5 Things to Say to a Widow

Someone reminded me this week that I totally left you all hanging. I shared 10 things you should never say to a widow, promised to follow-up with some safe condolences you could use instead and then promptly got side-tracked by my daughter’s insurance drama.

However, now that her insurance issue has (knock on wood) been resolved, I can refocus on other matters. So without further ado, here are five things to say to a widow when you’re at a loss for words.

5 Things to Say to a Widow

I’m sorry.

It’s that simple. You don’t even have to fill in anything after that. Your widowed friend will do that in her mind. Depending on where she’s at in her grief, she’ll hear it as:

• I’m sorry your husband died.
• I’m sorry you’re all alone.
• I’m sorry you have to go through this.
• I’m sorry your kids lost their father.

Three simple words are all you need to say when you don’t know what else to say.

I can’t imagine what you’re going through.

One of the things that rankles widows is the idea that someone else can feel their pain. Really, whether we lose a spouse, child or parent, we are all walking a unique journey. Rather than saying “I know how you feel,” acknowledge that you don’t. Widows want people to recognize they are going through an awful time, but they don’t want to be told how they feel. Using these words accomplishes both.

I’d like to help with [fill in the blank].

People are so kind. Despite all the bad news we hear in the world, I truly believe we all have generous hearts and want to do the right thing. So it’s not surprising so many people ask widows how they can help. Unfortunately, many widows are stuck in an emotional pit and either don’t know what to ask for or how to ask without feeling like a heel. Help them out by suggesting what you’d like to do:

• I’d like to bring you dinner on Tuesday.
• I’d like to take your kids to the park on Saturday.
• I’d like to come mow your lawn in the evening.
• I’d like to treat you to coffee if you’re up to it.

I want to stress that since everyone grieves differently, some widows may not be open to these suggestions. They may want to hole up in their house alone. In that case, respect their wishes when they decline, but add that the offer is always open if they change their mind.

I’m thinking about you/praying for you.

There’s something to be said for simply knowing you’re on someone else’s mind. After the funeral, widows can feel alone and forgotten. Everyone else (understandably) moves on with their life, but things will never be the same for the widow. It’s always welcome to hear that others haven’t forgotten.

This sucks.

Ok, so some people don’t like this word. Feel free to insert whatever else fits the sentiment – rotten, horrible, terrible – you get the idea. So many people spend time trying to make widows feel better, but we don’t necessarily want to feel better. We want others to acknowledge how painfully awful and tragically unfair our spouse’s death was. Please, don’t placate us. Commiserate with us.

What was the most comforting thing someone said to you after you lost someone a loved one? Help other readers find the right words by sharing in the comments below or on The Mighty Widow Facebook page.

(photo credit)

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