Do you know someone whose spouse has died?
Have you ever wondered what to say to him or her?
If so, you are not alone. We live in a society where death and grief are off limits topics; so most people were never taught what to say to the widowed. Even worse, most people were taught that sad feelings should be avoided at all costs. When they come across someone whose spouse has died they try to find a positive spin, fix them, or offer advice that doesn’t work.
Did you know that 85% of things people say to the widowed are not helpful?
Recovery from grief involves healing a broken heart, not a broken brain. The more often people attempt to fix widows and widowers with intellectual comments and advice the more isolated they feel. They might even start to think something is wrong with them because they are still grieving.
Here are 11 things not to say to a widow or widower:
1. Be grateful for the time you were married
2. You’re still young. You can always remarry
3. You must stay strong for your children
4. Don’t feel bad, your husband is no longer in pain (if he died of an illness)
5. Your wife wouldn’t want you to be sad. She’d want you to celebrate her life
6. Everything happens for a reason
7. This might be a good time for you to get a new pet or take up a new hobby
8. Make sure you donate all your husbands’ stuff to charity. You don’t need any reminders of him
9. Make sure you don’t throw away any of your wife’s stuff. You will regret it.
10. It just takes time
11. I know what you’re going through (then start talking about your own loss)
Although some of these statements might be intellectually true, they are aimed at the head, not the heart, so won’t help someone who lost his or her life partner feel any better.
Try saying these helpful things to a widow or widower instead:
1. What happened?
- Ask what happened then actually listen to their reply. Widows and widowers need and want to be listened to. The most loving thing you can do for them is to listen to them without judgment, comparison, or trying to fix them
2. I don’t know what to say
- It’s okay to tell the truth if you don’t know what to say. Your honesty allows the widowed to know you are a safe person to talk to because they’ll know you aren’t trying to fix them.
3. I can’t image how you feel
- No two relationships are the same because they are comprised of two different people. So even if you’ve had a spouse die you could never know exactly how another widow or widower feels. At best you only how you felt when your loss occurred.
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Source: Allison James, Grief Recovery Method, 3 February 2015