Being there for a friend who lost his wife can be tricky. It's hard to know the right thing to say or do. We've all been at a loss for words in these situations. There are no set in stone do's and don'ts, which can create confusion in how to converse with someone who has lost his wife.
Avoid preconceived ideas of right and wrong when speaking to your friend. Allow your friendship to guide you. Share what his wife meant to you and what about her you will miss. Sharing memories of her keeps her alive during the grieving period. It softens the impact of the loss.
Become comfortable with the unknown. There is no road map or compass; nor is there a calendar involved with a predetermined date of coming to terms with the loss. For some the grieving process is short and for others it can take years. It is a messy and heart-wrenching journey.
Be slow to speak and quick to listen. The presence of a friend is oftentimes all that is needed to bring comfort. Be prepared to simply sit and wait on him to lead you in what he needs.
Give him room to express his grief in the way that feels right to him. Allow him to pace himself through his journey. Encourage him to use his strengths to express his grief. If he is athletic, musical, an artist, a writer or a photographer, engaging in those strengths will be an outlet for him.
Be patient. Your friend will have dark days or even weeks, and his life may fall apart for a time. He may become callous to those around him. Picking up the slack is the best thing you can offer him. He will pull out of it and he will rebuild his life.
Edit out all cliches from your conversation. Phrases such as “I’ll be OK," “I know what you are going through,” “It’s time to move on,” “You’ll meet someone else are typically hurtful and frustrating. Instead, if you must speak, speak from your heart.
Educate yourself on the grieving process. It will help you understand what your friend is going through. However, avoid using that information to educate him on the subject.
- Companion Through the Darkness, Stephanie Ericsson
- Men and Grief
- Use humor to ease tension in the conversation when appropriate.
- If your friend is expressing suicidal thoughts, connect him to a therapist.
Josee D'Amore is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, where she is the founder/owner of Gems of Hope Counseling. She specializes in relational wellness including friendships, siblings, spouse/significant others, children, parenting, abuse/trauma, grief/loss and care-giver support. She is the author of "The Soul's Fight: Wrestling with Forgiveness".