According to the US Census Bureau, approximately 2,800 women become widowed every day. You didn’t misread that, that’s 2,800 new widows every single day! That’s a lot of women making one of the hardest transitions in life. In fact, the death of a spouse is ranked number one for the most stressful event in a woman’s life.
9 Things to Know About the New Widow and How to Help:
- She is sad. I might be stating the obvious, but losing the one that she loved is sad, very sad. And the feeling of sad will often link arms with many other emotions. For example, she may even become mad that she’s so sad.
How to help a sad widow:
- Be there with her.
- Show her empathy.
- Offer her a box of Kleenex and wipe her tears.
- Do not minimize the pain that causes her to be sad.
2. She is overwhelmed. So much comes at her, and all at the same time. Immediately, there are so many decisions to make, big and small. Simple tasks become giant obstacles to overcome.
How to help an overwhelmed widow:
- Set up a support squad to lighten her load.
- Talk over some options that would release her from the weight of responsibilities.
- Take a meal, run an errand, or send a gift card that would cover the cost of house cleaning.
- Do not expect her to tell you how you can help.
3. She is afraid. Fear proudly makes an appearance at every opportunity. It is one of the widow’s greatest enemies, the fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of missing out, and so many others. Most often, in the Bible, when something new, challenging, or supernatural was about to take place, it was accompanied by the “do not be afraid” exhortation. The arrival of this strong emotion is no different for the widow. She is afraid of being alone. She is afraid that she will be taken advantage of. She is afraid that life will never be good again. She is afraid that she won’t be able to support her family. She is afraid, but in time, God will show her that she doesn’t need to be afraid.
How to help the fearful widow:
- Listen to her fears.
- Help to offset each one, if possible. For example, if she is afraid that someone might break into her home, assist her with looking into an alarm system.
- Do not minimize the fear. In the moment, it is real to her, and telling her not to be afraid only adds to her frustrations.
4. She is frustrated. She doesn’t know how to do a lot of the things that her husband once took care of. She is often left wondering how the home maintenance, auto repairs, or lawn care will get done without him. If she is a widow-mom, she feels doubly frustrated in caring for her children alone, sometimes feeling that the “lesser parent” was left behind.
How to help the frustrated widow:
- Do the task for her.
- Teach her a skill, in time, that would be helpful for her to learn. For example, many widows are capable of cutting their own grass but don’t know how. During the early weeks, offer this service as a gift.
- Do not minimize her frustrations as this will only bring on more frustration.
5. She is exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Transitioning from wife to widow is a process. If she has been a caregiver to her husband, that role has certainly taken a toll. Grief is hard work. She may look and act great on the outside, but a lot is happening underneath the surface. She is processing so many emotions that will take longer than anyone thinks it should. And, death always brings us to a place of considering eternal life. Even though we rejoice if our loved one is with the Lord, his absence is an everyday reality. A crisis of faith often comes in times of suffering.
How to help an exhausted widow:
- Walk alongside her.
- Affirm her exhaustion and offer tangible help.
- Provide her with a timely retreat or weekend of rest.
- Understand that the exhaustion will subside but until it does, it could take a toll on her impacting other areas of life.
6. She is out of control. Death launches the new widow into a season that almost drives itself. Her emotions take over and her private world feels invaded. She desperately desires to turn back the clock but moving forward is her only option.
How to help the widow when life is out of control:
- Encourage her in every way possible.
- Affirm the things where she is in control.
- Pray for her and with her.
7. She is confused. All the what-if’s and why questions come at her like a storm. She wants to understand, completely understand, what just happened. She recounts the details of her story and all the ways she would have written it differently if she were God. Because of the reality of the “grief fog,“ she is disoriented and has trouble processing information that feels necessary for survival.
How to help the confused widow:
- Advocate for her needs.
- Patiently repeat the things she forgets.
- Write down important information for her to review including the timeline of upcoming events or past realities.
8. She is lonely. Even in a room full of people, she feels alone. Even with a house full of children, she feels alone. Even with more help than she has ever had before, she feels alone. Even though she knows, and is told often, that God is there, she struggles to feel His presence amplifying the loneliness.
How to help a lonely widow:
- Send a card with a memory of her husband or a reminder that she has not been forgotten.
- Call to check in on her.
- Visit her.
- Invite her to join you for lunch.
9. She is misunderstood. Oh, how one of the biggest cries of the widow is to be understood. And yet, unless you have experienced widowhood for yourself, you don’t have the ability to truly understand. She will make mistakes and decisions to the best of her ability but will be misunderstood by others. She will experience emotions at a new level but will feel as though she is the only one who ever felt this sad, rejected, or alone.
How to help a widow who feels that no one understands:
- Connect her with a support group of widows.
- Acknowledge that you do not understand.
- Ask her to share how she feels.
- Do not compare her grief with other types of grief or other grieving people. Everyone’s grief is personal and unique to the individual.
The good news; however, is this: For those who put their trust in God, He will take care of the widow and her children promising to be her Defender and a Father to her fatherless children. She is safe in God’s hands and in His care!