Life finds a way to go on after a loved one dies. But attending certain events can be surprisingly difficult and triggering for a widow. And the unfortunate part is they are likely the events you don’t want to have a hard time with. Of course, the widow wants to celebrate with the new couple getting married and she wants to be there for the one who is experiencing loss. But, in her new world of having to do events without her husband, it can cause unavoidable sadness, often the kind she can’t cover up if she attends. Both wedding and funeral services come with triggers that are hard to avoid.
- Hearing the vows of the new couple reminds her of her own wedding and the covenant vow made “until death do us part.” She never dreamed that death would come much sooner than anticipated and so she grieves.
- She may feel like a third wheel or a “wedding wallflower.” Even if she comes with a friend, it can feel like there are flashing lights surrounding her, all announcing that she is alone.
- This event opens her up to potential unthoughtful comments and questions from others. Even well-meaning comments of compassion can cause the floodgate of her emotions to open up, and she will likely not want to be openly grieving at a wedding.
- She will remember the service for her husband and reconnect with those difficult emotions.
- She will have a clear picture of the journey that lies ahead for the one starting to grieve.
- She will again be faced with the reality of death and the importance of an eternal perspective.
5 ways to show compassion to a widow when attending one of these events:
- Speak words of empathy. She likely cannot help the way she feels.
Wedding: She wants to be happy and not sad but these emotions often join together on her grief journey. Acknowledge the tenderness: “It must be hard coming to this wedding knowing that it will remind you of your own husband.” or “Tell me more about your wedding day or your marriage?”
Funeral: The environment of sorrow provides a breeding ground for doubling her own pain. Talk with her about this: “I can only imagine what you must be feeling sitting here today.” “It took courage for you to come knowing that you may relive the emotions experienced at the memorial for your husband.”
2. Extend an invitation to join you.
Wedding: “I am sure going to a wedding alone is not easy. We would like for you to join us.” or “We will save a seat for you.”
Funeral: “Would you like for us to pick you up?” “I still remember __________ about your husband’s memorial. It touched me deeply.”
3. Call ahead of the event to process grief with her.
Wedding: “I was thinking about you as you anticipate attending the wedding. How are you feeling?”
Funeral: “I still remember (name of her husband) and wanted to share this memory with you. His memorial service impacted me in this way___________.”
4. Check in a few days after the event
Wedding or Funeral: “It was so good to see you at the ______________.” “I am sure it must have been hard coming without _____________.” “Were you surprised by unexpected emotions? How are you processing everything?”
5. Send a note of encouragement.
Wedding: “It was so good to see you at the wedding. No doubt it took a lot of courage to come. You looked beautiful. I am praying for you knowing that there is the possibility that it stirred up some tender emotions.”
Funeral: “It meant a lot that you came to offer support at the memorial for ___________. I still remember how (name of her husband)’s funeral impacted me! I will be praying for you as you continue to grieve his absence.”
The timeline of grief is different for everyone. A widow in the first two years of her own grief will almost always feel tender attending either a wedding or funeral. Beyond the second year, she may feel emotionally stronger and her circumstances in life may have changed. Showing kindness and compassion is always a welcomed gift but it is important to ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in your response to her.
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver, is a word spoken at the proper time” (Proverbs 25:11 NASB).