A Grief Support Blog

This blog will allow you the opportunity to acquire both support and guidance after experiencing a significant loss.

14 Things You Should (and Should Not) Say to Widows and Widowers

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.

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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.

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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.


If you found this article helpful information, we suggest you read these from our Grief Blog:

The Death of a Spouse

Death of a long term spouse; legacy of love or monument to misery


Have you experienced some of these comments following the loss of your spouse? Are there any comments that you would like to add that you found to be hurtful or helpful?







I personally do not want to answer the question, "What happened?' What happened is my husband has died from this life. The details are really not necessary to anyone else. I would urge to remove that suggestion from the above.

People can express empathy without prying.

I agree with Mary Ann. Being asked "What happened?" after the tragic death of my child was not only unhelpful, but actually hurtful. Not all deaths are peaceful, and asking the bereaved loved one "what happened" may bring up painful thoughts and images. Many people ask out of curiosity without knowing the impact of a simple question that provides no comfort. If a bereaved love one brings up the subject, then listen, but please don't ask that.

I'm sorry that you're going through this pain though this reply is 3 years after the passing of your spouse. Sometimes people just can't express their needs in grief, and alot of times they can. With that, I've always found that people who can express the answer to the question "what happened?" the way you did, is exactly the right answer for that person or situation at that time. Again, I'm extremely sorry for your loss and hope that life has continued in some sort of viable and emotional arrangement for your needs. xoxo

I agree with that! They don’t want to relive the pain of the loss of their spouse by telling someone what happened. Way to personal

I hate that question as well.

Your comment is so helpful. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

I respect your thoughts, however, some people need to talk in detail about what happened. We are all different. I would urge to leave the statement in.

No offense, but I personally disagree. I am not an expert, but when something happens, it isn't a good idea to bottle it up. Therefor, not talking about it will make you extremely upset. However, if you feel like talking about it is uncomfortable, then that is your opinion, and I respect that.

I want people to ask me what happened when my wife died. It makes me feel like she mattered on earth and is not forgotten.

I completely agree. I feel the same way about my husband.

As a young, childless widow, and caregiver while my husband was ill, one of the very worst statements is when people say, "Well, maybe you're better off that you didn't have children." People, don't say this to widows or widowers. It's very, very painful, and even if intended well, it won't be received as helpful. Have compassion, be gentle, and just sit with someone and let them talk freely, put no expectations on them. Don't interrupt. Just sit, listen, and hug if invited to do so.

I know what you're saying I am also a young childless widower wife and I couldn't have kids no we always wanted them she would have been the best mother ever I think people that care just don't know what to say but I feel like you're supposed to say something there's nothing you can be said that's what I tell them I'm sorry for your loss

I can empathize. We were not able, but could have done it by other means. It is heartbreaking to have the man you love die after caring for him and knowing how much he wanted to LIVE!
I am glad, we did not have children, as I would not want them to experience this unexplainable pain.
Sharing the fact that he is gone helps me with the hurt.

Melissa, we agree with you completely. And we are very sorry for your loss.

I lost my husband Jan 30 of this year. He died in his sleep. I woke up and tried to give him CPR but it was too late. We were married 12 years but it felt like a lifetime.Nothing but death could have parted us. We had no children together He was 9 years younger than me.He was only 39 years old. Brilliant funny loved life. I am almost 50 He was my whole life.I hate when people say He's at peace now. He was not in pain he made the best of everything in life. We had peace together. I also hate when they say I must go on with my life. What would they have me do, really? At least, right now I feel as though my life is over I'm a shell of a being. Stuck here without my heart or my soul...

Right now I feel as though my life is over I'm a shell of a being. Stuck here without my heart or my soul.

Never truer words have been spoken. 128 days of pain, 128 days and counting with no signs of letting up.

I am very sorry for you loss!! You must be totally in shock!! I lost my Dad, December 1 2018. I still want to call him everyday! He was my Dad not my husband so a totally different relationship!! I truly miss him and my heart is broken. Prayers for you!!! ❤️

I lost my Bill to ca 1/6/20, I was his caregiver for 1 1/2 yrs, we are married 10 together for ten prior, both from dysfunctional families, have no kids together, yes I feel alone alot I'm 51 he would have been 60 1/22. I feel like an orphan but I have to gone on and honor him in everything I do even the littlest thing and smile and know we will be together again someday. I cry everyday and listen to alot of music

Such is life! Sometimes we pass through situations we dont have control of. All we need to do is tp bear whatever it is. I also lost my wife and daughter in one day. I once decided not to remarry but life has to go on since I am still young and healthy. Please live positively everyday.

