If you know the widow but are not really close to her/him, what is an appropriate way to show support?

Hello All!

I have received my first question.  Someone asked me if you know the widow but are not really close to him/her, what is an appropriate way to show support?

When I became a widow, I felt very vulnerable.  It was really hard for me to allow people in my life that I really didn’t know.  I became skeptical and wondered what their intentions were.

Here are a few tips…

First you should use the way that you know them to build the trust in the widow/widower.  For example, maybe you are friends with a friend they are close to.  Connect with that friend and find out what they are doing to provide support and help them help the widow/widower.  If that person is going by to visit the widow/widower then tag along.  But do not do it all the time, maybe just in the beginning to establish some trust.  You can leave your contact information with the widow/widower and let them know if they need anything to let you know.  Be sure to include day or night. There is a strong possibility they will not reach out to you for some time, because they will not know what they need.  There is one question you should never as a widow/widower for some time and that’s how are you doing.  Instead say is there anything I can do for you or how are things going.  Maybe when you are visiting the widow, just start to help around the house.  If you see dirty dishes or maybe the garbage needs taken out, just do those tasks. 

Do not stay too long, unless the widow/widower indicates otherwise.  If the widow/widower comes to the door and they do not invite you do not take offense to it.  And if the visit becomes awkward know it might be time to leave.  Although in the beginning all visits may be awkward, just look for nonverbal cues from them.

Maybe you do not know them through another friend and you are an acquaintance.  I will give you an example, maybe your child is on the same team as their child.  Do Not just sit there and stare at them.  Start a conversation with them, even if it is about the weather.  You should provide your condolences to them, but try not to make that the conversation unless that is something they start to talk about.

Another very important thing you can do for them is listen without interruption.  If they want to speak to about the situation sit and listen to them.  Try to validate their feelings about the situation.  Do not try to tell them how the situation made you feel, instead focus on their feelings.  Especially in the beginning.  There will be plenty of time for you to share your feelings with them. This is if you are merely an acquaintance. 

Think about starting a group to make meals for the family.  Try to get as many people together as possible and cook dinners.  It will be easiest if the meals are able to frozen.  Put instructions on them on how to cook them and what it is.  You cannot imagine how helpful this will be.  When you become a widow/widower even the very menial tasks become exhausting.  It may also remind the person to eat.  I know there was a time that I couldn’t even eat or at times remember.  But with the convenience of these meals  makes it so much easier.   Even doing the errands, like going to grocery store or driving them around.

You can also make a sympathy basket for them, with gift cards and other items that would be useful at this time.

If they have children, offer to take the children to any events they have or even to school.  You can offer to take the children to the movies or to the park and this will give the widow/widower some time to themselves.

I really found that texting helped me at times.  I really didn’t feel like talking to someone verbally, but wanted to just reach out to them and share what I was feeling.  If they text you, text them back.  I would not call them, because likely they would have called if they wanted to verbally speak with you. 

Another good way to support is just sending a sympathy card with your information on it.  You could even mail them resources like books to read and keep it anonymous if you would like to.

Really determine how much support you are willing to provide to a widow/widower before you start.  You need to stay consistent with them.  You do not want to start out strong and then disappear, because that will be hard on the widow.  Before the funeral, during the funeral and a few weeks after there seems to be so much support.  From my experience after this you feel more alone. This may be the best time to connect with them.  I cannot stress enough that you need to determine how much support you want to provide before doing anything. 

Another good time to reach out to them is the few days before a holiday or event.  The hardest time for me was the days that preceded the event. 

After knowing all of this, the widow/widower may not even reach out to you.  Just know that by offering you are doing what you can and that is all you can really do.

 I hope these tips help you provide your support.  Please do not hesitate to ask anything further if you feel you need more information.

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