Chapter 1 – NO SIMPLE HIGHWAY:A widow’s journey to seek justice for her husband’s death

Grief never ends: This is my journey from the tragic sudden death of my husband Mike, to healing after loss and eventually finding peace and love again.

Chapter 1

The night my husband died

            “How do you use the panoramic feature on this new phone?” my friend Meg asks me as we admire the setting sun.

            “Oh, I just took one last week. Let me show you,” I offer as I kick off my blue Sperry flip flops and walk over to the sand. Meg is my attractive next-door neighbor, a single mom who looks stylish in ripped jeans or librarian type glasses.

My husband, Mike is busy chatting with the new member of our Long Island, New York beach community under the pavilion where fans help keep the gnats away. Mike is his charming self and asking our new friend about the winters she spends in Key West living in an RV. We have talked about someday retiring to Florida so it’s more than just idle curiosity. Since she has recently moved to our neighborhood, the conversation has changed to organic methods of eliminating late summer crab grass. When I first met Mike, he had owned a landscaping business while attending business classes at the community college.  He now practices law but is full of information on the benefits of using boiling water or vinegar solutions instead of fertilizers to protect polluting run off into the bay.

            “Be right back,” I tell Mike as I walk with Meg down to the water’s edge. The vibrant colors in the sky are definitely frame-worthy! To the right, a full moon is rising over the harbor, to the left an orange and pink late-summer sunset. Together we figure out how to hold the phone camera steady and sweep 180 degrees to get both the sun and moon in the same frame. Stunning!

            When I return to my dusk-veiled circle of friends, Mike has left. I guess he has either gone to use our HBCA clubhouse restroom or just headed back to the house. The gnats are beginning to outnumber us by the shore, so I invite the few neighbors still on the beach up to our second-floor front deck to hang out. I pack up the chairs, towels, and cooler and walk across the parking lot to my house.  I’ll light citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes away and maybe order a pizza. I’m starting to feel hungry.

            As Meg and I cross the parking lot, we see a police car speeding down to the beach clubhouse followed by an ambulance. Lights are swirling and soon the local fire department chief pulls up.

            “What happened?” Meg asks one of the volunteer firemen as she shifts the heavy beach bag on her shoulder.

            “Cardiac arrest,” he tells us. Oh no, I think. How awful for someone to have a heart attack during this kid’s birthday party. We had seen all the excited teenagers getting dropped off earlier and heard the music as we sat under the pavilion on the beach. What a scary scene for the partygoers I imagine as I approach my front door. It’s a good thing they just installed that new AED device in the building for emergencies like this.

            Our beach cottage was built in the 1920’s and has hosted a lot of families over the years. It is a narrow three-story structure which you enter by the side door and walk up a flight of stairs to the main living area. At the top of the stairs to the right is a den and sliding doors to a small back yard. To the left, is our dated kitchen with beige cabinets whose hinges continually break and a light blue Formica countertop. The best part of our house is the front deck that we enjoy daily as we look out on the peaceful harbor and nearby beach. I walk through the kitchen and turn on the lights to the front deck where I’m expecting guests. As I’m lighting the scented candles on the bar height dining table, Carol who lives next door calls over from her deck, “Kristin, what’s going on?” Our homes are very close together and it sometimes feels like we live in a college dorm, just with separate little houses.

            “A firemen told us that someone had a heart attack,” I tell her. “Are you guys coming over?”

            “Sure, we’ll be right there,” she says.

When she and her husband Dennis have joined me, we watch a second ambulance arrive at the clubhouse. More lights are flashing, and people are coming into the cul-de-sac at the end of the street to see what is going on.

            “IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR HUSBAND!” my erratic neighbor Frank yells up to me from the street.

            No one ever takes anything Frank says seriously, but it occurs to me that I haven’t seen Mike since I was on the beach. I quickly leave the deck and run inside. He must be in the den watching TV in his favorite green chair, I think, but he isn’t there, so I skip steps up to our third-floor bedroom where my bed is still made. By the time I go back downstairs to the front deck, the first ambulance is leaving, and the DJ has started playing music again for the partiers.

