BW 005: Five Ways to (Actually) Help a Widow

Nov 21, 2022

Watch the video on YouTube by clicking here.  Or listen via Apple Podcasts or Spotify Podcasts.  

The Transcript is below.

Show Notes

There’s a big gap between people who need help but have a hard time accepting it and people who want to help but don’t know how or what to do.

In today’s episode, I share five ways that you can (actually) help a widow.  

You can find a full checklist of ideas in the free resource toolkit at


Hey guys, I’m Emily Jones

I was widowed at age 37, one month shy of our 20 year wedding anniversary.  Nathan and I have four beautiful children together.  My world was turned completely upside down when I lost him.  With faith, community, and wisdom from others, I’ve been able to find hope, joy, and dream again for the future.  I want to help others do the same, too!



Twitter @brave_widow

Instagram @brave_widow


Listen to The Brave Widow Show on Apple Podcasts:

Listen to The Brave Widow Show on Spotify: 



Brave Widow Show 005


[00:00:17] All right guys. Today we're gonna talk about five ways that you can actually help a widow. Now this brings somewhat of an actual conundrum, right? Because especially in the early days of grief and loss, you have a widow that all of a sudden has had new tasks and responsibilities and burdens domestically around the house

[00:00:40] just thrust upon her. Maybe even skill sets she's never had to do before, like mowing the lawn or budgeting or cooking or figuring out how to get car titles transitioned over into their name.

[00:00:53] So it seems natural that you, knowing the person who's grieving would wanna help them and have things that you can do for them, and they have things that they need help with.

[00:01:04] We're gonna start with tip number one, and that is to avoid platitudes. Now platitudes are those things that you say frequently Let me know if you need anything, or, Hey, let me know if there's anything I can do to help and while, okay, it's nice that somebody says that at the end of the day. What does that really mean?

[00:01:23] Does that really open up the widow's heart and mind to reach out to you and ask for help with a specific task? No, absolutely not. In fact, you're putting a burden back on that person to in saying, You tell me what I can do to help you, and then I'll process and think about whether or not it's something I can do, will do.

[00:01:44] Able to do, can find the time to actually do even though you think it's a kind gesture, and it is a nice saying as far as platitudes go. That's what platitudes are. They're just nice sayings. They're not actually helpful, and a lot of times they actually can have a negative effect rather than a positive effect.

[00:02:03] So instead of saying, Is there anything I can actually do to help consider step number two, which is to be specific.

[00:02:13] Now we all have different households. Sure every household is a little bit different, but the core fundamentals of what need to be done are pretty similar between each household, right? We have to wash dishes, we need to mop. General house cleaning needs to be done. Laundry meals need to be prepped and cooked or delivered.

[00:02:32] Kids may need to be taken to places, or maybe they need someone to sit in the stands and cheer them on at events. Dogs may need to be groomed or walked or. The fish or the birds may need to be fed. The lawn needs to be mowed or weeded. The car needs an oil change. The house needs air filter changes. A pool may need to be winterized arise or closed.

[00:02:57] There are so many fundamentals of things that just have to happen on a normal basis that you can think through. What is it you are happy to do, you can do, and you're willing to find the time to do. Now on the website here on the, in the show notes of this podcast episode, you're gonna find a comprehensive list

[00:03:19] of the core things that widows request help with, or the things that they'd really like to have help with.

[00:03:25] Now if you're not feeling very inspired and you need some ideas of things that you can do, or maybe things that most widows would like help with or request help with, you can download our comprehensive checklist on the website and I'll put a link to it in the show notes.

[00:03:41] This is episode five of the Brave Widow Podcast. So if you're needing some ideas, you're not really sure. What it is that you can do, then go download that checklist and you'll find a whole list of ideas of things that you could do.

[00:03:56] Which leads us into tip number three. Consider what you can and can't do. You may not enjoy doing all of the different tasks around the house, or you may not even physically be able to do some of those things, and that's perfectly okay. We actually have included in the list a check of gift card ideas, subscription ideas

[00:04:16] and other things that really aren't physically intense, but things that will still be helpful to support that widow.

