my actions were enabling, supporting, not enough, etc for Theresa.  What I know is that if you move forward with a prayer in your heart to have God and her soul mate both watching you from heaven and assisting you with her needs, that you will know how best to serve your widowed friend.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Family Balance

As a friend of a widow, people often come to me seeking advice about how to help their recently widowed friends. Normally, I find myself rattling off a million ideas but hadn’t really formulated a standard answer. As I have meditated and prayed for answers on how to assist others in their journey of supporting a widow, my answer has become very clear. The answer is simple.  It is to take a step back from the emotion of the situation and discuss with your spouse/significant other and/or children how you as a family would like the support for the widow to look like.  I will tell you my story first and then how I arrived at my answer.

When I received the call 4+ years ago that my best friend Michelle’s husband died, I jumped into overdrive. Unfortunately, I have seen two extremes of support.  First, people either jump into high gear like me or, they feel so overwhelmed by grief, they don’t do anything.  I believe most people immediately put themselves into the widow’s shoes and move forward with actions balancing between what they think they would want done for themselves if they were widowed, and what they think should be done. I too started doing the balancing act along with hearing Michelle saying over and over, “I don’t want people to forget about me,” and “I can’t believe I am doing this alone.” From the first night after her husband died, a few friends and I spent the night at her house for multiple months because she didn’t want to sleep alone and she had young children. We all spent many days at her house assisting her to just breathe. Understandably, it took a long time before she was ready to take back the cooking, cleaning, child rearing, etc from those of us who had stepped in. This is her story. What I didn’t stop to think about was, “What did my story look like during my role of supporter?”

Here is my story: I have an amazing husband and young children. I am so lucky that my husband didn’t leave me for abandoning him during Michelle’s time of grief. If asked, my husband says, “Our life became hers. When my wife wasn’t physically at her house, either Michelle or someone not knowing what to do for Michelle was calling my wife.” My husband married me for my drive and compassion, so my behavior was a bit expected. When the time came, I know it took a lot of courage for him to say, “I need you. I need you to be here when you are here. Chances are, there is a tomorrow and these phone calls from her and others can be answered tomorrow. Please let our time together be about us and our family, not about her and her grief.” What an amazing man I married. WOW.

I began to separate the times with Michelle and my family but because my Michelle had become so dependent on me, I wasn’t sure how to get my own life back when I had been at her house almost every weekday for 6 months. I started to crumble especially because “spectators” were happy to give me their opinions regarding the support everyone was giving
Michelle and if it was enabling her not allowing her to move forward or, if we weren’t doing enough for her. I went to a therapist that discussed boundaries and the immediate need for some in my relationship with Michelle. Of course the therapist also had to go through how to overcome the guilt of wanting my own life back and the fact that I still had my husband and she didn’t. The therapist said that I needed to put myself first because I wasn’t giving anyone including myself the energy everyone needed. I realized that I was carrying around so many feelings of anger thinking everyone wanted 110% of me without regard to what it was costing me personally. What I quickly learned is that I WAS CREATING THE SITUATION…. no one was forcing me to behave the way I had been behaving by putting myself last, my family second and my widowed friend and her situation first.
Long story short, I am still happily married and Michelle is still my best friend. After pondering the events of the first 6 months after Michelle’s husband’s death, I now know what the first piece of advice I will give anyone supporting a widow from this day forward. My answer is to immediately sit down with their family and determine what supporting their widowed friend is going to look like for their family. Every hour you support a friend, whether they are widowed, divorced or other, is an hour away from your family. Together, you need to create a plan of how serving the widow and their family this should look. A few of the suggestions that came from the therapist are: 

1) Discuss with your spouse/significant other what level of communication they would feel comfortable for you to be receiving/giving during their time with you.

2) Communicate to the widow that you are not available if/when she calls during family times so that she does not feel abandoned.  Explain that there are only so many hours in a day and the people you love deserve for you to give each of them individually, the one on one time they ought to have.

I received a call from a man asking my opinion on how his family could support his best friend’s wife after the best friend had just passed away. I asked him what had been going through his mind regarding what they could do to help. He stated that there were repairs that needed to be done around her home, yard work to be done, etc and that he was planning on getting to work on those things. I asked him how his wife was going to feel 3 months down the road when he is doing more repair work on his friend’s widow’s home than on his own, how he thought his wife would feel. He sat quiet for a few minutes and then said, “I hadn’t thought through that far, I was just thinking about her immediate needs and how I could help.”  Listening to him being ready to jump into his call to action, is when I got the answer to my first piece of advice to anyone supporting a widow, which is, create a plan as a family. I never stopped to think how my support was affecting others around me, especially my family. 

I am not a therapist, I am not a coach, and I am just a person who always strives to learn from my past. My answer to anyone asking for advice from this day forward is that their first step must be having a family meeting regarding how they best feel they can support the widow and move forward accordingly. When life is out of balance, there isn’t anything that is getting the full attention it deserves.  I realize that people do either too much or too little because often time, they did not discuss it with their family first.

~ Problems arise in that one has to find a balance between what people need from you and what you need for yourself. ~ Author Unknown

By Gwen - Co Founder of Friends of Widows & Hope for Widows