            “Get in our car,” Dennis and Carol urge me and off we race to the hospital. Carol reaches into the back seat to hold my hand as Dennis drives. She reassures me that it may not be Mike and I squeeze her fingers.

            We rush into the Huntington hospital emergency room and give the woman at reception the name of our beach community, Huntington Beach Community Association or HBCA, where the ambulance came from. A nurse directs us to a room. I stand outside in the hall, afraid to go in. What am I going to see? Maybe it’s not Mike. My legs feel weak. I ask Dennis to go in first, while Carol holds me up and we watch Dennis disappear into the room.

            Ambulance workers rush in and out of the emergency room. I recognize a doctor. I taught his son kindergarten 14 years ago.

            “Jack, what happened?” I ask in a faltering voice.

            He stops mid-stride. The look of shock in his eyes as he recognizes me. “We couldn’t get his heart started,” he stammers, then he walks away.

            Dennis walks out of the room and slowly nods to Carol and me. We all walk in together, the two of them supporting my elbows. I see my husband laying on the table. Mike is still barefoot and wearing the Old Navy swim shorts I gave him for his birthday. I recognize the light blue Salty Dog t-shirt we got on our last trip to visit my sister in Florida, and it is his face with the scruffy gray, been-vacationing-for-two-weeks-beard.

As I walk closer, I’m relieved to see that his eyes are open. I think, he must be OK. But as I touch his arm and feel that reassuring bicep muscle that always makes me feel safe, his skin is eerily cold. His eyes are open, but he isn’t there. Why is he not moving? My knees are shaking. My teeth begin to chatter. My heartbeat pounds in my ears. Where did the big bump on his head come from and why is there blood on his knees? This cannot be happening, I yell, “WAKE UP!”


I am approaching the 7th anniversary of my husband’s death and need to share our story. Working through stages of grief and seeking justice takes time and effort. This book is for anyone who has been through the trauma of loss and is searching for peace and hope.

AMAZON REVIEWS:

“A must-read story of hope”

“I read this book cover to cover in one sitting”

“it’s a riveting story”

“..a chilling tale of police corruption”

“one of the most honest, heartfelt stories I have read…”

“Captivating true story”

“so good on so many levels”

“Kristin’s ability to bring the reader into her world, during the darkest of days will leave all who read this inspired.”

Available on Amazon
memoir of life after loss.

Signs from Loved Ones: Is there life after death?

Looking for signs after the loss of a loved one is comforting – challenging our loved ones to communicate with us can be reassuring .

Keeping an open mind, I believe we can find signs from our loved ones if we accept that it is possible.

My latest sign came from my mom on Mother’s Day.  I spent the day with my sister.  This is our third year without calling mom or sending her flowers.  We didn’t get to have lunch with her so we made plans to visit the Sarasota Jungle gardens and go to lunch with some of our family members. We both miss our mom so a sister is a good substitute.

In our family we have pretty much agreed that seeing a red male cardinal is a visit from our dad.  I don’t see them as much here in Florida, but that is our sign.  For my mom, we got a bit trickier.  She sends us white dolphins.

When the butterfly landed on my beer can and started sipping as I sat in a poolside lounge chair in Thailand on the first anniversary of Mike’s death, I took that as a sign that he was still with me. I visited a psychic medium a few months after Mike died and she told me that he send me blue jays.  Sure enough, I used to see one fly in front of my car on my 3 minute commute to work every day.  I don’t see too many blue jays down here in Florida.

Immediately after he passed, his cousin and mother started finding dimes in the craziest of places. They felt strongly that these were signs.

I spent an amazing summer weekend with the Forever Family Foundation in Connecticut the first year after my husband died. I had a positive experience bonding with other people going through grief. Several certified psychic mediums did group readings and I was fortunate to have Mike come through with messages for me during those sessions.

