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