What Not To Say To A Widow – part 2

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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20 thoughts on “What Not To Say To A Widow – part 2

  1. My dearest Nick, thank you for the years we had together, this is for you!
    They say memories are golden, we’ll maybe that’s true. I never wanted memories, I only wanted you. A million times I needed you, a million times I cried, if love alone could have saved you, you never would have died. In life I loved you dearly, in death I love you still. In my heart you hold a place no one could ever fill. If tears could build a stairway, and heartache make a lane, I’d walk the path to heaven and bring you back again. Our family chain is broken and nothing seems the same. But as god calls us one by one, the chain will link again xxxxx Nick thank you for coming into my dreams ,thank you for the little messages you leave around to let me know you are there, and thank you for the love I feel inside my soul coming from you to let me know all will be ok. As you can see ,Claudia ,Michela, and I ,are just as you wished and I know you are proud and happy, we all can never forget you and you will keep hearing from us until we meet again xxx

    1. Thank you Mary, that’s such a beautiful poem you have posted for Nick, I love it, thank you for sharing it.
      I know he is watching over us all, wanting nothing more but for us to be happy. Lots of love to you always from Claudia and I xxx

  2. Yes to “just being there”! A few weeks after my husband died, my next older sister was going to a conference in San Antonio. She suggested I join her, she would take a few extra days off and we could just kick around. I did. She was the best possible companion for this purpose. She’s mild and balanced and straightforward but not particularly talkative. Among other things, we went on a boat tour into the Aransas preserve and saw whooping cranes, something my husband and I had always wanted to do. I had tears streaming down my face from the joy and sorrow of it, and she just put her arm around me and waited for it to pass. Perfect.

    1. Sounds like you have a wonderful friend in your sister, who knew just what you needed and what to do. How lucky you are! Besides, I also think getting away at that time is sometimes the best thing to do, to be away from your usual surrounds and the memories that you see everywhere. I’m sure that helped tremendously also. xxx

      1. How wonderful to have a person like your sister there for you! That’s just brilliant! Hope you are still gathering strength x

  3. We must never stop talking about people who have passed. When I’m gone I want my kids to be able to talk about me every day……it’s all about ‘me’ after all……lol

  4. Michaela, I have recently come across your blog and am now a huge fan, always looking forward to your next post. I find that as I’m reading, I’m continuously shaking my head in awe and amazement. What an inspiration you are!! Selfless, loving, caring, genuine and down to earth are a few adjectives that come to mind. You’ve gone through a huge traumatic event at a very young age; an enormous ‘unplanned’ life changing experience, yet here you are trying to help others and willing (and able) to change a ‘negative’ into a ‘positive’. I have gathered your late husband was a beautiful and wonderful blessing to you, might I add, I am sure your were the very same to him.
    I am truly sorry for all the pain and suffering you’ve endured. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for helping so many others.
    Wishing you abundant blessings,
    Maree xox

    1. Oh Maree, thank you so much for your beautiful and thoughtful message. You think too highly of me, honestly, i’m just a girl who had a really crap thing happen and tried her hardest to not look at it in the worst light, but instead as a positive to learn and move forward from. I never think i’ve done anything special, your words are too sweet!
      I’m happy you have come across my blog and I thank you for reading along and taking the time to write me. Really appreciate it!
      Wishing wonderful blessings right back to you!
      Michela xx

  5. My favorite bit of this post, ” …never be scared to mention those that have passed, use their name…” After my brother died (also Pancreatic Cancer) people would refer to him as “your brother.” Made me want to scream, “You knew him, he was your friend, you can say his name! His name was Charlie!”

    1. Hi Melissa, i’m so sorry you lost your brother Charlie to pancreatic cancer, it sucks, doesn’t it? Totally agree, I hated when people would just say ‘your husband’ and you’d think really, you won’t be cursed if you mention him by name. So frustrating!!! xx

  6. Michela I understand this, as my mother told myself and my 2 brothers after my father passed away to always talk about our Dad, remember all the funny things he would say and do,and most of all to remember the love that he had for us all, and that’s what got us through. Everybody greaves differently but I think it is very healthy to speak often of your loved one that has passed away. Thanks Michela xx

    1. Hi Lynn, totally agree with you, it’s so healthy to talk about those that have passed, I think it’s far worse to never mention them again, like they never existed and that the memories we had with them should fade away. I think your mum passed on the best advice to you all, it’s what im hoping will happen with my daughter, that as she grows, she’ll be able to speak of her Dad, because she would have heard so much about him from me. xxx

  7. I’m so sorry that person said that ‘damned if you do…’ comment to you. Dealing with grief is really, really hard. In my experience how I feel can change from day to day, and even within the course of the same day. So, that means how I respond to things can change, too. People close to us need to appreciate that. You’re so right, just listening, giving the bereaved space to talk without judgement is so valuable. Great post xxx

    1. For me, I love it when people share their memories of my husband. I never get tired of that. What I hate is when people look at me strange when I mention his name, like I’m not suppose to do that 2+ years out from his passing.

      1. I feel lucky that I haven’t experienced this. I have a close friend who lost her husband Ron, and friends who’s son took his his own life a year ago, we still talk about Harry every time we meet up. That’s the way it should be!

        1. You’re a good friend to still talk about your friends loss, because although your life moves on, you understand the huge void in theirs, that takes a thoughtful friend to realise. They are lucky to have you.

          1. Thank you
            I have an incurable disease. I don’t know how long I have but recent treatment suggests it will be years…..I want my husband, kids, family and friends to talk about me all the time when I’m gone x

      2. I agree Jean, ive had some strange looks and comments about my being remarried and starting this blog about Nick, like I shouldn’t be sharing our stories. But, I don’t care, I think it’s healthy to speak their names and talk of them often, in whatever format you choose! xx

    2. Thank you Leigh, you’re so right, grief is like a wave washing over you, some days are better than others and sometimes it’s down to hour to hour changes. I knew you’d understand this post, im sure you and your husband have had your share of insensitive comments after Hugo’s passing. Thank you for taking the time to comment xx

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