After the weekend, I bought a book by five year anniversary of our first date and it is true, life goes on.

Continue reading “Signs from Loved Ones: Is there life after death?”

How to cope with the loss of a spouse – Year One

Healing from the loss of a spouse is difficult. Learning which strategies help you is important. Yoga, acupuncture, therapy, exercise and even a puppy may be what is needed.

 My mom passed away 2 weeks ago and now all the grief from the death of my husband are coming back.  Lots of familiar anxieties and feelings of regret and sadness are resurfacing.  It’s been 4 years since my husband passed, but getting through year one is filled with many challenges.  It helps to know we are not doing this alone and that one day, it will be better.

My bereavement group provided us with handouts on ways to deal with our grief.  We met one evening each week for an hour and a half.  The group was made up of 12 women who have lost their husbands in the past year.  We are all similar in age which is helpful and there is one facilitator.  The first week everyone tells their story and there are lots of tears.  Some deaths were sudden and some were long sicknesses.  However, we are all similar in so many ways dealing with coping after this loss.

Successful ways that I deal with anxiety and grief are listed below. 

  1. Yoga – that’s been helpful at times for centering my thoughts and feeling good. The stretching and movement is important. Doing an online class or joining a studio are great options.  Of course the time I was the only one in the class, and the male teacher had me close my eyes, and then sang to me while playing the guitar was a bit weird, but most of the time I like yoga. Healing with weekenders and yoga ladies.

 2. Meditation – I’m not that “good” at it so I find guided meditations on the you tube app of my phone and listen to them. The benefits of spending even two minutes a day sitting quietly and focusing on the present, following your breath, include less stress, better sleep, and can even lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  I especially like listening to Jason Stevenson’s guided imagery available on YouTube.

3. Acupuncture – This has really helped me with relaxing and relieving stress. Health reports state acupuncture can help alleviate physical pain as well as anxiety. Read more here:  Acupuncture – Healing for physical pain to depression to infertility. Worth a try?

Continue reading “How to cope with the loss of a spouse – Year One”

Can This Halloween Scare You?

Can this Halloween scare you? COVID is nothing compared to stories of souls of the dead coming back to visit.

One Halloween I came home from a friend’s house in 8th grade and told my parents I had a great time at the party. We all wore costumes, dunked for apples, made jack-o-lanterns and then used the Ouija board to have a seance.

My mom, who had not really been paying attention to the tales of my escapades immediately jumped up in horror and told me never to touch one of those boards. She said they were evil. She said the Devil controlled them.

My little brother got scared and my little sister started to cry. That’s when dad stepped in. He was a science teacher after all and I have a vivid memory of him scolding my mother and telling her to cut the nonsense. That may have scared me the most.

Mom was what you would call a born again Christian. While some parents in the 70’s were cocktailing and learning how to disco dance, our house was hosting bible studies, pre-cana counseling and youth groups.

In 1976 my mom spent the summer in the hospital very sick with ulcerated colitis. She almost died. She had “the laying on of hands” done while in the hospital and suddenly was healed. The doctors could not explain it. My dad could not explain it.

Mom spent the rest of her life sharing her story and praising God. She visited churches and prayer groups all over. She spoke publicly at conferences and to bible studies. She felt blessed and was grateful for her life.

Continue reading “Can This Halloween Scare You?”

How Grief is like a Home Renovation

How grief is like a home renovation. Widow rebuilding a life includes making choices about moving or renovating a home.

I’m not one who relishes in change.  When things are going along well, I like to keep it that way.

This is why we never really bit the bullet and made any major changes to the house.  Some new paint color one time made a difference but making big changes seemed too overwhelming to us.

Unlike the loss of my husband, which was sudden, I have contemplated doing a new kitchen for years.  I made sketches and pinned photos to a kitchen and living room board on Pinterest.  I envied the idea of an open concept and imagined what it would look like to remove a wall in my house.  I even met with a professional kitchen service and had them give me ideas  – and an outrageous quote.  I decided to put off any changes a little longer.

