loss of spouse

3 Ways You Can Help a Widowed Loved One

July 19, 2022

Many of us know someone who has lost a spouse and are unsure how to act or what to say. There is a delicate balance between wanting to be there for them and giving them space to grieve. The truth is that everyone grieves differently. Here are three tips on what you can do (and what not to do!) to support a widow or widower in your life:

1. DO show up for them.

It’s not unusual for someone in mourning to struggle with daily tasks; a surviving spouse often will not ask for help when they need it. You can lend a hand by helping with chores around the house or bringing them meals, so they don’t have to worry about shopping or cooking.  Another idea is to invite your friend out of the house for the day. If you know a young widow or widower with children, it could be helpful to offer to take the kids on a fun outing and allow the parent some alone time at home.

Don’t pressure a widowed friend to socialize if they clearly want to be alone. Some widows want to be surrounded by others, but others may prefer to process their loss on their own. They may not accept your invitation to get together at first, and that’s okay. Give them space and continue to reach out every so often. They will accept when they are ready.

2. DO be there emotionally.

Many surviving spouses find it healing to talk through their grief. Encourage your friend to share stories about their spouse and reminisce on fond memories.  Talking about the deceased spouse should not be taboo, so one of the best things you can do is to be fully engaged in conversation and let them express their emotions.

Don’t pry on sensitive topics or push a timeline for healing. Everyone grieves at their own pace, and there is no timeline on how long it takes to go through the stages of loss. There are, of course, certain decisions that need to be addressed right away. However, wait until your friend has a clear head before asking what they will do about the family home or when they will return to work.

3. DO acknowledge milestone dates and holidays.

Grief doesn’t ever go away, even though life seems to go on for everyone else. Don’t forget to acknowledge special days like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and the anniversary of a spouse’s death, as those can be challenging days. Reaching out with a phone call or even spending time together can help your friend know they are not alone in remembering.

Don’t imply your widowed friend should move on romantically. Many couples spend years together before the first spouse passes, and it will take time for your widowed loved one to take off their wedding band or clean out their spouse’s belongings. Love after death happens for many widows and widowers, but the last thing a surviving spouse wants to hear is that they should start dating.

You can do many things to support someone who has lost a spouse. The most important thing is to educate yourself about grief and understand that everyone grieves in their own way.  If you have a widowed loved one who needs help navigating life after loss, reach out to your wealth management team for guidance and support in making thoughtful decisions about their finances.