BW 031: A Letter to my Friends: What Widows Want you to Know but Don’t Want to Tell YouMay 16, 2023
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The Transcript is below.
Oftentimes in grief, Widows feel very misunderstood. That's pretty common. And in all of the widow communities that I'm involved in, I hear a lot of times people say, "oh, I just wish that people understood this, or I wish that my family or friends could know this, but I don't wanna have to tell 'em. I wish I could just say it, but I can't".
So what I've done over the past few months is really compile a list of things that widows want you to know as family and friends, but they don't want to have to tell you. I have eight things that I'm going to share with you. Things that oftentimes I wish that my family and friends knew or understood, but you just don't always find the right words in how to say it or to explain it.
Join me in episode 31 on the Brave Widow Show.
We talk about:
~ There’s nothing you can say to take away the pain.
~ How to say things that reassures your support for me.
~ It's okay to talk about my spouse.
~ "There's nothing that you can say to take away the pain. And this one's hard because as humans, we wanna fix, we wanna comfort, we wanna make it better. We wanna reassure that person, everything's gonna be okay. But there are no magic words that with a wave of the wand you can say to take away that pain".
~ "It's okay to talk about my spouse, and I know that it may be hard for you and it may make you sad, but sharing these memories, talking about my person, remembering some of the stories can be a healing thing for me as the widow, and I don't want a life where my person doesn't exist anymore or where I'm trying to pretend like they never existed" .
The Brave Widow Community is a place where you can connect with other widows, find hope and healing, and begin to dream again for the future. Learn more at bravewidow.com.
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!
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Hey, hey, and welcome to episode number 31 of the Brave Widow Show. You know, oftentimes in grief, Widows feel very misunderstood. That's pretty common. And in all of the widow communities that I'm involved in, I hear a lot of times people say, oh, I just wish that people understood this, or I wish that my family or friends could know this, but I don't wanna have to tell 'em.
I wish I could just say it, but I can't. And so what I've done over the past few months is really compile a list of things that widows want you to know as family and friends, but they don't wanna have to tell you. So I have eight things that I'm gonna share with you. Things that oftentimes I wish that my family and friends knew or understood, but you just don't always find the right words in how to say it or to [00:01:00] explain it.
And sometimes you just don't know if they care to know these things. If I were to write a letter on behalf of widows to their family and friends, the first thing I would say is, thank you for being my friend. Friendships out of convenience and reciprocity are natural and happen and flow quite easily for the most part, but a friendship that endures hardship
and grief and sorrow and inconvenience in a lot of ways, that is a priceless friendship. For me, I've had so many friends that I thought I would hear from that I didn't, but I had several people that I never really thought would have consistently reached out that did, and it just blew me away. They got no glory.
Most of the time they didn't even get a thank you. Those first few months. They got [00:02:00] nothing. They just gave and they gave and they gave and they kept showing up and it was an incredible show of love and generosity and selflessness when you have friends and family who do those kinds of things. So thank you.
It's incredible to have people who will sit with you in the suck and the sadness and the frustration and the feeling of overwhelm and feeling like you're not yourself and trying to figure out life again, and just feeling like you are. Trying, you're, you're drowning and you're trying to keep the water from rising over your head.
To have people around you that will help equip you and support you and be patient while you figure that out is, really just incredible. Number two, there's nothing that you can say to take away the pain. And this one's hard because as humans, we wanna fix, we wanna comfort, we wanna make it better. We wanna reassure that person, everything's gonna be okay.[00:03:00]
But there are no magic words that with a wave of the wand you can say, to take away that pain or to fix that person. The best thing that you can do is listen and validate how they feel, even when you don't agree with it. So as you look at someone's situation from the outside in, it's easy to try to rationalize things, to think through them logically to.
Not think of it through an emotional lens, but to try to understand what's going on, especially if you've not gone through a similar situation. And there may be times that you wanna say, well, I don't think you should be doing this, or Don't you think you should really be doing that over here? And giving all sorts of unsolicited advice. And widows,
they get tons of unsolicited advice. For the most part. If we want advice, we'll ask. If there's [00:04:00] obviously self harm or something serious, then by all means, yes; feel that out of concern you can bring things up, but for the most part, just listen and validate how they feel. Avoid giving advice. Avoid telling them, oh, he's in a better place, or He would want you to do this.
He would want you to do that. Just, just be there. Just be there and give them space. A lot of times people will sort their own feelings. They'll come to their own conclusions and decisions. They just need a listening ear or maybe someone who can ask open-ended questions to help them think through the right steps and, where they wanna go with their future.
Some things that you can say to be reassuring are things like, I'm here for you. Tell me about your person. What, what was his favorite meal? What were the things that you really missed that you guys enjoyed doing together? I'm here to listen to [00:05:00] you anytime that you wanna talk.