Well this year it was time.  I had put aside some money.  Before I encountered any more leaky pipes or broken appliances I had to just jump in and do this.

My first reaction was to be overwhelmed.  Why did I have to pick out the color of the cabinets? Where should the refrigerator go if the wall is removed? What color paint is trendy – or the one that I want? I don’t have any idea.

I wanted someone else to just come in, like they do on TV, and surprise me with a beautiful new home and life.

Continue reading “How Grief is like a Home Renovation”

Hamilton on Broadway and a visit to Lower Manhattan

Hamilton on Broadway in New York City. Touring lower Manhattan Trinity church and 9/11 Memorial

I love to give and receive the gift of a memorable experience.  If I can not travel to a new exotic location, making a day trip into New York City is always an adventure I enjoy sharing with friends and family.

This year I treated my fiancé to tickets to the hottest show on Broadway: Hamilton. It is so popular that tickets are almost impossible to get. The fact that I bought them over a year ago and had the best intentions to surprise my love was sure to be met with cries of glee!

The day I bought the tickets I was prompted by a friend to get on the computer at precisely this one moment and order.  It worked.  We were both so excited.

Continue reading “Hamilton on Broadway and a visit to Lower Manhattan”

What do widows do with his wedding ring?

After my husband’s unexpected death the question is “what does a widow do with the wedding rings?” Moving forward with rings and homes and life.

It was a perfectly normal summer evening when everything changed and I became a widow. We always sat on the beach across the street with our friends. We always used the bathroom in the clubhouse. Mike always left the party to go home early.

This was unreasonable and should not be happening I kept thinking.  I was present but not really understanding what was going on.

Somehow I got home from the hospital that night and some family and good friends were with me.

At 2:00 in the morning the detectives came in to tell me what they had decided happened.  I kept trying to convince them that this was ridiculous.  I explained how this was a typical evening.  Mike had been fine when I last saw him on the beach.

Continue reading “What do widows do with his wedding ring?”

Mrs. or Ms. What do we call the widow?

Mrs. or Ms. What do we call the widow? After the loss of a spouse do we change our name?

Well, this can certainly be a touchy subject.  Like most everything after the loss of a spouse, the decision on which name you would like to be referred to is an important choice for each woman.

Personally, I had been married for 26 years when Mike died.  I chose to change my name.  My maiden name became my middle name, and I took his last name.  That was the summer before I started teaching.  As a student teacher in college I had gone by the name of Miss Sanders.  My parents, and even a grandmother, was a teacher so hearing adults called by Mrs. —– or Mr. ___ was completely normal for me.

Once I started teaching I was always Mrs. Divers.

In my generation, some women chose to keep their maiden names.  Some women decided to use the term Ms.

Some women get divorced.  They are not ready to change their names at the Social Security office, but they switch from Mrs. to Ms.  It gives them a sense of freedom from their husband and his name I imagine.

According to several websites I researched for this article, a widow is traditionally addressed as Mrs. John Jones. A divorced woman should be addressed as Ms. Jane Johnson on invitations.

A widow was and still is addressed with the same title as when she was married.

There is absolutely no reason, or convention, for the title of a widow to change from whatever title she used prewidowhood.  And there never was.

If she was Mrs. before, she is Mrs. now, unless she decides otherwise.

Whatever it is, if it is her choice, it is OK.

Traditionally, a widow retains her husband’s name until she remarries.

And then what… I wonder how many women change their names again?  I would feel bad changing my name again, but if you are marrying someone else, isn’t that the right thing to do?


Anyway, I bring this up because this issue blindsided me this school year.  For 29 years, I have worked in elementary schools and been referred to as Mrs. Divers.  It is sort of who I am.  I am a teacher.

When I sent home my welcome letter to the families in August, I told them about my kids and pets, my hobbies and some things to expect in Kindergarten.  I signed the letter Mrs. Divers.

