Updated: Dec 26, 2018
Most of us have experienced loss of a loved one; a parent, a grandparent, a friend. There is no doubt that we’ve all felt heartbreak after dealing with the earth-shattering realization that we will never see our loved one again during our time on earth. We feel emptier, like the space they look up in our life may never be filled again. We miss their hugs, their voice, and the way they smell…
…but we can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to lose a spouse. Someone that you spent every day with has abruptly vanished, their side of the bed now cold and empty but their toothbrush and laundry untouched as if it’s taunting their return home.
Many of us have been so lucky as to not lose a spouse, and we can only imagine how agonizing it must be. Although we may not be able to fully understand what another person is going through without having been through the situation ourselves, it’s important for us to understand how to care for people that are going through these awful situations.
We’ve all learned about the typical steps of grieving process: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance. The question is, how do we help our loved ones through this process? Here are some things that I’ve found to be important for helping those who are grieving.
Make sure that they feel emotionally supported. Be a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. Support them by visiting them and spending quality time with them, but also giving them space when they need it. Listen to their needs; if they want to speak about the death, then allow them to talk about it instead of avoiding the topic. Just listen. You may also want to encourage them to seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist to help them sort through their grief and emotions.
Encourage them to continue socializing with their friends. Your loved one is likely having a hard transition: they went from having someone to talk to/eat dinner with every day, to suddenly feeling isolated in their own home. Attending events and meet-up’s is a good way to get out of the house and meet new people who are going through similar situations of bereavement. We offer monthly support and social events for Widows and Widowers, and we would love to accept your loved one with open arms.
In the beginning, they may need help with everyday tasks that are seemingly daunting and overwhelming. Their spouse may have cooked meals or taken care of the lawn, leading them to feel lost without the support. Offer to help with these daily tasks to help them cope with the big changes. If you live far away, don’t fret; there are tons of services nationwide to help, like food delivery or lawn management.
Help them to figure out their new financial situation. If the main household provider was their spouse, then it’s important for them to find a new way to afford their lifestyle. Funerals are also expensive, so they’re likely in a fragile economic position. To help, you might encourage them to begin efficiently budgeting, or eventually get a higher-paying job. There are online financial and budgeting services that may be able to help.
Know that only time will heal the intense pain. Widows and Widowers will still feel the residual ache many years after the loss. But, as years go on, the pain will become more manageable. Know that you can’t fix all of their problems right away. Take everything day-by-day and try to help them often, even in small ways.
Here is a really useful article that details the do’s and don’ts for supporting a grieving loved one. I would suggest reading this article to gain a better perspective.