As a widow for five months now, I have researched the topic, gone to some grief recovery meetings, and experienced helpful and marginally helpful approaches to interacting with widows. For me, the kindest approach to help me through the grief is for the other person to ask me, "Do you want to talk about it?" All the other person has to do is quietly listen while I talk. If I come to a stopping point, then the listener can ask, "Is there more you'd like for me to know?" If there is, then continue listening. If not, comment on what the widow said about her deceased husband, such as, "I knew John was a great golfer, but I didn't know he taught golf at the local college," or whatever is fitting for the deceased husband. Hearing validation that the widow's husband was a man of worth is very important to her, unless he was a bum she's glad to be rid of. Of course, it is always fitting to express your condolences to the widow, but it is never helpful to tell her how she should feel. Never. At least, that's my opinion. No one knows the depth of my love for my deceased husband. I called him my self-taught, multi-talented Renaissance man.

He was spectacular! He was a professional writer and musician and provided me with the kind of life I dreamed of. He was my Romeo, a real romantic. I could go on, but you get the idea. Again, if you want to console a widow, ask her if she wants to talk about her husband. Then listen, make appropriate, occasional comments about what she is saying, but do not volunteer any advice, no matter how well intentioned, about her grief, unless you want to refer her to a grief support group she may not know exists. Again, you would first ASK HER A QUESTION. "Would you like to know about grief support groups here in town?" If she says no, don't push her. She may think about it later and decide to give it a try. If not, then she has her reasons. Again, these are just my opinions from my own experience.

Kathy, we are so very for your loss and can't imagine what you are going through. It's okay to feel what you feel, you lost a huge part of your life. Many times, people say very unhelpful things to grievers. We hope that you have someone safe to talk to, someone who will listen without judgment or advice. You can also search for one of our Grief Recovery Specialists in your area who can work with you on your loss, by clicking here: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/grief-support-groups.

Patti, we are so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for your kind words and advice. We are in agreement with you, that a very helpful person can just sit and listen and that you should never tell a griever how to feel. Great insight and helpful advice!

Very well articulated and thank you so much for sharing. So sorry for the loss of your prince.

"Stuck here without my heart or my soul.."

Oh so true! So sorry that you are going through this. ... 72 days - 10 weeks. Today has been hard, feel so hopeless and alone.

I want people to ask me what happened, I feel I need to tell the story of how the medical profession let her down. Even though it won't change anything now, I am still upset.
I'm on the other side of things. My wife passed away seven weeks ago. I told close friends and family what happened, but when anyone else asked me, I felt like they were being nosy. My neighbors came over that night and brought food and we sat around talking, and nobody asked - except one neighbor who I haven't had a connection with in three years. Her first question - what happened? I looked her square in the eye and said, "My wife died". She said, "I know, but how?" (Really pushing it). I merely told her that I'm not talking about how, because that's not important.

A better thing to say would be, "If there's anything you want to talk about, I'll listen". Then if you want to bring it up, feel free.
Hi Kathy,
I also lost my husband on New Years Day of this year. The pain is unbearable at times but I'm trying. I have good days and bad days. My condolences to you
Please help me. My dearest friend, my sister of choice, lost her husband a little over a year ago. He was also my husband's best friend. She doesn't know the grief we suffer or the loss we feel, because hers is so great. They were a true love story, and he was a pillar of the community and one of the most amazing people I have ever known. He was only in his early 60's.
My friend and I talk on the phone every day, and I try to be an active listener. I taught communication skills to children and adults for many years, so I have some clue as to the "listening" part. But she is so hopeless, so tired of living without her best friend, that I now find I have no words to say. What can I say or do to help my friend? My heart aches...for my dearest friend, for her kids, for my husband and frankly, for myself.

I’m so very sorry for her loss and of course you and your husband’s loss.
Sometimes there is nothing that you can say. So, perhaps just assuring her just how important she is and her troubled feelings are that she is suffering through. Perhaps she is going through some of the hardest parts of the mourning process, but I would not say that to her. Just continue to be her loving, kind and gentle friend. Tell her you are always there for her no matter how bad her feelings get