A few days later when the children arrived I was thrilled.  They are so cute and excited and nervous.  We had fun getting to know each other and I planned lots of fun activities including name games.

what to call a widow. Ms. or Mrs.

The next day one child left behind the school issued name tag.

Wasn’t I surprised to read below this precious child’s name, the name Ms. Divers!

I wasn’t ready for this one.  I had never changed my name.  Why had it changed?

I asked for advice from my virtual friends on Facebook.  I have found comfort and friendship from other widows and widowers who have been down this path before me or that I can help along those first few years.  I asked if I should bring it up to someone or just let it go.

Well, just like the wearing a wedding ring or not, this issue got heated. Do Widows Wear Wedding Rings?

Some people thought I should just let it go.  I am no longer married and this is another way to help me move forward.  I don’t need to hang onto the title, and it will help understand that I am no longer going to ever be that same person anymore.

But more people thought, that if it bothered me, I should bring it up.  I didn’t have to be defensive or nasty about it, just express that I prefer to be called Mrs. since that is how I still refer to myself when I write correspondence with parents or anyone else.

I don’t like confrontation.   I really don’t.  I needed to do some of that since Mike died with the lawsuit.  It was important, but I can not continue to live in the state of anger and agitation indefinitely.

This wasn’t too bad.  I mentioned to our school secretaries that I prefer to stay Mrs. and the people I told were super nice and understanding.  They thought I wanted the change because it made me sound younger.  Does it?  I thought that was what hair dye was for.

Anyway, crisis averted.  One thing this whole tragedy has taught me is that so many things are really not a big deal.  If something bothers you, find a way to fix it.  Nothing is as bad as finding out your husband is dead.

I never wanted to have to change my name and so I choose to keep it for now.

Have you changed your name?  Do you think you ever will?

Mrs. or Ms. what to we call the widow


The night my husband died

The night my husband died changed my life. Life after the death of a spouse. Life keeps going for the people left behind. Sudden tragic death and complicated grief.

We stood watching on my front deck as the second ambulance arrived across the street. My erratic neighbor shouted up to me, “IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR HUSBAND!”

No one ever believes anything he says but then I realized I had not seen Mike since he left the beach about 45 minutes ago. We had been having a lovely conversation with an older woman who thought we were a Friday evening senior citizen group. He was charming and engaged her with questions about the winters that she spends in Key West in an RV. I had left them to help my friend take a panoramic photo of the awe inspiring simultaneous sunset and full moon rise.

When I returned back to my dusk ladened circle of friends, Mike had left. The rest of us packed up the chairs, towels and coolers and headed back to my second floor front deck before the gnats got too hungry on the beach.

While this neighbor may not be that reliable, I quickly left the deck and ran to find Mike.  He must be in the den watching T.V. in his favorite green chair. When he wasn’t there I skipped steps up to our bedroom where my bed was eerily still made. It wasn’t unusual for him to make an “Irish exit” and head off to bed without telling anyone, but there was no sign of him.

By the time I got back to the deck the first ambulance was leaving and the DJ had started playing music again for the people at the party across the street. Doug and Karen, my next door neighbors who were still on my deck, told me to get in their car. Off we sped to the hospital.

Karen held my hand and attempted to reassure me as I squeezed her fingers. We rushed into the ER and gave reception the name of our beach community house where the ambulance had come from. They directed us to a room and I told Doug to go in first while Karen and I held onto each other.

I recognized the doctor who had been in the ambulance. I had taught his son kindergarten 15 years ago. I asked “what happened?” He stopped, shocked to recognize me. He replied, “we couldn’t get his heart started”. Then he walked away.

Doug came out of the room and nodded to us. We all walked in together, the 2 of them supporting me. I saw my husband laying on the table. He was still barefoot and in his bathing suit. He had his faded blue t-shirt on and it was definitely his face with the scruffy gray, been vacationing for 2 weeks, bearded look. As I walked closer I was relieved to see that his eyes were open. I thought he must be OK. But as I touched his arm, and felt that reassuring bicep muscle that always made me feel safe, I noticed his eyes were open, but he wasn’t really there.

