My wonderful friend has lost her husband, how can I help her?

(17 Posts)
CommsWhizz Thu 06-Mar-14 22:15:05

I come to you with my heart breaking for a close, close friend whose husband passed away this week He'd been ill for a short time and lost his fight so quickly, it's taken everyone by surprise. I'm struggling to take it in and so how she and their family are feeling I simply can't begin to imagine. They have two small children, and while she's surrounded by a close family to help, protect and support her, I'd be grateful of any ways that I can help as best I can.

At the moment, I'm texting daily just so she knows I'm there, with no pressure to reply, I'm just reiterating offers of help in any way I can. What, if anything, can I do to help ease her pain as time goes on and the initial flurry of activity (funeral arrangements and so on) calms down and people slowly but surely return to their 'normal' lives?

I want to drop everything and be by her side, but with a crazy schedule and my own children, this isn't possible but I will absolutely do all I can to help her. Any suggestions on how I can do this, and be an unwaivering support would be gratefully received.

Thank you, in advance.

Mojito100 Thu 06-Mar-14 22:37:04

Your texts will mean more than you can know. Keep doing this. Instead of offering to help make it clear what you are doing and when so she can say no if she wants. It is very difficult to ask for help even when it is offered genuinely and being told you are going to do something takes the pressure off from asking. Be understanding for many many years to come as this journey is long and never ending. Always remember her husband and the memories you have and share these.

bumbumsmummy Thu 06-Mar-14 22:59:33

Just being there for her will mean so much have you managed to pop round yet ?

SnotandBothered Thu 06-Mar-14 23:06:04

Batch cooking of dinners that you can drop round?
Offering to take the children for an hour or two so she can howl and sob as loudly as she needs to?
Dull, practical jobs: shopping, dry cleaning so she doesn't have to think about these?
And maybe ask for her DCs school calendar so you can cover any dress up/cake sale/school trip necessities etc so that school life remains as stable as poss without your poor friend having to think about it all?

But mostly, the texting and the being there. It's so shocking and awful when something like this happens. You sound lovely and very caring.

Having lost my DH 6 months ago in from the sounds of it similar circumstances, just be there for her. Take your cues from her as to whether she wants to talk about him or if she wants distracting. I've found some friends/family do all they can to avoid talking about my DH (I guess for fear of upsetting me). But being upset is clearly normal! And I like to talk about him.

I second the offers to take the children out if she wants some time alone and not have to put on the happy face for the sake of the children for a few hours.

Aside from the devastation, disbelief etc she's going to be feeling lonely - her best friend has gone. If she wants just be a presence there even if she doesn't feel like talking.

You sound a lovely friend.

CommsWhizz Fri 07-Mar-14 21:24:06

Thank you all so much for your replies and for sharing your experiences, I know it can't have been easy.

So far, no, I haven't been round because she's surrounded by her family, her parents and in-laws are staying with her, and I don't want to intrude at such an incredibly tough time for them all. I'm in touch with her daily, and will continue to be so, but will ask when would be a good time to visit, even if it's just a few minutes to hug and cry with her.

Thanks for the tips about how I can help, and yes, I'll absolutely offer to look after the little ones to give her some much-needed time and peace to grieve. And yes, I'll be more clear about the kind of help, rather than the generic 'let me know if you need anything' line that just anyone can throw around.

In a desperate bid to at least DO something, I've done a little research into practicalities, such as charities that support families to help children who have lost a parent so my friend feels like she has some guidance when it comes to helping her daughters. The very last thing I want to do is intrude or offer too much, but I want to be able to make life easier for her, even if it's just be 0.0001%. I guess it's tricky to know what the right amount of support is? All the info I've found I'll hang onto for now as I know now isn't the right time.

She's a wonderful friend and a truly wonderful mother, and anything I can do to help prop her up, I'll do. Thank you so much for your suggestions.

Mojito100 Fri 07-Mar-14 22:51:27

Commswhizz - from what you have said you will do fine. Go with what feels right for you as it will be for her too I am sure. Being there to listen and actually just taking over fine of the mundane tasks means so much.

sleeplessinderbyshire Mon 10-Mar-14 22:43:15

my sister's best mate lost her husband suddenly last week. She's been texting daily and sent a couple of cards. Her friend has said that people just being there and responding to her texts/emails has helped - I don't know her so well but sent an email and got a quick reply so I think if your friend is a techie/text/email person regular "hi, I'm here, text if you need to" is enough. We're thinking about filling her freezer with nice food from Cook for when the in-laws and parents go home and she's left with kids to feed and no-one to help her

Horrid horrid times for everyone

sleeplessinderbyshire Mon 10-Mar-14 22:44:02

Oh, meant to say. Offering to babysit for the funeral might be really important

CommsWhizz Tue 11-Mar-14 13:43:13

Thanks everyone. Sleepless, I'm doing exactly what you suggest. I'd already offered to have her little ones for the funeral so she can focus on her own goodbye and she's taken me up on it. I've been over and done some practical things, such as taking food for her and the children plus sticker books and things to help keep little minds entertained. We're in touch by text daily, and I'll just keep doing what I've been doing.

