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grieving

9 Ways to Help a Grieving Widow/Widower

Another post on grieving you ask?

Yes-it seems to be a subject that continually comes up in life. Grieving is a difficult process and something I feel I know a little about.

As you know if you’ve read my posts I’ve lost a husband and a boyfriend in the last 5 years. I don’t bring this up for pity, just understanding that sometimes I feel the need to write about this subject.

The need today is the fact that my brother has lost his wife. It happened unexpectedly just a couple of days ago. They were married almost 40 years ago, when I was 8. It’s brought up a lot grievingof feelings for me, but it’s not about me. It’s about him and all the other folks grieving from a recent loss.

I wish I could come up with something new and fresh to say about the pain we all have to deal with eventually, whether it’s a spouse your grieving for or some other important person in your life. It really sucks that we can’t control death.

Nothing is going to take the pain away for the remaining spouse, but there are actions we can take to let them know we care.

9 Ways to Help the Grieving:

  1. It can be uncomfortable figuring out what to say, but don’t let it stop you. You don’t really have to say anything except that you’re sorry, give them your number and a big heartfelt hug.
  2. Check-in occasionally. Don’t let them feel forgotten. Call and text from time to time. Along with letting them know you’re thinking of them, it also helps you gauge how they’re coping.
  3. Invite them out to lunch or dinner once in awhile. They may not accept your invitation, but it’s good to throw out the option in the hopes they’ll get out of the house and among other people.
  4. Let them talk. I talked (and sometimes still do) incessantly during my early bereavement. It probably drove people crazy, but for some of us, that helps work it all out in our mind.
  5. Don’t push the grieving to straighten up, get it together, or move on. Unless their actions or attitude seem harmful or long-lasting, let them work through it at their own pace. Everyone deals with things their own way.
  6. Encourage them. If they have a special interest or hobby, encourage them to keep up or start back with it. Or introduce them to a new hobby. If you admire them, this is a great time to tell them so. As long as you don’t hound them, positive reinforcement can be helpful.
  7. If you’ve never lost a spouse, don’t tell them you understand what they’re going through, because you really don’t.
  8. If you have experienced this type of loss, it doesn’t make their pain go away, but spending grievingtime with the grieving spouse will give them hope that they can get through it just like you did.
  9. In some cases the surviving spouse may not know how to pay the bills, use the lawnmower, etc. because they never had to do it before. Offer to teach them.

Conclusion

For me, knowing what to say is the hardest. And making sure I keep in touch can be a tough one too. Over time we tend to get caught up in our own lives and forget to contact others.

I can only do a few of these things for my brother because he lives 1200 miles away. But I’m with him in spirit and hurting so badly for him and his sons right now. It’s heartbreaking. I do intend to contact him every day until the funeral and then frequently after that. Maybe I can talk him in to coming to Kentucky for a week of hunting and fishing when he feels better.

Please don’t forget your grieving friends and family. When the funeral is over and they have to get back to life it’s tough and they need your support.

Stages of Grief-Guilt

Let’s talk about the third stage of grief-guilt. You can find my previous posts on the first two stages here and here.

Some may argue in what order the stages occur, but the order may be different for everyone.  The stages are not exact for everyone, but are a blueprint so that you know what may happen at some point while you’re grieving.

Some lump bargaining in with the guilt stage. I don’t recall bargaining for anything but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience this. You may try to make a bargain with God for your loved one’s life. It’s a totally understandable state of mind when grieving.

When we lose someone we tend to eventually blame ourselves-if only I’d done this or that, if guiltonly I’d noticed their health was deteriorating, if only I’d been kinder. This kind of thinking can make you come undone.

I don’t mean to sound callous, but the awful, hard truth is that you can’t bring them back and you weren’t responsible for their death. In most cases no one in particular is to blame.

With that said, I do understand guilt. It’s been 5 years since my husband’s death and 3 years since my boyfriend’s and I still occasionally feel guilty about some things. The difference is that now I can shake those guilt feelings off and not dwell on them.

Writing this post reminds me of an interview I saw a long time ago with Waylon Jennings, an iconic country singer. He was in Buddy Holly’s band and was great friends with him. The following video explains what happened the day of Holly’s death. Waylon was supposed to be on the plane but let Big Bopper have his seat. Buddy told Waylon that he hoped he froze on the bus and Waylon told him he hoped his plane crashed. It was all in fun, but as we know, the worst did happen.

What’s not in this video, and I cannot find it anywhere on the web, is what Waylon’s friend said to him years later. He asked Waylon if he would bring them back if he could. Of course he said he would. His friend told him that since he couldn’t bring them back, he couldn’t have been powerful enough to have killed them in the first place.

Think of the overpowering guilt that Waylon Jennings must have felt for the rest of his life. Don’t allow guilt to consume you. It’s a simple statement, but what Waylon’s friend told him has resonated with me for a long time now. It’s so true. We are not in charge of when someone passes away and we can’t bring them back.

Something else to ponder on: ask yourself if you purposely did anything to your loved one to hurt them. I’m sure the answer is NO. You wouldn’t have done that, so maybe you have nothing to feel guilty about. Maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.

When guilt rears it’s ugly head try not to give in to the belief that you’re responsible for your guiltloss. Your loved one would not want this for you. Things happen and sometimes it doesn’t matter what we do to, we can’t prevent it from happening.

Even though guilt is normal at this time, it’s an awfully heavy burden. It’s natural to want to assign blame when we’re hurting, but try to keep your focus on recovery and remind yourself of the above information. Click here for more articles on grieving from PsychCentral. I also have an article with tips to help get through your grief.