How can you help me?

A friend of mine in my online widows group shared a letter today about how to help us as we navigate through our loss… I really wish I’d thought to share something like this months ago, but I thought it would still be helpful to share now for anyone in my life who has been unsure of how to approach me or what to do. Some of this is from an anonymous widow and other parts written by me…

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. If it makes me cry, its fine. It is comforting to cry. It is excruciating to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation and mood swings. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in great waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You can’t catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don’t know what to say, just gently say “I’m sorry”. You can even say “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and I want you to know that.”

Just because I look or sound good, doesn’t mean I feel good. Ask me how I feel, only if you really want to find out and have the time to listen.

I will never recover. This is not a cold or flu. I’m not sick. I’m grieving and that’s different. My grieving may not even fully begin until 6 months after my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I’ll be over it in a year. I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the family we will never have and all the other plans we had for our future together.

I will not always be grieving this intently, but I will never forget my loved one. And rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy, and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

I don’t have to accept his death. Yes, I understand that it’s happened, and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable.

Please don’t tell me what I “should” be doing, it makes me feel even more lost and alone. I feel bad enough that my loved one is dead, so please don’t make it worse by telling me I’m not doing this right.

Please don’t tell me to get on with my life. My life is going on, but this will take a long time, and I will never be my old self again. Please accept that this has forever changed me.

I need to know that you care about me, I need to feel your touch and hugs. I need you just to be with me and I need to be with you. I need to know that you believe in me and my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don’t assume that I am too busy or that I have too many other people’s support and that you’ll be bothering me. If everyone does this, then no one calls, and no one checks on me, and I feel even more alone.

Please don’t say “Call me if you need anything.” I’ll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas…

a) Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can’t make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on the difficult day.

b) Give me a call (or even a heartfelt message on Facebook) just to see how I’m doing. I may not always answer, but leave me a message to let me know you were thinking of me. Please don’t give up on me because somewhere down the line, I will answer, or call back, whenever I am ready to share.

c) Mail me a very small, heartfelt, cheer up gift. I’ve had a few people do this and it has just made my heart glow and – some days – has been the shining jewel that turned my whole day around.

Please don’t judge me now or think that I’m behaving strangely. Remember I’m grieving and I’m still in shock. I am afraid. I am angry. But above all, I hurt. I’m experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before and one that can’t be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better, and then suddenly I seem to slip backwards. Grief makes me behave this way at times. Please don’t tell me you know how I feel, or that it’s time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve.

Remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss, when you need me as I have needed you – I will understand and come and be with you.

Thank you for your patience, for caring, for helping and for understanding. 

14 thoughts on “How can you help me?

  1. I love you Sarah. Thanks for being there for me during my hard times, and I hope I’ve been able to be there for you at least a little. I hope I do some of these things. And I hope I don’t talk about myself too much. I love reading your blog, and I love having you as a friend. Thanks for reaching out to me. :)

    • You have definitely been there for me – and i thank you too! =) You talk about yourself exactly the right amount! So much of your writing and life experiences i can always relate to, even if we are experiencing very different life-altering circumstances… its amazing how so much of the feelings around them are similar. You have been a blessing! I am so that you are my friend too. =)

      Thanks for the smiles, its been a hard morning (like always! haha)

  2. Sarah, this is so helpful. I also received this information in my grief class (offered through a Hospice group). I’m learning that most people want to help, to be there and simply need a little guidance about what to say and do. I think of you and smile when I see your posts, here or on FaceBook. Beautiful you.

  3. Wow Sarah, what a brave thing to write… I felt a lot of these feelings when my Dad died unexpectedly… I can’t imagine how much harder it must be for you! You are in my heart and thoughts… thanks for having the courage to share this! <3 xx

  4. And as the journey continues through the years, this should remain a reminder to everyone. After 3 years, I think that I may need to repost this as I posted it at the beginning of my journey but it still holds so true to this day and will continue to do so throughout a lifetime.

  5. I was actually just going to write you when I saw your posting. THANK YOU for sharing that. After Derek’s memorial, I found myself sitting in my therapist’s office saying the same exact things. The day of the memorial someone told me that I was going to find someone else, another person said that this was all a part of life and I was to just get over it and start living. A dear friend told me that people are uncomfortable with death and therefore will say what they think is of comfort or the thing that will magically make you feel better so that they do not have to face the fact that death is a part of our life as humans. And while I am blessed to have those in my life that understand and honor me and Derek. While I have met other widows who have become my sisters on this journey like yourself — I realize that I am a part of a tribe that most will not experience in this lifeftime. And it is heartbreaking and lonely when you have someone tell you that everything will be ok, or get upset when I am unable to stay at an event for too long because the papercuts of losing my best friend start to bleed. You and I are both strong women who have been through so much but our lives have been changed. And while we both live through it — it will never be better or the way it was. You are on a new life’s path as well as I — and while they remain rich because of the friends and family and because we look to honor our loved ones everyday — they will never be the same and it SUCKS! :) Thank you again for sharing this. If you don’t mind I am going to repost as I think it is a message that should be shared with those who have lost someone they love. XOXO

    • Most definitely spread it far and wide – everyone needs to know! =) I hope it helps some in your life too. You are right, we will never be the same again, and it totally, completely, utterly SUCKS – but Drew didn’t call me the “girl who pukes rainbows” for nothing. lol. He knew I’d spew beauty out no matter what kind of crap life throws my way – and that was one of the things he loves most about me. I suspect this is something Derek loved most about you too, just from knowing your resilient personality a short time. We will be different, but we will always be beautiful and fabulous no matter what. ;) Go us!

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