I take issue with the wildly popular & widely shared articles titled, “what NOT to say,” to someone. It’s a huge annoyance to me. But, I’ve never actually felt that one pertained to me until I ran across this, “5 things not to say to a new widow.” Maybe I don’t count as a, “new widow,” anymore. But, four years later, the pain is fresh – all I have to do is close my eyes and imagine his greasy mechanic’s hands or watch his son walk with the same gait and it all comes rushing back. In fact, there are still nights, when falling asleep, I’m startled by the shocking idea that he’s gone and never coming back.
I don’t find these, “What NOT to say,” articles very helpful. Although, I do appreciate some of the insights provided by the author of, “5 things not to say to a new widow.” I have been inspired to offer some really important things you should DEFINITELY say to a new widow, or ANY widow.. for that matter, because that pain flares up at random and a widow never really knows when that’s going to happen or how long it will last.
1. Have you eaten? The all important question. It may not be an issue for everyone, but it could be and this simple question can clear up a lot of problems. People who haven’t eaten are more irritable, susceptible to mood swings, easy to anger and low on energy – add to that dealing with the loss of a spouse and it’s a recipe for disaster. I’m very grateful to have had someone gently suggesting that I continue my daily habit of eating a banana for breakfast. She was very kind and I would have gone without eating for days if it hadn’t been for a simple reminder. It just was not important, not on my mind and the hunger pangs are no match for the agonizing pain that was taking my full attention.
2. Let me help you….. (fill-in-the-blank with a specific task) You know, because my spouse just died and I’m not going to remember all the things that need to be done… that are normally getting done.. that are piling up, so as soon as all the hoopla is over I have a huge mess on my hands. Let me help you by grabbing some groceries. Let me help you by doing your laundry. Let me help you by watching the kids for a minute. Let me help you by sweeping the floor, or whatever.
3. Let’s go out to dinner, tonight (or out for a walk or anywhere) This is especially helpful AFTER a couple weeks, or even a month has passed. You will find many of the friendly faces, so eager to be there in the first days, have moved on to attend to their lives and our widow is here…. alone… especially during those moments that used to be reserved for their spouse.. evenings, date nights, off days.. Honestly, my favorite time of the day was sitting on the front porch waiting for Dave to drive up, home from work… best moments of my life with him, reunited after the day away. Out of habit, I continued to wait… every day… I didn’t even realize it, until one day I was sitting there, in the evening… and I questioned what was I doing out here? Oh yeah…. it’s time for Dave to come home. Don’t leave your widow friend sitting on the porch all by themselves…. go wait with them or take them out.
4. Wow, you sit/talk/stand/move/do something just like Dave (or enter deceased spouse name) I can’t tell you how good it made me feel to know that somebody else recognized David in me.. in the way I talk, sat, moved… because that’s part of me now, forever. Notice it. Notice the little things about that person that have made their way into the personality of the one that’s still here without them. It might take them years to notice on their own, or maybe never.. and it’s a very comforting idea.
5. Ask questions… Ask questions… a million questions. Ask about the love, ask about the person, ask ask ask… don’t be afraid, be interested. Show them that somebody wants to hear the amazing, the humdrum, the regular and glorious things about the one they love with all of their being. Cause they still do, for the rest of their lives. Forever. That person doesn’t ever go away for them. They’re still here…. seemingly invisible to everyone else… they still stand together, forever.