I lost my beloved husband in July 2016. I am still an emotional, shattered mess - we were deeply in love, and his death was sudden and unexpected. His had health problems, but according to 2 recent doctor visits prior to his passing - he was told he was holding his own. He was 70 and I am in my 60's. We had no children but 4 dogs & other pets. We were soul mates, and I was also his caregiver. He was so warm & compassionate with a fabulous sense of humor & he treated me like his queen. I think what bothers me a lot is people saying they understand my loss then compare it to losing a parent, or sibling, etc. NO - IT ISN'T THE SAME!!! Yes - those losses are painful, but it is not the same as losing your other half. Unless you have lost a spouse - you have no idea of what this pain is like. Also - they try to throw cold water on my anger & frustration at losing my husband. We were both involved in our church, and Christians, but - sometimes you just hate this new life & plan that God has allowed. I was perfectly happy with our old life and my beloved husband. I know God knows how I feel - I wish my friends would, and stay out of my relationship with God - it's between Him & I, and I don't have to explain myself to them. I already have one God in my life, they don't need to be my mediator. All I appreciate is someone saying that they are so sorry, and let me talk about my husband, and what happened, and how much I miss this wonderful man. I am still stunned, and can't believe he is gone. I will miss him for the rest of my life, and I wish friends will stop looking ahead & determining when my deep grief should be over! It will never be over - as far as I am concerned. I lost the most important part of my life. and this new "life" SUCKS :(

I can so relate to people saying oh yes I lost my Mum/dad no it's not the same as losing my Husband of 42yrs my family havnt gave me no support by that I mean a Hug say "I am here for you" they said silly things "How did Mum cope then when Dad died" "We all have to die" I told them I don't want to hear this! Oh don't get angry you must one said ! I have said why don't you read up on Grieving? We are all different please don't compare me with anyone in fact my family have made me feel so much worse x

Dear Lynette, I'm four years late in this response to your post, but I am very moved by it, and feel compelled to respond. You are correct. No one but our all knowing God can understand what your particular loss and dreadful pain is like. It is futile to seek for true and complete understanding from anyone. Our family and friends do try,however, but miss the mark ninety nine percent of the time. We must try to understand what they are trying so hard to do. It's like when our mothers used to promptly disinfect and cleanse a nasty wound we received while playing out doors. It hurts even more,but in time you see she did the right thing. Try to discover a way to understand that and simply accept it. Like wolves we lick each others wounds. By doing so you will gain another level of healing. I lost my beloved wife of twenty-two years. It took the better part of eight to ten years to feel slightly human again. In time,however,you will, but for your own sake you must not place barriers between your experience and those folks attempting to help you heal. I detected this in your words. And I quote..."NO - IT ISN'T THE SAME!!! ". And also..."Unless you have lost a spouse - you have no idea of what pain is like." I say the following with all due respect to your terrible experience. It is solidly established in Human Psychology and with those of us who have experienced it, that there is nothing in the human experience that is more agonizing than the loss of ones offspring. Nothing!!! I can offer only one word as a feeble attempt to describe it. HELL!!!. One would eagerly and immediately accept a bargain to descend into actual hell for eternity if they could have that precious soul back. There is always those in our lives that not only "understand" your experience, but have far surpassed it. I swear to you my dear lady you are not alone. YES! this "new life" SUCKS!!! But they used to say to us when I went through special forces training in the military many yrs ago, "EMBRACE THE SUCK"! It was the only way one could succeed the grueling course. So embrace the suck Lynette. Embrace it hard. Never let go until one day you will gradually discover that it has released its embrace on you. Forgive those people who try to help you but fail. Don't lose them. You will need them later in your recovery. Remember, 'Light Cometh In The Morning'. Until those better days...'YOU GOT THIS'! You are a woman created in Gods own image. You are powerful! May all merciful God bless you abundantly.

I lost someone I love a great deal to pancreatic cancer. I don't be believe closure to be a real word. There is no closure not ever. I think of her all the time it just kills me that's she is gone for ever even as I type this is am in tears. I have a brain injury and I just can't keep going this way it's exhausting. Some days I would rather just be gone. Why am I still here. I have have suffered so much in my life , and the one person that made my life beatable is now gone forever. All I get are the usual answers which are completely unhelpful.
- forever lost.
Hi Kathy,