Why was he not moving? Why was there a big bump on his head and bloody scrapes on his knees? This could not be happening, I yelled, “WAKE UP!”

Late that evening, after I had left the hospital and my family had gathered around me, I was confused to hear more details of that evening.  The police had met us at the hospital and told us they would be coming by my house later.  An investigation had begun outside the party house by the beach.  Witnesses were being questioned. It was going to be a long night.

Once home I made the most difficult phone call of my life.  My 18 year old son was away at college – far away in another state. He had only been there for one week.

When I called, his phone had died so I went to voice mail.  I called the dorm.  I asked the R.A. to have him call me as soon as he got home.  When he called back I told him that his father had died.  It was cardiac arrest.

We just had not understood why his heart had stopped, until the next day.

Video evidence later would show that 2 men attacked my husband at this party.  He had gone over to use the bathroom at the beach community house. Apparently he walked through the party area where food was being served and these men had pushed him out.  An altercation ensued and the 2 men were taped sitting on my husband.

 

When he stopped moving, they had left him, lying on the ground next to a group of 16 year olds eating dinner.  No one helped him.  Twenty minutes later 911 was called and responded to the party.  Although efforts were made, the EMTs could not get his heart started. His time of death was recorded in the hospital.

Rumors arose that the 2 men who attacked my husband were connected somehow with the local police.  No arrests were made.  The next day it was as if nothing had happened.

Mike’s brother and I pursued a wrongful death lawsuit against the 2 men. The civil suit took almost 3 years.  I had to relive that night over and over again. In the end I was awarded some money.  Having 2 sons in college and now running my household on only one income was challenging.  I am glad that we went through the process.  We won.  But it was difficult.

Five years later I still suffer from unexpected grief triggers, especially when it comes to reports of police brutality and corruption.

You can runaway for a while, but it still hits you like a knockout punch at times.  Grief may never go away.  We just can’t live in it.

Sometimes we just need to remember the ones we’ve lost.

the night my husband died
The night my husband died changed my life. Life after the death of a spouse. Life keeps going for the people left behind. Sudden tragic death and complicated grief.

How to comfort your widowed friend.

The line of fellow mourners who came to pay their respects to my family at my husband’s wake was overwhelming.  Arranged so quickly and happened so fast I felt like I was not really there. He would have been impressed that he was loved and respected by so many people from work as well as friends and family.  I spoke to people, but felt like I was just watching this happen from someplace else.  Over and over people said, “please call me if there is anything I can do”. That was nice.

I have never felt comfortable speaking to the people who have just lost a loved one.  Many of the wakes or funerals I have attended were for the passing of a friend’s parent.  The tragic ones like the death of a young mother or child are terribly sad and there is really nothing you can say to help the matter, it is just sad. When a spouse dies a part of them dies as well.  But what is a friend to do?

Well, I did not want to speak to anyone on the phone.  I knew that!  I could barely speak.  And I avoided the phone like the plague.  My friends, cousins and sister lived and slept in my house with me for the first 2 weeks.  They made the initial phone calls. They answered the phone.  They took care of the stuff.  They organized food.  They poured the wine. They made more phone calls.  That’s what friends and family do.

Those first few days are raw but you are doing stuff.  You need to make “arrangements” even if you were never really sure what those arrangements were supposed to be.  Family and friends are going to come.  Food should be available. People need to be called.  Obituaries need to be written.  Services need to be scheduled. And there should be food.

Recently I bonded with a group of women in my bereavement group. Each of us has our own story of  how our husband died but we share similar experiences since the funeral.  We discussed some of the things that really helped us at the beginning and some challenges that have been most difficult in our grief.