[00:04:23] Tip number four is to ask when not if. A lot of times in our discussion with a widow, we'll say, , if you'd like me to do this or if there's anything I can do to help, be sure to let me know when really what we should be saying is, Hey, I would like to mow the lawn for you

[00:04:41] one day next week. Could I do it Tuesday or Saturday? And what that does in the mind of someone who's overwhelmed and grieving and feeling like they don't wanna be a burden to someone else is it frees them up to feel like they're having to ask you for help. So when you say, Here's what I'd like to do, Does this day work or this day work, it's almost like in your mind it's already done and solidified that's what you'll be helping with.

[00:05:12] And so a widow feels much more free to say, Oh, actually this day would be great. I really appreciate that. And it's not a burden on her to think of something you can do to ask you to do it, and then to feel like you have to go now and find the time to actually do it. This is one of the reasons why widows actually have a really hard time accepting help is because even though you say, Hey, if there's anything I can do, let me know

[00:05:42] they still feel like they're having to inconvenience you and ask you, but when you say, Here's something I can do, here's when I can do it. Those hurdles are already cleared and free, and all she has to do is say, Yes, that day works for me, or No, that day doesn't work for me. Could you do it another time or could you do it possibly on this day here, A great example of this is my neighbors.

[00:06:09] I was sick with Covid. Nathan and I were both sick for probably a good three weeks, and it was going on a month to the time that he actually passed and with having Covid and pneumonia, my lungs didn't function properly. I couldn't do as much as even sweep off my porch without having to sit down, take breaks, take naps, and really catch my breath.

[00:06:32] My heart was inflamed and my lungs were still affected by the pneumonia that was left that had happened. , So during the time that we were sick, it's the heat of summer. The grass is growing like crazy. There's weeds all around the pool and out in the field

[00:06:51] the grass had really gotten out of control. It had grown up high, and while I was sick, I didn't care. I was trying to focus on just surviving the day and trying to get through moment by moment. I hadn't even thought about calling anyone to handle the field, handle the yard, any of that. So my neighbor said, Hey, we'd like to come over and brush hog for you and mow and generally just clean up the yard.

[00:07:17] I think I tried to delay them for a while, just saying Oh, I'll call somebody. You don't have to worry about that. And then basically I got a response back that said, Hey, we're doing it. This is the day we're coming over. Let me know if that's gonna be a problem. And I just remember feeling this sense of relief Wow, first of all, these people are really committed to helping.

[00:07:36] Like they've already made up their mind, they're gonna help. Number two, they've already scheduled time to come and do it. And number three, I'm actually gonna be a barrier to them and their plans if I say no. So it really tilted the odds in their favor that I would say yes, and that would be acceptable.

[00:07:58] And obviously if I didn't feel comfortable with that, I would say no. One day my dad came over to visit with me and he brought his, shoes and gardening supplies and all of that, and I told him, thank you so much for being willing to do that and for weeding around the pool and the flower beds, I've already actually

[00:08:15] scheduled for someone to come out and do that. So don't worry about it. From a widow's perspective, you obviously can still say no and tell people you really appreciate it, but it is incredibly impactful when somebody's already made up their mind. They wanna help you, this is how they're gonna help you, and they've cleared the time to do it.

[00:08:33] Widows do not wanna be an inconvenience to anyone. They're feeling vulnerable, they're feeling overwhelmed, they're feeling fragile during each moment, and the last thing they wanna do is inconvenience someone else or feel like they're putting a burden of their life on someone else. So that's why some of these tips are so critically important.

[00:08:56] All right. That takes us to tip number five, which is to be persistent. Now, I don't mean harass the person or show up at their house unannounced, which for us hardcore introverts, we hate that. So please call or text before you just show up. But what I mean is be persistent. The first time you ask, they may say no. The second or third time you ask, they may say, No, but if you are specific with what you can do, if you offer times that you would be available to do it, then you can help massage the conversation to say.

[00:09:33] Maybe you don't want me to help with the laundry. Maybe that person's embarrassed. They don't want me to see their dirty underwear or something, so maybe they don't want me to do laundry. How about if I mop your kitchen? Or what if I dropped, your comforters off of a dry cleaning place?

