Reflecting on what the first year of being a widow was like, I have found that some people just will not allow others to grieve in their own time, and they can be, from my experience, insensitive and say the oddest things. I compiled a list of my top 10 things that people should NOT say to a widow. I pray that it can help those that may know someone who lost a spouse to understand that we just need our space and time to heal. While we appreciate the love, attention and seemingly support others say they want to give, sometimes we need time and space to adjust to living our lives dancing to a different beat.
#10- Did you have a final conversation with them or did they make peace? –To ask this question is really delving into a very intimate and private moment between two people that have spent a lifetime together. When they want to share this information they will do so at a time that fits for them in the grieving process. Don’t try to rush it being nosey or you may get your feelings hurt.
#9- Do you miss your spouse? – Are you really asking me this question? YES I miss him! You tend to miss those that you spend every waking moment with and have a strong bond with. This is a silly question to ask a spouse and you should just keep it to yourself.
#8- Can I help you go through his/her belongings? – Are you really asking me can you go through my husband’s things with me? I can understand this coming from a very close family member, but a distant, “I see you twice a year” relative. Stop it! Most often, we are consumed with emotions as we go through our spouse’s belongings. We cry, scream; fall to the floor, etc. In those moments, we often choose to be alone to talk to God and ask the question, “why us and why now?” Please give us that space.
#7- I truly know how you feel. - I feel with my hands darn it! Seriously, I find this truly hard to believe especially if you have not lost a spouse, nor do you know the relationship I had with my spouse. You just cannot know how a person will feel in this instance. You can try to be empathetic but each person is different so don’t assume you know how the grieving person feels. Maybe you can instead say, “I don’t know how you feel, but I am praying for you or thinking about you”.
#6- Call me if you need anything. – I have found this to mean, “Call me for anything except money”. This is not true in all cases but with some folk, there is every excuse given for not providing assistance, when you should not extend the offer if you are not truly willing to help when help is needed. My advice is to say what you can potentially provide assistance with in the beginning and stick to that if the need arises.
#5- Let me just hug/hold you. – Why? Not all people are touchy/feely and it can be a huge mistake to think this and start grabbing folk when they don’t want to be touched. While I do hug people because I am a caring person, some people that want to hug widows try to hug and touch in places that will cause the widow to punch you really hard. STOP it! Keep your “ulterior motive” hugs to yourself, and take that as your only and final warning.
#4 - If you ever need “none-committed” intimacy call me. – Please awake me from this dream. There is really no nice way to tell you where to go, but it’s to a place that is extremely hot with fire and brimstone. Ok you must have some mental issues that need to be addressed if you think that a grieving spouse wants to be touched intimately by someone OTHER THAN their deceased spouse. Additionally, if they want to be touched, why would they want to be touched by you? Please use better judgment when approaching a grieving spouse with this foolishness, especially the first year.
#3- Did he have a will? Do you have a will? I can truly understand this question coming from maybe a close relative, but even then, tread very soft here especially if the death is very recent. If you didn’t have that type of relationship with them, then why are you even in folk business like that other than to be nosey and see what you can try to get. Lord help.
#2- Did he leave you a hefty insurance policy? - The statement leading up to this question is usually, “I understand your pain but I am sure you are financially set so”…Who can be this insensitive you ask. I cannot tell you the number of people that ASSUMED that because my husband was a veteran and retired police officer that I have money running out of my stilettos. The financial chaos that ensues after the loss of a spouse, when there is NO adequate insurance policy in place prior to a spouse’s death and tons of medical and other bills is TRAGIC. Please stop asking this question. However, what you can do is encourage spouses to get policies in place prior to a life-changing event happening that could bring financial chaos.
#1- Do you think you will get married again? – How insensitive can you really be? I was asked this question a few days after my husband was BURIED! I just lost my husband, the ground is still warm and you want to know if I will ever get married again. Thank God it was a phone call and I dropped the connection…on purpose. PLEASE stop asking us this question. We may or may not get married again, but allow us to grieve and then start the conversation about life after death on our terms, not yours. I would suggest not asking this question at all within the first year of the death.
This is my list in a nutshell. I am still healing and going through this process daily and thank God for each day I can get through without sobbing for my beloved spouse. Continue to pray for my strength.
I am a motivational speaker, business psychology professional, philanthropist, photojournalist and world changer. Follow me on twitter @Dawgelene