Now obviously when the person you love dies, you lose the support of said person, but you also gain a worldly amount more.
The support for me has been ongoing and abundant. Every single day I feel absolutely surrounded. There are times when I feel so incredibly alone – but that isn’t because of people not supporting me, that’s because the people supporting me are not the one person I want supporting me.
From the word go I have had people helping. Physically, mentally, and financially.
One of my friends started a give-a-little page so I could continue living in the flat Riley and I shared for the rest of the year. I would have been happy to get $100 for the groceries but it raised $8000. I was absolutely blown away at how much Riley, and to a lesser degree I had on other people’s lives.
Then there were the food parcels. People worried that I wasn’t eating brought around food that I just had to reheat, inviting me over for food, etc. People that came round and helped sort Riley’s stuff.
I know a lot of my friends didn’t know how to help or what to say, so here’s a couple of things that you should try to remember:
This is not your limelight, this is not your grief. Grief is a very personal experience and you should not try and assume that you a) know what they are going through, and b) tell them how you would deal with it. Listen to them and how they need you to help.
Being with someone in pain is not easy. They have limited control over their feelings, everything is only just below the surface. They may lash out. Your feelings might get hurt. You may feel unappreciated. But please don’t take it personally. It may seem selfish, but widows have a hard time being tolerant to other people’s issues when trying to deal with their own – share slowly, while it’s important that you share your own issues, it might be best to find others to share your problems with. During this time, just be there to listen.
A lot of people say “oh but you have/had so many good times” or “it will be better in the future.” While it seems like a good idea, it can make them think about whether this was a fair trade off, whether they deserved it. Stick with the truth, blunt as it is: “I am always here with you, this is shit.”
This is not fixable, and even if it was, it is not your job or right to ‘fix’ it. The pain cannot be made better, do not try and take the pain away from your friend. Just be ready to see a whole lot of pain, anger, and distress. They will cry, they will lash out, they will spend days in bed. Be prepared with tissues, chocolate, cuddles, tea (other hot drinks) etc. but let them have their alone time as well.
Be a messenger. When you first become a widow there are a million people suddenly there to help. While the support is amazing it can be overwhelming. You are trying to learn and dealt with so many things that are intensely personal. I found that I felt like I was in a movie, with everyone I knew and loved watching my every move. So if you can relay messages to your friend, and organise times and activities so the person grieving can just say yes or no, it’s so much easier.
Don’t assume they will call you when they need help, because there is a strong possibility they won’t. Not because they do not need it, but because realising they need help, deciding on who they can ask and who they can tolerate at that particular time, and then contacting to ask is just way more difficult then just riding it out and hoping it goes away. Just make offers and stick to them. “I will drop off dinner at 5pm today”, “I will come round and do your dishes after work on Wednesday” etc.
Ask yourself are there chores that you can do? Things like picking up food or medication etc. Things that may not be major to you can be so overwhelming for them. Try not to do anything that is unchangeable e.g. like doing dishes or tidying without asking. There will be things they are keeping for reasons you may not understand. For months I keep bottles of oil from the last time Riley did an oil change. So things that may look like trash to you may be very important to them, so just check first.
But most of all be there. You may not be able to say the right thing or do the right thing but you have to try. That’s what friends are for right? Being there for each other.
Matt once said to me “I cannot promise to fix your problems but I can promise you, you will not face them alone.”
I always got really excited when Riley was going out to take photos of trains. He never took a bad photo of trains. (Or maybe he just didn’t let me see the bad ones?)
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