I found a brilliant page from The Guardian which was written by a woman who was widowed leaving her with children, and there were some great suggestions on there for how you can help, so I'll be doing as much as I can and knowing that it is helping, even just a little.

Thanks all for your suggestions, they're much appreciated.

CommsWhizz Tue 11-Mar-14 13:47:29

Sorry Sleepless, I meant to say that I'm so sorry about your sister's friend. I almost wondered if my friend and hers could be the same person, but then I realised that sadly, a lot of people go through this kind of heartbreak, even at such young ages.

If it's of any help to your sister, here's the link that I mention, I found it really, really helpful in terms of things that I can do that will make a genuine difference:
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/jul/28/familyandrelationships.family3

With love.

CommsWhizz Tue 11-Mar-14 13:54:48

Oh goodness, I am so sorry Clock, I meant to say something to you too and promptly forgot. I'm so sorry that you've had to go through something so devastating too, and in similar circumstances. I really appreciate you taking the time to reply as I can only imagine how hard it is to be reminded of those immediate few days afterwards. I really hope that you and your family are doing well, as well as you can, and you've had plenty of love and support to see you through.

With love.

Mouseandmole Sat 15-Mar-14 19:03:48

My husband died 20 months ago of cancer aged 47. It sounds as if you are doing all the right things by keeping in regular contact with your poor friend. Texts were a life saver and though I didn't always reply it was lovely knowing people were thinking about me all the time. NEVER say ring if you need something because when you are in such depths of shock and despair you are unable to reach out. Better to offer specific things. Most importantly keep up the support in the months and years to come. I have wonderful supportive friends but people do fall by the wayside as time goes on which is understandable as they have their lives to lead, but it's still hard when you are left on your own. Don't assume that she will be feeling better after a year. My children (teenagers) and I feel absolutely that year two is harder as the reality has set in but the support tends to have dropped off, so that is worth bearing in mind. The friends I have appreciated the most are those who have been consistently there throughout, not the ones who were around during the dramas ie. diagnosis, funeral etc (though they may have been great then) but have then backed off. I have had moments of such acute despair and been paralysed and unable to pick up the phone and just longed for someone to ring at that precise moment. So keep up the calls in the months, years ahead. She doesn't need to answer but she will really appreciate that you've thought about her. I didn't mean this to be such an essay but have so much to say on the subject! You sound as if you are just the sort of friend she needs.

CommsWhizz Mon 24-Mar-14 15:57:55

Oh Mouse, I am so, so sorry you're also having to go through this. And absolutely don't apologise about the essay, I'm really grateful for all you shared as it's something I want to get right and yet am wary of overstepping the mark and becoming a nuisance. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply.

Text is such a Godsend isn't it? A way to reach out without feeling like you're intruding or demanding an instant response.

I really hope that your lovely friends are still there, supporting you throughout, and that your children are coping with things as best they can.

Sending love and thanks.
xxx

onlyjoking Wed 26-Mar-14 13:43:42

When my husband died this article was something that i found helpful both to read and to give to friends who want to help,
i hope you find it useful.

HOW YOU CAN HELP ME

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more
comforting to cry than 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. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get
comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in 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 too 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 come
over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You
can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you
to know that."

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I
feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel
that you don't see me.

I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm
grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after
my loved one's death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For
I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was
with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for watching our
children and grandchildren grow, the places we will never get to go together, and the
hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled
and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, 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 the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has
happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just
not acceptable.

When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and
alone. I feel badly 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 I can find someone else or that I need to start
dating again. I'm not ready. And maybe I don't want to. And besides,
what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren't. Whoever comes
after will always be someone different.

I don't even understand what you mean when you say, "You've got to get
on with your life." My life is going on, I've been forced to take on
many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think
it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So
please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and
support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget
and there will always be times that I cry.

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

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) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.
(b) 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 this difficult day.
(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I
may so no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me
because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up
then I really will be alone.
(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples,
to walk into events alone, to go home alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely.
Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel
deep rage. I may even feel guilty. 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 backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And 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.

Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping,thank you for understanding.

Lovely to see you, Onlyjoking. Remembering Steve and hoping that you and your three DC have found happiness. Xxx

Polkadotpatty Wed 26-Mar-14 16:43:25

I just wanted to reiterate the "talk about him" advice you've already had. My husband died when he was 28, and everything was hard, but I remember finding it really painful when people didn't say his name or mention him. Just in little ways is great, not great big statements, but the way you would have mentioned him before. Otherwise it felt like people were trying to write him out of my story (I do know they were just scared of triggering pain for me, but you can pretty much take it as read that the grief will be consuming your friend anyway, so you won't be triggering it).

Sending lots of love to you and your friend. It's just an awful time.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now