I lost my husband on November 8 this year. He died in his sleep. I tried to follow the instructions given to me over the phone by the emergency service and even called neighbours in, but was too late. We were married 10 years, together for 11......... for ever......... He was 2 years younger than me. I am nearly 52. He would have turned 50 a week after my birthday. We had no children, but a stunning cat (who is my reason for surviving the aftermath). My husband and I were never apart from the day we met. We meant when we said "til death do us part" at our ceremony. The same place we got our marriage certificate from 10 years ago, now sent me his death certificate. We had peace and full-on honesty. We created art together. He was the most generous person - both emotionally and materially. Hysterically fantastic humour. I stopped laughing only when he died and I don't want to create art any more. He was positive. I keep living each day because I cannot betray our beautiful cat. I want for me and the cat to go to sleep together and just not wake up, both of us. Just peacefully not wake up. I envy my husband. I haven't got a clue what to say to you, but I feel everything you are saying.
Patty, your friend/sister is very fortunate to have someone like you to listen to her. I too have lost my soulmate. My husband passed away almost 2 years ago now. My advice to you is not to search for any words. She needs a listener. Sometimes the more words that are said, the easier it is to accidentally offend someone you are trying to comfort. Just be there for her. Let her know that she can call you anytime to cry, scream, laugh or talk. She needs that outlet. And also remember that, as you even stated, her loss is different. It will take her a lot longer to journey through her grief than you. Be patient, kind and just listen. And if you want to suggest a grief support group or ministry then the wording should go something like this: Do you think that a grief support group or grief counselor might be of some help to you? If the answer is 'yes' then ask if she would like you to help her find a list of groups or counselors for her to choose from. Don't say: I think a grief support group would help you. Nobody knows what will help any given person going thru grief as it's as unique as their love relationship was with their departed one.
I recently met an amazing woman, who also happens to be a widow. She doesn't know that I know, and I am unsure the best way to handle it.

I expect that I should wait for her to tell me, but then should I pretend that I don't know (so that she can tell me in her own way), or should I acknowledge that I know in case it spares her some pain?
I am a widow who lost my second husband to cancer, I was 40. I survived the loss and 18 months later I met a wonderful and caring man, we dated for 6 months when he found he had terminal cancer and he wanted to marry me so we did, just before he died as well, I was 42. I have found that many people really do not know what to say to the situation, I empathize with losses, but so many people I know who are widows/widowers are much older than I am... I actually had someone tell me that they thought I talk about my losses for attention (a family member)! Others (family members) have expressed disbelief, this was a loss so profound to me that I do not even have relationships with my family anymore. There is just nothing left to say to them anymore.
I have a new relationship, he had to have a complete physical before I could even think about committing to him. We are having a good time enjoying each other's company. I am not yet 50 and I am looking forward to spending the second half of my life with him, it does get better!
How are you? Your loved one is gone and it sounds like your support system may not be the best. Are you able to find a support group for widowers or even a therapist?
Do you speak of your loved one, often?
Do you talk to her?
I know that I find it helpful to express myself about my losses, I have also on occasion, yelled at them about how damn unfair the whole situation is. I do this while alone. I do believe that they hear me and I do not care if others think that I am odd.
You must grieve the way you grieve, no time limits and no judgments.
When I was a new widow, I thought that I should be with my husband as well. I truly needed to work through all of that pain and I am not going to lie, it sucked out loud.
There are no easy answers and no real time frame for grief, I found peace at the gym and watching movies we had seen together, a lot of tears too.
In my opinion, closure is a myth made by people who have not lost a loved one. You are correct, there is no closure, the only thing I have found that gives me real peace is honoring the lives lost by living as I feel they would have wanted me to. It is almost impossible some days to even get out of bed, but the best I can do is try. I offer up my pain to my loved ones and hope it will lessen someday.
I am very sorry if this was unhelpful, but grief is so very personal, the only way to work through it is to work through it.
Again, loss of a loved one is just unfair and painful.
I do not wish to answer 'what happened', I really really don't. And I do not wish to hear anyone's take on it either. And it's true, one should never bring up the remarriage. I just lost my husband! You really think I would want to think about spending the rest of my life with someone else rather than the one person I thought I would spend it with? That comment hurts me the most than any other. It feels like people are saying that what I had with my husband was so insignificant that I can let it go without any second thought.
Hello, Mary Ann. You don't know me, but your sorrow hurts me.
There is only one thing I can say to you, and I know this for a fact:
he's fine, and he's waiting for you.
Please ask God directly to see if this is true.

I ⅼike looking thrоugh an article that wilⅼ mɑke people think.
Also, thаnk you for permitting me to comment!

Kathy, I had almost the same occurance. My spouse just passed Jan. 29 2017. I woke to his lifeless body on the bed, I began CPR and called 911 but after the paramedics tried for 45 mins longer, they prenounced him dead. My spouse had medical issues with his spine but nothing that should have caused his death, however there was undiagnosed issues he recently discussed with me we were seeing a neurologist on Feb. 20 for. I still have yet to receive the results of his autopsy which is killing me, although I know it won't bring him back. The worst question for me is what can I do for you? I know they just are trying to identify and help but it feels like you can't do anything you can't bring him back, you can't give us more time, you can't allow me to say goodbye. We have 2 children though 12 n 9 and he has 2 older children 15 n 18. Can you give guidance maybe since a little time has past the situation is similar has anything gotten easier? The hurt change. I know it's still there but does it really deminish with time, it seems to get harder and harder every day. Thank you, and I sympathize with your loss.
I lost my husband in January 2016. That was two months after we got married. We were best friends and we were so much in love. We had big dreams and big plans. It was a sudden death. I was 32 years old.