Saying things like, I'm sorry, I can't even imagine what that might be like, or, that has to be so hard. Just those small little phrases. Really all that needs to be said. That is a way of letting your person feel heard, feel comforted by the fact that they're not alone, that someone is willing to listen and to be there for them, and that you are not trying to diminish what they feel or invalidate how they're looking at that situation.
Just those small few phrases go such a long, long way. Number three, I still need your support. Just because my spouse isn't here, that doesn't mean I don't still need the support of my family and friends. In fact, I might need it more than ever. Please continue to check in on me [00:06:00] and to see how I'm doing. Grief is hard.
Because it often is an isolating event. It often causes us to want to be alone, to feel even more lonely. We may feel like we just aren't the same person we were before. We're trying to figure that out. We're trying to survive, and especially for someone of my personality type, I tend to go really quiet. I don't want a lot of people around.
I don't want to be bothered necessarily. I don't wanna bother other people, like I just wanna be by myself and think through things and try to figure things out on my own. But that being said doesn't mean that I don't still want and need other people to. Check in on me or to say, Hey, I just want you to know that I'm thinking about you.
In fact, one of the best things that a friend can do is to send a message that [00:07:00] says, Hey, no response needed. Just want you to know I'm thinking about you. I care about you, and I hope you're doing okay. If you wanna talk or if there's, you know, anything going on, you wanna share, I'm here to listen. I mean that is one of the most powerful things that you can do as a friend is to keep showing up and to keep showing your support.
Number four, it's okay to talk about my spouse, and I know that it may be hard for you and it may make you sad, but sharing these memories, talking about my person. Remembering some of the stories is actually a very healing thing. It can be a healing thing for me as the widow, and
I don't want a life where my person doesn't exist anymore or where I'm trying to pretend like they never existed.
I was married to Nathan for more than half of [00:08:00] my life when he died. So for me to think about. A life that doesn't involve him in some way where I'm not trying to bring him up or think about him. That is so foreign and strange to me, and that's not a life that I want for myself. And to be quite honest, the more.
Often we talk about our person. The more we incorporate them in events, the more that we, look at something and go, oh yeah, that reminds me of him. The easier it becomes to be able to do those things. So please talk about our person even as though they're, they're still here. All right, number five.
I may not be myself for a while and I'm. Coming up on two years, and I am still not the person that I was. I'm not a completely different person. There are a lot of similarities still to the [00:09:00] person I was before, but I feel like I'm an alien living in a whole new world, and you may feel as a widow detached.
Disassociated. You may feel as you're just kinda watching life happen around you. You're not actually living life, you're just kind of watching it from a distance. It's a bizarre feeling to explain, but it's a bizarre new world that we live in as widows. Grief is a process and it takes time to heal, and there's no finish line, which.
Is reassuring on one hand and extremely depressing on the other hand, to think there's no point I'm gonna be fully healed and recovered from this. So I'm trying to figure out what is this brand new world and environment that I'm living in? What is life supposed to look like as someone who's [00:10:00] grieving as a widow, I may be more emotional or withdrawn.
So I would ask that you be patient with me.
Our brains do not function as they normally would through grief. So as a grieving person and a widow, I'm gonna be more forgetful, more anxious, more easily stressed. I'm second guessing. A lot of my decisions, I have lost my thinking partner and the person I bounce ideas off of. And it truly, especially, Those first few months, and for some people years, you are living kind of in this very hazy fog where it's very hard to think clearly.
It's very hard to focus on a TV show or a book, or an article or anything that requires more than a few second's worth of attention of your time, and it's hard to navigate life with this whole new stack of responsibilities. With sadness and loss and [00:11:00] being unable to function at the same level that you were before, it's life changing.
It really is. So please understand, as a widow, I am not gonna seem like the person I was before because I'm not. It doesn't mean that I won't get to a place where I'm healthy and happy and functioning really well, and life is is beautiful for me. But it takes time. Grief is also draining. It sneaks up on us.
Out of nowhere, I can be having the most wonderful, perfect day and all of a sudden just get a wave of sadness. And that's exactly what it feels like. This big wave, almost like a tsunami that hits you and. You start to get sad and you start missing your person and you start going through all of these emotions and thinking, why am I back here?
You know, I thought life was, was getting better and I was doing better, and now I feel like I'm regressing and now I feel worse. And [00:12:00] how is it possible I'm going to be living
the rest of my life without my person, that's just crazy. So grief can often be draining. Please don't take it personal if I don't text you back or I don't have the energy for a phone call, small things are exhausting, and some days it's just about surviving. Don't take it personal. I want you to know how much I appreciate you and what you mean to me.