How to comfort a widow:

  1. Show up.  The widow may not know what to do and is most likely numb. Show up.  If there is a tradition she is upholding such as a memorial service, wake, funeral, sitting shiva – try your very best to get there.  Stop by her house and bring something – anything. Talk to her and let her tell her story.  She may want to talk.  If she doesn’t want to visit, just you stopping by was supportive.  Arrange to have her house cleaned. She will remember that you were there.
  2. Bring food.  The last thing the widow wants to do is cook food.  She may eat but only if someone has kindly brought over something to eat. She does not want to go out to the store yet. People stopping by so you are helping her host friends and co-workers.  She has no idea how to shop or cook for one. Share a meal with her and make her a cup of tea or a glass of wine.  Send a gift card to a nearby restaurant. She needs to eat.
  3. Sleep over.  She is not used to being alone.  She is fragile.  Be there when she wants to cry or scream. My sister and cousins slept over, the first 2 weeks.  I had not accepted the fact that my husband was not coming back.  Having a sleepover with  family helped me transition.  I wasn’t ready to be a widow.
  4. Send a card with a message.  It is so nice to know that so many people took the time to go out and buy a card to comfort you.  Many people add a fond thought about the spouse.  Some people send books that could be helpful.  I wanted to know I was not alone and appreciated reading about others who had experienced grief or had a fond memory of my husband.  Mass cards purchased with the promise that the spouse would be prayed for at a service were comforting, even if that faith was not always practiced.
  5. Take her out. She may not ask, but she will need to have someone to do normal stuff with.  Join her for a manicure or pedicure.  Sign up for a new yoga class or some class at the library together.  Go out to lunch or dinner.  Invite her to the movies.  She is not used to being alone so keeping her busy and engaged will be much appreciated.
  6. Help celebrate the life.  Wakes and funerals are generally somber events.  Some people have Memorial services immediately and some people wait.  Some people ask for donations in the loved one’s name.  Do something soon for close friends and relatives to celebrate the person they loved.  Go to the beach to float funeral flowers or candlelit lanterns out to sea to help make your friend feel connected to the one they have lost.  Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk about the deceased.  Share funny stories or make  references to things about the person who is gone.  Say their name. Hearing other people fondly mention the spouse comforts the widow and enables her to speak about him as well.

Try not to…

  1. Hug her in public if you haven’t seen her.  She is a mess.  She made it out in public.  It was really hard.  Attention to her will probably turn her into a sobbing spectacle.  This happened to me in more than one place.  Small things can trigger tears quickly in those early months so be sensitive.
  2. Tell her he is in a better place.  Really?  He was supposed to be here!  He shouldn’t have left and she does not feel better about the fact that he is gone. She may be having an angry day – or a guilty day.  There are all sorts of days.  There is no true progression through grief, 5 stages of grief.  Just getting through it. He would understand. 
  3. Say she will find someone else.  She doesn’t want anyone else.  This was not supposed to happen.  She wants him back again so why isn’t THAT happening. It also implies some pressure.  Like she has a new job to do – go find a replacement.  She needs a friend, not a task master.
  4. Judge.  Everyone grieves differently.  She may withdraw.  She may act silly.  She may get depressed and cry a lot. She even may start dating. She is working it out and your unbiased love and support is most helpful.
  5. Push her to make decisions.  Can she afford to stay where she is? Should she work? Should she sue? Should she give away all of his stuff now? Should she sell stuff? She needs time to process her grief.  Many decisions can wait. Immediate concerns need to be addressed.  Taking over the jobs that her spouse always did will be unsettling. Help her do some of those things. Remember, she needs to take care of herself and treat herself kindly right now and so do you.  Be kind and patient.

My wise widowed aunt sent me a lovely handwritten card when my husband passed.  She wrote a memorable quote from Kathie Scobee Fulgham whose father died.  He was the commander of the space shuttle Challenger that exploded in 1986.

“Grief is a weird and winding path.  It’s got rest stops and pot holes.  With different depths of rage and despair.  The path might become smoother, and it might never come to an end.  But the biggest thing is, you won’t be staying forever in one spot.  You are going to move on.”

To read my post about making a care package for a widow, click this link.

Care Package for a Widow

How to comfort a widowed friend

%d bloggers like this: