Hi again, thank you to everyone who wrote me following last weeks post, it seems to have hit a cord, so here’s the follow up, What Not To Say To A Widow – part 2.
So many widows wrote me with similar comments they received, and I was asked to include a bit more about what you might want to say instead to someone grieving.
I do want to add, i’m no expert in the matter, i’m just going on what I appreciated at the time of my loss.
I also want to acknowledge that I completely understand how awkward it is to hear of someone ‘young’ passing and not knowing what to say.
So please don’t be hard on yourself!
It is out of the natural order of death, to hear of a fit and healthy 32 year old, (as was my situation), dying and leaving behind a young daughter and wife.
We understand dying happens, we expect the elderly or our grandparents to pass away before us. We say, ‘wow, what great innings!’, ‘what a wonderful life they had’, i’d love to get to that age one day’ or ‘at least, they got to see their children and grandchildren grow up’.
We expect our parents will pass away, once we’re adults ourselves and whilst it will always be a sad occasion, it’s not beyond understanding.
They get older, just like we do.
But when a young person dies, who may be similar aged, it makes us question our own mortality.
Suddenly, we’re not invincible anymore, we question our life and what we’d do if in the same situation.
I know quite a few friends of Nick’s who took out life insurance once he passed.
The reality washing over them, that life doesn’t always follow the path you had planned for it.
I believe the same situation applies to parents who lose a child, no matter what age, it’s outside of the ‘norm’. We don’t know what the ‘right’ thing to say is. Those parents will never fully recover from their loss. Nick’s parents will live with their grief forever.
What could you say to make anyone feel better about someone’s life being cut so short in their prime? Well, not much really…
But, firstly, a few more distasteful comments that you should avoid saying, this from a widow close to my heart, who constantly heard, ‘but you look so good’, after the passing of her husband.
Just because you get up, dressed and maybe put on some makeup, doesn’t mean you are not grieving and hurting beyond belief, I heard this comment a lot too.
Society understands widows or those grieving to be disheveled in their pajamas, not well dressed and ready for the day.
We don’t want to be told we look good, we would prefer our husbands back.
The other comments I heard from a few widows were, ‘now you can get out and do things‘ or now you can start your life again‘. Not helpful, we are mourning the loss of our life as we know it, not looking forward to being alone and starting over. See what I mean ?
Now, onto what you might prefer to say in these times, well, none of the above firstly, or go and read last weeks post again and none of them either!
When I say just be there, do just that. As Christine one of my readers wrote to me, ‘I’ve had the wettest shoulders without ever saying a word‘.
Let the bereaved just talk and vent and don’t butt in and try and interject your words of wisdom.
Let them just talk it out, no interruptions.
Side story, one day as I was venting to a friend about my situation and maybe being a little irrational too, (it was about 4 weeks after Nick passed) she stopped me and said, ‘You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t with you’.
That comment stung me like nothing else, it made me feel like I shouldn’t have said anything at all. She shut me down so quickly, I felt like i’d best keep those thoughts to myself instead, that maybe I was being (god forbid!) difficult.
So, don’t do that!!
Don’t stop them talking, let them get out every irrational, stupid thought in their head, and make them feel safe in your company, no judgement!
Oh and bring around a tray of lasagna and maybe some wine, I promise they’ll appreciate it.
As i’ve said before, Cathryn, thank you for the pizza and wine Wednesday nights, they became my savior, I can never thank you enough for just ‘being there’.
Be normal, and talk about the person who passed, share stories, laugh at the memories, bring around photos you think they may not have seen before.
I loved hearing other aspects of Nick’s life that I wasn’t always privy to, like his work self and all the funny things that happened there or his time growing up.
I spoke about Nick all the time after he passed, it often garnered strange looks from people listening, but it’s how I coped. As much as it made others squirm and sometimes cry, it always made me smile being able to share those memories out loud.
I heard this from other widows too, that although it made their friends and family sometimes uncomfortable talking about those that had passed, it made them appreciate them all the more, and the life they had lived. It allowed them to focus on the positives instead of their new reality.
So, never be scared to mention those that have passed, use their name and acknowledge the life they had.
My favourite past time after Nick died was talking about him, I think this helped me through my grief immensely!!
Just acknowledging that although short, he had a full life and focusing on all the positives, instead of all the negatives once he was gone.
Sure, he’d never get to know our daughter, or have a chance to fulfill all his goals and dreams, but thinking this way was fruitless.
If I spent my time thinking about what he didn’t get to do, I don’t believe I would have been as accepting of his death.
Nick had a career he loved, he was in a loving, trusting marriage, he had a daughter he adored, friends and family he enjoyed spending time with, was well travelled and he was a happy guy who moulded me into the person I am today. See, all positives!
It doesn’t mean that after his passing, I didn’t wish he was around, but i’d think of the positives in his life and i’d know he was ok and it was what was meant to be.
So, don’t talk about the what they didn’t get to do, focus on the life they had instead, it’s what helped me through those early times.
To sum up my thoughts, listen without judgement, don’t interrupt, be there, use their name and bring wine, or chocolates will do too!
I hope you might have found some of this useful, know that nothing you say can ever take away their pain, but an ear to listen can go a long way.
Thanks as always for reading along and sharing, liking and commenting, I really do love hearing from you!
Til next time, Michela xx
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