Back in October, I suddenly lost the love of my life with little to no explanation. To say this has been a difficult month for me is an understatement, to say the least. I am fortunate, though, because I have very supportive friends and family members who have remained by my side this entire time.
Sometimes it’s hard to know how to support someone through this type of loss, and I recognize that. So, I decided to use my experience over this past month to share seven practical ways to help someone in your life if they recently lost a spouse or romantic partner.
1. Listen and Comfort Them
Spousal loss can be one of the most painful losses a person ever experiences. In many cases, they feel like the one person they could talk to about anything is now gone. This can lead to extreme loneliness and isolation.
Therefore, one of the best things you can do during the weeks and months after the loss is to offer a listening ear. Let the person share what’s on their mind, whether it’s stories about their partner, their emotions and questions, or anything else. It will help them more than you may even realize.
2. Don’t Make It About You
If you are close to the person whose spouse just died, then chances are you also knew the spouse. Any type of loss is unsettling, especially if it occurs unexpectedly. However, one of the worst things you can do during this challenging time is make the situation about you or even worse, use your heartache as an excuse for not reaching out to the friend who lost their spouse.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t mention your sadness, pain, or fear (because you absolutely can). However, there’s a difference between telling someone “I miss your spouse too,” and implying that the pain you feel in this moment is worse than the pain another person feels.
3. Provide Meal Assistance
Many people lose their appetite and energy when dealing with a spouse’s death. They may not have the motivation or desire to cook, which makes it hard for them to eat regular meals. If you like providing hands-on, practical support, try providing meals or meal assistance.
If you want to cook, consider inviting the person over to eat in your home. If that’s not possible, at least provide paper plates and plastic utensils so they don’t have to deal with a pile of dishes. Also, gift cards for meal delivery services like UberEats or DoorDash are great for situations like these because the person can simply use them on difficult days and save money when they feel like they have the energy to cook.
4. Take on Small Responsibilities
Meals aren’t the only thing that’s hard to do in the aftermath of a spouse’s death. Many people have a hard time with simple household chores like taking out the trash, doing laundry, or loading the dishwasher. So, if you can take on even one of these responsibilities for your loved one just once, it may really help them out.
5. Share Memories
A lot of times, it’s hard to remember the good times when you’re so focused on the death of someone you deeply cared about. However, happy memories help us process grief and reflect on the life of the person we lost without focusing on their final moments.
If you also know the spouse who passed away, try to share some memories with the friend or family member who is grieving their partner’s loss. These can be simple events that you were all present at, or it can be pictures or messages you have that may cheer the person up. These memories will likely bring a smile to the heartbroken person’s face, even if for a moment.
6. Provide Distractions
There is a lot to deal with in the aftermath of a spouse’s death. Unfortunately, a lot of people get so absorbed in everything they “need to do” that they neglect their own mental health. Luckily, friends and family members can provide distractions to help with this. Whether you go see a movie together or simply play some board games, this person will appreciate the distraction.
7. Keep Checking In
Grief doesn’t stop after the funeral. It doesn’t even stop a month or two after the spouse’s death. It can take years to recover from this type of loss, so keep checking in on your loved one periodically to see how they’re doing. These can be simple “thinking of you” messages or phone calls you schedule for Saturday mornings. Whether they’re scheduled or spontaneous, they will help the person mourning their partner’s loss feel less alone.
No loss is easy. However, when someone loses a spouse or romantic partner they live with, the loss can often be overwhelming to deal with. Hopefully these tips can help you help a friend in need.
If you’d like to follow me on my grieving journey, check out my blog, “Because of Emily.”
Photo by Liza Summer via Pexels