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Being There For a Fellow Widow
By Jeanne Gormick
EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL HEALTH FOR WIDOWS
Sharing experiences and memories with another widow and being there to provide support helps you both.
When a widow starts her grief journey, she does it as a single person. She is no longer a couple. She begins living her new normal and will need the support of others who have travelled this path. Typically, only a fellow widow can fully understand this unique journey. That’s why supporting one another is essential.
Listening and mutual sharing is an important place to begin. It is likely that only you know what another widow needs to hear. Sometimes even close friends or those at work don’t know what to say or are afraid they will say the wrong thing. Though they want to help and often really do care, they just don’t know how to reach out. Sometimes, just listening is all a widow needs.
There are many practical ways to support another widow while also finding connection and friendship for yourself.
Bringing over a meal will ensure that you are both remembering to eat. Depression and grief can affect the appetite and even the desire for food.
She may need help around the house. Perhaps you can work on projects together.
Help her find new ways to connect with family. If she doesn’t already know how, show her how to use Zoom, Facetime, texting, etc.
When she’s ready, you can help with clothing donations or preparing for a garage sale. Sometimes widows need to talk about the things they are giving away — reminiscing and sharing memories. A fellow widow understands how it is and can patiently listen as they work together.
If she doesn’t have a car, offer to run errands or take her out somewhere.
For younger widows, you can offer to take her kids out or babysit, while she pampers herself or goes to the gym.
Something important for her wellbeing is to encourage her to get out of the house. I sometimes have to remind myself to get out once in a while, even if it’s only to the grocery store. Staying in a lonely house is not emotionally healthy.
Encourage her to get out and move forward, but never push. Maybe start by having her join you for some outside activities.
As I began to realize that I had the freedom to come and go as I pleased, I started meeting friends at happy hours for dinner on the way home from work. It was very therapeutic.
You could also invite her to MWC meetings, coffee, classes or workshops, a book club, the movies, or a restaurant just to mention a few ideas. (Note that not everyone is ready to join a support group, but you can certainly share information so she knows they are available.)
Why not volunteer together? Helping others can create a new purpose in a widow’s life. Emotionally this can be very beneficial for you both.
Consider celebrating your mutual angelversaries. A friend took me to breakfast on mine. It was a good way to remember my late husband, Cal.
Maybe you could encourage your widow friend to fill her extra time with something she has always wanted to do.
If and when she indicates she is ready, let her know you are there to support her as she begins to explore dating.
It took me two years to start dating, and I began mostly because of the isolation caused by the COVID pandemic. Since I’d been married so long, I was used to being a couple in my personal life. Cal and I had a great relationship and I missed the male companionship.
No matter what you decide to do together as widows, start where you can — and remember that grieving takes time. Just reach out and see how you can help each other.
Jeanne Gormick is a speaker and author of Your Treasured Marriage. Her greatest achievement is a 50-year marriage to her beloved late husband Cal. The book tells their story.