17 Mar How You Can Help Me – A Guide for the Friends and Family
What follows is a series of consolidated posts to Facebook that attempt to explain to the non-widowed what is going on when someone is widowed.
For those of you who are attempting to help the surviving spouse (and that includes fiancé, boyfriend/girlfriend or other long-term partnerships that have been severed by loss), please know that you really cannot understand the depth of the loss. I have lost a sister and that is a different, traumatic kind of loss. Others have lost a parent and a spouse and said it is very different. Even I, as a surviving widow, will not tell another widowed person, “I know how you feel” because I don’t;
In that spirit, please read this post with an open mind and heart.
HOW YOU CAN HELP ME..
Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.
Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.
Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You can’t catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don’t know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, “I’m sorry.” You can even say, “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that.”
Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.
I am not strong. I’m just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don’t see me.
I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I’m not sick. I’m grieving and that’s different. My grieving may begin at any time after my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for watching our children and grandchildren grow, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same. In time, I may be able to take action on my grief and access the memories with a sense of fondness, but I will not “go back” to my former self. Ever.
I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.
I don’t have to “accept” the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable.
Don’t tell me I am doing this wrong. When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don’t make it worse by telling me I’m not doing this right.
Please don’t tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start dating again. I’m not ready. And maybe I don’t want to. And besides, what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren’t. Whoever comes after will always be someone different.
I don’t even understand what you mean when you say, “You’ve got to get on with your life.” My life is going on. I’ve been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.
I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.
Please don’t judge me now, or think that I’m behaving strangely. Remember, I’m grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I’m experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before and one that can’t be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.
Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don’t tell me you know how I feel, or that it’s time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve.
Please don’t say, “Call me if you need anything.” I’ll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have.
So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:
(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.
(b) Send me a card on special holidays, his/her birthday, and the anniversary of his/her death, and be sure to mention his/her name. You can’t make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.
(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may say no at first or even for a while, but please don’t give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you’ve given up then I really will be alone.
(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to go home alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.
Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding. Thank you for praying for me.
And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss – when you need me as I have needed you – I will understand. And then I will come and be with you