My last post was to the young widow and there will probably be a part two but now I want to focus on the friends and family of the young widow, there will probably be a part two to this as well.
These are some things to do and not to do – I stress not because you cannot bombard the young widow with questions, inane requests or questions. What you might consider helpful, to the young widow, usually is not. Remember our loss is different than if you had lost a parent, grandparent or even a child. Each loss is unique and with that I’m going on what helped me.
So the top of my list would be gifts – money and/or gift cards. I cannot say how much gift cards to restaurants, grocery stores and/or gas cards helped me in those first weeks and months. Giving a Pizza Hut gift card means I could go online order a pizza or two and soda, have it delivered and never once have to leave my house. Gas cards for the many trips to the funeral home, church and cemetery we’ll be making over the next several days and weeks. Grocery gift cards allow a friend to pick us up stuff without having to worry about giving them money and change, etc. and when we feel like going to the grocery we don’t have to worry about our check book dwindling – this was a MAJOR worry until I could access my husband’s bank account and began receiving benefits in March (3 months AFTER his passing).
Set up a Take Them A Meal or a Meal Train. Again this is something that tops my list! Meals that we don’t have to plan, prepare or think of. If you can include enough for leftovers for lunch and maybe even breakfast, even if it’s cereal and some milk. Don’t forget toilet paper and paper towels! Seriously, this is stuff I couldn’t begin to think we needed let alone wanted. If the person’s church or their children’s activities director isn’t setting something up – do it! Even if you don’t know them well, if you find a new widow isn’t having food brought to her house, set it up! The nice thing is even if you can’t make a meal and take you can have food sent, a little costly, but well worth it and appreciated. One friend who lived quite a distance from me order a Bob Evans take out meal, I ran in real quick to pick it up. All was paid for and it was home in minutes for dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day.
To go along with the second idea – DO NOT call, text or email the widow asking what she wants or needs. I had absolutely no, zero, nada, idea of what I needed let alone what I wanted. There should be 1 – one, uno, contact person. If the person who is setting up the meal train, they should find out what meals the family enjoys, allergies and list those on the site so that those signing up to take a meal does not bombard the widow with these questions. If there can’t be one contact person then a friend or family member needs to be appointed point of contact or even two people. Trust me, we have enough to deal with with having to pick out an outfit for our husband, making sure the details are correct, writing the obituary, meeting with the funeral director and the cemetery people which are usually two separate meetings, and taking care of the children.
Going along with the previous idea – DO NOT call, text or email to ask what you can do, what can you bring, etc. The majority of us will be in shock, especially if the passing of our husband is sudden and unexpected, we can barely think of what has to happen next let alone what things you might be thinking of. Our world is upside down – literally and figuratively. Contact their church, a mutual friend, a family member, etc but try to keep your contact minimal. Let them know you’re thinking and praying for them by sending a condolence card, on Facebook, text, email or phone call BUT do not ask, at least right away, what they need.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt” UGH! Please, please think before you speak. What you might think is helpful, may not be. I had one person while I was standing in the receiving line tell me I was young and could re-marry. WHAT!? Really? Or he’s in a better place. Yes, but I’m not focusing on that, I want him here with me and the children. He’s not suffering. Sure, but again I want him here! Many of us don’t know what to say, and you know what, it’s okay to admit that. I would have much rather heard, “I don’t know what to say and I’m sorry, you’re in our thoughts and prayers” than some of the “helpful” words spoken.
I’ll leave it at that for now, I’m not saying all these things are true for every single widow across the board BUT these are things that did help or would have helped me in the first days of widowhood. I’m sure there will be another post – things about when to say widow in front of her, talking about her husband, etc but for now this is a start.