It can be nerve-wracking trying to say the “right thing” but many times the very things they think will comfort us will only end up hurting us. Let’s look at some hurtful things that people say with good intentions.
“He’s in a better place” or “He isn’t in pain anymore.”
She wants him to be with her. No matter how much pain he was in or how difficult it was to care for him at least she still had him with her.
“I know exactly how you feel.”
Every widow is different just like every wife and marriage is different. Even if you have experienced a loss, each widow has their own unique path to travel so you can’t know exactly how she feels.
“You’ll feel better soon.”
She may be thinking she’ll never feel better so presuming how she is going to feel in the future may be very frustrating for her. Let her grieve and come to this on her own.
“Don’t you think you should be over it by now?”
This question is completely wrong. Most widows feel like they are never going to “get over it,” and it’s not very accurate to say that losing a loved one can be “gotten over.” The pain may lessen but the loss will always be in her life in one way or another.
“You shouldn’t be sad in front of the children.”
It’s appropriate for the children to see you grieve so that they can show their own grief. Children may find it confusing to lose their father and yet never see their mother grieve.
“I’m sure it’s what God intended.”
It’s very important to know the widow’s belief system before mentioning anything about God. It’s better not to assume that she has the same faith or belief that you do.
“He wouldn’t have wanted you to be sad.”
Losing someone is sad, even if the loved one would not want it to be that way. This comment may make the widow feel guilty that she is sad and she does not need that added emotional stress.
“Let me know if I can do anything to help.”
The widow may not know what help she needs or it may be too hard to ask for help. Instead make specific suggestions and then ask her if that would be ok with her.
People often don’t know what to say or how to act around widows because death and grief are taboo subjects. I hope this blog will give you the information you need to explain to others why their comments are not helping you.
Let’s look at some ways that they can help us with our grief.
Always address the loss. Misguided friends avoid painful issues thinking that they are sparing our feelings, but not saying anything about the death is like saying that our loss is not important.
Allow feelings of all kinds to enter the conversation. A widow’s emotions vary widely during the course of a conversation. This is normal and they can help by creating a safe place for you to experience these feelings.
Remember that each widow’s path has its own ups and downs. Help them to understand that they need to honor your unique journey. It may be longer or shorter than they think it should be, but remember, it’s not their path of grief, it’s yours.