I'm just overwhelmed. I'm probably not gonna be a good friend for a while. I'm not gonna reach out. I'm gonna forget important days. I may forget your birthday. I may forget to give you a gift at Christmas. I probably won't respond very often. And how I think of it is I'm living in this world now that's a little bit gray.
And whereas if something really exciting and joyful happens, I might have been able to get to a nine or a 10 on a one through 10 scale [00:13:00] of enthusiasm and excitement. Now, maybe I'm capped at like a seven because good things are still a reminder of the loss that you've had, or you just have a hard time feeling that full sense of joy that you did before.
So thank you as my friend for understanding that. All right, number six, practical help is appreciated. Practical help, meaning things it takes to run a family, to run a house, to take care, of things that have to be managed just on a routine, normalized basis. But the kicker is I think I should be able to handle those things. I don't want somebody to feel like I'm weak.
I don't wanna ask you to do something that you don't know how to do, or you don't like doing it or you don't wanna do it. I don't want to be a burden to you, and I don't want to put myself in a position where. [00:14:00] I ask you for help and it inconveniences you, or you say, no, and then I am stuck feeling vulnerable, like, oh, I, I can't even manage to mow my own lawn.
What? You know, wow, what are they gonna think of me now? So, please know that practical help for me is still important and needed as a widow. And one of the best things that you can do if you're not sure what to do to help is to think about the things that you don't mind doing or you even enjoy doing, and specifically offer to do those things or offer to do them and say, I could do.
You know, Tuesday or Thursday, or I could do, hey, one day next week I'm gonna be free. I'll have some free time. I know you are wanting to organize that closet. I'd be more than happy to do it. We can play some music, we can have, you know, some snacks going [00:15:00] on. We can make it like a whole thing. What do you think about that day?
Would that work for you? Approaching it from that angle instead of just saying things like, oh, if you need anything, let me know. It's just so much easier for the person to accept your help because they already know you are able, willing, and happy to do those things, and you've already thought about a specific time that you could do it.
So all they have to do is say yes. They don't have to think about. Oh, of all the list of my chores that need to get done, which one do I think is the right one for you? You've already decided that, and it gives them the opportunity to say, yeah, that works great, or No, how about a different day? Or, you know, I already got that closet knocked out, but I was really needing to redo the pantry.
Can we do that instead? It really just makes a person's ability to accept help much, much easier.
Number seven, I may need to take a step back from [00:16:00] social activities, and it's not necessarily because I want to, but especially that first few months and first couple of years, kind of weird. It's kind of weird having a seat next to me that's empty that normally would be filled. It's. Hard sometimes being out in public and having uncontrollable crying moments.
And so maybe I want some time to get my feet underneath me in that regard. It's hard to imagine being out and laughing and having a good time and enjoying myself when I'm supposed to be sad, like, what are other people gonna think? But that doesn't mean I don't want you to keep inviting me, so keep inviting me, and even if I keep saying no, At least I know that you're thinking about me and the offer is out there, and who knows?
One day I will probably say yes and see how it goes. Please don't take my declined invitations personally, I still value our [00:17:00] friendship very much. It means a lot that you would ask me to go out and do these things. I just need a little bit of time, or I need the right situation or scenario to feel confident that I can go out and do that and number eight, don't give up on me.
I will heal and I will begin to improve. Over time through purposeful methods of healing and involvement with people who understand what I'm going through, it may take me six months, a year, five years to feel like I really have my feet underneath me, and I'm starting to build what my next chapter in my life looks like.
Please continue to show up. Please have patience with me. Your support and involvement is so crucial and so appreciated, even if I can't find the right words to say it, or even if I just don't have the [00:18:00] energy to clearly articulate that to you.
This is a time when I really need you the most, and it may feel like you're giving and giving and giving and not getting a whole lot in return, but I promise you that your efforts are noticed, they're appreciated, and you are building a trust and a loyalty from me to you that's worth far more than anything I could ever give you. And I look forward to the day
that I will be able to repay you in some way for all the things that you've done for me. Thank you.
Emily Jones: Hey guys. Thank you so much for listening to the Brave Widow Podcast. I would love to help you take your next step, whether that's healing your heart, finding hope, or achieving your dreams for the future.
Do you need a safe space to connect with other like-minded widows? Do you wish you had how-tos for getting [00:19:00] through the next steps in your journey, organizing your life or moving through grief? What about live calls where you get answers to your burning questions? The Brave Widow Membership Community is just what you need.
Inside you'll find courses to help guide you, a community of other widows to connect with, live coaching and q and a calls, and small group coaching where you can work on what matters most to you. Learn how to heal your heart, find hope, reclaim joy, and dream again for the future. It is possible. Head on over to brave widow.com to learn more.