Over the years, I have been a part of facilitating various support groups. One that stands out to me was with a group of women who all shared the loss of a husband. We were discussing grief and what had been helpful to them in walking through that grief.
Two things stood out to me from that conversation. One was the reminder of just how differently people grieve, such that what was most meaningful to one widow was the exact thing another widow did not appreciate. The second was the one thing they all agreed on: that they wish family and friends would refer to their departed spouse by name. Not only did they all agree on that one thing, they shared a unique understanding of the craving to hear the name of the men they had married.
At the time of that support group, our region did not have a chapter of Modern Widows Club, but I was able to witness the unique support, mutual understanding and encouragement these widows were able to offer each other and the need for more support like that. That is just one of the reasons I was excited to learn Modern Widows Club was coming to the greater Wilmington area two years ago today.
I recently sat down with Megan Kopka who helped bring Modern Widows Club to our region. I asked her for her insight as a widow on what widows wish family and friends knew. This is what she shared. I hope it is an encouragement as to how to best support the widows you know among your family and friends or in your own professional work.
- Don’t shy away.
You may not know what to say or what a widow friend needs to hear, but don’t let that keep you from being available.
- Be a good listener.
It is so tempting to want to provide a solution or words of comfort, but often the greatest comfort and one so rare today is a person willing to listen.
- Don’t be uncomfortable with tears.
- Say the name of her husband.
Megan shared that she found this to be especially true in the first two years when it seemed as if everyone was afraid to say her husband’s name.
- Be aware that some widows don’t like the term widow. Some do.
- Year two is harder. Remember Father’s Day, wedding anniversaries, etc.
Megan shared how much it meant to her to receive flowers on her wedding anniversary from a thoughtful relative for a number of years after her husband’s death.
- Understand it is so much harder than anyone can imagine.
When Megan said this, I thought about the stark difference in reading C.S. Lewis' insights on loss and pain before he experienced the death of a spouse in comparison with A Grief Observed which journaled his journey with grief after the death of his wife, Joy. While reading the book still can't help you truly understand the loss experienced by a widow, it is helpful.
- Don’t give advice unless you are a professional.
Megan is especially frustrated with the common advice, “Don’t make any major decisions in the first year.” She explains that as a widow that is not necessarily good advice or practical in many situations where life goes on and bills are still due.
- Find practical ways to help.
When I asked Megan to share one of the ways someone was a help to her as a widow, she immediately said, “Mowing my lawn.” You can read what other widows found especially helpful in this article.
If you missed our earlier article on Modern Widows Club, another way you can help a widow is to let them know about the resources available online and in areas where Modern Widows Club is active. Our local chapter meets three times a month, once for a meeting and two additional times for a social outing. Learn more here.
Modern Widows Club
Another widow shares her advice in 4 Ways to Love Someone Blindsided by Loss
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