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?

 

Comments

Selina - I believe you are posting to the wrong website! Our focus is in taking Grief Recovery Action and has absolutely nothing to do with casting spells!
my girlfriend got forced to marry another guy, my mother got a call from her elder sister , she told her that sara is in london now , after the engagment she started to forget stuff , and writing random letters to other people , i asked if i can see her , they refused , i just want her to be better #prayforsara
My husband passed on 9/26/17 - unexpected still don’t have an official reason. I don’t hold back tears for anybody. They are a release for the physical, mental and emotional pain that I am dealing with every minute of everyday. If that makes people
Uncomfortable then that’s their problem, not yours. My psychiatrist told me that the loss of a spouse is usually the worst one to deal with because it’s not just your spouse. Many times it’s your best friend, your partner, your mate. It’s the person that you chose to tie your life to and to build a life with. My humble opinion, but the longer you hold those tears back the worse it’s going to be. You have to grieve. And if people can’t deal with it then they can leave you alone. I am truly sorry for your loss and I hope that you are able to find some peace.
I am reading this post of grievers...looking for answers. Your voice and tone and affect resonating with mine. we are social pariah- the only worse would be loss of child. Its funny how "self" dreams are only brought to life when shared with "other"...perhaps what I miss the most...
I know this is late but thank you for the statement "he died from this life" mine did too. That is going to be my new answer to how did he die so young(43)
I lost my husband on November 28th. We were married for 25 years, but could not have children. We did everything together. He died unexpectedly, and I am still in shock. I don't feel as if I have been able to grieve properly. We were both only children, so there are no brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews. I feel so completely alone. Many days I don't feel as if I can get out of bed. We have a cat and a dog, and I focus on meeting their needs. My husband's parents are still living, and I speak to them or see them everyday. I do not know how to navigate through this. I have caring friends who are supporting me, but I still feel so alone. I miss him terribly. Reading everyone's posts have been so helpful to me. Thank you.
Tanya - Please know that my thoughts are with you. You might check out: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/grief-support to see if there is a grief recovery specialist offering one on one or groups in your area. Given you circumstances, it is easy to see why you feel so isolated in dealing with the loss of your husband. I honestly think that "The Grief Recovery Handbook" could help you navigate through your emotional pain. Some of the elements of the book are touched on by the e-book that you can like to in the above article. Please know that there are people out there thinking about you. Steve
Perhaps "what happened" could be rephrased "would you like to talk about what happened?"
Suzanne - That is a great way to handle it, while still giving the griever a chance to share their feelings!PREMIER VIERZON
I lost my husband of 47 years a month ago. I am devastated. I miss him s much it hurts and don’t know how to go on living without him. I loved him so much. Our only child in his 40’s is not doing well either. One thing I don’t see here is that, as you are dealing with these tremendous losses, no one has mentioned how many are having to deal with crushing financial problems at the same time. I HAVE to deal with them at a time I’m really in no shape to. I may have to declare bankruptcy and we were not people who lived beyond our means.
It’s so hard. Only a month.

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