[00:09:50] What else can I do to help you if you would not like for me to help you with this particular task, but be consistent but be persistent. I can tell you there are so many people that were reaching out to me, sending me messages, trying to call, texting, Facebook messages, and all I wanted was just quiet.

[00:10:15] Time to focus and reflect and take care of myself that I had to give myself grace and I had to say, if I can't respond to everyone, certainly not timely. If I can respond to them, it may just take quite a bit longer than normal. And I had to tell myself that. That's perfectly. I'm in survival mode.

[00:10:36] I'm in crisis management, like I am doing the bare minimum that I have to, for my family and everything on the personal aspect of life to feel like we're surviving much less even thinking about having hope for the future in those first few days and weeks. If the person's not responding, just know they do notice.

[00:10:58] They do notice when you're messaging them, when you reach out, and they do appreciate it, even if they're not very good at responding and telling you that. So also with being persistent is that most people have heavy stages of grieving those first few weeks, months, and sometimes even the first couple of years.

[00:11:18] So what tends to happen? When a widow loses someone is that there's this flurry of activity and outreach, right? There's all these people coming in saying, We wanna help. We wanna do this. We're gonna bring meals, we're gonna, give you gift cards. We're gonna do this. And then after the first maybe two or three weeks, it all dies down.

[00:11:40] And if you hear from even a couple of two to three, maybe a handful of people, you're probably pretty lucky from that perspective. So as you think about being persistent, know that especially in those first few weeks, if they don't respond or they don't take you up on your offer, that's perfectly fine. Reach out to them again in four months, six months, 10 months, a year or two years.

[00:12:08] Most likely no one else is doing that. During those times widows tend to feel over time that they're forgotten about because people are really good at reaching out in the beginning and really bad at following back up a few months later. Some of this may be that people don't wanna inconvenience you.

[00:12:25] If you're a widow and you've declined help multiple times, or you don't respond multiple times, and they may feel like I guess if that person needs help, they're gonna let me know, or, I've tried helping several times and been told no. So as someone who wants to help, that can be really discouraging to be told no or not get a response after several times.

[00:12:45] But I wanna encourage you if you are that person, To be persistent, just keep reaching out. Just keep asking, keep offering people do notice. When I was going through those first few months of grieving, there were a lot of people that I didn't respond to and there are probably a good two or three people who were very consistent in texting me, sending me cards, sending me little gifts for holidays, birthdays, different types of events, and who just kinda overwhelmed me with the knowledge that

[00:13:22] they thought about me, they cared, they loved me, and I was still present in their life even though there were many times I may not even acknowledge that they sent a card or a text or reached out to me. And I just remember being so blown away by that. Like sometimes we go through a traumatic event and especially something like losing your spouse and there are people that you think

[00:13:50] would be the ones who always keep you top of mind, who always surround you and help you, who are always there for you and they're not. And that's disappointing. Could be family, it could be close friends. It could be just someone that you really depend on. And then there always tends to be this other group of people that...

[00:14:10] maybe you're pretty good friends with, or your acquaintances or neighbors or whatever it is. And man, they come out strong for you. They're consistent. They do not give up on you and they want you to know they are there for you through thick and thin. And those people surprise you cuz you think, Wow, you know would I

[00:14:30] have done that for them if they were in this situation? Did I even think that they cared about me that much? This is surprising, and there's been a few of those people I've circled back to, months later, close to even a year later and said, Thank you. You have no idea. I. What you did for me and what that meant for you to be consistent and persistent with reaching out to me, and especially when I didn't even say thank you or acknowledge the fact that you reach out, the fact that you kept doing it told me that you weren't doing it to get anything in return.

[00:15:04] You were truly doing it because you cared and without any expectation, which is really incredible. All right guys. Those are the five ways to actually help a widow. And quickly, I'll recap 'em for you. Number one, avoid the platitudes. Don't use phrases like if you need anything, if there's anything I can do to help, let me know.

[00:15:27] Number two, be specific. Offer specifically what you're willing to do, what you're able to do, maybe even what you enjoy doing, which is leads us into number three. Consider what you can and can't do. Number four, ask when not if. And number five, be persistent.


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