Two days after loosing my husband my cousin called me to tell me that I shouldn't be that sad, cause there were so many other men out there. I could easily remarry and that I was lucky that I was young.

In the first week a lot of people came to visit me and there was a lady from church who told me that it's a good thing that I was not pregnant. More people asked me if I was pregnant. When I told them that I wasn't, they acted as if they were relieved. Some of them were like 'thank God'. I remember how painful that was. Cause I was not only grieving my husband, but also the fact that we would never have children together. I don't think anybody should ask a lady in general if she is pregnant, cause that's nobodies business. How come people think it's ok to ask a lady who has just lost her husband if she is pregnant.

A few weeks after loosing my husband I was still home.. Not going to work. I was still in my survival mode when a 'friend' called me and asked me if I was getting over it. That was so painful to me, cause I knew that this same 'friend' could not get over her man who had been treating her bad for years. How come I had to get over my best friend who had loved and cherished me for years. I had to get over the person I shared true love with. Just because he was not alive? Her question just reminded me on how ignorance some people can be.

Somebody told me that he knew that it was painful... but he had to tell me that it was not OK for me to still wear my wedding ring. That same person was wearing his wedding ring and he dared to look me in the eyes and to tell me something like that.

I am from an African background and several 'aunties' told me to remove my late husbands picture's from my house.. or to even throw/give away everything what belonged to my husband. According to them that would allow me to find new love sooner.

What hurts a lot is when people tell me that everything happens for a reason. Don't tell me there was a good reason for me to loose my husband after 2 months of marriage. If that's what you think, then keep that for yourself.

What I still can't stand is when people tell me now .. you see I told you that time would heal your pain... Look at you.. you look great! Do they know how I feel in the morning when I wake up to this emptyness..? Do they know why I came late? Maybe I cried in the car and fixed my make up over again... Maybe I just cried in the toilet..! Do they know how I feel after a long day when I am not able to talk to my best friend? Who told them that time is healing my pain? Who told them that I am getting over it? Do they know why I sleep through the weekend? I am exhausted!!! I am still in pain and I am still learning how to handle certain situations. Is it because I smile again..? Because I have not lost my sense of humor? Because I fix my hair and make up? Because I go on vacation's..? Even if I have to go alone? Is it because I take care of my self? The truth is that I will probably never get over it, but I will get trough it. I don't need anybodies approval about how or when.

Hi Lethisia,
Your grief is your own and you should be able to cope with it in any way that helps you get through each second, minute, hour, and day. I hope you're doing well.

Hello Kathy, recently I lost a very dear friend that was very special, like a brother, he would even introduce me as such. His wife is a great lady and an awesome woman and friend as well. His death not only is huge loss for his wife and daughter of a previous marriage, but an entire community and extended society. I want to reach out to her, but I don't know how soon or what is appropriate. In the time I spent with them and most recently with her and their families it became very evident how close the three of us were. I never realized it before how I was one of the inner circle. I want to reach out, the funeral was just two days ago, how soon could I reach out to her and we are a considerable distance away, thus I would have to phone her versus just stopping in.
Any advice on what to do or say that might make her happy or provide her any comfort?
Kathy, I just happened in this blog and your comment. I know it's been a year since you made that but I wanted to say I'm so sorry for your loss and I am praying right now. Deb
I've read a few of these sites. One thing comes to me...will I ever date again.No. I'm still numb inside, not sure that will ever change. Two years on. One day at a time. It's all I have.
it is so hard to know. what is comforting to one may seem like prying to another. just let the person know that they and the deceased mattered in life to you and that you are there when they need you. a shoulder to cry on, take them away for the day and do something to get their minds off it, make dinner for those days where getting up for them is a chore etc. I lost my Mom to cancer. I was just 30 and newly married and needed my Mom. but it was not meant to be. I still miss her and that will always be because she is a part of me. but I am at peace knowing that maybe in someway she can guide me from a different plane until hopefully we meet again. hugs to you all who have lost someone. it is not easy. but we all will die someday and life for others must go on. so it is with those left behind. remember the good memories for noone can take them from you.
I totally agree. I feel privacy invasion to this question. I say I do not want to talk about it.
I feel that it is insensitive at best to suggest your religious beliefs offer comfort.

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