How To Be A Widow's Friend
Behind My KeyBoard
Still He Walked
Things Not To Say To A Widow
Coping With Widowhood
Widowhood - A Life Disrupted
How To Be A Widow's Friend
What A Widow Needs
Understanding A Widow
Being A Widow During The Holidays
Surviving The Holidays If You Are Widowed
The Invisible Wife And Mom
What A Marriage Should Be
Women Have Strengths That Amaze...
Boomer Babes Rock
Keep Your Sense Of Humor
Our Christian Founding Fathers
Nancy Ward - A Cherokee Warrior
The Cherokee In Kentucky
The Trail of Tears
In Honor Of All Of Our Veterans
In Honor Of Our Vietnam Veterans
Safety Tips For ALL Women
Reflections In Music


             I. Make a connection: 

  Buy one of those cards that allow you to word your own message.  She needs to know that you want to help her even though you don't undetstand what she is going through.  If you have never been widowed yourself don't tell her you nderstand.  She knows that you can't possibly understand unless you have walked the road yourself and will be put off by your ingenuineness.

Maybe you'd rather arrive at her door--unannounced--with a special gift (such as her favorite chocolates, a bunch of daisies, or her beloved Greek olives). Include a brief note, "I've been thinking of you." I was very touched by a guardian angel pin a friend brought me in this way. I can't say why, but it made me feel less alone. I also was very grateful for a widowhood book a casual friend gave me. A good book can truly be a gift that keeps on giving. The idea is to show her that you know she is in pain, that you care and that you want to try to be her friend.



II. Learn More About Grief

After making an intial gesture of friendship, it is time to dig in and learn all you can about widowhood. I really appreciated my friends who cared enough to learn about "my condition" and how to help me.
There is plenty of good grief material on this and other websites, in general interest magazines and in widows' self-help books (such as my For Widows Only!). Check your library or on the Internet for recommendations. For great articles or pamphlets, consider those from American Hospice Foundation. They are consistently good, the best I've found. (Go to: to print articles.)  Funeral directors often have materials to help. I am especially fond of those from a company I know, called AfterLoss. AARP produces a wide array of materials for the widow over 50, some of which might help you. (Go to: to print them out.) If your friend has lost her mate in the armed services, contact a great organization...TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program Services) and ask them for materials. (Go to: to find out how to help). If you find anything particularly interesting, share it with your friend, perhaps saying, "I didn't know this...".

Just don't ever think that you know more about HER widowhood than she does. You don't, and she doesn't want to hear it!

Try to learn about the stages of grief, how long her grief might last, how different widows respond differently to grief, and also how any widow may respond differently on different days. Learn whatever you can about grief, so that you will understand some of what she is going through. That step alone may improve your relationship with her.


III. Learn Special Skills

Really Listen: When your friend is talking, bite your tongue and listen...really listen. Unless she asks, she probably doesn't need to hear your thoughts, but she does need to talk about her own. Endless talk helps her more than anything. What is she really saying? Can you imagine yourself in her shoes? Does she need more help than you can give her? If the answer is "Yes," ask her doctor for advice.

Meet her gaze: ...even if it hurts. Try not to show your discomfort by avoiding her gaze. Let your eyes show her your concern and sympathy. Don't worry if you shed a tear or two, but don't try to do so. She is acutely aware right now of how people act and what they say. She won't appreciate any artificial concern.

Don't interrupt with questions: Don't interrupt and don't be afraid of silences while she gathers her thoughts. But when it feels appropriate, ask a sincere question. If she is having a hard time expressing how she feels, sometimes a simple question can help her get her thoughts together.

Do not judge: It doesn't matter how you handled grief, if you have, or how your Aunt Myrtle did. Each widow is entirely unique and will grieve in her own private way. Her way is right...for her. This is an essential fact to learn, and to pass on to others who may be critical of your friend's manner of grieving.

Develop a shell: Widows are almost entirely self-involved during grief and can unwittingly say things that are offensive to others. Understand that and don't let any off-handed remark stir your emotions. Simply tell yourself that she isn't thinking clealrly; let it slide right off your back. If she tells you to leave and never come back, go but assure her that you'll be there for her when she needs you.

Don't expect consistency: The only thing widows are inconsistent. Be flexible and braced for a ride up and down hills and through valleys, with fits and starts to boot. Try to accept this as a temporary failing. One day she'll be as rational and orderly as she ever was. Her "highs" or "spirited outcries" are practice sessions for when she begins emerging from her grief.

Use correct words: Try not to pad or frost your words about her husband. Don't be ornery about it, but simply be sure you use the proper words when you speak of him, even if she doesn't. He died; he is dead; death is painful for the survivors, etc. Correct language helps her reality sink in somewhat faster.


IV. Develop the patience of a saint

A few dear souls are lucky enough to naturally have the patience of saints. Most of us, however, need to work on that skill. More than anything else, that's what it takes to remain close to a widowed friend. To develop patience, you must practice it. When you're alone, practice how it feels to be patient. It's calm, cool, collected, assured. Imagine yourself listening endlessly, without interrupting, for example. Imagine yourself smiling patiently as she recalls a sweet old memory for the tenth time. Imagine yourself being patient when she is in a crisis but you really should be at home starting supper. Check yourself in the mirror: do you appear patient? If you are just quiet, but harried looking, she will sense your impatience. Practice being patient with everything: your computer, your children, your mate, your dog, your boss. What can it hurt? Your own life may improve, while you learn the skill of using patience with your widowed friend.


V. Learn to be Helpful, Not Pushy

"Would you like me to help you...?" will go a lot further to help her than "What you need to do is...." or "This endless crying doesn't help anything." Dealing with a sensitive widow can often be like trying to dance around barbed wire. But you can learn to tip toe cautiously when necessary. Listening may be your most effective help, but don't be afraid to offer occasionally to help her with the dishes or with straightening up the house for an expected visitor. Let her be your guide; don't "help" her more than she is comfortable with. Early in her grief she may appreciate help with her thank-you cards, or preparing meals for out-of-town guests. Later on, she may need your help in disposing of her late husband's belongings (a painful task even with help), or gathering necessary papers for the tax man. Her emotional health should be number one, but if you spend much time with her you can double your usefulness by pitching in with whatever needs to be done. Undone chores can wear on her shoulders, making life even more intolerable. 


VI. Decide your level of commitment

Set some guidelines regarding your involvement with your friend. Don't even think of being with her every day for eight hours. She'll learn to hate you. She needs time alone; just not too much of it. How much help does she need? How well do you know her? How close do you live to each other? How much free time do you have? How much free time does she have? How much help do you think you can be? Consider also the following:

    • Do you want to become her one "emotional savior?" Every widow needs one.
    • Do you want to be available to her whenever she needs you? Day or night?
    • Do you just want to learn how to modify your behavior toward her, be more sensitive but not the "one" she relies on daily?
    • Do you want to offer more practical services: as a driver, lawn worker, accountant, instead of dealing with heavy emotional issues?

Think about it and be realistic about how much of a commitment you can make to this effort. Don't take on more than you can handle, or than your mate or family can handle. Sometimes just having her know of your availability might be more appreciated than frequent or long visits. Her own time may be tight because of small children at home or a job she needs for income. If you know her well, work out an arrangement with her that takes her life--and yours--into account. Consider walking together early in the morning, going to the gym together in the evening or just give her a card with your cell phone number, that says "Any time."

"We are not put on this earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are always there for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.

-- Jeff Warner